My neighbor always lets his weeds get 2-3 feet high. Sometimes as I am navigating down the footpath, a weed will rub against my leg and I jump in the air and quickly look down to make sure I’m safe. In my mind, I know that he never addresses the weeds. But even still, I look down because there is a small chance that a mosquito or spider or something else is crawling on my leg. I hate bugs.
When I was a pastor, I always encouraged people to look in the Bible to see the verses I was referencing in a sermon. It was important for me to point people to the actual scripture so that everyone could see what God says. Even though most of the time it is only weeds rubbing against your legs, every so often there is a mosquito or spider crawling on your leg. If you are looking in your Bible to see what God says, you can check for yourself. You aren’t trusting it’s a simple grazing of a weed. You’re able to know it is just a weed. This is important for your walk with Jesus—to know for yourself what God says. Yes, you won’t know it all. Yes, you won’t understand it all. But open up His Word and seek Him.
There are a lot of commentators of the Bible. There are thousands of pastors and theologians. Interpretations vary at times because people allow their own misconceptions and traditions to speak into the Word. People read what they want to read. People cherry pick. People have agendas. People are broken. I’m not suggesting that the last sermon you heard was wrong or that commentaries are bad. My pastor shared a great message from God this past Sunday, and my bookshelf is lined with commentaries. My suggestion, my desire for you is to always seek Him and His Word for yourself. Independent Bible reading and study should be a regular occurrence. What is God saying to you today?
“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” – Psalm 25:5 [ESV]
My neighbor’s overgrowth of weeds has reached nearly 3 feet. It is a perfect hiding spot for a rabbit, that is, until my Labrador decides he wants to retrieve him. I keep him from having any success; however, this morning he did shock the rabbit he uncovered with his keen abilities. The rabbit, stunned and not really able to evaluate his options, ran right towards a pack of German Shepherds. He rebounded and finally found an escape route.
Watching the frazzled rabbit run from one point to the next haphazardly reminded me of how easy it is to get comfortable and feel safe somewhere only to find yourself under attack. This can happen in a relationship, at a job, in a circle of friends, and even at church. It is usually the people closest to us that hurt us most. We get comfortable. We feel safe. Then something happens. We all have moments, situations, events, etc. in life that shock us, open our eyes, hurt us, change us as people. We have the option to respond in whatever way we see fit. Sometimes we run. Sometimes we fall. Sometimes we deny.
When we run, like the rabbit, we are running from something, and there’s always a place we are running toward. Maybe we attempt to nurse our brokenness with some self-soothing methods that are almost second-hand nature. Remember the Golden Girls moments when the cheesecake came out of the fridge? Perhaps your soothing is going to the gym, taking a shopping trip, having a few (or more) drinks. We all have our vices; some of us have multiple vices.
Whatever your situation may be, spend time with God. Take refuge in Him. People change; God is unchanging. People are unfaithful; God is faithful. People are broken, not-perfect, and many times selfish; God’s love is unfailing, His ways are perfect, and He pours out His blessing in abundance. As you cling to Him, may you realize you were never meant to hide in the safety of the overgrowth—you were made to soar! The people in your life are not to be your safety net, but they are part of your life to love, to encourage, to serve. The financial security of a good job and money in the bank is not for you to sit back and coast through life, but to glorify God. Often, when you are chased from the overgrowth, you are led to right where you are meant to be at this very moment. Let the Spirit guide your steps from the weeds to all that He has awaiting. It might not appear to be better than the pile of weeds, but you can trust that God has a great plan. In faith, in obedience, in love – press onward and soar!
“Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.” – Psalm 143:8 [NLT]
“Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.” – Psalm 25:5 [NLT]
Paul reminds Timothy to keep a close watch on himself—to watch his life and his teaching closely. In doing this, in staying true, in persevering, Paul says, “you will save both yourself and your hearers” (NIV).
We also need to keep a close watch on our life and our teaching. Our teaching should be something seen as we live our life. This means we should not teach one thing and then live another way. This means what we speak and teach to others, should be evident when we are going through the motions each day, when we are not simply intentionally sharing God’s truth to someone. The way we live our life each day teaches much more to observers than the words we speak.
Paul warns Timothy here to keep a close watch. The big issue is when we always teach and speak one way, but our life shows no evidence of living out the same teaching. Paul reminds us that this is of great importance. This is not only about our salvation, but the salvation of others. Why? If your teaching aligns with your life, people will want to listen and the seed may be planted for God to grow. If your teaching and life are very different, people will label you a hypocrite and close their ears to anything you say. We all fall short. We all have our good moments and our bad moments. There will be times when we do not live up to our teaching. No one is perfect. Even so, remember Paul’s warning. Keep a close watch.
“Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.” – 1 Timothy 4:16 [NLT]
Paul really doesn’t hold back. The church is to be a pillar and foundation of the truth. The church is the house of God. The truth is God’s truth. The truth should be the first and most important part of the church. We must profess truth. We must preach truth. We must live truth.
We see two different things described in this verse. First there is the foundation, the ground floor. Our foundation should be the living God, Who is dwelling in our midst. He is our foundational truth. Second, we read of the pillar. A pillar can be compared to the pillar that holds up a building or a pillar that tacks on an edict. This can be understood as the pillar of truth holding up the church or the pillar displaying the truth before man. Truth holds up the church. If we rid ourselves of truth, the church will collapse. What is the truth? The saving truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Word of God.
The world is trying to get the church to stop sharing the truth. The truth is offensive. The truth doesn’t align with their way of life. The world wants very much for the pillar to fall. The devil and his demons do whatever possible to keep the body of Christ from sharing truth. In doing so, in keeping people from speaking truth, the pillar and foundation weaken. Today, boldly speak truth. Cling to His truth. Stand up for His truth. The church must continue to be a pillar and foundation of the truth of God.
“So that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth.” – 1 Timothy 3:15 [NLT]
In Hosea 8, we read that Ephraim had “multiplied altars for sin” (v. 11). They built altars, but they certainly were not worshiping God as He desired. The altars were “altars of sinning.” Oh how the things that could be useful for good can be used for evil just the same. What a great reminder to tread with caution. Thankfully, God has given us His Word so we know what is desired of us.
This verse translates in the NLT as, “Even though I gave them all My laws, they act as if those laws don’t apply to them.” The ESV translates this as a “strange thing.” Like it’s strange to apply the laws to them, like it’s foreign to them. Sadly, the people of this time period were far from God. They were led away. They were sinful, idolatrous people. It did not matter how many laws there are—they would be seen as foreign nonetheless.
For many people today, God’s Law is a strange thing. People are so far from understanding the Truth, they look at what God commands and see it as strange, difficult, demanding, and even unnecessary. People do not understand the reason for the Law. God blesses us with the Law. The Law is actually all about GRACE. It is through the Law that we realize we are sinners (Romans 3:20, 7:7). As a result, the Law leads us to Jesus Christ so that we may be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24). Without the Law, we would not recognize our need for Jesus. We would not accept the grace of God. We would not be able to have the relationship for which we were created. To outsiders, the Law is a strange thing. To believers, the Law is a constant reminder that we fall short (Romans 3:23) and that we need a Savior. Knowing that He fulfilled the Law and that through Him we have life and life in abundance is a blessing! Today, remember the not-so-strange thing. More importantly, thank the Lord for His unending grace.
“Were I to write for him my laws by the ten thousands, they would be regarded as a strange thing.” – Hosea 8:12 [ESV]
When I was grocery shopping, I wanted to get a handful of different types of meats to prepare during the week. I saw the freezer area that typically contains the sale items. Sitting within the enclosed case were sweet brown sugar ham steaks. The price was absent. The price holder was there; however, they had not displayed the price card. Though I am very OCD with my budgeting, I decided to grab a few ham steaks since they were in the sale case. I figured I could get two for five bucks; that was the usual sale price.
I soon found out that the price wasn’t even close. Yes, the ham steaks were in the sale case; however, there was a reason that the price card was absent. The sale started the following day—a sale that required a certain purchase amount, thereby making the ham steaks only a dollar. What was my great price? Four dollars for just one! Boy did I allow myself to get led in the wrong line of thinking. If I waited another day and had the coupon that arrived in my mailbox, I would have enjoyed nice savings. As they say, looks are deceiving.
We often allow ourselves to see something and think one thing, and yet we are not even close to knowing the truth. The devil loves to trick us into thinking one thing is likely true, when it is anything but the truth. The devil plays on our fears and our doubts. He knows what will be most tempting. He knows what will pull you away from focusing on God. Remember that God wants us to fix our eyes on truth, to live truth, to know Truth. To do this, means that we devote ourselves to Jesus Christ, and we dedicate time for individual Bible reading and group study. Church attendance is important too. Allowing the Spirit to move is crucial. When you do this, you allow yourself to be filled with God’s Truth, and it is then more difficult for you to be led astray. Note, I didn’t say you won’t get led astray—only that it will be harder to be led astray. Today, take a step closer to Jesus. Spend time in His Word. Seek out His Truth. Pray for His Truth to be revealed. And then listen.
“He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” – James 1:18-22 [NLT]
The other day I had a flat tire. I was so very blessed to have a handful of people come to my rescue. It is always a blessing when there are too many hands to do a job. As we pulled the spare tire out of the car to use for a temporary solution, it became clear right away that the spare tire was flat. Good grief?!? Here’s a tire that has one job—to be ready for when a flat tire occurs – and it was flat.
Thankfully one disciple stepped up to get the spare filled with air so I could be on my way. But in the time waiting, I considered the flat tire and its failure. It had one job. Only one job. Failure. It reminded me of something we need always remember – nothing is 100% reliable except for God and His Truth. He never fails. His love never fails (Psalm 136). His Word never fails (Isaiah 55:11, Matthew 24:35, Luke 1:37).
People will fail you again and again. They might not always be on time or they might not show up at all. People may break promises or break your heart. People will lie. People will fall short. Spare tires will be flat. Cars won’t start. The money might not get deposited. The promised raise may not come. But with God, all things are sure and true. Today remember that through all the twists and turns in life, one thing remains – God. He doesn’t change (Malachi 3:6). He doesn’t leave (Deuteronomy 31:6). He keeps His promises (Deuteronomy 7:9). How awesome is our God!