Blind Guides

Today’s Bible Reading – Matthew 23 and Genesis 45 & 46

Yesterday we got to spend our whole devotion thinking about a great party and the thrill of receiving an invitation from God to honor His Son. Today – no such fun. The parties and parables are gone and today, in Matthew 23, we read only of strong warnings, harsh words, and blasting condemnation. This is the last recorded time in the book of Matthew that Jesus addresses the crowds. This is what he is going to leave with them – too important to not say. Anyone who believes Jesus would never condemn because he just loved people no matter what, just full of overflowing forgiveness and love, could benefit from a little sit down with Matthew 23.

It is clear that Jesus was not happy with these Pharisees and teachers of the law. He starts by warning the crowd to not be like the Pharisees as he begins describing them: they don’t practice what they preach, they make it harder for people to be godly, they love being honored by men and they pridefully exalt themselves. And then, speaking directly to the Pharisees and teachers of the law he lets loose on what has become known as the “7 Woes”. Six times he will begin with “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites!” and once with “Woe to you, blind guides.” Jesus uses some choice language to describe these men: son of hell, blind guides, blind fools, blind men (notice a pattern?), snakes and brood of vipers.

So, what in the world were these people doing that was so bad to receive this 7 part hellfire sermon. After all, we know Jesus often responded to people’s sins with mercy, grace and forgiveness and the all-important chance to start over. He hadn’t called the lying cheating thieving Zacchaeus a son of hell? What was different here?

The Pharisees and teachers of the law were supposed to be the ones to guide people to God. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary suggests there were about 6,000 Pharisees at the time – mostly middle-class businessmen who had devoted themselves to being separate – becoming the religious leaders who would show the Jews how to please God. And, some were indeed authentic in this quest (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea are two named in Scripture). The crowd gathered was likely shocked to hear Jesus speaking of and to the Pharisees in this way because they had been taught (at least by the Pharisees themselves) to revere the position and spiritual leadership held by this Jewish sect.

What started out as a good goal became warped and ungodly. As the Pharisees kept puffing themselves up there was no room left for what really pleases God. They had become blind guides. And it is obviously very dangerous to follow a blind guide. They could lead you straight to somewhere you don’t want to go. And that is exactly the warning Jesus was giving the Pharisees and the crowd. “You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 23:13 NIV).

The Pharisees loved the law and specialized in knowing and enforcing each and every little detail of a long long list of do’s and don’ts. This, they thought, would make God happy. But all the while they neglected the larger heart issues of justice, mercy and faithfulness. They mastered in the dotting of i’s and crossing of t’s, but failed to see that the novel they were writing with their lives was tearing down every attempt others were making to please God. They were quick to point out other’s errors, but saw none of their own. It became most important to them to look good before man. So important that they forgot about how to actually look good before God. They were puffed up and proud, greedy and selfish.


It is easy to read this chapter and shake my head and point my finger and say, “Boy, I’m glad I am not like one of them.” But, in so doing – I become like one of them.

Dear God, help me to do what is right – with a heart that is right. May I see the error of the Pharisee’s ways – and my own – and work to clean up my own insides. Help me be humble and not seek the honor of men. Open my eyes to who you are and what truly pleases you. Open my ears to the teachings of your Son, to not just know it but to live it. Help me guide others to you, not armed with a legalistic checklist, but with a heart of justice, mercy and faithfulness. In your precious Son’s name, I pray.

-Marcia Railton

Humility

Romans 11-13

I am a fairly humble fellow.  I do not stand out in a crowd.  I do not try to draw attention to myself.  In fact I don’t like attention.  I don’t consider myself arrogant and  I am very aware of my flaws.  And yet, there are still times when I allow myself to feel superior to others.  Maybe we all do that at times?

No matter how many flaws we have, all of us are better at something than someone else.  And in those moments where we take notice of that, it is easy to allow our egos to puff up a bit, isn’t it?  Maybe that is even especially true for those, like me, that are more keenly aware of our shortcomings than our triumphs.

Paul touches on humility several times in chapter 12, and typically when I read these passages, I instantly think about people that are very arrogant, and think, “this doesn’t really apply to me,” or “I’m doing fine in this area.”  But then (sometimes) I think about the thoughts that I opened with.

Beginning in verse 3, Paul says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”

 There you have it.  Each of us should NOT think of ourselves more highly than we ought.  Well then how highly SHOULD we think of ourselves?  Frankly, I would say pretty high, because we are each pretty incredible creations of God.  And we have each been blessed with many abilities and talents.  But as Paul points out, we have all been given DIFFERENT abilities.  And it is key to remember that we have been given those abilities.  We didn’t do anything ourselves to acquire natural abilities.  Some people are born with great musical talent.  Others with sharp intellect.  Still others with amazing athletic skill.  Paul here is speaking primarily of spiritual gifts, but all abilities and talents are indeed granted by our Creator.  I really appreciate when I see gifted athletes giving credit to God for their abilities during post-game interviews.  I am not always sure how sincere they are, but the message is true regardless.

In verse 10, Paul says to Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one other above yourselves.  This is an outward extension of humility, and here, should be motivated by love.  How often do you honor others above yourself?

Finally, Paul comes back to humility again in verse 16.

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.”

We should not just be showing humility to the people we are comfortable being with, or the people that are “our kind of crowd.”  We should be showing humility to, and honoring above us those whom we would consider to be of low position. 

Again, this is the example Jesus left for us, and it is a humility that is motivated by love, which Paul sums up perfectly in verses 9-21.

So, think of yourselves very highly, as an amazing creation, but do not think of yourself more highly than someone else.  That is when you are thinking of yourself more highly than you ought.  It’s about recognizing that God has given each of us different gifts, to be used to His glory.

-Greg Landry

Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Romans 11-13.

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Romans (chapters 14-16).

Luke 17:11-18:14

In today’s reading, we read four different stories: (1) the healing of the ten lepers, (2) the teachings on the coming of the Kingdom, (3) a parable on persistence in prayer, and (4) a parable on the dangers of self-righteousness. Throughout all of these passages, Jesus clearly teaches the importance of humility and the dangers of pride in ourselves. 

In Luke 18:9-14 it says: 

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The Pharisee in this story believed that he had done everything right. Because of this, he boasted in his own righteousness and looked down on others. When we look at the Pharisee’s actions, we may question why the Pharisee was not the better person in the parable. The Pharisee has been following the law and doing a much better job than the people he was looking down on. Whereas tax collectors were notorious for stealing money when they came to collect taxes for the government of the foreign military occupying their lands. Even though that was the case, the tax collector was the one who was justified before God! 

Why would this be the case? Why would the person whose life did not follow the law be the person who was justified before God? It’s all about the way that we view ourselves in relation to God. As Romans 3:23 states, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” None of us are truly righteous. We all fall short. So, none of us have a right to boast in the few things that we do – none of those things make us righteous when you compare our righteousness to God’s. 

Knowing this, how should we lead our lives? We should still strive for righteousness, but we need to recognize that our actions are an outpouring of our relationship with God. Those actions – going to church, tithing, mentoring, having a ministry, evangelizing, or writing a devotion – those actions are not the things that save us. What saves us is the love that God has for us and the faith we have in him. 

~ Cayce Fletcher

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Luke 17:11-18:14.

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 19 & Mark 10.

Deceived by Pride

Jeremiah 49-50

Jeremiah 49 16 NIV sgl

More sin, more judgment, more destruction, and a little more restoration – just like yesterday – only the names have been changed.  Yesterday we read about the judgment God was planning against Egypt, the Philistines, and Moab.  Today, we read what was in store for Ammon, Edom, Damascus, Kedar and Hazor, Elam and the big one – Babylon.  God saw their sins and would be bringing judgment and destruction to their lands.

There is one sin that is mentioned again and again.

“Why do you boast of your valleys, boast of your valleys so fruitful? O unfaithful daughter, you trust in your riches and say, ‘Who will attack me?'” (Jeremiah 49:4  NIV).

“The terror you inspire and the pride of your heart have deceived you” (Jeremiah 49:16 NIV).

“See, I am against you, O arrogant one” (Jeremiah 50:31 NIV).

It may come by many names – boasting, pride, arrogance – but every time it is a sin worthy of judgment.

How could the pride of your heart be deceiving you?

A few weeks ago I was preparing a devotion for posting and I was looking for a background photograph for a verse referring to Hezekiah’s pride (2 Chronicles 32:25).  I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for – but figured I would know it when I saw it.  So I typed in that I wanted to see photos of pride and I started scrolling.  and scrolling.  and scrolling.  You of course are smarter than I and know what I ran across – over and over again.  I am pretty sure there were thousands upon thousands of options for gay pride – rainbows, couples, signs, and more rainbows, a lot of rainbows (when did they get to hijack the symbol of God’s promises?).  There was also the occasional national flag or beaming, proud parent pictured with her perfect child.  But, there was NOTHING there to indicate that pride is a sin, a deadly sin worthy of judgment.  Finally, I opted for the proud peacock as my photo background and shook my head at dismay over what we have become – a culture that celebrates and basks in pride.  Are we any different from the countries of Jeremiah’s day?  Arrogant, boastful, flaunting sin and deceived by pride.  Can we expect anything less than what Jeremiah foretold for these sinful nations?

What about on a personal level?  It can be overwhelmingly depressing to think about trying to fix all the evils of a nation – but what can I work at fixing about myself?  Where do I let pride puff me up so I no longer care for others or about what God says?  How is my use of social media contributing to the spiraling problem of pride?  How is pride connected to so many other sins?

It is time to see our pride and sin for what it is – and treat it as the deadly gangrene it is.  Don’t be led astray and deceived by pride.  Jump down from your high horse and humble yourself.  You aren’t as much as you think you are.  For God has promised judgment for the proud and arrogant.  He has also promised restoration and forgiveness for those who humble themselves  – “If  my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV)

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to here – Jeremiah 49-50

Tomorrow we will finish the book of Jeremiah with chapters 51-52 as we continue searching God’s Word in our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

So Many Choices to Make

2 Chronicles 12 6 NIV sgl

2 Chronicles 10-12

Today’s reading (from 2 Chronicles) begins where yesterday’s reading began (in 1 Kings) – Solomon has just died and his son Rehoboam has been made king of all Israel.  It is a good time to use a lot of wisdom, especially since there are discontented citizens and a prophecy has been made that the kingdom (or 10 of the 12 tribes) would be torn out of the hand of Solomon’s son and given to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:9-13 & 26-40).

When the potential revolters knock on the palace door asking Rehoboam how he will rule them, Rehoboam responds first with wisdom.  Rather than giving a rash answer he might regret later he asks them to return in 3 days – and he consults with his elders.  Well done, Rehoboam.  The wise elders advise the new king to be a servant leader and his countrymen would always be faithful to him (1 Kings 12:7, 2 Chronicles 10:7).  It wasn’t the answer Rehoboam was looking for.  He was looking forward to having great power, authority and fame – perhaps even greater than that of his dad Solomon or his grandpa David.  He didn’t see how a kind “servant” fit into the picture of leadership.

So, he goes to his young buddies he grew up with (perhaps about 40 years old 🙂 – 2 Chronicles 12:13) and asks them how he should proceed.  They are inexperienced, power hungry, arrogant, foolish “young” men.  But Rehoboam rejects the wisdom of the elders he asked first and follows the foolish advice of his friends and tells the people he will be a harsh and firm ruler.  Not too wise, Rehoboam.

Rather than submitting to these fear tactics, Israel revolts and 10 tribes go with Jeroboam, leaving just Judah (and parts of Benjamin) loyal to the house of David and his grandson Rehoboam.  This is exactly what God told Solomon would happen, as a result of his turning away from the Lord (1 Kings 11:9).  Like father, like son – it’s not enough to start out wise – you must stay the course and firmly resist the easy, enticing, foolish way that the worldly friends would lead you down.

In the next couple chapters we see Rehoboam, continue to yo-yo between good choices and bad choices.  He wisely listens to the word of the Lord and abandons plans to attack Israel and start an all-out bloody civil war with their dissenting brothers (2 Chronicles 11:4).  But then, “After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the LORD.” (Chronicles 12:1).   Too often when we are feeling strong, comfortable and sure of ourselves…our pride makes us think we don’t need God anymore.  And that is a dangerous place to be – for Rehoboam and the country of Judah as well as for you and me and our country.  In God we trust.  Or, we did once?  How sad and hauntingly eerie to read God’s proclamation against the nation that rejects God: “This is what the LORD says, ‘You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to …’ ” (2 Chronicles 12:5b).  And in came the invaders from Egypt.

The good news is, the story doesn’t always have to end there – and it doesn’t for Rehoboam!   He still had a bounce back left in his up/down/repeat journey.  Rehoboam’s pride had brought him down, turning from God, and leading to punishment.  Now, at the bottom, faced with a foreboding enemy he gets another chance to choose his response –  wise or foolish, humble or proud, repentant or heard-hearted?  Rehoboam and his countrymen chose wisely this time – they, “humbled themselves and said, ‘The LORD is just.’ ” (2 Chronicles 12:6).   God still sent the invaders from Egypt – to shake them up a little and teach them a lesson they needed to learn – there is a price to pay for turning from God and proudly putting your trust in yourself instead.   But, because of their humble response, God did not let the Egyptians annihilate them.

That would not be the end of Rehoboam.  He would reign in Jerusalem 12 more years.  But sadly the few wise choices we saw in Rehoboam were not enough.  In the end, it was recorded, “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 12:14).

In reality, we are all a mix of wise and foolish choices.   There are consequences for the foolish ones and rewards for the wise.  But which will you be known for in the end?  Let us each work hard to make wise choices everyday.  Daily seek the LORD with humility – acknowledging our need for Him, our desire to follow His wise and right way, our willingness to set aside the selfish, prideful desire for power and and instead offer ourselves as a servant.

Seek Him!

Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Chronicles+10-12&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 1 Kings 15:1-24 and 2 Chronicles 13-16 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

His Example

john 13 14

Pure heart, good conscience, and sincere faith, we know what these are and how to achieve them but a better way to see this is through Jesus Christ. He constantly showed God’s love through his actions, by caring for those you wouldn’t expect him to. He was the son of God and he humbled himself to all around him, to show that we are here to serve. By following Jesus’s example in serving and loving others we can do good, and have a positive impact in the world around us.

-Blair Simon