MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST

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We know that all things work together for good to those who love God…  Romans 8:28

It is only a faithful person who truly believes that God sovereignly controls his circumstances. We take our circumstances for granted, saying God is in control, but not really believing it. We act as if the things that happen were completely controlled by people. To be faithful in every circumstance means that we have only one loyalty, or object of our faith— the Lord Jesus Christ. God may cause our circumstances to suddenly fall apart, which may bring the realization of our unfaithfulness to Him for not recognizing that He had ordained the situation. We never saw what He was trying to accomplish, and that exact event will never be repeated in our life. This is where the test of our faithfulness comes. If we will just learn to worship God even during the difficult circumstances, He will change them for the better very quickly if He so chooses.

Being faithful to Jesus Christ is the most difficult thing we try to do today. We will be faithful to our work, to serving others, or to anything else; just don’t ask us to be faithful to Jesus Christ. Many Christians become very impatient when we talk about faithfulness to Jesus. Our Lord is dethroned more deliberately by Christian workers than by the world. We treat God as if He were a machine designed only to bless us, and we think of Jesus as just another one of the workers.

The goal of faithfulness is not that we will do work for God, but that He will be free to do His work through us. God calls us to His service and places tremendous responsibilities on us. He expects no complaining on our part and offers no explanation on His part. God wants to use us as He used His own Son. From My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition

Bible in One Year: Obadiah; Revelation 9

The Strength of Christ’s Unity, Day 2

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Call to Unity

Today’s reading is drawn from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and John 17:21-23.

Unity is a triple-braided cord. One friend plus another plus Christ make the cord not easily broken. Our commitment to Christ binds us irrevocably to each other. We find our oneness in Him (John 17:21–23). We begin to think, feel, hope, and work with unity of purpose and direction.

When Christ is the source and center of a friendship, negative forces cannot pull us apart. There is a buffer of Christ’s grace when we fail or disappoint each other. We belong to Him and to each other in spite of what happens around us. Christ longs for us to know the same oneness with one another that He has with the Father (verse 11).

To implement the answer to His own prayer for us, He engenders in us love, forgiveness, and patience for one another. When Christ is the unbreakable strand in the triple-braided cord, it cannot be severed. Praise Him for truly great friendships in which He is the strength of the relationship.

Combat by Champions, Day 2

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Today’s reading is drawn from 1 Samuel 17:26 and 1 Samuel 17:45-47.

The contest joined between the “champion” Goliath and David is perhaps the best known example from antiquity of a military conflict decided by “single combat,” namely, a fight between representatives of the warring factions intended to get an initial indication of how the general battle would go. The logic behind such contests was grounded in the belief that battles were ultimately decided by God or the gods, and that the champion representing the more powerful deity would triumph.

The premise that the people of the loser would serve the people of the winner did not suggest that the general battle would not be fought; it just gave an assessment of the expected outcome. A superior champion would serve as a ready instrument for the god, but the gods were not constrained to the relative skills and strength of the combatants. In a match as lopsided as this, a victory by David would serve as incontrovertible evidence of the superiority of Yahweh.

Other examples of similar situations from ancient sources are well-known, such as those in Homer’s Iliad (Paris versus Menelaus, Hector versus Ajax) and the Egyptian Story of Sinuhe, in which Sinuhe defeats a Syrian challenger. Sinuhe uses an arrow in place of David’s sling, but, like David, he then uses his opponent’s own sword to complete the victory.

While certain similarities with the story of David’s triumph over Goliath are striking, it is important to distinguish between duels settling personal grievances and representative combat. A good example of the latter is found in an account by Hattushili III, who defeated the champion of the enemy with the result that the rest of the army fled.

We can therefore see that David’s confrontation with Goliath illustrates a practice that was familiar in the ancient world. By any account, it should have been Saul, who had been chosen to lead the armies, who represented the Israelites in battle.

WARRIOR MOM WISDOM

 
Warrior Mom Wisdom

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But Dust

One day when I was feeling a little defeated, God impressed upon me that I am but dust. Now, while that sounds kind of rude at first reflection, I understood what He meant. In the big scheme of things, I am but dust. Seriously, my life is a blink in time. When I die, my physical body will return to the ground, but dust. My spirit, however, will soar to new heights. Still, thinking of my physical being as “but dust” put things into perspective for me.

God further impressed upon me to see the eternal picture. I began to think past myself, past my circumstances, and I saw my family, each loving person in my family, individually. Then, I saw my community, my state, my country, the universe, and the infinity of God. All of a sudden, I was the size of an ant. When I began to look past myself into eternity, I wasn’t so consumed with me. That rhymed; therefore, maybe I’ll be able to remember it.

As soon as I began to see myself as “but dust,” I began to see unlimited possibilities in Christ. Seeing oneself as “but dust” makes one realize that it’s not up to little ‘ol us to pull off magnificence on this earth. I began to pray that God would provide the sparkle and the shine on each particle of my dust so that I would leave a shimmer of grace and hope behind.  Of course, after I’m gone from this earth, I hope the particles of my dust sparkle, but I also hope that while I walk this earth, I leave a trace of sparkling grace and hope upon each experience and life that I touch.

When you start to look at obstacles in front of you, when you become discouraged about the task at hand, stop for a moment and remind yourself that you are “but dust” on this earth.  Then, pray and ask God to take your hand and fill it with a beautiful pile of glimmering, magnificent grace. As you walk forth from there, remember that whatever you touch will reflect the light of His love.  Yes, we are “but dust,” but God’s sparkling light can be reflected upon the limitless particles of His people on this earth.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:13-14

Kristina Seymour loves to encourage and equip women through the Word and through community. She is the author of The Warrior Mom Handbook, The Warrior Mom Leadership Manual, and The Warrior Wife Handbook; they are available at Amazon.com. Kristina’s Bible studies are for women who desire to live by faith in the midst of their everyday lives. She has learned that women can’t survive on caffeine and animal crackers alone; women in the Word and in community are united and able to stand firm. To learn more about Kristina, please visit her website, https://kristinaseymour.com/God loves to share His story of love and grace through us all, and Kristina believes that everyone has a story to tell.

 

Why in the Old Testament does God demand so much violence and war of the Jewish nation?

 

TOUGH QUESTIONS BY R.C. SPROUL

One of the most difficult episodes for us to handle as people who live on this side of the New Testament are the Old Testament records of what is called the herem. This is where God calls Israel to embark in what we could call a holy war against the Canaanites. He tells them to go in there and wipe out everyone—men, women, and children. They were forbidden to take prisoners and were to utterly destroy and put the ban, or curse, upon this land before they occupied it for themselves.

When we look at that, we shrink in horror at the degree of violence that is not only tolerated but seemingly commanded by God in that circumstance. Critical scholars in the twentieth century have pointed to that kind of story in the Old Testament as a clear example that this couldn’t be the revealed Word of God. They say that this is the case where some bloodthirsty, ancient, seminomadic Hebrews tried to appeal to their deity to sanction their violent acts and that we have to reject that as not being supernaturally inspired interpretations of history.

I take a different view of it. I am satisfied that the Old Testament is the inspired Word of God and that God did in fact command the Jewish nation to institute the herem against the Canaanites. God does tell us in the Old Testament why he instituted that policy against the Canaanite people. It’s not as though God commanded a group of bloodthirsty marauders to come in and kill innocent people. Rather, the background was that the Canaanites were deeply entrenched in unrestrained forms of paganism that involved even such things as child sacrifice. It was a time of profound inhumanity within that nation. God said to Israel, “I am using you here in this war as an instrument of my judgment upon this nation, and I’m bringing my violence upon this unbelievably wicked people, the Canaanites.” And he said, “I’m going to have them destroyed” (Deut. 13:12-17). In effect, he said to the Jewish people, “I want you to understand something: I’m giving to the Canaanites their just deserts, but I’m not giving them into your hands because you’re a whole lot better. I could put the same kind of judgment on your heads for your sinfulness and be perfectly justified to do it.” That’s basically the sense of what God communicated to the Jews.

He said, “I am calling you out of my grace to be a holy nation. I’m tearing down in order to build something new, and out of what I build new, a holy nation, I’m going to bless all of the people in the world. Therefore, I want you to be separated, and I don’t want any of the influences of this pagan heritage to be mixed into my new nation that I’m establishing.” That is the reason he gives. People still choke on it, but if God is, indeed, holy—as I think he is—and we are as disobedient as I know we are, I think we ought to be able to handle that.

 

 

 

 

Simon Carries the Cross

 

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Matthew 27:32–34 “As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross” (v. 32).

Having finished their scourging and mockery of Jesus in the governor’s headquarters (Matt. 27:26–31), the Roman soldiers take our Lord and begin His march toward the cross. Evidently, the physical beating Christ has suffered at the hands of the centurions has taken its toll, for He is not able to carry His cross on His own. Thus, the soldiers compel a man named Simon to bear the weight of the wooden crosspiece the condemned man would have to carry (v. 32), that is, the part to which Jesus’ arms will be nailed. The vertical beam of the cross is already put in the ground before the condemned arrives. Simon is from Cyrene, a Greek settlement in North Africa, and later church traditions depict him as a model of piety for carrying our Lord’s cross. Yet he has no choice but to obey the orders of the centurions, and to make his bearing of Christ’s cross a sign of Simon’s devotion goes a bit too far. Still, it could be that Simon later came to faith, for how could he carry the cross of Christ and then not be open to the gospel message? Mark 15:21 tells us Simon has two sons, Alexander and Rufus, and the latter man may be mentioned in Romans 16:13.

Upon arriving at Golgotha, the crucifixion site, Jesus is offered wine to drink. This wine is mixed with gall, which is a bitter herb (Matt. 27:33–34), and some commentators believe that the potion is some kind of narcotic given to dull the pain. Based on Proverbs 31:6, Jewish women in that day would sometimes give such wine to crucified men out of sympathy; however, the problem with this reading of the text is that the soldiers, not the women, offer Jesus the drink. Furthermore, it seems unlikely that the Romans would all of a sudden want to alleviate the pain of a condemned man. Wine becomes sour and undrinkable when mixed with gall, and so it may be that the Romans offer the drink to torture Jesus further. If so, this event fulfills Psalm 69:19–21.

Either way, Jesus does not drink from this cup (Matt. 27:34). The cup that He does drink, however, is the cup that His Father has given Him — the cup of God’s wrath against the sins of His people (1 Peter 2:24). Let us be thankful that we who rely on Christ’s sacrifice will never taste this cup of condemnation.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Simon was compelled to carry Christ’s cross, but we who live subsequent to His death and resurrection are called to take up our crosses willingly (Luke 9:23). As followers of Jesus, we are to bear the scorn that comes our way for living after His pattern and not the pattern of the world. Let us remember that Christ endured far worse as we suffer for the gospel, and let us look to Him to make us able to stand in the day of trial.

For further study:

Deut. 21:22–23

The Bible in a year:

Obadiah–Jonah 3