2 And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. 3 So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:2–3, NKJV)
Israel’s wilderness wanderings tested their faith in the Lord God. Would they obey Him? Or would they rebel in disobedience when faced with hardships, setbacks, and uncertainties? God disciplined their hearts through the trial of hunger and by the blessing of daily manna (and other provisions, Deut. 8:4-6). God meant for their trials and blessings to humble them and turn their hearts to Him. God taught Israel by trials and blessings to live by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” God also lovingly teaches and corrects us by trials and blessings, like parents who love their children, Heb. 12:4-11). Life is more than bread. Life is more than comfort. Like Israel, life with God that lasts forever comes from God when we obey Him. Jesus knew this when the devil tempted Him to sin (Matt. 4:3-4). Let us accept God’s training during times of trial and blessing that we may humbly obey the Lord God and live with Him now and forever.
1 Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. 3 You turn man to destruction, And say, “Return, O children of men.” 4 For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:1–4, NKJV)
Daylight Savings Time ended last night. We manipulate the clock, attempting to improve the human condition. Scripture teaches us God peers into the ebb and flow of time from His timeless, eternal throne. He is unhindered by the limitations of time; He is God “from everlasting to everlasting.” God created time for human survival (days and seasons), and with it, we measure our existence (Gen. 1:14-18; Psa. 90:10). There was a “beginning,” and there will be an “end” of earthly time (Gen. 1:1; 1 Cor. 15:24). When we are reflective, time teaches us “to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” because “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Psa. 90:12; Heb. 9:27). While God is not defined and detained by time, we are. Time teaches us our mortality, our fragility (Psa. 39:4-6). Our life is “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (Jas. 4:14; Psa. 90:3). Time is a precious commodity. Use today to honor God by walking carefully and wisely because the days are evil (Eph. 5:15-16). “Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” (Psa. 90:14)
3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:3–4, NKJV)
A friend reminded me recently that God has always separated the light from the darkness. On His first day of creation, God commanded light into existence, called it “good,” and divided the light from the darkness. God’s word is light: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa. 119:105). (God’s word removes the darkness.) God sent the Messiah “as a light to the Gentiles,” bringing salvation to the ends of the earth (Isa. 49:6). (Christ calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light, 1 Pet. 2:9). Jesus said He is “the light of the world” and that by following Him, we “shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (Jno. 8:12). God delivers those redeemed by the blood of Christ from the power of darkness, conveying them into the kingdom of His beloved Son (Col. 1:13-14). (God separates the redeemed from the dark power of sin and death.) God is light, and those who practice His truth walk in the light and have fellowship with Him (1 Jno. 1:5-7). And, the heavenly, eternal city of God is to be illuminated by the Lamb. There, the night is vanquished forever (Rev. 22:23-25). Yes, God separates the light from the darkness. Jesus said, “Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (Jno. 12:35-36). Come out of the darkness into the light truth for salvation, divine fellowship, and eternal life.
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12, NKJV)
Endurance is essential to resisting the temptations of sin. Our adversary, the devil, continually probes for openings and opportunities to entice us not to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; to sin against God (Mk. 12:30). Endurance is spiritual, mental, and emotional fortitude that perseveres through the moment of trial. James reminds us of some reasons why we endure temptations. 1) Because endurance brings God’s approval. The trials of life test our faith, and the devil seeks to exploit them. When we endure them, our faith grows stronger and has God’s approval (Jas. 1:3-4). 2) Because God has promised us a reward. The crown of life is promised to those who finish the course and keep the faith, not those who shrink back (2 Tim. 4:8; Heb. 10:36-39). God will keep His word to us; We must keep our word to Him. 3) Because we love God. God has promised eternal life “to those who love Him.” We express our love for God over a love of this world when we endure temptation and do God’s will (1 Jno. 2:15-17). Endurance means committing ourselves to love God with more than words, but also with our deeds (Jno. 14:15; 1 Jno. 3:16-19). Enduring temptations is not easy but possible. God gives us a means of escape, that we “may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13, ESV).
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. (Isaiah 55:6–7, NKJV)
God is “not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27). Our sins separate us from God, not His lack of love, concern, power, or unwillingness to come to our aid (Isa. 59:1-2). Nothing within ourselves or in this present age can fill the void left in a life without God. The answer to life’s problems, pain, sin, and death is Jesus Christ (Jno. 14:6). God has arranged life on earth and revealed His word in the Bible so that we will seek Him and find Him (Acts 17:27). We must forsake the way of evil and the thoughts of unrighteousness. We must “return to the Lord,” and we do He will be merciful. Full pardon from God for our sins before Him and against others is His promise, fulfilled in Christ (Rom. 5:6-11). A life without God is a life forever groping for meaning and purpose, yet always falling short. But, life with God is full of mercy, forgiveness, and hope. Seek the Lord in Christ and His gospel, and you will find His mercy as well as meaning for your life (Matt. 7:7).
31 When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” (Matthew 25:31–33, NKJV)
Of course, we understand Jesus is describing people under the figure of sheep and goats. The setting is the day of His glory and judgment. Attended by a heavenly host, Jesus will be arrayed gloriously on His throne of judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). All the tribes of humanity from Adam to the last day will gather before Him, where each person will give an account of our lives (Rom. 14:12). Christ will judge impartially and righteously according to God’s truth, and each of us will receive judgment according to our deeds (Rom. 2:1-11). Judgment involves a moment of decision and separation, and Jesus describes it as separating sheep and goats (a common practice to this day). The question on our heart should be, “Will I be a sheep or a goat?” The answer is up to us. Jesus describes the sheep as those who loved their neighbor as themselves (Matt. 25:34-40). These will inherit a kingdom of eternal life (v. 34, 46). The goats are those who failed to regard others before themselves. By failing to serve others, they failed to serve Christ (Matt. 25:41-45). These will inherit an eternal punishment of fire (v. 41, 46). Instead of denying the judgment, denying our sins, or denying eternal hell, we should believe Jesus and serve Him by serving others. Prepare for Judgment Day. Sheep or goat; Which will we be?
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, NKJV)
How do you define a successful life? Fortune? Leisure? Fame? Power? I watched a couple of TV shows today about former NFL players who set many records and won many championships? Their walls are lined with trophies and awards that recognize their athletic accomplishments. Yet, when they talked about what being successful was to them, it was not about statistics, championships, and awards. It was about being a good husband, a good father, a good friend, and a good citizen in the community. That is impressive. All these things are good, and yet, something was missing. They did not measure their success in spiritual terms. Jesus said, “What profit it is to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul” (Matt. 16:26)? When you wake up and consider how you intend to succeed that day (and in life), assess your success the way God does. God’s measure of success requires us to choose to practice justice and love mercy (to love our neighbor as ourselves, Matt. 22:39), and to choose to walk humbly with our God (to love God with all our being, Matt. 22:37). Define success as a life of justice, mercy, and faithful service to God. These things are good. God says these things make life successful.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid? 2 When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. 3 Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; Though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1–3, NKJV)
Fear has gripped many. Fear of disease, civil unrest, enemies, the future, and more has settled into countless hearts, filling souls with uncertainty, anxiety, and doubt. The psalmist David turned to the Lord in moments of fear and dread. We can and must do the same. With eyes of faith, David saw the Lord God as his light, his salvation, and the strength of his life (v. 1). David put his confidence in the Lord in the face of wicked enemies. While darkness drives many to be uncertain and fearful of life’s path, Jesus Christ continues to be the light of the world (Jno. 8:12). As many trust wealth, political parties, and even violence as a means of deliverance, true salvation from evil is only found in Jesus Christ (Lk. 19:10; Acts 4:12). Pride leads us to trust in our strength and power, even when experience shows us trusting in the flesh ultimately fails (Jer. 17:5-10). God gives power to the weak who live by faith (Isa. 40:29-31; 2 Cor. 12:9-10). Whatever evil forces arise in your life, the answer to enduring them and being victorious over them is in the Lord. Put your faith in God, love Him, and keep His commandments (1 Jno. 5:3-5).