The Recipe for “Salad Bar” Religion

2 Kings 17

24And the king of Assyria transported groups of people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim and resettled them in the towns of Samaria, replacing the people of Israel. So the Assyrians took over Samaria and the other towns of Israel. 25But since these foreign settlers did not worship the LORD when they first arrived, the LORD sent lions among them to kill some of them.

26So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: “The people whom you have resettled in the towns of Israel do not know how to worship the God of the land. He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped him correctly.”

27The king of Assyria then commanded, “Send one of the exiled priests from Samaria back to Israel. Let him teach the new residents the religious customs of the God of the land.” 28So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria returned to Bethel and taught the new residents how to worship the LORD.

29But these various groups of foreigners also continued to worship their own gods. In town after town where they lived, they placed their idols at the pagan shrines that the people of Israel had built. 30Those from Babylon worshiped idols of their god Succoth-benoth. Those from Cuthah worshiped their god Nergal. And those from Hamath worshiped Ashima. 31The Avvites worshiped their gods Nibhaz and Tartak. And the people from Sepharvaim even burned their own children as sacrifices to Adrammelech and Anammelech.

32These new residents worshiped the LORD, but they appointed from among themselves priests to offer sacrifices at the pagan shrines. 33And though they worshiped the LORD, they continued to follow the religious customs of the nations from which they came. 34And this is still going on among them today. They follow their former practices instead of truly worshiping the LORD and obeying the laws, regulations, instructions, and commands he gave the descendants of Jacob, whose name he changed to Israel. 35For the LORD had made a covenant with the descendants of Jacob and commanded them: “Do not worship any other gods or bow before them or serve them or offer sacrifices to them. 36Worship only the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt with such mighty miracles and power. You must worship him and bow before him; offer sacrifices to him alone. 37Be careful to obey all the laws, regulations, instructions, and commands that he wrote for you. You must not worship any other gods. 38Do not forget the covenant I made with you, and do not worship other gods. 39You must worship only the LORD your God. He is the one who will rescue you from all your enemies.”

40But the people would not listen and continued to follow their old ways. 41So while these new residents worshiped the LORD, they also worshiped their idols. And to this day their descendants do the same. (2 Kings 17:24-41, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

About 700 years before Christ, the Assyrians, who were the dominant world power at the time, invaded and conquered Israel, the northern kingdom.

A common template for a conquering army was exporting the defeated nation’s people back to the nation of the invading army where they would be assimilated and/or acculturated into the dominant culture.

At the same time, it was common for the conquering power to bring its own citizens in to occupy the conquered land, thus expanding their cultural reach even further.

This is what’s happening in 2 Kings 17. The Assyrian army has conquered Israel and shipped off most of its citizens to the motherland. In exchange, people from various parts of the Assyrian empire are brought into Samaria in order to repopulate the area with those who are already assimilated into the Assyrian way of life.

But there’s a problem. These new people don’t worship God. They have their own regional deities whom they worship. So the Lord sends in lions to kill some of the inhabitants.

When the king learns that some of his selected subjects are being taken down by lions in his newly acquired province, he’s told that the reason is because the people don’t understand how to worship the local deity (God) and so they are being punished by lions that have been sent to kill them.

The king decides to send an exiled priest back to Israel to instruct the new inhabitants in how to worship the Lord, thus hoping to appease the local deity and quell the lion attacks.

This exiled priest does what he’s asked to do. He instructs the new inhabitants in the proper ways to worship the Lord.

The new inhabitants are quick to comply. After all, who wants to get killed by a lion?

The problem is that even though these new inhabitants begin worshiping the Lord according to the pattern they are taught by this exiled priest, they never give up worshiping their previous deities. They worship the Lord but neglect to forsake their former gods.

It occurred to me that we do the same thing today. We may not have regional deities we’re worshiping in addition to God as these people in 2 Kings 17 did, but we may have things besides Jesus that seduce our affections and take priority in our lives.

The truth is that not much has changed in the 2700+ years since this was written. Many people come to church and add Christianity to their philosophical library but they neglect to forsake their former idols and previous ways of life.

As a result, many people end up with what I call a “salad bar” approach to their religious views. I call it a salad bar because if you’ve ever been to a place like Souplantation or a similar buffet-line style eatery, it is a great illustration for how people develop their religious views.

In a salad bar or any kind of buffet line, you grab your plate and you walk down the food line and you put food on your plate that you like and you pass over the foods you don’t like. You pick and choose the things you enjoy while rejecting the things you don’t prefer.

When you reach the end of the buffet line, you pay the cashier and you walk to an open table holding a plate that has all of the delicious items and tantalizing desserts you prefer without any of the foods you dislike.

This isn’t true Christianity. It’s more like what we see here in 2 Kings 17. Just because a person says they believe in Christ and they worship Jesus doesn’t mean they have forsaken all of their previous idols and it doesn’t mean that they have abandoned all of their previous wordly philosophies and dogmas.

The true Christ-follower recognizes that Jesus is calling us into a relationship that is best illustrated as a marital covenant. I wrote about that here.

As is true of any marriage relationship, there is an underlying expectation that both parties will be faithful and true to their one and only partner.

When we add Jesus as just another side dish on our plate of religious philosophies, we have not really made a true commitment to Jesus because saying “yes” to Jesus requires us to first and foremost, forsake all others.

Reflection

What were the idols or gods in your life that you worshiped or gave priority before you came to Christ?

What are the things that tend to compete for you affections as you seek to make Christ Lord in your life?

What are the views or teachings of Christianity that you have a hard time believing – those beliefs that if they were in a salad bar, you’d prefer to pass over instead of putting them on your plate?

Also, what are some views and thoughts from the culture or your previous way of life that you’ve had a hard time discarding from your plate, even though they may stand in contrast to clear biblical teachings?

What are some things you can do to avoid a “salad bar” theology?

 

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

A “Twilight Zone” Episode from the Old Testament

Rod Serling narrates The Twilight Zone – Season 2, Episode 2 – “The Man in the Bottle”

2 Kings 8

7Now Elisha went to Damascus, the capital of Aram, where King Ben-hadad lay sick. Someone told the king that the man of God had come. 8When the king heard the news, he said to Hazael, “Take a gift to the man of God. Then tell him to ask the LORD if I will get well again.”

9So Hazael loaded down forty camels with the finest products of Damascus as a gift for Elisha. He went in to him and said, “Your servant Ben-hadad, the king of Aram, has sent me to ask you if he will recover.”

10And Elisha replied, “Go and tell him, ‘You will recover.’ But the LORD has shown me that he will actually die!” 11Elisha stared at Hazael* with a fixed gaze until Hazael became uneasy. Then the man of God started weeping.

12“What’s the matter, my lord?” Hazael asked him.

Elisha replied, “I know the terrible things you will do to the people of Israel. You will burn their fortified cities, kill their young men, dash their children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women!”

13Then Hazael replied, “How could a nobody like me ever accomplish such a great feat?”

But Elisha answered, “The LORD has shown me that you are going to be the king of Aram.”

14When Hazael went back, the king asked him, “What did Elisha tell you?”

And Hazael replied, “He told me that you will surely recover.”

15But the next day Hazael took a blanket, soaked it in water, and held it over the king’s face until he died. Then Hazael became the next king of Aram. (2 Kings 8:7-15)


The Daily DAVEotional

I grew up watching reruns of the classic TV series “The Twilight Zone”. Every black and white episode was introduced by series creator and narrator Rod Serling, who, in his classic opening line of “Imagine if you will…” posed a seemingly normal scenario that ultimately ended with an ironic twist of fate that often left the audience wondering if the next installment might be as paradoxical as the last.

This section of scripture from 2 Kings reads like an old Twilight Zone TV script.

Elisha goes to the King of Syria who lays in bed sick and is wondering if he’ll get better. The king tells his servant Hazael to take a gift to Elisha so that they might consult him regarding God’s outcome for his illness.

As Elisha interacts with Hazael, there is an awkward exchange where Elisha breaks down in tears. When asked about the reason for his sadness, Elisha reveals to Hazael that he’s weeping because he foresees the future, and in this future he sees all the evil things Hazael is going to do to the people of Israel.

Hazael doesn’t think too highly of himself as he refers to himself as a “nobody” but he seems to express some excitement at the prospect that he might actually accomplish these “great feats.” Still, he wonders how it’s possible.

Elisha tells him that God has informed him that he will become the king of Aram.

This revelation seems to set forces in motion for Hazael as he tells the king that he WILL recover from his illness but then promptly murders him the next day, replacing him as king of Aram and thus fulfilling Elisha’s prophetic vision.

The question is: did God simply foresee events that would happen and then tell Hazael what He saw, or was this revelation the seed that CAUSED Hazael to take the action that he did?

In the Twilight Zone, the viewer is often left to ponder for himself this very question. One could make an argument either way, which is one of the reasons there was wide appeal for the show, which, even more than 50 years later, are still running daily on local TV stations.

So which is it? Is it divine foreknowledge? Or did God cause the events? It’s the age-old debate: does Hazael freely choose his path or did God fore-ordain it?

It’s both. Clearly God sees everything. And clearly God is sovereign over everything and is able to orchestrate people and circumstances to accomplish His purposes.

What is interesting to know is that back in 1 Kings 19:15, Elijah was told by God that he was to anoint Jehu to be king of Israel, anoint Hazael to be king of Aram and anoint Elisha to be his successor.

Immediately after that passage, we see Elijah calling Elisha to be his successor, but we are not told what happened with Jehu and Hazael.

Now in 2 Kings 8, we see the rest of the story unfold. God’s plan was always for Hazael to be king; we just weren’t informed how and when it would come about.

From the story, it appears that Elisha’s revelation to Hazael plants the seed in Hazael’s mind that he can be someone of greater significance than he previously had imagined.

God, in His sovereignty is able to orchestrate events to fulfill His ultimate purposes, but at the same time, Hazael acted of his own free will when he decided to murder the king and take his place.

Like the Twilight Zone ending, we are left to ponder exactly how these two separate but equally true realities intersect: God knows all and yet is able to accomplish His purposes through people who are completely and fully responsible for their own actions which are made of their own free will.

Reflection

When is a time when you saw God orchestrate circumstances to accomplish a purpose? What are some examples in your own life of events unfolding that seem to coincidental to be anything other than God’s intervention?

God first told Elijah to anoint Hazael king in 1 Kings 19 but we don’t actually see him do it. We see the fulfillment of Hazael becoming king of Aram eleven chapters later. Why do you think there is a such a gap in this story? 

Most people do not have the luxury of having a prophet of God tell them their future. What are the voices you are listening to regarding your future and your destiny? Short of having a prophet visit you, what are some ways you can get God’s perspective on your life and future?

What do you think we can learn from studying the lives and decisions of these kings who lived over 2500 years ago? How can we apply these stories to our own lives and our own culture?

 

Screenshot from Dave Lowe

Can a Person Love Jesus but Hate His Followers?

1 John 4

7Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8But anyone who does not love does not know God—for God is love.

9God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

11Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. 12No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love has been brought to full expression through us.

13And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. 14Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15All who proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. 16We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him.

God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. 17And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world.

18Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. 19We love each other as a result of his loving us first.

20If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen? 21And God himself has commanded that we must love not only him but our Christian brothers and sisters, too. (1 John 4:7-21, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

“I love Jesus….I just don’t like His followers!”

Have you ever heard someone say something like this?

This sentiment, that Jesus is cool but his followers aren’t, has become widespread, especially among young adults (those classified as Millennials and Gen Z), who, according to Barna research, are leaving the church in record numbers.

What is going on?

There are a number of reasons why young people are leaving the church. According to Barna, some of the reasons include: seeing the church as too shallow, experiencing the church as being over-protective and fearful of everything outside the church, seeing the church as not being in touch with real-world problems, and viewing the church as being antagonistic toward science.

Whatever the reasons that might cause a person to step away from the church, is it legitimate to “love Jesus, but not His followers”?

Not according to John.

In my last post, I shared some thoughts from 1 John chapters 2 and 3, in which the author shared that one of the marks of the God-follower is love for one another, specifically, love for other Christians.

This issue of loving one another must be a big deal to John because in the next chapter, he once again exhorts his audience to love one another.

The reasons he gives in chapter 4 are as follows:

    • God is love
    • If we say that we are “in God”, then His love should be in us and it will be perfected (made complete) within us
    • Hence, those who say that God is in them should be loving because God IS love.

This line of reasoning lays the foundation for John’s final point, in which he states:

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we have not seen?

The bottom line is that one cannot claim to love God (or Jesus) but hate His followers. It’s an oxymoron because God IS love and therefore, if we love God, we will love His children (other believers).

Additionally, John points out, we’ve been commanded to love our Christian brothers and sisters.

So the idea that we can love God (or Jesus) but no love his followers doesn’t compute and reflects a fundamental lack of awareness of what the Christian life is all about.

We are living in perilous and confusing times. Unfortunately, churches aren’t always as reflective of Jesus as we might like. Sin has a way of ruining our expectations, unfortunately.

But the solution isn’t to bail on Christ’s church because it is filled with sinners who are a constant reminder of our need for Jesus in the first place.

As difficult as it may be, the solution is to find some other Christ followers and begin to live out the command to love one another in the context of an authentic community.

If this kind of community doesn’t exist then there is nothing stopping you from creating that kind of community.

One of the interesting arguments for the triune nature of God is the fact that He is a God of love and that His loving nature has been expressed for eternity in the context of a trinity of relationships. In other words, if the nature of the Godhead is singular, how would it be possible for love to be expressed as there would be no object for that love?

A similar line of reasoning could be expressed here. If a fundamental characteristic of the Christian life and knowing God is loving one another, how can that love be expressed in isolation?

It can’t.

Hence, the idea that one can love Jesus but hate His followers or one can love Jesus without being a part of a church community is not biblical. This issue is so important that John spends a major portion of his first epistle reinforcing this concept that Christians are to love one another….and that’s not possible if we are not in community with them.

Reflection

Do you know some people who claim to still be Christians but no longer are connected to a church? If so, what are the reasons given for why church is no longer a part of their Christian experience?

What response would you give to someone who says they love Jesus but they cannot be a part of His church because of all the hypocrites and scandals they see in the church?

How can the church address those who say that the church is either not concerned with or is not effective in dealing with real-world problems?

What steps can you (or a person you’re advising) take to be a part of the kind of community where the command to love one another can be freely expressed?

 

Original Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash (edited photo by Dave Lowe)

 

How Can You Know if You’re Really a True Christian?

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

1 John 2

7Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the beginning. This commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. 8Yet it is also new. This commandment is true in Christ and is true among you, because the darkness is disappearing and the true light is already shining.

9If anyone says, “I am living in the light,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is still living in darkness. 10Anyone who loves other Christians is living in the light and does not cause anyone to stumble. 11Anyone who hates a Christian brother or sister is living and walking in darkness. Such a person is lost, having been blinded by the darkness.
(1 John 2:7-11, NLT – emphasis added)

1 John 3

11This is the message we have heard from the beginning: We should love one another12We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was right. 13So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

14If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to eternal life. But a person who has no love is still dead. 15Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart. And you know that murderers don’t have eternal life within them. 16We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. 17But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help—how can God’s love be in that person?

18Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions. 19It is by our actions that we know we are living in the truth, so we will be confident when we stand before the Lord, 20even if our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
(1 John 3:11-20, NLT – emphasis added)


The Daily DAVEotional

How can you know for sure if you’re really a Christian?

Perhaps you’ve grown up going to church and you can’t ever remember a time when you weren’t a Christian. Or maybe you drifted away from God but have recently turned back to the Lord and you’re wondering if God still accepts you.

John’s short letter of 1 John is packed with a number of “identifying markers” that are good indicators that you are indeed “in the faith.”

In 1 John chapters 2 and 3, John gives another of his litmus tests that are designed to give his audience confidence that they truly are a part of God’s family.

In this particular passage, John says that the proof “that we have passed from death to eternal life” is our love for other Christians.

John’s argument can be summarized as follows:

    • We’ve been given a new command to love one another
    • This command to love is based on the example of Jesus, who demonstrated his love by dying for us
    • Jesus is light and in him there is no darkness, so living for Jesus is “living in the light”
    • Since Jesus died for us (all of us), it means he loves us (all of us). Therefore, to be living in the light of Jesus means we should love people as Jesus loves

The real litmus test then is how do you think and feel about other Christians? Do you love them as Jesus loves them? John says that those who say they love God but hate their Christian brother or sister is “living and walking in darkness.”

Darkness is always used by John in reference to sin or disconnected fellowship with God. Hence, the person who says they love God but hates their fellow Christian, for whatever reason, is not connected to God.

John takes the illustration even further when he says that “Anyone who hates another Christian is really a murderer at heart.” OUCH!

So one of the identifying markers of a true follower of Christ is their love of other Christians.

Yes, I know! Some “other” Christians are not easy to love. Perhaps they share different political views than you or they’re involved in activities of which you don’t approve. Maybe they just have an annoying personality that rubs you the wrong way.

Regardless, John’s logic is irrefutable: Jesus loved us all, which is amazing because we were not very lovable. In fact, Jesus loved us in spite of the fact that our sin made us his enemies.

Since Jesus is able to love “the unloveable”, we should be able to as well, since we have His Holy Spirit living within us.

Therefore, we should demonstrate love to everyone, even those whom we might consider “difficult to love”, for whatever reason.

Our ability to love other Christians is an evidence of God’s work in our life and provides strong evidence that you really are a part of God’s eternal family!

Reflection

If someone were to come to you with doubts about whether or not they were genuinely a Christian, what would you tell them? How would you go about helping them to affirm their place in God’s family?

John specifically talks about our need to love other Christians. Why do you think he emphasizes the need to love other believers but doesn’t mention non-believers?

Some people are easier to love than others. What are some possible reasons why you might be challenged to demonstrate “love to some people?

John urges us to “really show it [our love for others] by our actions.” What actions show love to you? What are some actions you could begin to implement in your spheres as a means of demonstrating love toward other believers?

Suppose someone says to you, “I love Jesus, I just can’t stand his followers.” What would you say to this person? Do you think this person can be a Christian? Why or why not?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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