Posts tagged ‘Psalm’

October 24, 2014

843 Acres: Repentance in a New Light

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Dn 9 (txt | aud, 5:36 min)
Ps 117-118 (txt | aud, 3:00 min)
Highlighted: Dan. 9.4-5

Disconnect: When Martin Luther pounded the 95 Theses into the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany he began with the simple but profound statement that, “the entire life of believers [is] to be one of repentance.” Luther’s actions began the Protestant Reformation, abandoning the then-current practice of indulgences for a lifestyle of repentance. Repentance requires a sometimes painful examination of our lives and submission to a standard outside of ourselves. Because of this, just a few hundred years later, and downstream from the movement which Luther’s words and sacrificial actions began, the idea of repentance ranges anywhere from foreign to offensive for many.

Immovable: The prayer that consumes most of Daniel 9 is, “aflame with the purifier of sincere repentance,” says F.M. Wood. Daniel cries out, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments,  we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.” The contrast between a broken people and a God who is immovable in faithfulness could not be stronger. Because God’s faithfulness cannot be shaken or diminished he is able to both establish a standard for life and offer forgiveness without compromise, albeit at great cost to himself.

Repentance: Daniel’s prayer seeks repentance for national abandonment of the Covenant—it cut to the deepest part of the prophetic heart in his day. For modern Christians, our wounds run no less shallow and may feel intensely more personal. In many ways, repentance is the process of revealing our deepest hurts and asking God to restore us where nothing else can. The full process of repentance in Christ is re-humanizing, brimming with grace, and overflowing with love. It leaves us stunned by the grace that renews us. We walk away with a new name – one that speaks not of our pain, but of our journey and interaction with a God who is, as Nehemiah says, “ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love – a God who does not forsake us.” [2]

Prayer: Lord, thank you for being slow to anger and abounding in love. Like Adam hiding in the garden we find hurt and shame driving us from the one who can heal us. Restore us, O Lord, let us see the joy of your salvation. Give us life and heal us through the power of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] Wood, F. M. (1972). Daniel. In H. F. Paschall & H. H. Hobbs (Eds.), The Teacher’s Bible commentary (p. 532). Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers. | [2] Neh 9.17

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October 23, 2014

843 Acres TBT: The Sympathy of Jesus (Newton)

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Dn 8 (txt | aud, 4:39 min)
Ps 116 (txt | aud, 1:49 min)

Psalm 116:6, 10 

The Lord preserves the simple … I believed, even when I spoke: “I am greatly afflicted.”

John Newton, Letters of John Newton (1776) 

To Mrs. Thornton.

My Dear Madam, … Though I feel grief, I trust the Lord has mercifully preserved me from impatience and murmuring, and that in the midst of all the pleadings of flesh and blood, there is a something within me that aims to say without reserve or exception, “Not my will, but thine be done.”

It is a comfortable consideration, that he with whom we have to do, our great High Priest, who once put away our sins by the sacrifice of himself, and now forever appears in the presence of God for us, is not only possessed of sovereign authority and infinite power, but wears our very nature, and feels and exercises in the highest degree those tendernesses and commiserations, which I conceive are essential to humanity in its perfect state. The whole history of his wonderful life is full of inimitable instances of this kind. His bowels were moved before his arm was exerted; he condescended to mingle tears with mourners, and wept over distresses which he intended to relieve. He is still the same in his exalted state; compassions dwell within his heart … he still feels for his people …

With the eye, and the ear, and the heart of a friend, he attends to their sorrows. He accounts their sighs, puts their tears in his bottle, and when our spirits our overwhelmed within us, he knows our path, and adjusts the time, the measure of our trials, and every thing that is necessary for our present support and seasonable deliverance … Still more, besides his benevolent, he has an experimental sympathy. He knows our sorrows, not merely as he knows all things, but as one who has been in our situation and who, though without sin himself, endured, when upon earth, inexpressibly more for us than he will ever lay upon us …

What, then, shall we fear, or of what shall we complain? When all our concerns are written upon his heart, and their management, to the very hairs of our head, are under his care and providence; when he pities us more than we can do ourselves, and has engaged his almighty power to sustain and relieve us. However, as he is tender, he is wise also; he loves us, but especially with regard to our best interests.

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October 22, 2014

843 Acres: On Freedom and Dominion

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Dn 7 (txt | aud, 5:10 min)
Ps 114-115 (txt | aud, 2:17 min)
Highlighted: Dan 7.14

Freedom: “Throughout history, through all ages, all human beings have always sought two kinds of freedom, but today we’re after a third kind as well,” observes Tom Wolfe. The two foundational freedoms are those from tyranny (freedom of expression, religion, and political determination) and want (freedom of economic opportunity, class mobility, etc). “Today we are seeking, and even expecting, a third kind of freedom that is unprecedented… freedom from religion.” Wolfe says it’s no longer freedom of religion, but from it, adding, “That has never, ever been sought before. It’s the final freedom.”[1]

Enslavement: Where does freedom from all commitments and obligations lead? Over 150 years ago Scottish pastor Thomas Chalmers recorded the natural enslavement of the human heart: “It is thus, that the boy ceases, at length, to be a slave of his appetite, but it is usually because the more mature taste has brought it into subordination. For example, the youth may cease to idolize sensual pleasure, but it is because the idol of wealth has gotten the ascendancy but even the love of money may cease to have mastery over the heart because it’s drawn into the world of ideology and politics and he is now lorded over by a love of power or moral superiority in his new politics.”[2] The pathway far too many people perceive as that of freedom is really one of submission to shifting affections.

Dominion: It isn’t the vivid imagery of Daniel’s visions that are most offensive to many today, but the threat that, “[God’s] dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away.” It is anathema, in a culture which perceives freedom as limitless self-determination, to think of God as the final authority to whom we have obligation. Yet it is only in God we have the opportunity for true freedom. The rest of Daniel’s prophecies, and all of Scripture, reveal a God who loves humanity so mightily he will not settle for enslavement masquerading as freedom. It is only under God’s lavish grace and rule that we find true freedom from enslaves us most deeply.

Prayer: Lord, too often we are like little children struggling to pull away from their parent’s hand. Forgive us for thinking our better life is away from you, like the child away from their parent, without you we would only be lost. Renew our hearts for you. Guide our lives in your ways. Show us freedom through your love.

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Footnotes

[1] Harvard Class Day, 1988. As quoted by Timothy Keller, The Freedom of the Christian. Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, 1998. | [2] http://www.amazon.com/Expulsive-Power-New-Affection-ebook/dp/B003TZLQ9M/

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October 21, 2014

843 Acres: God’s Sovereignty as an Excuse to Sin or Trust?

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Dn 6 (txt | aud, 5:48 min)
Ps 112-113 (txt | aud, 1:51 min)

Sovereignty: Our manipulative subconsciouses frequently tell us that our sins are inconsequential because God is sovereign. We think, I should have prayed about that situation before I jumped into it. But then we quickly justify ourselves, Don’t worry. God is sovereign, even when you don’t seek him first. Yes, this is true that God is sovereign, gracious, and forgiving. Yet his sovereignty is not intended to give us an excuse to sin or to take sin lightly. What, then, is it for?

Conspiracy: As the new king of the massive Median-Persian Empire [1], Darius recognized that Daniel “possessed an extraordinary spirit” and decided to give him charge over the kingdom [2]. Jealous officials, however, feigned interest in Darius’ decision in order to destroy Daniel. Knowing that Daniel worshiped God, they convinced Darius to issue an injunction prohibiting anyone from praying to any god or man besides the king for thirty days—punishable by being cast into the lions’ den [3].

Risk: When Daniel heard about the injunction, he could have used God’s sovereignty as an excuse to obey the statute and disobey the Lord. He could have said to himself, “Surely the Lord did not call me into this position merely to lose it so quickly? What is thirty days anyway? I can pray when the exile is over, when it’s safe.” Yet he did not. Instead, he used God’s sovereignty as a reason to take a risk by continuing to honor God—praying three times a day, kneeling towards Jerusalem [4] and giving thanks to God [5].

Praise: When the officials caught him, they turned him over to Darius, who was forced to throw Daniel in the lions’ den. Daniel was calm as he faced his punishment, while Darius was distraught [6] – he fasted, refused entertainment and could not sleep [7]. Yet Daniel survived and even Darius recognized that his survival was due to God’s sovereignty: “ … He is the living God and enduring forever … His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed … His dominion will be forever … ” [8]

Prayer: Lord, You are sovereign. Yet we often use your sovereignty as license to sin rather than trust. Prepare us to take risks of obedience, as we trust you, believe in you, and put our faith in you. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] At sixty-two years old, Darius reigned over the Median-Persian Empire, which was the largest kingdom ever known at this point in world history, stretching to the Atlantic Ocean and past modern-day Libya, east towards India and north towards Turkey. Its massive expanse required efficient organization and, thus, Darius appointed bureaucratic officials (e.g., Daniel) to keep the kingdom intact.  |  [2]  Daniel 6:3 NASB  |  [3]  Daniel 6:7 NASB  |  [4]  He faced Jerusalem because it was a reminder of God’s promises to Israel, a reminder of the prophecies of Jeremiah and a reminder of the presence of God.  |  [5]  See Daniel 6:10  |  [6]  Daniel 6:16  |  [7] Daniel 6:19  |  [8] Daniel 6:26-27

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October 20, 2014

843 Acres: The Tension of Justice

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Dn 5 (txt | aud, 5:46 min)
Ps 110-111 (txt | aud, 1:59 min)
Highlighted: Ps 110.6

Wages: When Paul says, “the wages of sin is death,” in Romans 6.23, he echoes what the psalmist speaks, on God’s behalf in Psalm 110, “He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.” Reading of God’s action against an entire nation is difficult for modern readers. We long for justice, yet watching it carried out — in full force — is terrifying.

Justice: Among the nations this passage speaks of is that of ancient Edom. The Edomites rebelled against God, savagely pursued his people, and ultimately condemned Christ to death (the line of the Harrods descended from Edom). Although God’s judgement falls on the rebellion of specific nations in this passage, it ultimately extends to the rebellion in all of our lives. All of us have inherited the brokenness of generations past, all of us have found ourselves at opposition with God, and—as passages like this show—not one of us could stand under the judgement of God. We love the justice of God when it acts on our behalf; we fear the reality that, in order to be fully just, it has to move against the sin in our lives as well.

Grace: Yet we are not without hope. Dr. Barry Davis notes, “Psalms 107—109 express anguished pleas for deliverance; Psalms 111— 113 overflow with praise for Yahweh. Psalm 110, the connecting psalm, reveals that the Messiah is both a King and a Priest.”[1] Moreover, the Messiah was the suffering servant. That Christ would face the full judgement of God on our behalf — at such immense cost — is stunning. That he would offer it for free to all who choose him leaves us breathless. There is truly no other way. “T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear. And Grace, my fears relieved,” wrote John Newton in “Amazing Grace.” The Christian understanding of justice leaves us humbled by the grace we’ve received and empowered to join God in the restoration his justice brings.

Prayer: Dear Father, how we long for your justice in our world; for through it we are healed from our greatest affliction. We realize how costly it is — thank you for your son, who endured all things, even excruciating separation from you as he died on a cross, on our behalf. We are renewed and hope-filled by your grace.

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Footnotes

[1] Barry C. Davis, “Is Psalm 110 a Messianic Psalm?” Bibliotheca Sacra 157:626 (April-June 2000):168.

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October 17, 2014

843 Acres: Child Sacrifice and Counterfeit Gods

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Dn 2 (txt | aud, 9:13 min)
Ps 106 (txt | aud, 4:30 min)
Highlighted: Ps 106

Finite Gods: “When I interpret some particular possibility as a threat to some value I consider necessary for my existence, I experience anxiety,” writes Thomas Oden. “Anxiety becomes neurotically intensified to the degree that I have idolized finite values that properly should have been regarded as limited. The more I worship finite gods, the more I make myself vulnerable to intensified anxiety” [1]. Yet our worshipping finite gods does not stop with anxiety. Where else does it go? 

Child Sacrifice: The Psalmist laments that our idol worship can hurt the next generation: “They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood” [2]. In other words, we sacrifice our sons and daughters to our counterfeit gods.

Counterfeit Gods: Tim Keller writes, “Our contemporary society is not fundamentally different from these ancient ones. Each culture is dominated by its own set of idols … We may not physically kneel before the statue of Aphrodite, but many young women today are driven into depression and eating disorders by an obsessive concern over their body image. We may not actually burn incense to Artemis, but when money and career are raised to cosmic proportions, we perform a kind of child sacrifice, neglecting family and community to achieve a higher place in business and gain more wealth and prestige” [3].

Prayer: Lord, You are the only God that leads to joy, not anxiety, for you offered yourself as a sacrifice to save us. Yet we confess that we worship finite gods and, as a result, we sacrifice our families and friends at their false altars. Lord, break the bond that they have over our hearts and reveal their lies to us. Cause us to hate our sin—not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of those around us whom we love dearly. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Readings:

Saturday, October 18: Dn 3 (txt | aud, 6:25 min) & Ps 107 (txt | aud, 3:55 min)
Sunday, October 19: Dn 4 (txt | aud, 7:42 min) & Ps 108-109 (txt | aud, 4:54 min)

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Footnotes

[1] Thomas C. Oden. Two Worlds. | [2] Psalm 106:36-38 ESV | [3] Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods.

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October 16, 2014

843 Acres TBT: Greatness and Real Success

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Dan 1 (txt | aud, 3:28 min)
Ps 105 (txt | aud, 3;47 min)
Highlighted: Daniel 1.5, 8-9

Daniel 1.5, 8-9

 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs.

Joseph Augustus Seiss, Voices from Babylon, (1879), abridged from, Ch.1, “The Forming Prophet”

You have been indulging many a fond and anxious dream of success, honor, and greatness in the world. You would like to do something good and noble for yourself and for your race. You are often absorbed with thinking over plans, movement, and methods of operation by which to conciliate the favors of fortune, to reach distinguished positions in life, and to leave behind you some good record when your race is run.

I would have you think with all seriousness, make up your plan of life with the deepest fixedness of purpose, and then pursue it unswervingly through thick and thin, never faltering and never surrendering. True and great men and great an honorable successes never come by accident. He who leaves out of his plans and purposes an honest and devout regard for his soul, his God, and eternal judgment, leaves out the very seed-grain from which all true greatness and real successes grow.

You may not like such sentiments. You may consider it manly and independent to throw off restraints and shackles of this character, and despise them as only in your way. But let me tell you that all the proper success and glory of your life is wrapped up in them. There is no right life in merely caring for this dying body and pandering to its appetites, while the soul and its high being are wilted by starvation and neglect. Better fail a thousand times, and fail in everything else, than attempt to shape for yourself a life without God, without hope in Christ, and without an interest in heaven. No one can afford such an experiment. You may think it independent, dignified, and noble, but you can no more succeed in it than you can dwell with devouring fire.

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October 15, 2014

843 Acres: Belief in Heaven Can Make Us Better Citizens of Earth

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 48 (txt | aud, 5:37 min)
Ps 104 (txt | aud, 3:14 min)
Highlighted: Ez 48

Heaven: Perhaps it is inevitable to believe in heaven.  C.S. Lewis said, “Heaven is the remote music that we were born remembering” [1]. Yet is it dangerous to believe in heaven? Does it make us bad citizens of earth? John Lennon thought so: “Imagine there’s no heaven … Imagine all the people living for today” [2]. In other words, he argued, until we realize that this is our only reality, we will not work to make it better.

City: Ezekiel was exiled to Babylon in 597 BC. Speaking to both exiles and those who stayed in Judah, he predicted judgment and the fall of Jerusalem. After Jerusalem fell in 586 BC, however, he prophesied hope and restoration. The last words of his prophecy end with a picture of heaven and hope: “The name of the city from that time on shall be, THE LORD IS THERE” [3].

Response: Believing in heaven makes us better citizens of earth. In the years after the resurrection of Jesus, the gospel spread precisely because his followers believed in heaven. Two plagues swept through the Roman Empire—the Antonine Plague (165-180 AD) and the Plague of Cyprian (251-270 AD). In the course of about a hundred years, about 25-35% of its population was wiped out. Although no one knew how to stop these plagues, everyone knew that they spread by contact. As a result, people left the cities in droves. Even family members abandoned sick relatives. But the Christians stayed. They cared for their own and others. Many of them died. Why did they stay? Because they believed in heaven. Contrasting the flight of the famous physician Galen, historian Ronald Stark writes, “Galen lacked belief in life beyond death. The Christians were certain that this life was but a prelude. For Galen to have remained in Rome to treat the afflicted would have required bravery far beyond that needed by Christians to do likewise” [4]. To flee was the rational response of the pagans. To stay was the rational response of the Christians.

Prayer: Lord, We confess we often keep people with bed bugs at a distance; how much less the plague! Forgive us and lift our eyes to see the empty cross and the glorified Christ, who is the first fruits of our resurrection [5]. Remind us that this life is a prelude so that we joyfully risk our lives for the sake of glorifying your name and loving others. Amen. [6]

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Footnotes

[1] C.S. Lewis. See also Ecclesiastes 3:11 (“[The Lord] has set eternity in the hearts of men.” NIV1984).  |  [2] John Lennon. Imagine.  |  [3] Ezekiel 48:35 ESV  |  [4] (If you enjoy history, I highly recommend this short article.) Rodney Stark. Epidemics, Networks and the Rise of Christianity. January 2011. In this article, Stark quotes Cyprian’s beautiful statement: “… the just are dying with the unjust … Although this mortality has contributed nothing else, it has especially accomplished this for Christians and servants of God, that we have begun gladly to seek martyrdom while we are learning not to fear death. These are trying exercises for us, not deaths; they give to the mind the glory of fortitude; by contempt of death they prepare for the crown … our brethren who have been freed from the world by the summons of the Lord should not be mourned, since we know that they are not lost but sent before; that in departing they lead the way; that as travellers, as voyagers are wont to be, they should be longed for, not lamented … and that no occasion should be given to pagans to censure us deservedly and justly, on the ground that we grieve for those who we say are living with God.”  |  [5] See 1 Corinthians 15:23.  |  [6] For additional reflection on heaven and how belief in heaven makes us better citizens of earth, see Tim Keller. “Heaven.” 8 June 1997. Sermon on Revelation 21:21-22:5.

 

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October 14, 2014

843 Acres: A Loving Father

by Steven Dilla

M’Cheyne: Eze 47 (txt | aud, 3:53 min)
Ps 103 (txt | aud, 2:04 min)
Highlighted: Psalm 103.13

Breakdown: There are few ways to understate the brokenness of fatherhood in our culture. Princeton historian Lawrence Tone says, “The scale of marital breakdowns in the West since 1960 has no historical precedent that I know of. There has been nothing like it for the last 2,000 years, and probably longer.” According to the Washington Times [1], in 1960, 11% of kids grew up without a father, in 2012, the number was 33%. Paternal absence is so high — near pandemic — that we have barely began a public conversation on quality or character of fathers. Yet for many, it wasn’t a father’s absence, but the character and quality of his presence that left the deepest wounds.

Fatherhood: While Scripture uses many images for God, few of them create the mixed emotions of talking about God as Father. Yet it’s God’s fatherhood that gives the depth, intimacy, and love we desire most in our relationship with him. If God is only a teacher, we miss the relational depth we need. If he is only creator we lack intimacy with him (he is like a watchmaker). If he’s only a judge he can love the law, but isn’t required to love the one in his courtroom. The Christian view of God as Father does not simply take the characteristics of earthly fathers and polish them up a bit. God as our Father creates a new image of a good, true, and perfect Father.

Love: But where is this fatherhood rooted? The Bible says God is love. Not just that he has love or shows love, but that his very nature is love. 1 Corinthians 6 could be paraphrased like this:

Dad is patient. Dad is kind. Dad does not envy or boast. Dad is not arrogant. Dad is not rude. Dad does not insist on its own way. Dad is not irritable. Dad is not resentful. Dad does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Dad bears all things for his kids. Dad believes all things about his kids. Dad hopes all things for his kids. Dad endures all things for his kids. Dad’s love never ends.

Prayer: Father, thank you for your love. We approach your throne in prayer, not on or own merit, but because we are your children. Heal our wounds from the brokenness of fatherhood in our lives. Restore our hope in you as our perfect Father. Embrace us in your family and empower us to live by your grace this day.

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Footnotes

[1] http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/dec/25/fathers-disappear-from-households-across-america/?page=all

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October 13, 2014

843 Acres: The ‘So What’ of Immutability

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Eze 46 (txt | aud, 4:49 min)
Ps 102 (txt | aud, 2:31 min)
Highlighted: Ps 102

The What: The Psalmist praises God for his immutability—that is, his unchanging nature: “Even they will perish, but you endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing you will change them and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will not come to an end.” Why does this matter? 

Trust His Promises: First, God’s immutability matters because it is the foundation of our ability to trust his promises. Although God has made promises, they have little or no relevance to us today if he has changed—that is, it doesn’t matter that he once promised to work out everything for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose if he has changed. Yet he does not change and, therefore, we can trust that his promises are valid today—even though they were spoken to a different people living in different circumstances at different times.

Trust His Goodness: Second, God’s immutability matters because it is the foundation of our ability to trust his goodness. Not only does he make promises, his promises are good. As we experience our difficult and trying circumstances, we need hope that he will keep his promises and that they will be good. Since God has been good in the past and has not changed, then we know he will be good in the future—even if we question his idea of “good.”

Trust His Future: Finally, God’s immutability matters because it is the foundation of our ability to embrace courage. When we know that God will work for our good and that he has promised us a heavenly home, then there is nothing in the future through which he will not sustain us. Thus, we are not anxious because we know that he has not changed in his willingness and ability to provide for us. Let us, therefore, be fearless in the face of opposition and peaceful in the face of trials.

Prayer: Lord, You are the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yet, we often think that you are like us, whimsical in your promises, judgments, and desires. Forgive us for our flippant treatment of your immutability. Cause us to trust in your changelessness so that we can rest in your promises, your character, and your future for us. Amen.

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