Joshua 4, Jeremiah 29, 2 Corinthians 11

Read Joshua 4, Jeremiah 29, and 2 Corinthians 11.

This devotional is about 2 Corinthians 11.

Yesterday, as we read chapter 10, we saw how concerned Paul was about having to confront somebody within the church at Corinth. Judging from what Paul wrote at the end of chapter 10 and here in chapter 11, the person or people he was concerned about were heavy self-promotors (10:12, 18; 11:5, 21). In today’s reading, Paul was quite emotional about how effectively these people had ingratiated themselves with the church and, it seems, how they had marginalized Paul and his ministry (v. 12). While he was concerned about these personality conflicts, he was more concerned about the false doctrine these “personalities” were bringing (v. 4, 13). This chapter is one of several in Paul’s letters where he reviewed his personal history as a servant of Christ (vv. 21-33). Not only did he suffer much for the gospel throughout his ministry, he also suffered much for the benefit of the Corinthians directly (vv. 7-12). Yet the Corinthians seemed unmoved by how much Paul had done for them and had sacrificed for the Lord. To them, Paul was an inferior speaker (v. 6) and others were deserving of equal status and respect to him (vv. 12, 19-20).

What Paul was saying in this chapter extends into chapter 12 as well, so we’ll see more on Monday when we read that. But the problem he addressed in this chapter continues today. It’s the myth of the greener grass, the idea that what I’m getting now isn’t as good as what I could get from others. I’ve seen this repeatedly in my adult life and in the ministry. Dr. So-and-so from out of town is a great speaker, a godly man, someone whose opinion isn’t inspired and infallible, but almost…. Meanwhile, faithful elders, patient pastors, good bosses, giving spouses, or others are taken for granted. This isn’t to say that Dr. So-and-so isn’t everything they claim him to be. He may be a godly man and a great servant of Christ or he may be a false teacher who is really persuasive (v. 4). The point is that people by nature get used to what they have and become bedazzled by the new thing, the author they just learned about, the new church in town, or the girl that caught their eye today. New things are exciting because they are new but the newness wears off eventually. Do we recognize and appreciate the good things in our lives that have been there a long time, consistently serving us well?

The church in Corinth was started by Paul at great personal cost (verses 7-9, Acts 18:1-11). He was willing to do hard things to purify the church for the glory of Christ (v. 2) and was tormented with concern for them even when he was doing God’s work in other cities (vv. 28-29). Yet the church never seemed to appreciate him very much and constantly, negatively compared him to others. There is probably some realm in your life or some point in your past where you did something similar-took for granted someone who was faithfully and deeply devoted to you and negatively compared them to someone who hadn’t done anything for you except, maybe, collect your money when they sold you a book or a seminar. I’m guilty of this as well and–just in case you are wondering-I’m not talking about myself here. This passage just reminded me of something I’ve seen more than a few times in my life. Whether we recognize it or not, all of us have benefited from others who served us consistently and without complaint. Let’s be careful to appreciate and be thankful to the Lord for them instead of being quick to point out their flaws when compared to others. Whether your realize it or not, you probably have it better than you think so be thankful for the contribution other people have made to your life for God’s glory.

Leviticus 5, Song of Songs 8, Luke 20

Read Leviticus 5, Song of Songs 8, and Luke 20.

This devotional is about Luke 20:45-47: “While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 ‘Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.'”

Do you have a role model? Is there someone you look up to, someone whose life you’ve patterned your life after? Did you want to be like one of your parents or grandparents as you were growing up? Is there someone whose career you’ve emulated?

What about in your spiritual life? Do you have any spiritual role models–someone who led you to Christ or someone else who discipled you? Maybe you look up to a pastor or author whose work has been helpful to you in your walk with God?

There is nothing wrong with admiring someone else and patterning your life after theirs. In fact, there are many good things about it. A good mentor can help you avoid making mistakes in your life or career or walk with God by showing you some of the mistakes they’ve made or have seen others make. A good example can help you apply God’s word to your life when you’re not sure what to do in a certain situation.

The problem with heroes is not that we have them but that we choose them poorly. Here in Luke 20, Jesus cautioned the disciples not to choose the teachers of the law as their heroes. In fact, Jesus told the disciples to “Beware” of them. The scribes were people who had studied God’s law and had copied it by hand so that God’s word could be preserved and disseminated. They wrote commentaries about scripture and could apply to people’s lives. They could write contracts and were supposed to help people know what God’s will was, based on the Law. Every town had scribes and, because they were better educated and consulted for their expertise, may people looked up to them.

The scribes liked the attention and status that being a scribe gave them, so they cultivated that attention can continually sought more of it. That’s why Jesus said in verse 46, “They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets.” Their clothes (“flowing robes”) called attention to themselves. They had high expectations about how people would speak to them (“…love to be greeted with respect,” v. 46) and where people would seat them (“…the most important seats,” v. 46). They also acted spiritually for attention because Jesus said, “…for a show [they] make lengthy prayers” in verse 47. It would be easy to look up to men who were so learned, so dignified, and so spiritual.

But, Jesus said, these scribes “devour widows’ houses” (v. 47). This means that they used God’s law to exploit people who were weak and unable to retaliate. They could string some of God’s commands together or use logic to create “principles” that allowed some to take advantage of others. Instead of being servants and wise leaders to God’s people, they made themselves powerful and used their power for their own benefit.

Business leaders and politicians in our times find ways to do this. Did you ever wonder how someone could be a U. S. senator for decades, making a good but not lavish government salary, and yet become a multimillionaire? Isn’t it interesting that billionaires fly in private jets all over the world but cry about how fossil fuels and consumerism are destroying the planet?

What about pastors who buy expensive homes, drive new luxury cars, and live well while telling people that they need to give more? Many people look to others for leadership but our “leaders” are experts in seeking attention, promoting themselves, and getting rich at the expense of taxpayers and faithful givers.

Some people who lived this way get exposed in the media. But other people who live this way may die with their wealth and respect in tact. Jesus said, “These men will be punished most severely” (v. 47). Each of us must stand before a holy God who knows everything we did, how we’ve lived, as well as all of our reasons and motivations. There will be justice for self-centered hypocrites who expose others, but it may not happen in this life.

Still, Jesus told his disciples to “beware” of such people. That means you and I should be careful about who we admire. Do our heroes work hard to look and seem heroic? Do they seek attention more than they seek to do good work, to cultivate personal godliness, and sincerely help others?

What about us? Do we do things to get attention and seek the admiration of others? God knows our hearts and our motives. We must ask him to reveal and root such pride out of us and give us genuine hearts to love and serve him.

2 Chronicles 9, Zephaniah 1

Read 2 Chronicles 9 and Zephaniah 1

This devotional is about 2 Chronicles 9.

This chapter summarizes and wraps up the end of Solomon’s life but the chapter began by telling us about how the queen of Sheba came to visit and meet with Solomon (v. 1). The location of “Sheba” is debated, but it was not close or convenient to Israel. Jesus said that she came “from the ends of the earth” (Matt 12:42), so this was not an easy trip.

But it was a rewarding one. Verse 4 said, “she was overwhelmed” (v. 4) by her experience in Jerusalem. Her own testimony was that she “did not believe what they said” when she heard about Solomon until she “came and saw with my own eyes” (v. 6). She went from not believing the reports about Solomon to believing that the reports had been grossly understated. Verse 6 said, “Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard.”

Although her journey was difficult and costly (vv. 1, 6) it was financially beneficial (v. 12) and, I think the Bible suggests, administratively and spiritually advantageous as well. Other world leaders followed her lead and visited with Solomon, too, according to verse 23.

The lesson here is that wisdom and knowledge may be hard to get and costly but they are worth it. One of the best ways to solve a problem in your life or to move to a new level in your life is to find someone else who has excelled in that area, get with that person, and learn everything you can from him or her.

But you have to humble yourself to admit that you need help and that’s hard for most of us to do. If you were afraid to ask a teacher for extra help in school then you may find it hard to seek advice from others. Refusing to look for help from others may preserve your ego but it will also mean that you’ll be stuck at one level for a long time–maybe for the rest of your life.

Could you use a coach or a mentor in your:
• walk with God?
• parenting?
• use of money?
• physical health or fitness?
• career?

Then make like the queen and find someone who can help you! There maybe (probably is) someone in our church family who could help you or introduce you to someone who could help you.

Where do you need help? Who could you ask for help?

Deuteronomy 11, Isaiah 39

Read Deuteronomy 11 and Isaiah 39.

This devotional touches on both Deuteronomy 11 and Isaiah 39.

In Isaiah 39 a delegation from Babylon came to visit Hezekiah. Their mission was was peaceful and was designed to create goodwill between the two nations (v. 1). Hezekiah was eager (probably too eager) to welcome them and he showed them all of the material blessings God had given him (v. 2) making reconnoissance easy for the Babylonians who would soon become Judah’s enemy.

God used the occasion of their visit to send a message through Isaiah prophesying of the coming Babylonian captivity (vv. 6-7). Hezekiah was untroubled by the prophecy because it would be fulfilled after his death. As verse 8 said, “‘The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,’ Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my lifetime.’” His viewpoint was self-centered and short-term in its focus. Instead of being concerned about Judah receiving the benefits of God’s covenant with Israel for many generations, Hezekiah only cared to know that there would be tranquility during his kingdom and lifetime.

Contrast Hezekiah’s attitude with Moses’s teaching in Deuteronomy 11. While Moses was certainly concerned with the faithfulness and fruitfulness of the current generation (vv. 8-18), he also urged the current generation to pass on what they had seen and learned about God to the next generation (vv. 2, 5, 19-21).

All of us who love the Lord here in the church age should think this way, too. Unfortunately, many Christians do not and some of the common problems churches experience are the result of short-term thinking like Hezekiah’s. The more mature you are in Christ, the more you should care about the salvation and spiritual growth of young people. Of course the church should minister to every age group, but it should focus most on ministry to families. When you are a child, a teen, a young adult, and a parent with children, the church should be optimized to to minister to you. As your children become adults, they should, by God’s grace, be moving more and more toward leadership and service in the church. Then, the older you get, the more your growth in Christ and personal maturity should point you toward reaching and discipling the next generation.

Often, though, there becomes inter-generational conflict in the church. This is where some of the “worship wars” come from but also the inability of the church to prune ministries that once were effective but are now no longer serving a good spiritual purpose. A church can easily be born, grow strong, and then decline (or even die) in a 20 year span because it only ministers to one generation. People in that generation are content, even complacent, that the church offers “peace and security in my lifetime” (Is 39:8b) and so, like Hezekiah, they are unconcerned about what will come after them.

When you think about our church, are you looking to see if young people coming through our youth group stick around and get involved as young adults? Does it give you joy to see those young adults marry, have children, and raise them in our church? Are you praying that some of them will become elders in the days ahead? Are you looking to be involved in some of our ministries to children or young adults so that you can pass on what you’ve learned in your walk with God to others who haven’t seen what you’ve seen?

Genesis 13, Nehemiah 2, Psalm 12

Today we’re scheduled to read Genesis 13, Nehemiah 2, and Psalm 12.

This devotional is about Genesis 13.

Abram and Lot must have had some kind of close personal relationship. Genesis 11:31 told us that Lot was Abram’s nephew. The fact that Lot went with Abram (12:4) when Abram left Ur suggests a close, personal friendship between Abram and Lot, one where Abram was most likely a mentor that Lot looked up to.

God had promised, in Genesis 12:3, that he would bless anyone who blessed Abram. Lot’s personal association with Abram sure seems to have brought God’s blessing to Lot’s family. As we read today in Genesis 13:6, Lot and Abram became so wealthy that “they were not able to stay together.” So, they separated themselves geographically and Abram graciously gave Lot the power to choose which land each of them would inhabit (vv. 8-9).

Verse 10 told us that Lot made his decision based on what would benefit him most economically. As a rancher, a “well watered” plain “like the garden of the Lord” would provide the best environment for Lot’s flocks and herds to thrive, contributing bigly to Lot’s bottom line. So Abram and Lot parted for economic reasons and Lot chose his next home for economic reasons.

Verse 12 told us that “Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.” The next verse told us that Sodom was inhabited by wicked men. When I was growing up, messages I heard on this text suggested (maybe even stated directly) that Lot “pitched his tents near Sodom” because he was curious about the wicked lifestyle of the people who lived there. I don’t think that is correct, based on 2 Peter 2:7-8. I think Lot lived near the cities, especially Sodom, because it gave him a great market for his livestock. So, again, he chose what was best for himself and his family’s prosperity despite the spiritual threats Sodom would pose to his family.

I believe the prosperity gospel is wrong, a heretical distortion of the gospel. But I don’t believe that prosperity is wrong; in fact, I believe that we should prosper—unless God chooses not to allow us to prosper–because our faith causes us to work hard and act prudently with money. So, I’m pro-economic growth for all of us within the sovereign and the moral will of God.

But, if prosperity drives all of our decisions, we will make bad moral choices (see 1 Timothy 6:10). This happened to Lot, as we’ll see.

How about you and me? Do we choose to take a job with a better salary without considering how it might affect our families? What about the choices we make when it comes to spending money? Are your kids enrolled where they are in high school or college because you can save money that way? Did the spiritual and moral costs of that decision factor into your choice? Money is important; we all need it to live and I pray for the prosperity of our church members within the will of God. But don’t let money drive you to make disastrous moral decisions.

Lot would have been so much better off if he had offered to reduce his flocks and herds so that he could stay with Abram. He probably wouldn’t have been better off economically–at least not at first–but he would have retained the moral example and instructions from Abram which would have benefited him in every area of his life. Be wise; don’t allow every big decision you make to be decided only to the money needed.