1. Isaiah 40:28-3
"Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint."
This is a great passage on which to focus as we begin our study. It serves as a gentle reminder that we cannot do this ourselves. For some, this is likely a new discipline. For others, perhaps a renewed discipline. For all of us, the discipline of daily pursuing the Lord is one that we cannot sustain on our own. We will falter. At some point we will be too tired or too distracted or too upset or too successful to focus on the Father that day.
So before that happens, or even in times when it does happen and we feel ourselves drifting from the pursuit of the Lord, let us be reminded of this passage. Let us be reminded that our Father does not get distracted from pursuing us. He does not falter. He does not forget us. He is ever-present, ever-loving, ever-faithful. It is his strength that will carry us through these days of devotion. It is his sovereignty that will allow time in our days. It is his Spirit that will bring our attention to him. It is his energy that will carry us towards him.
The only thing we offer is reliance. God only carries those who wait for him or hope for him. So as we begin our journey with the Father, let us begin not by determining what we will do through our will, but by admitting that it is wholly by his will and strength that we draw near to him and see any sort of success or consistency in this new or renewed journey.
2. Romans 12:1-2
"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."
Often when we think of worship we think of the experience we share on Sunday morning. We think of standing and singing. And while this is worship, to be sure, it is only a portion of what worship really is. To think that we’ve experienced worship because we’ve sung to God with the rest of the church is like thinking we’ve experienced the depths ocean because we’ve put our feet in the Atlantic.
Worship, ascribing worth and honor to the Father and living in a state of gratitude for his goodness, is so much more broad than simply singing to him. Paul captures this in this passage in which he describes worship as being a living sacrifice. This is an incredibly high bar! A sacrifice has neither preferences nor will. A sacrifice exists not for its own sake but for the sake of others.
In the Old Testament a sacrifice was offered in complete submission to the Father. This means that if we are going to be a living sacrifice then we must live a life that is completely submitted to the Father. Every thought. Every action. Every decision and desire. Everything is done according to the Father’s will. This, and only this, is the type of worship that the Lord asks of us.
3. Psalm 119:9-11
"How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you."
We have all struggled with sin. We’ve all got that secret sin that we can’t seem to break. We have all noticed patterns in our lives and attitudes in our hearts that are not pleasing to the Lord. What’s more is we’ve all fought against those sins… and lost. Because of this, we all carry around a degree of shame because intuitively we understand that our sin is prohibiting us from being the people God created us to be.
So we can agree that we’d all prefer life without sin. We would all prefer to walk in purity, free of guilt and shame. But how do we do this? How do we walk in purity? How do we have real and genuine communion with the Father? We lean in whenever this question is asked because we’ve all tried before and failed. So what’s the secret? How do we become the person God created us to be?
The answer is in this passage; by seeking God and his Word.
You want to walk in purity? Do what you’re doing right now. Pursue the Father. You want to live void of sin and shame? Then study God’s Word. Memorize it. Cherish it. Let yourself fall in love with it. There isn’t a magical thing that happens when we do this except that over time, as we become more and more full of the Father and his words, we will simply crowd out sin in our lives. As our desire for God increases, our desire to sin will decrease and as we pursue the Lord we will find ourselves walking in purity.
4. Matthew 7:24-27
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
Here’s what we all know to be true; the storms of life will come. They are inevitable. Sometimes it rains. Now that’s not to say that it always rains. The Father is faithful to give us plenty of days in which we celebrate and praise and smile and laugh and revel in God’s goodness. But because we are not yet in heaven, sometimes the storms come. They come in the shape of discouragement or depression or loss or struggle or heartbreak or disappointment. And when they come, this passage tells us how we can weather those storms.
The words of Jesus in this passage follow the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ first public address in which he lays out the fundamentals of the Christian life. He talks about sin and the commandments and attitudes and the heart of God and the responsibility of the church and on and on. Then he finishes with the words we read today and tells us that if we are to expect to weather the storms of life, that we must not only hear what he said, but actually obey what we just heard.
So the firm foundation on which Jesus would have us build our lives is not only hearing his Word (by going to church, listening to podcasts, reading our Bibles, etc.) but obeying the words we hear. The foundation of our lives should be obedience to the Word of God. When it is, nothing can shake us. When we simply hear, but don’t obey, it is likely that we will be swept away with storms that will inevitably arrive.
Hearing is good, but it is not enough. We must also obey.
5. Ephesians 3:14-19
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
This is Paul’s prayer for the church in Ephesus. He prays a similar prayer for all of the churches he writes to in the New Testament (Corinth, Philippi, Galatia, Colossi, and Thessalonica). It seems fair to think that if he were going to pray for you, this is what he would pray.
In that case, it would be interesting to note what he does and does not pray for the church. Though these churches contended regularly with genuine persecution - not “persecution” of public opinion or culture regarding our ideas as antiquated, but actual life-threatening persecution - he does not pray for their safety. Though many of the members of various churches existed in poverty, he does not pray for success or improvement of their circumstances. The people of those churches, like you, had all sorts of needs and hardships and struggles and concerns and Paul prays for precisely none of those things.
Whenever he prays for any of his churches, he prays with a singular focus and with a singular desire for the people in the church; that they would know God. That’s all that mattered to Paul. He considered everything in his life rubbish “compared to the surpassing greatness” of knowing Jesus.
Paul says that at the end of the day, whether life is tough or life is great, whether we are in the valley or on the mountain top, the only thing that matters is knowing Jesus. To Paul, knowing Jesus is the greatest prize and should be our greatest prayer for ourselves and those we love.
6. 2 Corinthians 2:14
"But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere."
A fragrance is a subtle thing, almost passive. It must be noticed and is rarely forced upon you. Additionally, a fragrance often reveals what has been happening or what someone is doing. When we walk into a home and it smells of cookies we would rightly guess that someone has been baking. When a person smells of sweat we might assume they have been working hard. When someone smells nice we assume they have showered and prepared for the day or the event. The fragrance that we give off in public reveals in a subtle way what we have been doing in private.
So when Paul says that “through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of God”, he is really painting an incredible picture of how we ought to be perceived.
Because a scent is often a subtle thing, there is the implication here that even if we never say anything about our faith or about our God, that we should leave a general impression of our relationship with him on everyone that we meet. He’s saying that as we pass through people’s lives, even if we never vocalize our faith, our very presence will serve to point them to the Father.
And, because a fragrance often reveals what someone has been doing, we understand that the only way to leave an impression of the knowledge of the depths of God is to pursue those depths in private. When we seek God through his Word, through prayer, through obedience to him and foster an intentional resistance to sin; we will know God. And when we know God, really know him, we will leave with others a general impression of that wonderful relationship which will in turn point them towards the Father who desperately wants to know them.
7. 2 Samuel 5:22-25
"And the Philistines came up yet again and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. And when David inquired of the Lord, he said, “You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees. And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines.” And David did as the Lord commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer."
David was the general of his army, and like most generals, he was trained to come up with a plan in the face of a pending battle. As he faces the Philistines he was no doubt mentally scrambling and conferring with his other generals about a plan of attack. But God speaks to him and tells him that he has a plan. All David needs to do is to sit and to wait and to listen for the sound of God’s army marching in the tops of the trees.
You can almost hear the inner dialogue between David and the Father with David saying, “Yes, that’s great, but what can I DO?” And God responding with, “Nothing. Wait on me. That’s it. I will handle it.”
And you know what God does? He handles it. He delivers the Philistines into David’s hands.
Aren’t there great parallels here to our lives? When we are faced with a problem or a challenge aren’t we wired to come up with a plan? To scramble for something to do? And sometimes that is a good instinct. Often we do need to take action. But sometimes, perhaps more often than we might think, what we need to do is simply wait on the Lord. Frequently, the best action for a child of God is to take no action until we hear and see the Lord preceding us. When we do this we trust in his sovereignty and we give the battle or the challenge to him. We watch comfortably as God’s army sorts things out for us and hands us the victory.
So maybe today or in a certain situation, the best thing to do is to sit and to wait and to listen for the sound of the marching of God’s army.
8. Psalm 37:4
"Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart."
At first glance it seems as though the Psalmist is saying that if we simply delight in God, he will give us whatever we want. So if I want 10 million dollars then all I need to do is genuinely enjoy God and I will get it. Or, more practically, liking and enjoying God is the key to getting that job or that promotion or that home or that spouse or that child or that whatever.
But clearly, David (the author of this Psalm) wasn’t intending to turn the Heavenly Father into a genie. So what is his point?
He is describing a change that happens when we actually take joy in being in the presence of the Lord. When we delight in the Lord, truly find joy in drawing near to him and in obeying him, this crazy thing happens; our heart starts to beat with his. We begin to care about what he cares about. The things that cause him to mourn and ache cause us to mourn and ache. And the things that bring him joy and satisfaction bring us joy and satisfaction.
Suddenly the desires of God’s heart have become the desires of our heart. And since God always brings about his sovereign will, he brings about the very things that we now long for as our hearts beat with his.
It seems, then, that the secret to happiness and contentedness is to delight ourselves in God and let him conform our desires to his own.
9. 2 Corinthians 5:14-17
"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."
Salvation doesn’t simply reconcile us to God or reserve a space for us in heaven, it fundamentally changes us.
Scripture teaches that before we know Jesus, we are literally slaves to sin. This means that we have no choice but to sin and we have absolutely no way to please God or to do anything good in his eyes. When we encounter and accept Christ, however, he makes us into a new creation. He does away with the old version of us, the one that cannot help but sin. He does away with those priorities and motives. He changes us from the inside out. He changes the fabric of our character in such a way that we are unidentifiable compared to who we used to be.
When we accept Jesus, we accept that he will radically change us. Sometimes the change is instantaneous, but often it is done through a slow process of sanctification, which means becoming more like Christ in character. The Father molds us and shapes us through trials and through blessings. He purges us of sin and rounds off the rough edges of our character. He shapes us often in painful ways. This isn’t to punish us, but to help us become the person he sees when he looks at us.
When we come to know Jesus as our Savior, he does away with the old version of us and sets about shaping us into a new creature. It may be wise to consider how the Savior is shaping you even today.
10. James 1:2-4
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."
Have you noticed how a mother of one toddler-aged daughter and the mother of three elementary aged boys respond radically differently to their children suffering a minor injury?
When the toddler falls and begins to cry, whether or not there is blood or any other sign of genuine injury, her mother is likely to sweep her up and hold and coddle and comfort her within a few seconds, no matter what the mother was doing when the accident occurred.
When one of the boys falls and scrapes a knee or bangs his head, that mother is likely to finish her current task and tell the victim’s brothers to clean the blood off the floor before she nonchalantly assesses the actual damage done.
How can these mothers each love their children the same yet react so differently to what’s happened? The mother of the boys has been down that road before. She knows everything is going to be alright. Her days of concerned panic are far behind her because she's seen bumps and bruises heal up before. The experience makes her hard to shake. Meanwhile the new mother hasn’t been through that experience yet. Every cry is a huge deal because it is a phase that she hasn’t yet walked through.
This dynamic is what James is referring to in this passage. We are to consider trials pure joy because every time we trip and fall or life takes a difficult turn, we see God right there with us as we hurt. We know that through these trials, God is strengthening us so that we will have a perfect and complete faith. God, through the pain, is molding us into someone with unshakeable faith. The more times we see God come through in times of trial, the easier it is to hope in him the next time life gets rough.
11. Philippians 4:6-7
"do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Be anxious for nothing? Nothing?! Really? As in don’t worry about anything? Not my children, not my spouse, not my job or my health or my future or my finances or my relationships? Not anything?
No. Not anything. And here’s why: when we worry about something we are implicitly saying that God is too small to handle the thing we are worrying about. It’s almost as if we are saying, “God, I know that you are sovereign and that nothing happens without you allowing it and that you love me and want what is best for me and for my family… but I think you need some help with this one.”
This is why Paul tells us that rather than worry, we should pray. Not only should we pray, but we should pray with thanksgiving.
We should pray because it reminds us that God is bigger than us. It puts us in our rightful place of us being small and God being infinitely big. It reminds us that God is sovereign, or in control of everything. Prayer reminds us that we rely on God for everything anyway, including things we are currently worrying about. Prayer causes us to rest easy in God’s control. Incidentally, this is how we can pray with thanksgiving. We aren’t necessarily grateful that there are things causing us stress in life, but rather we are grateful for the realization through prayer that it isn’t up to us to work things out. We are grateful to be reminded that, whatever it is, God can handle it just fine without our help.
Let’s resolve to quit worrying and start praying.
12. Psalm 16:11
"You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
When you think about it, most of the times when we sin, we are pursuing pleasure. Either we are pursuing pleasure or we make a decision that we know is against God’s will because we think making that decision will make us happier. Isn’t this how addictions start? Because consuming that thing or that substance will, in the moment, make us more content? When we choose a negative attitude or anger or condescension don’t we choose them because it feels good to give into those emotions? Or maybe we just make a small allowance for ourselves for a small sin because of the small joy it brings us in the moment.
Whatever the case, we often choose sin because we believe it will make us happy, usually in the short term.
But this Psalm says that if you want real joy, fullness of joy, you should pursue the Father. It says that if you want “pleasures forevermore” you need to be seated next to God.
Sure, sin is fun for a season and does bring us temporary happiness or joy… but in the long run it wrecks us. We know this experientially.
If we want pure joy, actual contentedness, pleasures forevermore, we will find those in the center of God’s will. We will find true happiness when we are walking in lock-step with the Father and avoiding the sins that only offer cheap and temporary happiness at the expense of long term misery. Let us choose today to trust this Psalm and find our joy in the Lord.
13. 2 Timothy 2:20-22
"Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart."
If you know God, then you have a desire that he will use you in his kingdom. He hardwires all of us this way. So it’s worth asking, “What can I do to make sure the Father is going to use my life for his glory?”
This passage answers that question very clearly. Our character is the determining factor in how and when the Lord will choose to use us. This is what Paul is talking about here when he says that we should flee sinful passions, pursue righteousness and have a pure heart. He’s saying that the more solid our character is, the more useful to the Master we will be.
Our character is who we are when there is no accountability or no one around to see how we are acting. Our character is revealed in our thought life and in our motivations for both good and not so good actions. It is revealed in our reactions to others and by what bubbles out of us in times of stress or in traffic or under pressure. And what this passage makes clear is that the Father will never entrust to us more than our character can handle. He is not worried about our competence, he is worried about our integrity.
As we seek to be used in the lives of our friends or family or community or workplace, let us learn from this verse that we begin that journey by pursuing the Father. The Father loves us all equally, but he entrusts the most to those who have allowed him to shape their character.
14. Hebrews 12:1-2
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
This passage holds the key to living the Christian life.
We all know that we should get rid of sin in our life. Most of us are even aware that there are things in our life that may not be sin, but don’t help us to live the life God wants us to live (or run our race). Essentially, we know that we need to become better people.
Most of us have tried this. We’ve tried to become a better person or a better Christian. And since most of us have tried this… most of us have failed. We’ve all learned the inevitable truth that even though we desperately want to be better people, we are really bad at actually becoming better. And truthfully, even if we do have the discipline to make small incremental changes, no one can shape themselves into the person that God has created them to be.
Every Christian learns this unavoidable truth; we absolutely must become more like Christ in our character and we are absolutely powerless to bring that change about. That is why this passage is so great, because in verse two God shows us the only thing we can do to bring about genuine change in our character. We must “focus [our] eyes on Christ, the founder and perfecter of [our] faith.”
The only way to ever actually throw off sin and weight and to see genuine change in our character is to admit that we can’t do it ourselves. We must quit looking inward to bring about a change and focus our eyes on Christ. It is only through a pursuit of Jesus, paired with a complete and total reliance on him, that we will begin to see lasting and meaningful change in our character. Then we will finally be able to run our race free of the sin and weight that have always held us back.
15. Luke 7:44-47
"Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.'"
In this story, the Pharisee wasn’t very excited to meet Jesus. Jesus wasn’t a very big deal to him. Why? Well, because the Pharisee was a good guy. He and the culture that surrounded him regularly acknowledged his overall goodness. So when Jesus shows up and tells the Pharisee his sins are forgiven, this is good news to the Pharisee, but it’s not overwhelming. In his view, he had very few sins to forgive in the first place and the sins that he did commit were a relatively small deal. At least he wasn’t a prostitute.
Well, the woman in the story was most likely a prostitute. She was thrilled to see Jesus. She washes his feet with her tears. She LOVES Jesus. Why? Because she knew she had sinned. The culture around her consistently reminded her that she was sinful and should be ashamed. She carried her sin around like a shameful identity and Jesus forgave her sins and removed her shame. Of course she loved him and was thrilled to see him. She was fully aware of how incredible and undeserved his grace was.
As we think about ourselves, how do you want to respond to Jesus? Like the woman or like the Pharisee? If you would like to “love much”, as Jesus describes, then you must not only be aware of just how much God has forgiven you, but also how little you deserve that forgiveness. In fact, if we don’t respond to Jesus the way the prostitute does, perhaps it’s because we think we are good enough and aren’t fully aware of our desperate need for Jesus.
An apt prayer today may be to ask God to make you more aware of your sin. To ask him to break your heart for how you’ve grieved the Father. Because in feeling the weight of our sin, we will be all the more grateful to a God that does not make us bear that burden.
16. Genesis 1:1
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
Do you ever wonder why the Bible begins this way? Sure, it’s the beginning, but could there be another reason? Could it be that this verse sets up the fundamental relationship for scripture and for our lives? It tells us that God is the Creator, that all of this, all of what we see, is the work of his hands.
This has incredible implications. When someone creates something, he or she decides the purpose for which it will be used. He or she decides how and when it will be used. More than that, the beauty or cleverness or effectiveness of the creation only serves to make the creator look better. The primary role of any creation is to bring glory to its creator.
Fundamental to our relationship with the Father is to identify him as the Creator and to understand that he imbues us with purpose. We were created to serve him and to bring glory to him.
One last thing worth noting is that any and all discord in our relationship with God is rooted in forgetting the nature of this relationship. When we forget that we are the creation and made to glorify and serve the Creator, we place ourselves in authority of our own lives and forget the purpose for which we were created. It is only when we remember that we are the creation of the eternal God, made to glorify and enjoy him, that we can exist in harmony with him.
17. Philippians 3:7-8
"But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ"
We all orchestrate our lives around something, don’t we?
Maybe our career is important to us. So we buy a house close to the office or we choose a spouse who is supportive of that career. We go to school and then grad school to pursue that career. Or maybe we’ve decided family is the most important thing in our life. Because of this we’ve de-prioritized our career or chosen a profession that allows for a flexibility of schedule. For some people it’s money or friends or sports or adventure. Whatever it is, we all orchestrate our lives around something.
What Paul is saying here is that anything we orchestrate or organize our life around that isn’t Jesus, in the end, is a waste. Those morally neutral things aren’t ultimately a waste because following Jesus is the good Christian thing to do, either. Those things are a waste because they utterly pale in comparison to knowing the depths of Jesus Christ. Finding satisfaction in anything but Jesus is like settling for a TV Dinner when Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse will cater for free.
Paul says there is nothing in life that can touch the joy of knowing Christ. It’s not that those other things we would pursue with our lives are bad… it’s just that they aren’t nearly as good as intimately knowing Jesus.
So then, Jesus is the prize. He is the point. He is the pursuit. He is the only thing that is truly worthy of the orchestration of our entire lives.
18. Micah 6:8
"He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?"
In this verse, we see the very heart of God.
Sometimes we allow ourselves or the world around us to make life so complicated. It doesn’t have to be. In his love for us, the Father distills all that he wants from us down to three simple instructions.
We can do these, right? We know what it means to love justice or to simply do right. We know what the right thing is. Rare is the situation in which we are genuinely unsure of what the right thing is to do. We are also told to love mercy or kindness. This should be easy. We are merciful to others because God was merciful to us. We show kindness to others because God first showed loving-kindness to us. When we struggle showing kindness, it is likely that we have forgotten how the Lord has treated us. When we are mindful of God’s mercy on us, we are far more likely to pour that mercy out on others.
Micah ends by telling us what God truly desires, which is that we would walk humbly with him. This is what he created us for. This is why we exist. To know God. To simply be with him. This is why he doesn’t encumber us with a bunch of rules. God does not want us to reduce our relationship with him to a set of rules. When we introduce rules into a relationship we rob that relationship of its heart. He wants our hearts. He wants us. He wants you to walk with him in humility, to do the right thing and to show the same kindness to others that he shows to you. This is the heart of our Heavenly Father.
19. 2 Timothy 2:11-13
"The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself."
Every relationship we have ever been in is based on mutual affection and acceptance. Everyone who loves and cares for us does so, in part, based on our reciprocation of that love and care. If we just stopped talking to our spouse or our friend and started doing things we knew they didn’t like, eventually even the strongest relationship would be strained to the point of breaking. Eventually our spouse or friend would reach a point at which they no longer liked us or cared for us because we showed no signs that we liked or cared about them.
We can ruin just about every relationship we have ever been in by simply ignoring the other person or continually doing thing we know they have asked us not to do. Well, almost every relationship. Our relationship with God doesn’t work like that. It is unique.
What this passage tells us is that no matter how unfaithful we are to God, he will remain faithful to us. When we ignore him, he pursues us and welcomes us when we come to our senses and seek out his presence. When we break his laws, he forgives us and reminds us that not only are we forgiven, but the debt for our sin has been paid. We cannot break our relationship with God. We cannot ignore him too long or break too many rules. We cannot wander too far off for the love of God not to chase us down. When we are not devoted to our relationship with God in the least, he remains devoted to us.
If you’ve ever felt like you’ve somehow disqualified yourself from God’s love, you haven’t. He knows you are sometimes faithless. He remains faithful anyways. Run to God. He’s waiting for you. He has remained committed to you and to his promise to love you. Isn’t our God good?!
20. Philippians 4:8
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
Thoughts can be dangerous because no one else can see or hear them. This frees us up to think about whatever we’d like. We are free to be prejudiced or prideful or lustful or vengeful or angry or any assortment of negative things. Because after all, they’re just thoughts, not actions. The problem with indulging these negative thoughts is that eventually those thoughts will not stay contained to just our minds. They leak.
They leak from our heads to our hearts and from our hearts to our mouths and from what we simply say to what we actually do. This is why Paul exhorts us to think on things that are commendable and excellent and praiseworthy and just and honorable and pure and lovely. Paul understands that our thoughts leak into our hearts and our actions.
The idea of completely changing your thought life can be daunting, though. So how about this; Just take today captive. Find out what would happen if just for a day you intentionally focused on things that fit into the categories Paul lays out in this verse. Consider what you listen to on the way to work or what you talk about at lunch. Consider the articles you read online or what you watch when you get home. Consider the conversations you have and the way you choose to think about others. We can all do this for a day, right? If we do, we will probably find that we liked that day so much, we would love to have a repeat performance tomorrow.
21. John 1:47-51
"Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.'"
Jesus has so many great lines throughout the gospels, but this has to be one of the best ones! Nathanael is impressed with Jesus because Jesus knew his name before he ever actually met him. You can almost see the smirk on Jesus’ face as he tells him “You will see greater things than these”. In our words, Jesus just said, “Ha, you think me knowing your name was a big deal? Well then stick around and I’ll really show you some things.”
Jesus knew what the next three years were going to look like. He knew all the places he would take Nathanael and all the miracles and all the teachings and all the wonders he would witness. Jesus knew this was only the tip of the iceberg.
In a way, Jesus is saying that to us as we conclude our journey of 21 days with him.
If we’ve been consistent in our reading and in our pursuit of him we’ve likely seen a change in our attitude. We no doubt experienced peace and showed others mercy. Maybe we’ve felt a closeness with God that we haven’t experienced before or felt in a little while. Perhaps we’ve been used in someone else’s life to encourage them or to advise them. Maybe the very scripture we read one morning was one that someone else needed to hear later that day. Whatever our experience, we have all been drawn to the Father. As we reflect on these 21 days and the things the Father has shown us, it’s as if Jesus is saying to us through this passage:
“You think you’ve seen some good things in these 21 days? Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Stick around and I will really show you some things!”