Luke 18:12 – I fast twice a week. I give tithes of all that I get.’
The Pharisees were the uber-spiritual people of their day. Whatever it was that God wanted, they always wanted to go one further!
On the outside, it appeared as righteousness – but the issue was that they had replaced the grace of God for their salvation with the efforts of their own hands. God ‘owed’ them because of all they had done. Here, in Luke 18:12, we see the ‘Pharisee’ singing the 18:12 overture! He fasts twice a week and gives tithes of all he gets. However, in his pursuit of these things – he neglects the more important matters of justice, love and mercy.
When we get our eyes of how much our heavenly Father loves us and His grace toward us, we can start to try to earn our way to heaven through our own efforts. We can start singing our own ‘1812 Overture’!!
Fall once again on the mercy and love of your heavenly Father toward you today! He’s not looking for repayment – He’s simply looking for you to accept what He has given!
Ecclesiastes 10:2 – A wise man’s heart is at his right hand, but a fool’s heart at his left.
This verse has a double meaning.
The first is this: a wise man’s heart is at his right hand. This means that he applies himself to his strength – he gets on and is active with what God has naturally given him. He sows the seeds that God has already put into his hand. But a fool’s heart is at his left – at his weak hand. He’s continually trying to do something that he’s just not good at. Maybe he’s trying to prove something or be something that he was never called to be!
Another meaning can be found in Proverbs 3:16. It says of Wisdom ‘Length of days is in her right hand. In her left hand are riches and honour’. The wise man is looking to the length of his days – ensuring that his life is spent well. The fool on the other hand is always looking to riches and honour.
When we look to the length of our days, it helps us to live in a way that honour and riches will be more attracted to! But if we’re only looking to honour and riches, we can’t guarantee that it will bring us to the place of considering the days we have!
Make sure your heart is at your right hand, and not at your left!
Genesis 32:31 – The sun rose on him as he passed over Peniel, and he limped because of his thigh.
Jacob is in the process of reconciling with his brother Esau. He’s sent presents and gifts, and his family on ahead of him across a river, and he’s alone. Then someone meets him in the darkness and they fight and wrestle together until daybreak. It turns out to be the angel of the Lord!
Because of Jacob’s tenacity and perseverance, the angel sees that he’s not going to be able to overpower him – so he touches Jacob’s hip, and puts it out. Yet even with this handicap, Jacob refuses to let the angel go until he blesses him. He gets his request answered, but he leaves the scuffle that day with a permanent limp.
The greatest men and women of God all walked with a limp. They may have powerful things taking place publicly, but privately there are battles and marks upon them that many will never see. They have paid a price to walk in the power that they have.
There are things in life that we have to be prepared to fight for. We have to learn to hold on, and not let go until they have been released to us! In the process of us holding on with faith – through thick and thin, through good times and bad – something happens in our hearts. Our hearts get marked. A humility comes upon us that we live with for the rest of our lives. We realise our ultimate dependence upon God for everything. Like Jacob, we walk with a limp thereafter.
Psalms 15:4 – “…he who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and doesn’t change”
This Psalm begins with a question – ‘Who shall dwell in your sanctuary? Who shall live on your holy hill?’. There is a time in the keeping of a promise, when it will hurt us or cost us to see that promise through. Yet, we must do it. The keeping of promises not only increases our integrity with others, but it also brings us into the dwelling place of God.
A vow to God is a sacred thing, and not to be taken rashly. God will hold us accountable to our words. A good example of this is in Judges 11:30-40. Jephthah was a great leader of Israel, but made a vow to the Lord that He had not completely thought through. It ended up costing him his only daughter.
Yet there is tremendous power for worship to God in a vow. The keeping of a vow, especially when it hurts, shows the world that we believe God is real, and that He is worthy of sacrifice. His unseen reality keeps our visible world in check.
2 Kings 17:33-34 – “They feared the Lord, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away. To this day they do after the former manner: they don’t fear the Lord, neither do they after their statutes, or after their ordinances, or after the law or after the commandment which the Lord commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel”
The above verse would have been just fine with the first 4 words ‘They feared the Lord’. The Bible tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – it brings us low and puts humility in our heart. It puts us in a place where the Lord can then begin to lead and guide us! It really is the start of everything!
Unfortunately there’s a nasty little ‘and’ after the first 4 words. ‘They feared the Lord… AND served their own gods’. As we read on in the verse we see what happened – ‘To this day… they don’t fear the Lord’.
One of the most common lies that Christians buy into is that we can mix our devotion and it won’t have an effect on our faith. That we can play with fire, and we won’t get burnt. That we can serve the Lord… AND we can also serve other gods too. Other gods like money, pleasure, the spirit of the age, and our own dreams and desires.
The fact is that when we start mixing our devotion, we will ALWAYS end up in a place where the other gods will begin to take a greater influence in our lives, and we start down a track which is going to end up in misery for us. If I had 10c for every time I’ve heard someone say ‘but it’s different for me… I’m stronger’.
To follow Christ is a singular call. To hold firm to the faith, we must actively let go of every other handle. No if’s, no but’s – and certainly – no ‘ands’!
"…from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and ligaments, grows with God’s growth" – Colossians 2:19
Our human bodies are a masterpiece! They are made up of so many different parts, which all work together to provide it with movement and strength.
In this verse, Paul refers to the ‘joints and ligaments’ – which connect and hold the body together. There’s a wonderful bit of revelation in here which shows us how God intends us to connect with one another.
Firstly, we have the joints. The joints in our body have been specifically designed to ‘fit together’. They are shaped for connection. This shows us that the gifts that God has given us are not meant to operate in isolation, but have been crafted to work together! You can absolutely know that if God has called you and gifted you for a particular purpose, that there will be ‘connection points’ that have been intrinsically built into you! We need each other to complete us!
Secondly, there are the ligaments. The job of ligaments is to connect bones with bones. They are elastic and have the ability to stretch. For this reason, if joints come out of place, they have to get set back quickly, otherwise stretched ligaments can mean the joint becomes prone to ‘falling out’. The word used for ligament here is translated elsewhere in the NT as ‘bond’. What this shows us is that not only have we been designed to work together – but the ‘bonds’, the ‘agreements’ and ‘understandings’ that hold us as we work together are a critical. Ephesians 4:3 says that we should be ‘eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’. If we ‘fall out with one another’, the bond – the ligaments – continue to link us, and pull us back to relationship again.
Thirdly, when we’re connected with the Head, and connected with one another – then God’s promise is that we will ‘grow with God’s growth’. Something that is under the blessing of God can grow at a rate that is far beyond what would be possible humanly speaking!
What does it come down to? Love God, and love one another. When we focus on this… the body starts to grow!
1 Kings 3:14 – If you will walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as your father David did walk, then I will lengthen your days.
Solomon is dreaming – standing before God, and has asked the Lord for wisdom, that He might govern God’s people well.
It’s an excellent request, and the Lord responds that he will have riches and honour to go with it.
The Lord also promises Solomon a long life – but this promise comes with a condition – that he keeps God’s statutes and commandments and walks as his father David walked.
In Exodus 20:12, the Lord says ‘Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which Yahweh your God gives you.’
There is an intrinsic connection between honouring our parents, and receiving long life. There are things that God will just give us, but there are other things that we must walk in to obtain!