Scripture Reading: 1 Chronicles 9:1-10:14 / Romans 14:1-18 / Proverbs 18:17-19:2
God is the master designer of relationships. He made Adam and then from Adam’s side created Eve, his helpmeet. God created them husband and wife, bringing them into the deepest and most intimate form of human relationship. God made Eve and brought her to Adam to complete him and bring love and joy in his life.
My wife and I celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary a few days ago. She publicly expressed her joy and thankfulness for the past 33 years. I responded with a verse that is found in our Bible reading for today, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 18:22)
I have been so blessed to be able to experience the unfolding of God’s purpose for my life these past 33 years. Some do not share my opinion, scoffing at God’s creativity and questioning His wisdom because of their past personal relational failures. Instead of finding completeness they experience division. Love and joy that was once powerfully present, dissipates and becomes hopelessly elusive. Statistics show half of the marriages end in divorce…either God got it wrong or man has it all wrong.
We certainly do not cast stones at those whose marriages have ended in divorce. The enemy fought against the union of husband and wife in the Garden of Eden and still attacks marriage today. The Bible exposes the devil’s tactics and gives us insight to make marriage lasting and fulfilling. It simply comes down to cherish/love and submit/support. “Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church… wives submit to your husbands, as to The Lord.” (Ephesians 5:23,25)
Husbands, cherish the wife that God has given you…God designed her to fulfill and bring His favor in your life. It is so important that we line up with His purpose and live in the light of His favor! Are there struggles and mistakes that require commitment and forgiveness? Yes!
For new brides, I have often told them that they could be their husband’s greatest support or biggest detriment. Ladies, God has designed you to complete your husband’s life! The challenge for every new husband is to love and lead his wife in the light of Christ’s example. God did not get it wrong…we have a difficult time getting it right!
Scripture Reading: 1 Chronicles 7:1-9:1 / Romans 13:1-14 / Psalm 89:38-45
We read these words in The Pledge of Allegiance…“one nation under God…” That phrase reflects the godly heritage our forefathers established for our nation. The United States was founded upon Biblical principles yet some question our nation’s submission to God today; saying our nation is godless and rebellious.
Despite our government’s response to the place that God has in our land, they do not get to determine God’s place…God determines their place! Man is not in control; God is in control! Knowing that truth, Paul gives us instructions concerning our response and attitude towards government, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1)
The political landscape for Christians at this time was trying and challenging. Nero was in power and in a few years would bring great havoc and martyrdom to Christians. He came against the church with great vengeance and cruelly slaughtered thousands of innocent believers.
Governments do commit immoral acts against people yet God does not advocate a spirit of rebellion like the Jewish Zealots exhibited. When Herod was about to kill every male child 2 years and younger, God instructed Joseph to flee to Egypt. God will take care of His people and give direction during the most challenging of times.
We are called to voluntarily submit to the government God sets in place. Our confidence and hope is not in a man made government but the God established government. We have been given the privilege in the United States to elect our governmental officials and I am thankful for our freedom and democracy.
Trust in God and submit to the leadership God has in place. It matters not our political preference or slant…only God can provide for a nation. I once read that when Jesus comes back as King of Kings, He will be riding on a white horse, not on an elephant or donkey! Don’t worry…God has a plan and He has it all under control!
Scripture Reading: 1 Chronicles 6:1-81 / Romans 11:33-12:21 / Psalm 89:30-37
A doxology is a short hymn of praise to God sung at the end of a service. Doxologies were commonly sung in Jewish Synagogues. A popular doxology known today was written almost 340 years ago in 1674… “Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; Praise him, all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.”
The Apostle Paul pens a doxology here in Romans 11:33-36. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
What an amazing passage of praise and exaltation! Nothing can compare to God’s wisdom and knowledge. He is all knowing and his judgments are just. Man cannot question, debate or contradict His ways. God is not dependent upon man’s wisdom or riches. He needs no counsel or resources. All things flow from Him, and humanity exists because of Him.
Doxologies remind us of the magnificence of God. We are usually so consumed by the events of our lives that the greatness of God is often overlooked, ignored and forgotten. How we daily need to be reminded of God’s omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence! To live in the knowledge of His greatness, gives us hope in the midst of our smallness.
All glory, honor and praise belong to the creator of all things, the redeemer of all things and the transformer of all things. God came down in the form of flesh and the world beheld His glory. One day we will dwell in His heavenly tabernacle and live in His eternal glory! We won’t sing the doxology…we will live the doxology!
Scripture Reading: 1 Chronicles 4:9-5:26 / Romans 11:11-32 / Psalm 89:19-29
In 2000, Bruce Wilkinson popularized the prayer of Jabez in his book, The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life. It became an international bestseller and sold 9 million copies. Wilkinson encouraged his readers to pray the prayer of Jabez for themselves on a daily basis.
The background of Jabez is interesting. It says, “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” (1 Chronicles 4:9) There seems to be a great contradiction between his mother’s assessment and societies assessment of Jabez.
His mother named him Jabez, it sounds like the Hebrew word for “pain” and its literal interpretation is “he makes sorrowful”. She must have had difficulty in her pregnancy or delivery to name him Jabez. He would carry that name and image with him all of his life. There are those today who carry similar identities and cruel labels.
Yet Jabez was more honorable than his brothers…society recognized him as a man of honor. The community treated him with respect as he lived a life worthy of that recognition. Jabez could have easily “lived up to his name” by exhibiting immoral and offensive behavior but he lived an honorable and admirable life. We can live above the characterization, negativity and criticism of the past.
His prayer, “Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.” (vs.10)
Jabez’s prayer is a simple request that God would intervene in his seemingly troubled life and reverse his condition. He desired God’s blessing and God’s provisional prosperity. He asked for God’s hand and presence to be with him; to protect him from all harm. He did not want to feel the pain or scars of his name but the presence of the name of “The Great I Am”.
This is a simple prayer from a simple man and The Almighty God granted his request. Jabez’s name did not go down in history as a man of faith or a leader among the people of Israel. In fact, Jabez is never again mentioned in the Bible. This gives us great hope…whatever name we have, there is a greater name we can call upon! “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3)
Scripture Reading: 1 Chronicles 2:18-4:8 / Romans 10:5-11:10 / Proverbs 18:7-16
Have you ever made or seen a “family tree”, tracing your family history? It is interesting to see the connections from one family member to another. Some family trees have straight trunks with average branches while others are crooked and have many shoots coming out of their branches.
Every tree uniquely reflects marriages, children, divorces and deaths. David’s family tree is a wild one with a lot of twists and turns. “These six were born to David in Hebron, where he reigned seven years and six months.” (1 Chron. 3:4) All of the six sons listed in these first 3 verses had different mothers. These mothers were the wives David married and concubines he took into his home.
David’s tree imploded with more children when he reigned in Jerusalem 33 years. He had an additional 9 children and 4 from another wife, Bathsheba. It’s interesting to note only the sons are listed except for one daughter, Tamar. This is highly unusual but there is a reason for her prominence in the family tree. David’s oldest son, Amnon, sexually abused and raped Tamar, his half sister. That incident caused a ripple effect of hatred, bitterness, rebellion and murder within David’s family.
All we read in a family tree is names but each name represents a person with a story. Their impact on the tree and the life of others is immense. What we don’t read in this passage is David’s response to Amnon and the rest of the son’s atrocities. David did not discipline his sons and they created havoc in his family, kingdom and personal life.
David failed to prune the branches of his family tree and it began to grow out of control. Some of his sons followed in his righteous footsteps while others rebelled.
David cannot be blamed for his son’s sins, they answered for their own trespasses yet David’s legacy would be reflected by his life and family's life. We must be faithful to care for the family tree. It is imperative that we live a Godly and Christ like life. A family tree never dies and just like our legacy…it doesn’t die with us, it lives on!
Scripture Reading: 1 Chronicles 1:1-2:17 / Romans 9:22-10:4 / Psalm 89:14-18
The book of Chronicles is usually not high on a person’s devotional reading list. People get overwhelmed with the large amount of genealogies, ancestry, and history. It is difficult to connect all the names, let alone pronounce them! If you skip over the names…you are not alone.
Chronicles is very important to the Jewish nation as it traces their history as well as the promises and faithfulness of God. Genealogies were not only important to Israel, they were also important to God. Historical records were often lost but God validates and places them in His Word for us to read today. In these divine pages, we see the redemptive work and purpose of God unfolded.
God promised The Messiah would come through Abraham’s descendants and through the line of David. From one generation to another, God systematically worked His purpose out through that promised line, despite man’s frailty and sin.
We are reminded of one such example when we read of Judah’s sons, “Er, Onan and Shelah. These three were born to him by a Canaanite woman, the daughter of Shua. Er, Judah’s firstborn was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death. Tamar, Judah’s daughter-in-law, bore him Perez and Zerah. Judah had five sons in all.” (1 Chronicles 2:3,4)
The Messiah was to come through Judah’s line but God brought the judgment of death upon his wicked sons Er and Onan. Through a series of twisted events, Judah unknowingly fathered a child with his spurned and deceitful daughter-in-law Tamar. (Genesis 38) Twins were born to Tamar and God chose The Messianic line to come through Perez.
God’s law stated, “No one born of a forbidden marriage (or illegitimate birth) nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord, even down to the tenth generation.” (Dt. 23:2) This restriction (curse) was not lifted until the Perez’s 10th generation…David! God’s promise of the scepter not departing from Judah was fulfilled despite man’s disobedience and interference. God amazingly reaffirms His plan again by promising David an established throne to The Messiah and beyond. Allow God to stir your heart and faith as you read His Word including Chronicles…He had a divine plan/purpose for every name listed and for us as well!
Scripture Reading: Hosea 11:12-14:9 / Romans 9:1-21 / Psalm 89:9-13
In the 1920’s, a silent movie was made that eventually became a series of comedy short films and a popular television series, “The Little Rascals” or “Our Gang”. It was about a group of poor neighborhood children and their comical adventures. The majority of the children were poor and the gang was often at odds with snobbish “rich kids”, impatient adults and the injustices of society.
Spanky and Alfalfa had a clubhouse for boys only and posted a sign, “The He Man Woman Haters Club.” By the end of the episode, the darling Darla made her way into their hearts and clubhouse… and the sign was taken down. No one likes to be excluded or left out. Parents and caregivers are very intentional about including everyone and developing an environment of belonging.
In school, everyone gets to be part of “show and tell” and take their turn being the “line leader”. Everyone has a part in the play and sings in the choir. Little League baseball teams, Pee Wee basketball, and community soccer – everyone is on a team and everyone plays. It’s not until we get older, we experience the emotional turmoil that comes with not being talented enough to make the team. We eventually accept that fact that we are not wanted and set out to find where we can belong.
I love God’s “whosoever” in John 3:16…”For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life.” God is “inclusive” yet it is conditional upon a person’s faith and belief in Christ. Paul addresses God’s “exclusiveness” here in Romans 9… “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (vs.14)
God spoke these words to Moses after Moses pleaded for God to lead Israel to the Promised Land. God reminded Moses that it would be God’s choice and decision; it would not be left up to a group of rebellious and idolatrous people. God has every right to bless or curse, include or exclude anyone He desires. He shows us mercy and grace – not because we “deserve” it but simply because He “desires” to.
God chose Jacob over Esau while they were in Rebekah’s womb. We may say that God was unfair to Esau yet it was God’s choice and scripture validates God’s selection. God addresses the fairness question in the first part of verse 14, “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all!” He has provided a way for us to belong!
Scripture Reading: Hosea 10:1-11:11 / Romans 8:18-39 / Psalm 89:1-8
Much can be learned when you live in a farming community. You discover there is more to farming than just “digging a little hole, planting a little seed, pouring a little water and watching it grow.” Practical and technical knowledge of soil conditions, seed selections, irrigation and fertilization are just the beginning.
Farmers must have mechanical skills to work on their equipment as well as business knowledge to manage daily, seasonal and financial decisions. They rise before dawn and work until sunset, lift things that are far to heavy and struggle with back pain all their life. Their life is not an easy one but there are some farming principles that they live by which are constant and foundational.
“You reap what you sow”…plant seed corn and reap corn, plant wheat and reap wheat. That concept isn’t difficult to understand yet man still struggles with it. Israel was treated with evil and contempt because they lived wicked lives. (Hosea 10:13) God instructed them, “Sow for yourselves righteousness and reap the fruit of unfailing love.” (vs.12) If we want God’s unfailing love to guide, protect and oversee us, then there must be the seed of righteousness in our lives.
“An unplowed field will never grow a harvest”…a plow must break through the hard ground in order for the seed to take root and grow. The monotonous chore of turning over the soil does not offer any immediate satisfaction or results. “…Break up your unplowed ground, for it is time to seek the Lord…” (vs.12) Israel did not seek God’s intervention but depended upon their strength. (vs.13) Prayer is like plowing…difficult, challenging and seemingly unproductive but it is necessary for growth and a harvest. It takes time to plow and time for the seed to grow...be diligent and hopeful. We need His intervention!
“Seed needs water to grow”…timely rain is imperative for a harvest yet a farmer cannot make it rain. Some things are within a farmer’s control but some, like the weather, are out of their control. Only God can send the rain, “for it is time to seek the Lord until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” (vs.12) The timing of God is precise…never too late or too early. Like these farming principles, let us be faithful to seek God and be faithful to our calling because God has a harvest waiting for us at the end of every planting season!
Scripture Reading: Hosea 8:1-9:17 / Romans 8:1-17 / Proverbs 17:25-18:6
One of the greatest acts of love is when someone adopts a child. Birthing a child is a natural biological process but adopting a child is a willful emotional process. Adoption isn’t simply a matter of guardianship but the permanent transfer of identity and inheritance. The child receives the rights, privileges, permanence and love of adoption. Their life is forever transformed, as they are welcomed into the hearts and lives of a new family.
Paul uses this analogy to describe the process of redemption. We were born with a sinful nature but delivered from the slavery of sin through the power of Christ’s atonement and given “the Spirit of sonship.” (Romans 8:15) Earthly adoption cannot change the biological DNA of a child but God’s adoption process changes our spiritual DNA. He powerfully begins a process of discipleship and transforms us into the likeness of His Son.
God becomes our Father and His Spirit seals our adoption as God’s children. (vs.15,16) The same Spirit, who hovered over a formless, empty and dark earth giving witness to God’s creative power, hovers over and seals our spiritual adoption. Just as God created man and breathed life into him, God breathes the presence of His Spirit into our lifeless condition.
We receive the rights and privileges of adoption…heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. (vs.17) God holds nothing back from us. He opens up all the treasures of His Kingdom to us and does not hold our past against us. The things we have not earned, worked for or born into are given to us by His divine grace and mercy.
In the 1970 American Express commercial, Karl Malden popularized the phrase, “Membership has it’s privileges…don’t leave home without it.” Those who experience the powerful and transforming work of God’s redemptive adoption, have a greater story/testimony to declare. I believe we can say quite assuredly in 2013, “Adoption into the Family of God has it’s privileges…don’t live in the world or leave earth without it!” Aren’t you glad you are adopted?
Scripture Reading: Hosea 6:1-7:16 / Romans 7:7-25 / Psalm 88:9-18
Paul understood the warfare between sin and righteousness. “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me, for in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.” (Romans 7:21-23)
He so desired to live according to the ways of The Lord but there was always the constant pull of sin. “I do not understand what I do, for what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (vs.15) We can echo Paul’s words…”I do not understand.” The redemptive work of Christ is powerful and life changing. He makes us a “new creation” and frees us from the judgment, punishment and hold of sin. It is difficult to understand… if we are delivered from the power of sin, why do we struggle so much with sin?
Paul lived in a sinful world and daily contended with his sinful nature. He was delivered from the power of sin but not from the presence of sin. Christ frees us from the judgment, punishment and hold of sin. He makes us a “new creation” but our flesh is not transformed. The flesh is corrupt, sides with sin and fights against the creative work of salvation in our lives. It’s constant battle against the creative work of Christ, drains and overwhelms our lives.
The Apostle Paul finally cries out in desperation, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (vs.24) He experienced deep conviction and guilt when he would sin. Like Paul, we feel just as wretched and question our commitment and faithfulness to Christ. We live in defeat, wondering how we will ever be able to be victorious over sin.
I am thankful that Paul did provide an answer to our helplessness. The same power that delivered us from the power of sin, gives us victory over the body of death… “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” The blood of Jesus is not only able to deliver us; it is able to keep us!
Pastor James Clark has pastored Calvary Assembly since 1985. He is blessed with his wife Yvonne, six children, two son-in-laws, a beautiful granddaughter and hopefully many more grandchildren to follow!