Who’s Your Daddy?

John 8

31Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. 32And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone on earth. What do you mean, ‘set free’?”

34Jesus replied, “I assure you that everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free. 37Yes, I realize that you are descendants of Abraham. And yet some of you are trying to kill me because my message does not find a place in your hearts.38I am telling you what I saw when I was with my Father. But you are following the advice of your father.”

39“Our father is Abraham,” they declared.

“No,” Jesus replied, “for if you were children of Abraham, you would follow his good example. 40I told you the truth I heard from God, but you are trying to kill me. Abraham wouldn’t do a thing like that. 41No, you are obeying your real father when you act that way.”

They replied, “We were not born out of wedlock! Our true Father is God himself.”

42Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. 43Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It is because you are unable to do so! 44For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning and has always hated the truth. There is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45So when I tell the truth, you just naturally don’t believe me! 46Which of you can truthfully accuse me of sin? And since I am telling you the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47Anyone whose Father is God listens gladly to the words of God. Since you don’t, it proves you aren’t God’s children.”

48The people retorted, “You Samaritan devil! Didn’t we say all along that you were possessed by a demon?”

49“No,” Jesus said, “I have no demon in me. For I honor my Father—and you dishonor me. 50And though I have no wish to glorify myself, God wants to glorify me. Let him be the judge. 51I assure you, anyone who obeys my teaching will never die!”

52The people said, “Now we know you are possessed by a demon. Even Abraham and the prophets died, but you say that those who obey your teaching will never die! 53Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Are you greater than the prophets, who died? Who do you think you are?”

54Jesus answered, “If I am merely boasting about myself, it doesn’t count. But it is my Father who says these glorious things about me. You say, ‘He is our God,’ 55but you do not even know him. I know him. If I said otherwise, I would be as great a liar as you! But it is true—I know him and obey him.56Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”

57The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?”

58Jesus answered, “The truth is, I existed before Abraham was even born!” 59At that point they picked up stones to kill him. But Jesus hid himself from them and left the Temple.
(John 8:31-59, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In 2004, after two consecutive outings in which the rival Yankees had roughed up Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, the future Hall of Famer quipped,

“What can I say? I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.”

From that moment on, whenever Martinez took the mound against the Bronx Bombers, the fans would chant, “who’s your daddy?” as a means of heckling the oft-dominant hurler.

The phrase, “who’s your daddy?” has come to be associated with dominance over an opponent and is often expressed as a way to mock or ridicule.

In John chapter 8, Jesus doesn’t use the phrase, “who’s your daddy?” with His audience, but He does bring to the attention of His listeners that they are under the ownership and influence of either one of two possible “father” figures.

As was often the case with Jesus, many of those who followed Him never really believed He was God’s Son. Despite the many miracles Jesus performed, His sinless lifestyle and His authoritative teaching, there were many skeptics who were simply looking for a reason to prove that Jesus was the religious charlatan they always had believed Him to be.

This group of people had already made up their minds about Jesus and nothing that Jesus could say or do was going to change their view of Him.

In this chapter, Jesus has another such encounter with the crowds, in which Jesus states that those who truly want to be His disciples will obey His teachings and “the truth will set you free.”

Some in the audience take issue with Jesus’ verbiage, claiming that they have never been slaves and therefore have no need to be set free and also appealing to Abraham as their father.

Jesus’ spiritual message is obviously lost on these folks but Jesus uses this opportunity to explain to his challengers who their true father really is.

According to Jesus, those for whom God is their father are characterized by this one quality – an openness for truth. Those who oppose truth cannot be from God and God cannot be said to be their father because God is a god of truth.

Jesus then explains to his critics that even though they technically are descendants of Abraham, they don’t follow his example, because if they did, they would not be seeking to kill Him simply for telling the truth.

When His enemies continue to resist and argue, Jesus brings the hammer down, telling them that the reason they can’t understand what He’s saying is because they are unable to do so, “For you are the children of your father the Devil, and you love to do the evil things he does.”

This exchange between Jesus and His adversaries underscores a critical question – what happens when a person is confronted with truth that contradicts their current understanding?

For those who claim to be followers of God, Jesus says that they will be open to the truth that confronts them, recognizing that all truth is God’s truth because God is a god of truth.

Those who resist God may employ any number of strategies and tactics to hold on to their preferred narrative. One such tactic is to employ confirmation bias, which is to take in only information and facts that support your preferred narrative while discarding anything that would challenge it. I wrote about a biblical example of confirmation bias here.

Another tactic is to place oneself in an echo chamber, which is the scenario in which a person surrounds themselves only with people who agree with you and who don’t challenge your thinking, even when you’re wrong. I wrote about an Old Testament Echo Chamber here in my previous post.

Jesus doesn’t pull any punches. He states clearly that those who reject the truth that is right in front of them are not God followers. Instead, their father is the devil, who is the father of lies. The reason people reject God and resist truth that plainly points to God is because they are under the influence and authority of Satan, who owns them and is thus, their father!

So, who owns you? Is it God or is it Satan?

Or to put it in today’s vernacular, “Who’s your daddy?”

Reflection

What are some examples from your own life where you or someone you know has rejected plain truth in order to preserve their own personal viewpoint?

None of us really like to be wrong. So the idea that we might resist new information that would challenge our thinking is not reserved for just some people but is a struggle that any of us can have. What are your typical responses when one of your views is challenged?

How do you handle personal feedback and criticism? What factors make it harder to digest? What circumstances might make it easier to handle?

What steps can you take to ensure that you are one of Jesus’ disciples who obeys Him and is open to truth instead of being one who claims to follow Him but is actually resistant to truth?

 

Photo from TheLowedown Collection on Topps Bunt21 (a digital card collecting app available in the App Store or Google Play store)

An Old Testament Echo Chamber

We create an echo chamber when we manipulate our environment in such a way that we avoid any opposing views while engaging only with those who agree with us.

1 Kings 22

1For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. 2Then during the third year, King Jehoshaphat of Judah went to visit King Ahab of Israel. 3During the visit, Ahab said to his officials, “Do you realize that the Arameans are still occupying our city of Ramoth-gilead? And we haven’t done a thing about it!” 4Then he turned to Jehoshaphat and asked, “Will you join me in fighting against Ramoth-gilead?”

And Jehoshaphat replied to King Ahab, “Why, of course! You and I are brothers, and my troops are yours to command. Even my horses are at your service.” 5Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the LORD says.”

6So King Ahab summoned his prophets, about four hundred of them, and asked them, “Should I go to war against Ramoth-gilead or not?”

They all replied, “Go right ahead! The Lord will give you a glorious victory!”

7But Jehoshaphat asked, “Isn’t there a prophet of the LORD around, too? I would like to ask him the same question.”

8King Ahab replied, “There is still one prophet of the LORD, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but bad news for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

“You shouldn’t talk like that,” Jehoshaphat said. “Let’s hear what he has to say.”

9So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Go and get Micaiah son of Imlah.”

10King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah, dressed in their royal robes, were sitting on thrones at the threshing floor near the gate of Samaria. All of Ahab’s prophets were prophesying there in front of them. 11One of them, Zedekiah son of Kenaanah, made some iron horns and proclaimed, “This is what the LORD says: With these horns you will gore the Arameans to death!”

12All the other prophets agreed. “Yes,” they said, “go up to Ramoth-gilead and be victorious, for the LORD will give you victory!”

13Meanwhile, the messenger who went to get Micaiah said to him, “Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king. Be sure that you agree with them and promise success.”

14But Micaiah replied, “As surely as the LORD lives, I will say only what the LORD tells me to say.”

15When Micaiah arrived before the king, Ahab asked him, “Micaiah, should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead or not?”

And Micaiah replied, “Go right ahead! The LORD will give the king a glorious victory!”

16But the king replied sharply, “How many times must I demand that you speak only the truth when you speak for the LORD?”

17So Micaiah told him, “In a vision I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘Their master has been killed. Send them home in peace.’”

18“Didn’t I tell you?” the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat. “He does it every time. He never prophesies anything but bad news for me.”

19Then Micaiah continued, “Listen to what the LORD says! I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the armies of heaven around him, on his right and on his left. 20And the LORD said, ‘Who can entice Ahab to go into battle against Ramoth-gilead so that he can be killed there?’ There were many suggestions, 21until finally a spirit approached the LORD and said, ‘I can do it!’

22“‘How will you do this?’ the LORD asked.

“And the spirit replied, ‘I will go out and inspire all Ahab’s prophets to speak lies.’

“‘You will succeed,’ said the LORD. ‘Go ahead and do it.’

23“So you see, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of your prophets. For the LORD has determined disaster for you.”

24Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah walked up to Micaiah and slapped him across the face. “When did the Spirit of the LORD leave me to speak to you?” he demanded.

25And Micaiah replied, “You will find out soon enough when you find yourself hiding in some secret room!”

26King Ahab of Israel then ordered, “Arrest Micaiah and take him back to Amon, the governor of the city, and to my son Joash. 27Give them this order from the king: ‘Put this man in prison, and feed him nothing but bread and water until I return safely from the battle!’”

28But Micaiah replied, “If you return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me!” Then he added to those standing around, “Take note of what I have said.” (1 Kings 22:1-28, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In this digital age of social media and misinformation, the term “echo chamber” has become popularized. It refers to the scenario where a person only encounters information and only engages with opinions that reinforce their own views.

In this chapter of 1 Kings, we see an ancient example of the echo chamber. The nation of Israel had become divided after the reign of Solomon, resulting in two kingdoms – the southern kingdom consisting of the tribe of Judah, and the northern kingdom that consisted of the rest of the tribes of Israel.

Though these two related nations were often at odds, at this point in time, there is peace between them. Ahab, the king of Israel (the northern kingdom) asks Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah (the southern kingdom) if he will join him in going to war against the Arameans.

Jehoshaphat agrees but first asks if they could hear from the Lord on the matter.

Ahab summons 400 of his prophets to come and tell them if the Lord will give them victory over the Arameans. All of the prophets concur that the Lord will give them a “glorious victory.”

Jehoshaphat must realize that these prophets are not spokesmen for the true God because he asks Ahab if there is not a prophet of the Lord available that they could consult.

Ahab says there is one guy, Micaiah, but since he never gives good news, Ahab doesn’t listen to him.

This is an ancient example of the modern phenomenon we call the “echo chamber.” Ahab had already decided what he wanted to do and he was going to do it no matter what. His prophets had learned to tell him what he wanted to hear. This is obvious as Micaiah enters the scene and Ahab’s messenger tells him:

“Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king. Be sure that you agree with them and promise success.”

Ahab is not really interested in knowing what the Lord thinks or says about the matter. Instead, he surrounded himself with so-called prophets who simply validated the plans he was going to implement anyway.

Unfortunately, we do the same thing today that Ahab does in this passage. Whether it’s our social media feeds, our network of facebook friends, the books we read, the news we consume or the people we choose to actively connect with, we often shield ourselves from people and opinions that might contradict or challenge our views, while at the same time, listening only to those people who will put a rubber stamp of approval on anything we might say or do.

This method of manipulating the counsel we receive is an indication of a proud spirit and a stubborn heart.  It demonstrates that the person’s will is not inclined to the Lord and is not open to truth.

And when a person is not open to the truth, Jesus says that person is actually evil (see John 8)!

Reflection

What are some current issues or topics where you might be susceptible to living in an echo chamber instead of engaging with opposing views?

Describe a time when someone asked for your advice but ignored it, doing what they wanted to do anyway. How did that make you feel?

Why do you think people tend to ask for advice from only those people they know will agree with them?

What are some steps you can take to avoid living in an echo chamber? How can you ensure that your heart doesn’t become hardened and resistant to truth? How can you cultivate a heart and spirit that is open to the Lord?

 

Photo by Andi Mihailescu on Unsplash

Wise Advice Concerning Sex!

Proverbs 5

1My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise counsel. 2Then you will learn to be discreet and will store up knowledge.

3The lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil. 4But the result is as bitter as poison, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6For she does not care about the path to life. She staggers down a crooked trail and doesn’t even realize where it leads.

7So now, my sons, listen to me. Never stray from what I am about to say: 8Run from her! Don’t go near the door of her house! 9If you do, you will lose your honor and hand over to merciless people everything you have achieved in life. 10Strangers will obtain your wealth, and someone else will enjoy the fruit of your labor. 11Afterward you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body, 12and you will say, “How I hated discipline! If only I had not demanded my own way! 13Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers? Why didn’t I pay attention to those who gave me instruction? 14I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace.”

15Drink water from your own well—share your love only with your wife. 16Why spill the water of your springs in public, having sex with just anyone? 17You should reserve it for yourselves. Don’t share it with strangers.

18Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19She is a loving doe, a graceful deer. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. 20Why be captivated, my son, with an immoral woman, or embrace the breasts of an adulterous woman?

21For the LORD sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes. 22An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. 23He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his incredible folly. (Proverbs 5:1-23, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Reading through the Proverbs is often like reading the fortune from a fortune cookie – they are typically short statements packed with wise advice.

But in Proverbs 5, Solomon doesn’t just give us a few pithy statements related to his views on sex; instead, he devotes a whole chapter to warning his son about the dangers of sexual immorality.

Solomon starts out by acknowledging how enticing sexual sin is. In verse 3, he says that sexual sin always looks enticing and appealing IN THE MOMENT. But countless people realize the error of their decision immediately after satisfying their sexual desires.

In verses 7 and 8, Solomon again urges his son to “listen carefully”. This must be really important! Sexual sin is so enticing that Solomon’s advice is to RUN. In other words, don’t hang around! Lingering is almost always disastrous as the will is slowly broken down as we give our minds an opportunity to rationalize our projected sin.

The results of not heeding this advice are widespread and far-reaching. Relationships are ruined and financial positions are compromised. I realize that this is not a popular belief in our current culture, but the reality is that nothing good comes from sleeping around.

Fifty years ago, our culture experienced a sexual revolution in which traditional views and values of sex were challenged and cast aside in favor of a more “free” expression of sex. This radical new perspective gave people the freedom to enjoy sex outside of the traditional marriage relationship without experiencing the stigma that was normally associated with casual sex outside of marriage.

Now, more than fifty years after this counter-culture revolution dramatically changed the moral landscape of America, are we better off? Did the sexual revolution deliver on its promise of a better society by casting off the chains that were depriving people of unleashing their sexual repression and fulfilling their every sexual desire?

It’s not the intent of this post to give a detailed analysis of the results of the sexual revolution but I would say that even casual observations about the state of our culture now reveal that the answer to the question above is “NO!”

What have been the results of being released from our so-called sexual prison?

To start with, abortion became legal as a means of limiting the responsibility of unwanted pregnancies. Over 62 million babies have been aborted since it was legalized. It’s also no surprise that the spread of sexually transmitted diseases rose and has remained high.

Predictably, the number of babies born out of wedlock has dramatically increased, leading to a higher percentage of single-parent families. Single-parent families often face greater challenges financially, which in turn often results in kids having less developmental resources and educational opportunities.

Divorce rates went up and have stayed up, contributing to the breakdown of the nuclear family. The breakdown of the family unit, research has shown, is a major factor that has contributed to many of our society’s greatest ills – including crime, drugs, mental health issues, abuse, homelessness, and pornography, just to name a few.

Solomon urges his listeners to maintain sexual purity by “drinking water from your own well”, which is another way of saying that we should keep our sexual relationships within the context of marriage.

There is no doubt that sex is enjoyable, but Solomon asks the reader why they would have sex with just anyone, which, in his view doesn’t make us free, but actually cheapens the experience. His advice is to cherish sex and enjoy it in the context of your marriage partner, which is exactly how God intended it.

Reflection

In what ways have you or your extended family been negatively impacted by the changing moral values of the sexual revolution?

Chances are that you or someone you know has been impacted by divorce. What are some of the negative effects of divorce on kids and families? 

Who are some of your role models in terms of long-standing marital relationships? What do you think are some of the benefits of staying married and being faithful to one spouse?

In what ways can you relate to Solomon’s advice to RUN when confronted with an opportunity to engage in sexual sin?

 

Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

Dealing with Differences of Opinion

Is one day more important than another? Paul answers this question and others in Romans 14.

Romans 14

1Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. 2For instance, one person believes it is all right to eat anything. But another believer who has a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. 3Those who think it is all right to eat anything must not look down on those who won’t. And those who won’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. 4Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should.

5In the same way, some think one day is more holy than another day, while others think every day is alike. Each person should have a personal conviction about this matter. 6Those who have a special day for worshiping the Lord are trying to honor him. Those who eat all kinds of food do so to honor the Lord, since they give thanks to God before eating. And those who won’t eat everything also want to please the Lord and give thanks to God. 7For we are not our own masters when we live or when we die. 8While we live, we live to please the Lord. And when we die, we go to be with the Lord. So in life and in death, we belong to the Lord. 9Christ died and rose again for this very purpose, so that he might be Lord of those who are alive and of those who have died.

10So why do you condemn another Christian ? Why do you look down on another Christian? Remember, each of us will stand personally before the judgment seat of God. 11For the Scriptures say,

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,‘every knee will bow to me and every tongue will confess allegiance to God.’”

12Yes, each of us will have to give a personal account to God. 13So don’t condemn each other anymore. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not put an obstacle in another Christian’s path.

14I know and am perfectly sure on the authority of the Lord Jesus that no food, in and of itself, is wrong to eat. But if someone believes it is wrong, then for that person it is wrong. 15And if another Christian is distressed by what you eat, you are not acting in love if you eat it. Don’t let your eating ruin someone for whom Christ died. 16Then you will not be condemned for doing something you know is all right.

17For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God. And other people will approve of you, too. 19So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

20Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. Remember, there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves. But it is wrong to eat anything if it makes another person stumble. 21Don’t eat meat or drink wine or do anything else if it might cause another Christian to stumble. 22You may have the faith to believe that there is nothing wrong with what you are doing, but keep it between yourself and God. Blessed are those who do not condemn themselves by doing something they know is all right. 23But if people have doubts about whether they should eat something, they shouldn’t eat it. They would be condemned for not acting in faith before God. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning.
(Romans 14:1-23, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In Romans 14, Paul is dealing with a common issue among Christians – how should we handle issues on which we disagree?

In a previous post on this chapter of Scripture, I addressed the issue of whether Paul was advocating moral relativism. The short answer is “No”, but you can read my thoughts and explanation in my post “Does Paul Advocate Moral Relativism?”.

In this post, I want to focus instead on Paul’s admonition that we not condemn one another by arguing about minor doctrinal views and personal preferences. For some reason, probably pride and arrogance, people everywhere have this tendency to think all of their views and preferences are correct. Christians are not immune to this phenomenon, so we can tend to think that all of our doctrinal views and religious preferences are also correct, whereas those who may disagree with us or think differently must be wrong in their thinking and understanding.

As a result, we can fall into the trap of trying to correct every view and idea of others that differs from our own.

Paul says that when we condemn other Christians for their actions and preferences which differ from ours, we are potentially putting an obstacle in their path. Instead of taking on the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of others, we should let God do the work of convicting and transforming.

Several years ago, in my first ever seminary class, I learned some valuable principles that I think apply here.

Alan Scholes, in his book “What Christianity is all About” outlines three different categories of thought that we can place almost all of our views and positions into. In the book, these categories were talking about doctrinal positions but I think the categories can extend beyond just our doctrinal views and can include other views and positions as well.

The first category is what Scholes refers to as Opinions. Opinions are thoughts and beliefs I have regarding a particular topic or issue but I recognize that others may have different views and I don’t assert that my view is necessarily correct or the only view that a person can have.

The second category is what Scholes calls Persuasions. A persuasion is stronger than an opinion. I may have done some research on an issue and therefore may be persuaded that my position is logically correct, but I still allow for others to hold different positions.

The third category is what he calls Convictions. A conviction is a persuasion that is so strong that if someone were to disagree with me, it could impact or hinder my relationship or my ability to be in fellowship with that person.

Scholes argues that for followers of Christ there should be a limited number of doctrinal issues that we hold at a conviction level, which would limit our ability to partner with or fellowship with that person.

It doesn’t mean I couldn’t have a relationship with them but if we differ on these critical conviction issues, it may limit my ability to work with and partner with them.

Most other issues I should hold at an opinion or persuasion level.

The problem that many Christians experience is we too often elevate opinion level preferences to conviction level status. Paul gives several examples of this happening in his own experience. He first gives the example of whether you can eat meat or not, and then follows up with the example of whether worship should be reserved for a specific day for everyone.

Paul says that these issues are not critical. It’s ok to have your own opinion and you may even be persuaded that your view is right, but you shouldn’t impose your opinions and persuasions on others who may have a different view. On these non-critical issues, we should allow for a diversity of views and allow God to work in people’s hearts and minds if a change in view is required.

You may be wondering what constitutes a “non-critical” issue. Couldn’t someone argue that we should allow for a diversity of issues on just about any doctrine and position?

The answer is no, we shouldn’t allow for diversity in every doctrine and there are definitely issues we should hold at a conviction level. If you want to know what those issues are, just familiarize yourself with the scriptures because they are clearly spelled out.

For example, Paul leaves no room for people to hold a diversity of views on the nature of God or the person of Jesus. Those who taught a divergent view of Jesus were labeled as false teachers by Paul and other New Testament writers. See my posts here and here regarding this.

In general, if a person’s doctrinal viewpoint results in false teaching or an inaccurate or deficient view of God, Jesus or salvation, then it should be rejected. But if the person’s view has no impact on our view of God or our understanding of critical doctrines such as the doctrine of salvation, then some latitude should be allowed.

In Paul’s examples, you can see that whether or not a person eats meat is not relevant or critical to our understanding of God or salvation. Similarly, the exact day of the week that is reserved for worship has no impact on our understanding of salvation.

Paul’s advice on how to deal with differences of opinions can be summed up well by verse 19, which states:

So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.

Reflection

What are some critical doctrines that you think you should hold at a conviction level, meaning that if others disagreed with you it would negatively impact your ability to fellowship with them or even consider them to be legitimate followers of Jesus?

What are some opinion-level issues that you see Christians today elevating to conviction level status?

What are some issues or views that you personally hold at a persuasion level? What makes it a persuasion for you rather than just an opinion?

What steps can/should you take if other believers are condemning you for views that you think are opinions or persuasions and not convictions?

 

Photo by Dave Lowe

An Ancient Example of Injustice

1 Kings 21

1King Ahab had a palace in Jezreel, and near the palace was a vineyard owned by a man named Naboth. 2One day Ahab said to Naboth, “Since your vineyard is so convenient to the palace, I would like to buy it to use as a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or if you prefer, I will pay you for it.”

3But Naboth replied, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance that was passed down by my ancestors.” 4So Ahab went home angry and sullen because of Naboth’s answer. The king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat!

5“What in the world is the matter?” his wife, Jezebel, asked him. “What has made you so upset that you are not eating?”

6“I asked Naboth to sell me his vineyard or to trade it, and he refused!” Ahab told her.

7“Are you the king of Israel or not?” Jezebel asked. “Get up and eat and don’t worry about it. I’ll get you Naboth’s vineyard!”

8So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, sealed them with his seal, and sent them to the elders and other leaders of the city where Naboth lived. 9In her letters she commanded: “Call the citizens together for fasting and prayer and give Naboth a place of honor. 10Find two scoundrels who will accuse him of cursing God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”

11So the elders and other leaders followed the instructions Jezebel had written in the letters. 12They called for a fast and put Naboth at a prominent place before the people. 13Then two scoundrels accused him before all the people of cursing God and the king. So he was dragged outside the city and stoned to death. 14The city officials then sent word to Jezebel, “Naboth has been stoned to death.”

15When Jezebel heard the news, she said to Ahab, “You know the vineyard Naboth wouldn’t sell you? Well, you can have it now! He’s dead!” 16So Ahab immediately went down to the vineyard to claim it.
(1 Kings 21:1-16, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

This story is a perfect illustration of how those who are in power can abuse that power for their own gain at the expense of those they are supposed to serve.

King Ahab, who is described in 1 Kings 16:30 as more evil than any of the Israelite kings who had come before him, decides he wants a vineyard that is close and convenient to his palace. When he approaches the owner (Naboth) to buy it, his offer is rejected, primarily because Naboth doesn’t want to release family-owned land that has been passed down via his ancestors.

When Ahab’s wife Jezebel finds out the reason why Ahab has been moping around, she takes matters into her own hands by enlisting the help of ruthless collaborators to accuse Naboth of a crime he didn’t commit so she could deceptively kill Naboth in a way that would seem legitimate and then take possession of the vineyard.

This kind of abuse of power doesn’t just happen in ancient monarchies but can happen even today in a democratic society like the United States, where cultural and political elites often get rich and wealthy at the expense of commoners.

A recent movie depicting this kind of scenario is the 2019 movie “Dark Waters” starring Mark Ruffalo. In the movie, DuPont, the biggest company and employer in the region, dumps their toxic waste in an area that ruins a man’s land and livestock.  Instead of owning their actions, facing consequences and paying restitution, they employ an army of lawyers to keep their actions secret and shield themselves from consequences.

Essentially, they know they are poisoning people but they do it anyway because there is a lot of profit in creating their teflon products.

This is what Ahab and Jezebel do – they kill Naboth in order to seize his land, all for their own selfish gain.

The truth is that this kind of behavior is not new. It’s been around since the dawn of time and continues to persist within the business and political culture. Of course the root of these actions is always selfishness in the form of greed and covetousness.

In our society today, there is a lot of talk about equity and justice and enacting laws that would punish those who act unjustly towards others. But while laws are necessary to curb evil, they are ultimately ineffective in eradicating evil. Laws simply cannot uncover every deceptive form of greed and abuse that people choose to hide.

The only real solution, as the Scriptures attest, is for people’s hearts to be renewed and aligned with God.

As followers of Christ, we should not be surprised that sin still exists and that people seem to find new and twisted ways to exploit others for their own selfish gains. We are called to seek justice for those who are disenfranchised and we should seek to enact laws to curb evil.

But we should also realize that apart from a heart transformation that only Jesus can provide, evil and injustice will not be eliminated until Jesus Himself returns and forces everyone to give an account for their actions.

Reflection

What are some examples of injustice and exploitation you see in our culture today?

What do you think are the root causes of some of the injustices and abuse of power that we still see today?  

Shows like Star Trek have portrayed future human civilizations as becoming enlightened and “evolved”, discarding their base selfish desires of greed and coveting in order to create a semi-utopian societal existence. Do you think this kind of utopian outcome is possible? Why or why not? 

What do you think would be required for injustices and abuse of power to really be eradicated? 

 

Photo by David from Pexels

 

The Endless Virtues of God’s Word

Psalm 119

1Happy are people of integrity, who follow the law of the LORD.

2Happy are those who obey his decrees and search for him with all their hearts.

3They do not compromise with evil, and they walk only in his paths.

4You have charged us to keep your commandments carefully.

5Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your principles!

6Then I will not be disgraced when I compare my life with your commands.

7When I learn your righteous laws, I will thank you by living as I should!

8I will obey your principles. Please don’t give up on me!

9How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word and following its rules.

10I have tried my best to find you—don’t let me wander from your commands.

11I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

12Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your principles.

13I have recited aloud all the laws you have given us.

14I have rejoiced in your decrees as much as in riches.

15I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways.

16I will delight in your principles and not forget your word.

17Be good to your servant, that I may live and obey your word.

18Open my eyes to see the wonderful truths in your law.

19I am but a foreigner here on earth; I need the guidance of your commands. Don’t hide them from me!

20I am overwhelmed continually with a desire for your laws.
(Psalm 119:1-20, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Psalm 119 has the distinction of not only being the longest of the 150 Psalms, but at 176 verses, it’s also the longest chapter in the entire Bible.

Though it’s not apparent in the English version, this psalm is actually an acrostic poem consisting of 22 stanzas, each of which begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Each stanza is 8 verses and the unifying theme throughout this psalm is the love for and the importance of God’s laws in our lives.

Though I’ve only included the first 20 verses in this post, just about every one of the 176 verses has a direct reference to God’s word, using terms like “commandments”, “decrees”, “principles”, “rules”, and “righteous word”.

Throughout the poem, the psalmist highlights the importance and the benefits of following God’s laws, including:

    • enabling us to live as we should (verse 7)
    • instructing us on how to remain pure (verse 9)
    • empowering us to avoid sin (verse 11)
    • daily guidance (verse 19)
    • source of wisdom and advice (verse 24)
    • revives us when we’re discouraged (verse 25)
    • encourages us in our grief (verse 28)
    • tempers greed and love for money (verse 36)
    • helps us know God as He is (verse 55)
    • source of comfort, peace, hope (multiple verses)

Of course, this list is not complete as the psalm repeatedly extols the virtues of God’s commands and our need to know them and follow them. The author’s view and love for God’s word can be summarized by verse 72, which says:

“Your law is more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver!”

This psalm highlights one of the most important truths of the Christian faith, which is that God’s word is central to those who want to know Him and follow Him. Not only is it the primary source of our knowledge about God, but it’s also the main avenue for understanding our fallen nature and the means for experiencing reconciliation with God and with others.

Reflection

How well do you know God’s word?

What has been your habit in terms of connecting with God regularly through His word?

If you wrote your own psalm extolling the virtues of God’s word in your own life, what would you say? What adjectives would you use to reflect your view of God’s word and its importance in your life? How long would your psalm be?

What steps can you take to develop your understanding of God’s commands and your knowledge of His word?

What obstacles or barriers keep you from regularly and consistently reading and studying God’s word?

 

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The Struggle for Endurance

James 1

2Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. 3For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. (James 1:2-4, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Last year around this time, I decided I wanted to shed about 10 pounds by the time I hit my birthday about 3 months later. I developed a plan that involved counting my calories through an app called LoseIt and increasing my fitness level through running.

I should say that I really don’t like running. Actually, that’s too generous. “Hate” would be a more appropriate word to describe the feelings I had for running.

My twins are runners so I’ve been exposed to the running culture for a number of years and I’ve made many attempts to get myself out there. But honestly, it was always just so dreadful. I couldn’t go very far before I was completely gasping for air and I almost always developed some kind of knee/leg/calf/shin/ankle/foot injury within a couple of weeks, which always required time for healing which in turn meant a complete restart a few weeks later.

I was in the habit of driving over to the high school and doing laps around the track because it was flat. I thought that anything I could do to make running easier would be better. I was wrong.

It turns out that when Covid hit, the school closed the track to the public. Those of us in the know knew how to get onto the track even when the gates were locked but then the school hired security guards to kick out anyone who might try to circumvent the rules.

At that point, I had no choice. If I was going to try to burn off excess calories via running, I was going to have to do it in my own neighborhood, which meant running up and down hills.

It turns out that running only on flat surfaces was not exactly helpful for my progress. It also turns out that running up hills is helpful. The struggle of going up a hill actually builds endurance.

After a few weeks of running, I was able to slowly extend my distance. Three miles had been about my max but I was now able to do three miles more regularly.

One day, I decided to do a long run of 6 miles. The plan was to run out of my neighborhood and over to the man-made Lake Mission Viejo. There’s a walking loop around the lake that’s about 3.1 miles. Running that loop and then running back would be about 6 miles total. The problem was that there are a number of long hill inclines around that lake and I found that I couldn’t run that whole loop without having to make several stops to get my heart rate down and control my breathing.

But one day, I was able to push myself and make it all the way around that lake loop without stopping. It was a big achievement. I decided that I would make another attempt in a few days, which I did. Running around that lake became easier and more routine, precisely because I had to struggle to do it in the first place. It was the struggle that increased my endurance and helped me build my stamina, a feat that had always seemed to elude me.

Now, a year later, my typical daily run is 6 miles, including the lake loop. About once a week, I’ll run a longer run of 10-13 miles. My times have gotten better and I find that I actually enjoy running more than I ever thought I would.

When James talks about struggles in this first chapter of his letter, I think about running. Just as the struggle of running up hills helped increase my endurance, so the struggles of life increase our faith and ability to trust God.

The struggles of life actually help your endurance grow. Of course nobody likes struggles but they are an inevitable part of life. So James’ advice is to embrace the struggles of life and look at them as an opportunity to develop endurance, which in turn will mold you into a person who is “strong in character and ready for anything.”

Reflection

What examples do you have from your own life that demonstrate how struggle actually promotes growth?

What are some current struggles you’re currently experiencing? In what ways could these struggles be used as an opportunity for growth?

Many missionaries who have served overseas among more underprivileged communities and cultures have remarked how deep and strong the faith is of believers who have relatively little compared to American Christians, whose faith, by comparison, has often been observed to be shallow and lacking in depth. What do you think might be some reasons why American believers, despite our vast biblical and financial resources, often are seen as having a shallow faith, while believers in third world countries are often described as having deep and enduring faith?

What are some steps you can personally take to develop your faith and build endurance?

 

Photo by Emma Simpson on Unsplash

Further Proof that Jesus is God

Titus 3

3Once we, too, were foolish and disobedient. We were misled by others and became slaves to many wicked desires and evil pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy. We hated others, and they hated us.

4But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love. 5He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. 6He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. 7He declared us not guilty because of his great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life. 8These things I have told you are all true. I want you to insist on them so that everyone who trusts in God will be careful to do good deeds all the time. These things are good and beneficial for everyone. (Titus 3:3-8, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

“The Bible never claims that Jesus is God!”

Perhaps you’ve heard someone make this claim. The argument essentially says that the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus is God, but teaches that Jesus is something less than God, such as “Son of God”, or “Son of Man”, or “Messiah”, or “anointed one”, etc.

Because the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus is God, then Jesus must not BE God and therefore, the traditional Christian teaching that Jesus is divine must be false. Hence Christianity is false.

But is it true that the Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus is divine?

No.

The evidence for the deity of Jesus is overwhelming and generally falls into three categories: 1) Direct claims of deity that Jesus made – I covered one such incident here.  2) Passages that show Jesus has attributes that only God could possess and 3) passages in which Jesus’ followers clearly identify Jesus as divine. This passage in Titus is one such example.

Jesus’ divinity is not hard to demonstrate from this passage and only a basic understanding of logic is necessary to prove that Paul believed and taught that Jesus was God.

Verse 4 says clearly:

“But then God our Savior showed us his kindness and love.”

Verse 6 states that:

“He generously poured out the Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did.”

So in one verse, Paul refers to God our Savior, while just two verses later, he refers to what “Jesus Christ our Savior did.”

These two verses show that God is Savior AND Jesus Christ is Savior. Therefore, Jesus Christ is God.

There are dozens of other passages that demonstrate that Jesus’ own followers saw him as divine and even worshiped Him. Keep in mind that for the Jew, worship was reserved for God alone. Therefore, when a Jewish person worships Jesus, they are doing so because they believe He is God and therefore worthy of worship.

This one passage may not be enough to convince your non-Christian friends that Jesus is indeed God, but it should help convince you. Jesus not only made direct claims of deity but His followers also ascribed deity to Jesus and promoted their understanding of Jesus’ nature to others.

Reflection

What has been your understanding of the nature of Jesus? In what ways have your views changed or been substantiated?

In what ways do you find the above logic regarding proof of Jesus’ divinity convincing? In what ways are you not convinced?

If you are not convinced that Jesus is God, what are your reasons for not believing? Conversely, what basis can you give to support the idea that Jesus IS God?

Why do you think it matters whether a person has a correct understanding of the nature of Jesus? What are the consequences for having a wrong understanding of who Jesus is? (For my thoughts on these questions, see my posts here, and here.)

 

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

Should Christians Obey the Government?

Titus 3

1Remind your people to submit to the government and its officers. They should be obedient, always ready to do what is good. 2They must not speak evil of anyone, and they must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone. (Titus 3:1-2, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

How do you view the government? Do you see the government as good or evil? How much control should our government have? Should we, as Christians, obey the government, or are we free to disobey the government when it suits us? What should the Christian’s response be towards our government and its leaders?

In Paul’s letter to Titus, he closes his thoughts in this final chapter with the admonition that people should obey the government and its leaders.

Paul’s command is not just that we would obey, but that we should do good, avoid quarreling and act with humility towards everyone. Honestly, when I nose around on social media for any extended period of time, I don’t usually see many believers who are actively heeding Paul’s words.

Whenever I see believers actively resisting the government these days, most often the basis given is that the government is evil, or the government is violating our constitutional rights or something similar.

Keep this in mind: when Paul wrote these words, Nero was in power over the Roman Empire. To say that Nero was not kind to the Christian community would be a gross understatement. Nero was so antagonistic towards Christians that he blamed the great fire of Rome in AD 64 on the Christian community. And yet, Paul here is urging Titus to tell his people that they should submit to the government and its officers.

There are two things to be aware of here regarding Paul’s command:

First, obeying government leaders is not a tacit admission that everything the government does is somehow holy and good.

Secondly, Paul’s command to obey the government is not a universal command to obey ANYTHING that the government says. It’s meant to be a general statement about our posture towards our leaders. In general, we should obey what the authorities are asking us to do. But that doesn’t mean that there are no circumstances where we would be justified in disobedience.

How do we know when we should obey or disobey?

Acts 4 provides a helpful guideline on this topic. The disciples are brought in before the religious leaders because of a miracle that has been performed in healing a crippled man at the Temple. As a result of this healing, many people were praising God. Peter and John took advantage of the situation and shared the gospel to a captive, curious and open audience. As a result, many believed in Jesus and became followers of Christ on that day.

But the religious leaders weren’t happy, so they brought the apostles into their presence for questioning. They used this opportunity to warn them not to continue spreading their “propaganda”. They told them to stop preaching the message about Jesus.

Peter and John’s reply is recorded in Acts 4:19, in which they say:

“Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19, NLT)

Here’s the principle: in general, Christians should obey their government and its leaders, particularly when there is no morally objectionable reason to disobey.

However, if our government or its leaders ask you to do something that is immoral or contradicts God’s laws or decrees, then we, as Christ followers, are morally obligated to reject that request and instead, pursue those activities that represent God’s moral law. In other words, when earthly laws and regulations contradict or oppose biblical laws and/or values, the biblical value should trump earthly rules every time.

Reflection

What are some laws or regulations that you are most likely to see Christians disregarding?

Why do you think believers are sometimes quick to resist government authorities and regulations? What are some of the reasons cited?

What are some government rules and regulations that you think Christians SHOULD reject and disobey? What reasoning can you give to explain why Christians should disobey those particular rules and regulations?

What would it look like for people to show gentleness and true humility to everyone?

 

Photo by visuals on Unsplash

 

Where Did that Ball Come From?

Romans 1

18But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves. 19For the truth about God is known to them instinctively. God has put this knowledge in their hearts. 20From the time the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky and all that God made. They can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse whatsoever for not knowing God.

21Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused. 22Claiming to be wise, they became utter fools instead. 23And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people, or birds and animals and snakes.

24So God let them go ahead and do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they worshiped the things God made but not the Creator himself, who is to be praised forever. Amen.

26That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27Note And the men, instead of having normal sexual relationships with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men and, as a result, suffered within themselves the penalty they so richly deserved.

28When they refused to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their evil minds and let them do things that should never be done. 29Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, fighting, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They are forever inventing new ways of sinning and are disobedient to their parents. 31They refuse to understand, break their promises, and are heartless and unforgiving. 32They are fully aware of God’s death penalty for those who do these things, yet they go right ahead and do them anyway. And, worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. (Romans 1:18-32, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

I heard a humorous story a long time ago that goes like this:

A guy is talking to his atheist friend and poses this series of questions:

“You’re walking along the beach and you see a tennis ball. What do you assume? Is it the product of random ocean forces that somehow mixed random ocean materials together to create a tennis ball and then washed it up onto the shore?

“NO! It’s a tennis ball. I assume someone left it here after playing with it on the beach.”

“Ok. Let’s say you’re walking along the beach and you see a bigger ball, like a soccer ball. What do you conclude? Was it designed or did it create itself through some random process?”

“It was obviously designed and placed there by someone.”

“Ok. Let’s say you’re walking along the beach and you see an even BIGGER ball, like a weather balloon. What do you conclude?”

“Well, since a weather balloon has purpose, it must have been created by someone who understood that purpose.”

“Great. What about an even BIGGER ball? What if you’re walking along and you see the EARTH? What do you conclude? Was it the product of an intelligent designer?”

“Oh no. The Earth was not created by an intelligent being. It’s the product of billions of years of random chance processes.”

Romans 1 is the classic Bible chapter outlining the process by which people, in the futility of their own mind, devolve into the depths of their own sinfulness.

Paul speaks to the fictional exchange above in verses 18-20, which state that it’s obvious when you look around that there must be some powerful, creative force behind all that we see. Given our own understanding and experience with creating and designing advanced, complex machines and electronics, how could anyone come to the conclusion that something like our universe, which is so intricately, beautifully and purposefully designed is the result of random chance?

It really makes no logical sense.

William Paley, in the early 1800’s, posed this scenario when he developed his “Watchmaker” analogy. In his analogy, he said in effect,

If I stumbled upon a stone and asked how it got there, I would think the question is absurd. It has been there forever. But if I stumbled upon a watch and asked how it got there, the answer would be different, for a watch is obviously designed with purpose, showing evidence of a designer.

So what is the reason people will acknowledge that man-made items such as watches, computers and automobiles are obviously designed, yet something much larger, more complex and intricate that includes biological living things and entire eco-systems, is NOT the product of a designer?

Paul’s answer in this chapter is spelled out in the first verse of this section (verse 18), when he says:

“But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who push the truth away from themselves.

The short answer is that people suppress the truth that is inherently obvious to them. To suppress truth is to deny it and reject it.

Paul’s discourse outlines the depth of the problem of sin. Sin is not just doing bad things or saying bad things, but sin has penetrated to the very depths of our heart.

The heart represents our will, our most inner motives and desires. Paul is saying that though God’s qualities are obvious to all through creation, people end up suppressing (rejecting) this truth through a downward spiraling pattern of inner rebellion.

How does this happen?

It starts when people who know God, or at least know there is a God, refuse to give thanks to God or acknowledge His role in our lives. Next, people develop an image of God that matches their own preferences. They fail to acknowledge God as He is, but instead begin to create a god in their mind who matches their own desires and preferences.

As people begin to follow and worship their own view of god, their hearts become darkened. Why? Because they are not following the truth but they’re following a distorted and false image of god that represents their own preferences and desires. In effect, people begin to train and condition their own moral values away from God’s standards and towards their own sinful desires.

As people continue on this course, God gives them over to their own base desires. In other words, He gives people the freedom to follow their choices and also experience the natural consequences of those choices. People’s thoughts, attitudes and actions become more and more vile and wicked as they reject God’s standards of morality and choose to follow their own inclinations.

The end result is that people develop their own moral values that contradict and oppose God’s values in varying degrees. What sinful humanity now thinks and calls normal and good, God views as wickedness. These rebellious acts show up in every possible area of our lives, from the way we talk to others, the way we conduct our business, our sexual practices, etc.

The final stage in this rebellion is a declaration that our sinful acts are righteous (thus, morality is redefined) along with an encouragement for others to follow these new moral guidelines.

In order to justify the new moral order, people either eliminate God altogether (atheism) or they re-create God in such a way that He actually advocates and endorses these attitudes and behaviors that have traditionally been seen as sinful (paganism/idolatry).

I think verse 31 is a fitting summary that characterizes the attitude of the person Paul is describing, when he says,

“They refuse to understand, break their promises, and are heartless and unforgiving.”

This sounds a lot like our current culture to me, and the thing is, none of us are immune to these outcomes. If we are not intentional about caring for our spiritual life, we may find ourselves, over time, slowly drifting away from God until one day we resemble the person described in Romans 1:28-32.

How can we avoid this?

I’m sure there are many practical steps that could help but if we did these three things consistently: acknowledge God, give thanks to Him for His goodness, and worship Him for who He is, we would likely safeguard ourselves from entering the downward spiral which starts the progression.

Reflection

What are the typical reasons you hear people giving to reject God and His existence?

What examples can you see in our current culture where people are redefining morality and changing their view of God in order to accommodate their own life choices and preferences?

What biblical moral standards do you struggle with the most? What do you think are the reasons you (and others) struggle with those particular moral values?  

In what ways are you most tempted to re-define God in order to meet your own personal moral preferences?

 

Photo by Kevin Mueller on Unsplash