Archive for February, 2012

February 29, 2012

Why We Might Pity Entrepreneurs and Christians

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: 1 Cor. 15:19
Full Text: Job 29; 1 Cor. 15

Entrepreneurs | Entrepreneurs sacrifice a lot to accomplish a greater goal. Many leave successful careers in well-established companies, steady incomes and bonuses, and large staffs that care for all the incidentals of running a business. As a result, entrepreneurs usually live modestly – spending their money and time far more strategically and deliberately than they did before. Of course, in their minds, all the sacrifices are worth it because they have a goal in mind – to make their startup successful. They think, “It won’t always be this way. I will sow the sacrifices now so that I can reap the benefits later.”

Christians | Like entrepreneurs, Christians don’t live for today; we live for tomorrow. Our goal is great – to make much of Christ in the only life that we have. We live modestly because we know that our treasures are in heaven and we spend our time strategically because we know that our lives are short and precious. We think, “It won’t always be this way. We’ll sow the sacrifices now so that we can reap the rewards later.”

Success | In both cases, however, there is a harsh reality – that the worth of our sacrifice depends on the reality of our success.  As Paul wrote, “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” [1]. Entrepreneurs and Christians alike pour out blood, sweat and tears into realizing their goal. Yet our ventures cannot be based solely on passion; they must be based on truth. If the startup venture fails, then we pity the entrepreneur. If the biblical portrait of Jesus isn’t true, then we pity the Christian. Why? Because both of them sacrificed so much for nothing.

Prayer | Lord, Many generations have gone before us and have been commended for their faith – yet none of them received what had been promised [2]. Together with them, we live by a faith that looks to the life that is to come. Although we cannot yet see it with our eyes, we thank you for the person of Jesus – who came to live on earth in human form, who bled and died in a mortal body, and who rose again for hundreds to bear witness to his resurrection. Therefore, let us give ourselves to the study of Jesus and to the passionate pursuit of his love. For our best life is later, not today. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 1 Cor. 15:19  |  [2] Heb. 11:39

February 28, 2012

How Forgiveness Depends on the Resurrection

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: 1 Cor. 15:17
Full Text: Job 29; 1 Cor. 15

Command | God commands us to forgive others – regardless of the severity of the harm or the number of times it has been done [1]. But He doesn’t merely tell us to forgive; He gives us the power and ability to forgive. As John Bunyon wrote:

Run, John, run, the law commands
But gives us neither feet nor hands,

Far better news the gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings [2].

Wings | What are the wings of the gospel that give us the ability to fly in forgiveness? Our experience of God’s inexhaustible mercy and love. He loved and died for us before we were born and, throughout our lives, He pursues and adopts and forgives us – even when we have no thought of Him [3] or lack faith in Him [4]. Therefore, we can endure and forgive anything because God’s love for us and Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf and our inheritance in Christ are infinitely inexhaustible resources [5]. Yet Paul writes, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” [6]. What does the resurrection have to do with anything? Isn’t our forgiveness accomplished by the crucifixion? [7]

Evidence | If the Father did not raise the Son from the dead, then there is no evidence that He accepted Christ’s sacrifice as sufficient. The reward had to be given. If his sacrifice was not accepted, then we are still in our sins, bearing guilt under condemnation and living apart from fellowship with God. In other words, if Christ was not raised, then we are not forgiven – which means we have no power or ability to fly in the forgiveness that God commands.

Ability | But Christ has been raised – which means that God eternally established all of his promises. He validated Christ’s blood and death when He raised him from the dead. Therefore, we are no longer in our sins and we have the power and ability to forgive others out of our experience of God’s inexhaustible forgiveness.

Prayer | Lord, You have given us forgiveness in Christ’s death and definitive proof of your approval in his resurrection. Therefore, we glorify his name because it answers our greatest need – that is, the need to be forgiven – so that we can commune with you. Thus, in light of these infinitely powerful wings, let us fly in forgiving others. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] See Matt. 6:14-15; Col. 3:13; Mark 11:25; Rom. 12:19; Luke 17:3-4Matt. 18:21-22.  |  [2] Although this is traditionally attributed to John Bunyon, it’s debatable. See here.  |  [3] See Rom. 5:8  |  [4] See 2 Tim. 2:13. See also Hosea; Psalm 145:8; 103:8; 86:15; Rom. 8:14-17.  |  [5] See Psalm 145:8; 103:8; 86:15  |  [6] 1 Cor. 15:17  |  [7] See Rom. 5:9; Eph. 1:7

February 27, 2012

He Is Our Dread and Our Sanctuary

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Job 28:28
Full Text: Job 28; 1 Cor. 14

Advances | Today, we have thousands of ways to access information and tons of timesaving devices. But do we have more wisdom or time? In 1934, T.S. Eliot reflected,

The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion but not of stillness …
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? [1].

Wisdom | Job, too, praised modern technology in his time: “Man puts his hand to the flinty rock … He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle“ [2]. Yet he wondered whether those advances brought more wisdom: “But where shall wisdom be found? … Man does not know its worth … God understands the way to it … And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding“ [3].

Picture | What is the fear of the Lord? John Piper offers a picture. Imagine a small child meeting a large German shepherd. The dog greets the unfamiliar child with barks and growls, but – in time – becomes calm and friendly. Nonetheless, the owner warns the child, “Don’t run from him.” But the child forgets and, when the dog trots behind him, the child starts to run because he can only remember the dog’s scary barks, not its friendly licks. Then, as expected, the dog barks and growls again. As Piper says, this is the fear of the Lord: “Do not fear to draw near, but keep the fear of the dog (the fear of the Lord) before your eyes, lest you try to run away (lest you start to fall into sin)” [4]. In other words, “God is a joy to be near and a terror to those who flee” [5].

Prayer | Lord, Let us not run from you, but to you. As we grow wiser and shun evil, let us fear fleeing from your fellowship because we want it so much. Warm our hearts in your refuge and strength so that we know that our peace and hope is found in wisdom, not information. Then we will say with Isaiah, “The Lord of hosts … let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary” [6]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] T.S. Eliot. “The Rock.” (1934): entire text here.  |  [2] Job 28:3, 9, 11 ESV  |  [3] Job 28:12, 13, 23, 28 ESV  |  [4] See John Piper, “A Woman Who Fears the Lord Is to Be Praised.” 10 May 1981.  |  [5] Id.  |  [6] See Isaiah. 8:13

February 24, 2012

Do This In Remembrance of Me

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: 1 Cor. 11:26
Full Text: Job 24; 1 Cor. 11

Passover | The Hebrews were enslaved by the Egyptians. So they called to God who heard their cries. He raised up Moses to lead them out of slavery. He told him of His plans for the Egyptians – to slay every firstborn son. But He would save His people who put the blood of an unblemished lamb on their doorframes. They were to reserve the lamb on the 10th of Nisan and slaughter it on the 14th. On Passover night, there was wailing in Egypt for there was not a house without someone dead. But the Hebrews were passed over. And finally Pharaoh let God’s people go.

Lamb | In the same way, Jesus was set aside on the 10th of Nisan when he entered Jerusalem and was sacrificed on the 14th. Those who believe in him are passed over because his blood is on the doorframes of their hearts. For Jesus, God’s firstborn and only Son, was not passed over so that we could be. Jesus Christ is our Passover Lamb, who led us out of slavery to sin and into freedom in him.

Communion | Today, just as the Hebrews commemorated the exodus with the Passover meal, we commemorate the death of Christ with the Lord’s Supper. We eat the bread and drink the wine, just as the Israelites did – even the disciples on the night he was betrayed. And when we do this, we proclaim his death until his return: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” [1].

Prayer | Lord, Our faith is not a new-age spirituality. It is rooted in historical facts. Jesus is a real person who had a body that bled. He died publicly on a cross as the ultimate Passover lamb so that anyone who believes in him might be passed over. Therefore, as we solemnly approach the communion table, let us nourish ourselves with the benefits that our Lord Jesus Christ obtained for us for eternity. Amen.

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Want to see a video of this devotional? Click below.


This video was originally made to advertise our Subway Series: Passover 2010, but its truths are still relevant today. Enjoy on your Friday or over the weekend!

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Footnotes

[1] 1 Cor. 11:26 ESV

February 23, 2012

When God Seems Distant

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Job 23:10
Full Text: Job 23; 1 Cor. 10

Faith | As Job processes his suffering, his faith wavers. On the one hand, he sings, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth” [1]. On the other hand, he wonders, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! … Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him” [2]. What good is a living God if you don’t know where He is?

Distance | Some say that reaching God in suffering is easy. But that’s not everyone’s experience. David, a man after God’s heart [3], writes, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? [4]. Then, hundreds of years later, Jesus quoted these words of David on the cross [5].

Fact | When Christ experienced the Father’s distance, he secured the Father’s nearness for us forever. Today, therefore, although God may seem distant, He is near [6]. Thus, our faith can waver as we try to make heads or tails of our suffering. For our redemption is not based on the strength of our faith, but on the strength of the object of our faith.

Illustration | As Tim Keller illustrates, if you’re falling off a cliff and see a branch that might hold you, your being saved isn’t dependent on your faith in that branch. You can think, “Nah, it’ll never save me.” Yet, in your doubt, if you would just reach out, that branch will save you if its roots are strong [7]. And Job knows this. As his faith wavers, he still proclaims, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold” [8].

Prayer | Lord, Your roots are infinitely strong, even when our faith is weak. Sometimes, in our suffering, we wonder where you are. Yet we know that you are near. For the Psalm that Jesus quoted on the cross did not end with your distance; it ended with praise for what your distance accomplished: “Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it” [9]. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Job 19:25 ESV  |  [2] Job 23:3, 8 ESV  |  [3] See Acts 13:22  |  [4] Ps. 22:1-2 ESV  |  [5] Mark 15:34 ESV. See also Matt. 27:46.  |[6] John Piper, in his sermon Ask Your Father in Heaven, gives a wonderful description of the different levels at which God makes Himself available. Looking at Matthew 7:7-11, he writes, “Ask. Seek. Knock. If a child’s father is present, he asks him for what he needs. If a child’s father is somewhere in the house but not seen, he seeks his father for what he needs. If the child seeks and finds the father behind the closed door of his study, he knocks to get what he needs. The point seems to be that it doesn’t matter whether you find God immediately close at hand, almost touchable with his nearness, or hard to see and even with barriers between, he will hear, and he will give good things to you because you looked to him and not another.”  |  [7] Tim Keller gave this illustration in a sermon about doubt several years ago. I couldn’t remember the exact illustration, so I emailed Kathy. Helpfully, she offered two additional illustrations of this truth. (1) Skating on ice – the skater who worries, “Oh, the ice might be thin. It might break,” and the skater who thinks, “Nah, it’s February. The ice is probably a foot think,” are neither going to be saved or lost on the basis of their fears/confidence. It is the strength of the ice that matters. (2) Two fliers on a plane – one a phobic flier who spends the entire flight thinking at every bump, “We are going to crash! I know it!” and the other who has millions of frequent flier miles and sleeps through the flight. Neither the little faith nor the big faith matters, but the competence of the crew and the integrity of the aircraft.”  |  [8] Job 23:10 ESV  |  [9] Psalm 22:30-31

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