Choices

Old Testament Reading: Genesis 29 & 30

Psalms Reading: Psalm 17

New Testament Reading: Matthew 16

Everyday we find ourselves making choices. Some of these choices are small and make little difference on the outcome of our day. Does it matter what color socks I wear today, or even if they match? Does it matter what I have for breakfast? Does my choice of coffee or tea impact anyone besides me? Other choices may have more of an impact. Do I work on my group project today? Do I call a friend God has put on my heart? Do I take a meal to the elderly neighbor who had surgery last week? Do I buy an extra burger for the hungry stranger I see near the restaurant where I’m going to lunch? Some of these may have different answers at different times but we must still make the choice everyday. We have to decide what voices we will listen to and which path we will follow.

As we look at the texts for today we see some following God’s leading and others following the world. This is true for everyday life as well. Sometimes people follow God, sometimes people follow the world, sometimes people follow other people. I can relate to all of those. While I always try to follow God, sometimes I fall short.


In Genesis 29 and 30 we see Jacob meet his future wife. He must choose how he will react. Will he open the well? Will he wait for the rest of the flocks? He must choose will he wait for Rachel in addition to Leah? Will he continue to work for his father-in-law, Laban, even after being deceived by him? I have no doubt that he made some wise choices and others that were not as wise.


In Psalm 17 we get an insight into David’s prayer life. We know from reading the Old Testament that David made both good and bad choices over the course of his life. Here we read of David contrasting the path of God against the path of the violent. In Psalm 17:4-5 David says, “By the word of Your lips I have kept from the paths of the violent. My steps have held fast to Your paths. My feet have not slipped. I have called upon You, for You will answer me, O God”. David finds the strength to make the right choices not by following the voice of the world around him but instead by following the voice of God. When we call upon God He will hear us and will answer us!


In Matthew 16 we get to see Jesus’ reaction to Peter’s choices of words, both right and wrong. First in verse 13 Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Then in verse 15 He asks who the disciples say He is. To this Peter replies, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter is told that this is an excellent answer that lines up with the prophecies and what Jesus is teaching. Matthew 16:21 says, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.” The very same Peter who had just declared Jesus as the Christ now rebukes him and tells him that none of this can ever be allowed to happen. Jesus has some strong words for our friend Peter. “He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.’” (Matthew 16:23)


It is true that all of these great men of the Bible struggled to make the right choices in service to God. Sometimes I find myself asking, “If they struggled and fell like that, what hope do I have?” The beautiful answer to that question is that even though they stumbled, even though they fell, even though they made bad choices; God still loved them! God still chose them! God still used them for His glory!


I promise you will make some choices that you look back at and it will cause you to question yourself, maybe even doubt yourself or your faith. Remember that just as God loved and chose the men and women of the Bible, He loves and chooses you too!


What can you do right now to ensure your next choice is the right choice?

-Bill Dunn

Reflection Questions

  1. What are some of the wisest choices you have made? What was a good choice you made yesterday? What was one of the hardest wise choices you have made? Are you glad you did it?
  2. Do you agree with Peter regarding who Jesus is? What did Peter not yet understand in regards to Jesus’ mission? How does an incomplete understanding lead to making poor choices? What else plays a role in making unwise choices? How can these be overcome?
  3. In reading the Scriptures today what did God show you about Himself? What did God show you about His Son the Messiah?

Trust in the LORD

Psalm 114-116, especially 115

What do you put your trust in?

Odds are there are many things that you trust. You may trust your phone alarm to wake you up to go to school or work in the morning. You probably trust the light to come on when you flip the switch. You probably trust the furnace to come on when you turn up the thermostat. There are probably even people you trust deeply. It is good to trust in these things, usually. What happens when you flip the switch and the room is still dark? How about when you turn on the heat and it starts blowing cold air? Have you ever been late because your alarm didn’t wake you up (rather the alarm went off or not)? I bet you have even had a trusted friend or family member hurt you. So again I ask, “What do you do when the things or people you trust fall short?”

It is amazing how much it can throw us off when our trust is shaken. We may be tempted to “never trust anyone again.” We may want to throw the phone across the room and drop kick the furnace, but the fact is we knew these would eventually let us down. As we go through life we learn that all things, people included, fall short. Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” This sounds like terrible news and in many ways it is, but there is good news as well. There is One that always has been, always will be, and He does NOT fail. Psalm 115 addresses the times we place too much trust in material items, the things of this world, our idols. Here we read a few of the many weaknesses of idols. They cannot speak, see, hear, smell, feel, walk, make a sound, and are made by human hands; yet still we place our trust in them. Why do we decide to place our trust in these inanimate objects? 

After reading of the weaknesses of idols we find many times that we are to trust in the LORD. We can trust in Him because He is the opposite of every aspect of the idols. “He is (our) help and (our) shield…He is mindful to us…He will bless us.” He is the source of every good thing, every blessing, and will NEVER fail. Verse 18 tells us, “we will bless the LORD from this time and forever.” This is the Kingdom hope we have, that we may bless the LORD and trust in the LORD for all time. 

-Bill Dunn

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Psalm 114- 116 and Ezekiel 21-22

Praise Him

Psalm 111-113

Most of us say that we would like to have wisdom and good understanding. This seems pretty obvious but it is so easy to loose track of what brings these things. We search in books, on apps, listening to podcasts, and on websites. When we search in these and other places like these for wisdom and understanding we find that it all falls short if it is not based in faith. Thankfully we have a source of both wisdom and understanding. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; All those who follow His commandments have a good understanding; His praise endures forever.”

When we search for wisdom we need to start with fear for the LORD. This does not mean we need to cower and hide when we think of God. He absolutely has the power that He could instill that type of fear but that is not who He is.  Instead it means that we need to have a respectful awe or reverence for the LORD. Although He is mighty and powerful beyond our capabilities, He is also loving and compassionate beyond our understanding. He is the God who is powerful enough to speak and create life as we know it and loving enough to send His Son to overcome death that we may live. David said that wisdom begins with this reverent fear of the LORD. When we know who we serve and the love He has for us we can truly focus on what is important. That is leading as many as possible to a relationship with God as we serve Him with our life. 

David does not stop there. He says that following the commandments of God shows “a good understanding.” We follow His commandments because we understand what has been done for us. We have a desire to serve the one that has blessed us so incredibly with hope, both now and in the life to come. We understand that we have been given a gift that we could not have possibly earned and as such we desire to show thanks in the best way we can. That is to follow His commandments. Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments, upon which hang all the others, are to love God and love people!

David ends this verse by saying that “His (God’s) praise endures forever.” At first it may seem a simple statement of just four words. Upon further thought though we realize that this statement has long lasting reach. Also we find that His praise will endure forever. This means that even if I do not praise Him others will. It also means that His praise did not stop when David died, when Solomon died, when Job died, when the apostles died, and it will not stop when you and I die either. If His praise endures forever; this is an eternal statement with implications into the Kingdom of God! It is with great pleasure that I tell you that you can praise Him both now and FOREVER!

Those who have wisdom and have understanding will praise the LORD!

-Bill Dunn

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at SeekGrowLove.com here – Psalm 111-113 and Ezekiel 19-20

See a Victory

 

Psalm 108-110

When you think of a strong person what do you picture? Do you envision an Olympic weightlifter holding an impossibly heavy barbell over their head? Or maybe you go the route of imagining a superhero trying to hold back a speeding train.  While these examples do show strength, we need to remember that there is more to strength than flexing a muscle. More than brute strength is needed to have victory over evil.

In today’s passage, David continues to trust in God’s strength and might no matter the circumstance.  As David seems to go through a rollercoaster of emotions, he doesn’t wavier in his trust that God will be victorious at the end of the day. I love what it says in Psalm 108:12 in the Good News Translation, “Help us against the enemy; human help is worthless.”  David is gearing up for a battle and has an army by his side yet he is humble enough to recognize that compared to God’s strength, his army and any other human help is worthless.  If King David was able to humbly recognize that the only way to victory is through God, we should be able to do the same.

God promises that we will ultimately be victorious over evil if we walk in His ways and accept the gift of His Son.  Psalm 110:1 gives us a clear picture of what God has planned for the future.  This verse might seem repetitive at a glance, but as we look closer we can see that the first LORD is in all caps which means its referencing God while the second Lord that is not in all caps references the Messiah who we know as Jesus.  By placing Jesus at His right hand, God is putting His son in a position of authority until the time comes for Jesus to rule over the nations after which will come the Kingdom of God. With all the craziness going on in our world, it’s refreshing to know that God has a plan for us to have victory over evil through Him.

Today I’d like to leave you with the lyrics from a praise and worship song we like to sing at Garden Park.  Remember that no matter how dark it may seem, God has a plan and He will be victorious.

“See A Victory” by Elevation Worship

“The weapon may be formed, but it won’t prosper

When the darkness falls, it won’t prevail

‘Cause the God I serve knows only how to triumph

My God will never fail …

I’m gonna see a victory

I’m gonna see a victory

For the Battle belongs to you Lord.”

-Bill Dunn

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 17-18 and Psalm 108-110

Give Thanks to the LORD!

Psalm 107

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His mercy is everlasting. The redeemed of the LORD shall say so…” (Psalm 107:1, 2a NASB2020)

We, the redeemed of the LORD, are to give praise to our God! This seems obvious when we think of the good things He has done for us. However, when we think of the struggles of life we tend to forget about the many blessings we have from above. It can be easy to get caught up in the stress of a job, the race of paying off debt, the chaos that is a college campus, the extra-curricular activities of high school, or even the pleasures of pet ownership. Some of these are good, some are not so good, and others depend on the day and context; but we find that anything that takes our eyes away from the LORD is a problem. The Psalmist here tells us that we need to give thanks in all situations. 

We will see that if we turn from the ways of the world and walk in the ways of God we will find peace and reason to give thanks! First, he says we are redeemed from the hands of our enemy and gathered from foreign lands. Although it is not as common now, in ancient culture it was quite common for citizens of defeated nations to be carried off and scattered to prevent the nation from rebuilding. This happened to Israel many times in the Old Testament; time and time again God promised he would gather His people and He did just exactly that. For this His people would give thanks to the LORD!

God also delivers His people from hunger, thirst, unjust imprisonment, foolishness, and even illness. This is not to say that we will always be delivered from these situations but we do find that God takes pleasure in caring for us. When we are in these scenarios we need to call to Him to deliver us and give thanks to Him for His goodness. 

There are certainly times that we can feel like we are tossed here and there as if by the waves of the sea during a storm. Your waves may come from any number of areas of life but what we hold in common in these times is that we can be found at our wits’ end as it says in the 2020 NASB. The Psalmist says that when we find ourselves here we can cry out to Him and He can cause the storm to be still and bring us to the end of our distresses. Once the wind and waves stop we must not be tempted to just think, oh the storm died down. We must acknowledge and give thanks to God for stopping the storm. 

In the last 5 verses of Psalm 107 we read of a concept that Jesus taught his disciples. Jesus said the first shall be last and the last shall be first, while here the proud will be humbled and the humble will be exalted. I find this to be encouraging because even when the world punishes us for doing what God has called us to do, we can have faith that God will raise us beyond the judgment of the world. For that we should alway give thanks to the LORD!

-Bill Dunn

Today’s Bible reading plan passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 15-16 and Psalm 107

Remember

2 Peter 3

Have you ever played any memory or matching games? Our family likes to watch Braingames, where they discuss different scenarios that “trick the mind.” Some will use colors that play tricks on the brain, others will use shapes to make you think a longer line is actually shorter, still others will show you tricks to better remember something. 

We tend to forget things easily, as a result we have found that it is easier to remember if we recap our tasks at the end of a conversation or email. Our family emails will usually end with a bullet point list of the main points of the email. We have even begun doing this with some of the emails we send to those outside of our family as well. 

The third chapter of 2 Peter is kind of a bulleted list reminding his readers of the main points he has brought to their attention. He reminds his readers of the the importance of the words spoken by the prophets and the commandments of the Lord. This is the foremost reminder that he gives seeking for his readers to focus their lives on these. He says mockers will come and they will ask, “Is your Lord ever actually going to return?” If you have been a Christian for very long you have probably been asked a similar question, or even thought about similar questions yourself. Peter reminds us that God operates outside of our understanding of time. What seems like a long time to us is like a day to Him. He also reminds us that the apparent delay is not so much slowness as it is patiently waiting for as many as will to come to repentance and form a relationship of hope and love with our Lord. 

Remembering these things should cause us to think of the kind of person we should be. We should be people that are consistently looking for opportunities to further His Kingdom work and bring others to Christ. We should be living holy and godly lives while keeping our eyes on the things of God rather than the things of this world. I will never forget the many times I have heard Dr. Joe Martin proclaiming, “ITS ALL GONNA BURN” as he talks about the earthly things he dreams of (his Toyota Tundra). We all have material possessions that we hold dear and that we dream of one day having, the fact of the matter is that ITS ALL GONNA BURN and that’s okay! When it burns at the coming day of the Lord we will receive eternal life. We will be in the presence of our LORD and His Son! We will be seeing the new heaven and new earth! There is NOTHING in this creation that can compare with how amazing that will be!

REMEMBER:

  • The words spoken by the prophets. (Verse 2)
  • The commandment of the Lord and Savior. (Verse 2)
  • Mockers will come with their mocking. (Verse 3)
  • God is patient, NOT slow. (Verses 8 & 9)
  • Its all gonna burn! (Verse 12 & Dr. Joe)
  • We are awaiting something FAR BETTER!!! (Verse 13)
  • Be diligent in your faith and actions. (Verse 14)
  • Grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord. (Verse 18)

-Bill Dunn

Read or listen to today’s Bible reading plan passages at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 13-14 and 2 Peter 3

FALSE

2 Peter 2

We do NOT like to be told our actions are wrong or that our understanding is false. Many people today fight against the idea that there even is “true or false”, “fact or fiction”, and “right or wrong”. The Bible, however, very clearly teaches us that there is a difference between each of these. 

In 2 Peter 2 we read that there have always been people, and even angels, teaching what is not correct and there have always been consequences for these false teachings. There are angels “held for punishment”, the ungodly caught in a worldwide flood, and cities reduced to ashes all as a result of teaching and living by what is NOT TRUE. 

The good news is that we have the option to read and understand what is TRUE. Verse 9 tells us that God “knows how to rescue the godly!” This is incredible news as we read about the destruction of the ungodly false teachers and prophets. When we teach we need to be certain that what we are teaching is the truth we find in the Bible. When we make choices we need to be sure they are guided by these same truths and NOT by the false teachings of the world. 

Peter even tells us that the false teachers will promise freedom, while being enslaved by their own false teachings. It is possible to get away from the grips of these false teachings but it is not always easy to stay away. Peter describes it by quoting Proverbs 26:11, “A dog returns to its own vomit…” this is quite the disgusting thought but it is quite accurate. A dog will return to eat what its body has already rejected and a pig will go roll in the mud after it was just cleaned off. We tend to do the same thing, hopefully not literally! Temptations and the false teachings of the world are not easy to resist but Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that God will give a way out of any temptation we face. That way out may not be easy, it may not be pleasant, but it will be there; and it will be far better for us. 

Don’t be like a dog or a pig! Avoid the false teachings this world has to offer and live your life in the freedom that can only be found serving The LORD God Almighty and His Son, Jesus the Christ!

-Bill Dunn

Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Ezekiel 11-12 and 2 Peter 2

Living Stones

1 Peter 2

1 Peter 2 5 NASB

Often, we think of our life as our own; and it is to a point. We think we just go and do what we want, when we want and no one else has any right to say anything about it. The thing we need to remember as Christians is that we have given our lives to another. We have devoted ourselves to service. As such the master to which we are devoted is constantly guiding us … Are we following?

Peter tells us to put aside ALL malice, guile, hypocrisy, envy, and slander. He suggests this will come naturally as we long for the pure word of God. This will cause us to grow in salvation and kindness. One of the best ways we can show love to one another is to show kindness to others. He says that as we have seen the kindness of God we will show kindness to others.

As His servants we are constantly being built up into a priesthood for Him. That does not mean we are going around in black shirts with white collars but it does mean we are to be serving Him with our entire being. We are called to offer sacrifices to God. Verse five of this chapter reminds me of Romans 12:1

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1 (NASB)

The sacrifice we offer is one of ourselves, not merely something of value to us but our entirety. We are chosen to serve Him as capable in His power, we are His possessions to serve as His people, for His glory and purposes. Peter continues to tell us that as we do what is right we may turn others to serve God as they see our actions. Also in doing right we will silence false accusations as all have seen us doing right by Him.

We are also called to respond differently than those around us. Many people are vicious toward others, especially when wronged. God is calling us, through Peter, to a better way. He has called us to be true to Him and to turn the other cheek as Jesus gave example. He reminds us that sin is no longer our master but we are now servants of Christ and his Father, our Father.

-Bill Dunn

Following the Alien Way

1 Peter 1

1 Peter 1 15 nasb

As we open the first letter from Peter, we find that he identifies himself as an apostle. This is a word that is rarely used outside of the church today. It translates to one who is sent. Peter says of himself, “I am one who is sent of Jesus Christ, I am his ambassador, his representative to you.” The you he refers to are all of those “living as aliens” across the region. I remember when I was a child, I would think of Marvin the Martian or some other made-up extra-terrestrial when I though of the word alien. Now I understand that an alien is simply one who is living in a place that is not their own. I now know that we, as servants of Christ, are living as aliens in a world that has turned itself over to follow evil. So, Peter is actually writing to us as well.

He continues by saying that we are chosen according to God’s foreknowledge. So, God knew the future enough to chose us as His servants for this time and to guide us to believe in His Son so we can enjoy life everlasting in His amazing Kingdom at the appointed time! WOW!!! It is incredible to think of the ways that God sets so many things in motion for our good, even when we have no idea of what He is setting up. We are set aside to obey Jesus and be cleansed by his blood. As if that was not enough Peter then asks that grace and peace be ours in the fullest! This is quite the blessing … and that is just the first 2 verses!

In the next three verses he reminds us that our inheritance is stored up where moth and rust cannot destroy. He says our hope is in resurrection and salvation is to be revealed in the last time. This is a beautiful reminder that the dead sleep and we will receive the promise together. In verse six Peter reminds us that the troubles of this time will pale in comparison to the blessings of the Kingdom of God, and this is where we draw our rejoicing from.

Verse thirteen says because of the gospel that has been preached to us we must be ready for action, with our hope fixed, because the world will continue to resist us for a time. Therefore, we must be obedient. We are called to be like Him.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”     1 Peter 1:14-16 (NASB)

In the last parts of this chapter Peter again writes of what is imperishable. This time he is telling us that we were not saved by what is perishable, such as gold and silver (these even vary in worth today), but by what is eternal, the blood of Christ. “You have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Peter 1:23)

-Bill Dunn

Priceless Final Instructions from James

James 5

James 5 13 a

In our final chapter of James we find a teaching that is difficult for many of us. We find that we are taught to have patience. I find it difficult to be patient many times when I see someone behaving in a way that is not good for them, especially when it is someone whom I have invested time and care into. We care so deeply for so many people and it is hard to watch them go down a path that leads to destruction. He reminds us first of all that the things we have amassed for ourselves on this earth are of little value in the long run. He reminds us to store up our treasures in our eternal future, NOT in this temporary life, where moth and rust destroy.

We are told in verse eight to strengthen our hearts because the return of the Lord is “at hand”. We are to patiently await the return as we seek to serve Him in our thoughts and actions. In verse nine he says that we are not to complain about one another, remembering that the judge is at the door. It is not our job to complain about each other and to cause strife. It is not even our job to judge one another, we are to encourage with our actions and speak the truth in love.

James also tells us that we will face difficult times and we need to remember in those times that God is on our side and He is full of compassion and mercy. He uses the example of Job and reminds us that in the end, although his struggles were many, he still praised the LORD. In verses thirteen through eighteen he reminds us that no matter our circumstances we should prayerfully seek God.

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. James 5:13-15 NASB

He also reminds us that we should not think that we are not capable of the incredible feats God has accomplished through others. He says Elijah was a man just like us, … and he prayed. This is the answer to so many of our issues that we have today … and he prayed.

Unfortunately, as we experience life we will find times when brothers and sisters in Christ turn and choose not to follow. We are encouraged to turn him back to save his soul and cover his sins. We sometimes think when we have fallen short that our sins are too much for God to forgive. Who am I to say that the blood of Christ is insufficient for the forgiveness of my sins? James says this will cover “a multitude of sins.”

We must remember to be patient with one!

We must remember to strengthen our hearts because Christ is returning!

We MUST remember to pray in EVERY situation!

We must encourage one another to turn back to God when we fall!

-Bill Dunn

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