July 28: I Will Laud Your Deeds

2 Samuel 19:1–43; 2 Peter 3:1–13; Psalm 145:1–21

I grew up in a family of stoics. Through example, my siblings and I were taught to keep our emotions to ourselves. Displays of excessive affection or sorrow were regarded with some suspicion, and this played out in our expressions of faith.

Psalm 145 directly challenges such a mindset. The psalmist expresses why confessing God’s faithfulness is so important, especially to those we influence: “One generation will laud your works to another, and will declare your mighty deeds” (Psa 145:4). God’s mighty deeds were His redemptive acts—especially the exodus from Egypt. His greatness (Psa 145:6), His righteousness (Psa 145:7), His glory, and His power (Psa 145:11, 12) were expressed.

Our praise should be centered on God’s ultimate restorative work through His Son—an act that has brought us back into intimate communion with Him. We can bring our sorrows and failures to Him: “Yahweh upholds all who are falling, and raises up all who are bowed down” (Psa 145:14). He hears our desires and our cries when we call upon Him in truth (Psa 145:18–19). Calling on God in truth requires that we honestly examine our own emotions (Psa 145:18). When we bring our emotions to God, we should do so in either confession or praise.

James emphasizes that free expression isn’t always a value. Since we stumble in many ways, loose talk can be dangerous and destructive in communities (Jas 3:2–6). Both speaking and silence require wisdom. When we are quick to talk about God’s work of redemption and His work in us, our words bring Him honor. What better reason to be mindful of how our expressions affect those around us—especially those who look up to us.

How are you using expressions to honor God and uplift others?

Rebecca Van Noord

July 29: When It’s Really Urgent

2 Samuel 20:1–21:22; 2 Peter 3:14–18; Psalm 146:1–10

The urgency of God’s work is easily lost on us. But to the early church, Jesus’ return seemed imminent. We get a sense of this urgency in Peter’s second letter, where he writes that every moment between now and when Jesus returns is a moment of grace; therefore, believers must work harder than ever to bring others to Christ and grow in their relationship with Him.

Peter remarks, “Therefore, dear friends, because you are waiting for [Christ to return], make every effort to be found at peace, spotless and unblemished in him. And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Pet 3:14–15). God wants to see more people come to Him—that is why He has not returned. When we feel like Peter’s audience does, wondering why Jesus hasn’t returned, Peter’s explanation can help us refocus and remember that it’s not really about us; it’s about others.

The Christian life is marked by a focus on God and our neighbors. The more we love Him, the more we learn to love our neighbors. And the more we love our neighbors, the more we become like Christ. We get closer to God with each act of love, and each act of love brings someone else closer to Him as well.

Peter continues, “Therefore, dear friends, because you know this beforehand, guard yourselves so that you do not lose your own safe position because you have been led away by the error of lawless persons. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:17–18). For Peter, the major issue is whether his audience will stay focused on Jesus or be led astray by false teachers. If the false teachers are able to sway his audience’s beliefs, then perhaps they never believed at all. By disavowing the assertions of false teachers, enduring persecution, and dedicating themselves to Christ’s grace, his audience shows their true faith. The act of defying evil readies God’s people for His return.

When all of our lives are focused on God’s eternal work, the questions about priorities, how we show love, and what matters to God suddenly have answers. God’s urgency becomes our priority.

What priorities has God given you? Are you living as if the end could be around any corner?

John D. Barry

July 30: Destructive People

2 Samuel 22:1–51; Jude 1:1–16; Psalm 147:1–20

Some destructive people don’t realize the carnage they leave in their wake. Others intentionally cause rifts and pain, driven by selfish motives. Jude’s letter, which contains succinct prose, startling imagery, and a swift warning, is unlike anything we read in Scripture. The letter equipped early Christians to deal wisely with false teachers who had entered the church community. Today, it can provide us with wisdom to respond to some of the most difficult people and situations we encounter.

The community that Jude addressed contained destructive false teachers “who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). They did not respect authority, but acted out of instinct rather than conviction: “But these persons blaspheme all that they do not understand, and all that they understand by instinct like the irrational animals, by these things they are being destroyed” (Jude 10).

Jude’s metaphors for these false teachers give us a sense of what to look for in destructive people: “hidden reefs at your love feasts, caring for themselves, waterless clouds carried away by winds, late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, uprooted, wild waves of the sea foaming up their own shameful deeds, wandering stars, for whom the deep gloom of darkness has been reserved for eternity” (Jude 12–13). He depicts people whose destructive, selfish behavior lacks conviction. Like wayward stars, these false teachers go off course, perhaps taking others with them.

After these descriptions, we expect Jude to warn his readers to stay away from these types of people. But he does the opposite: Jude’s closing warning calls readers to interact with people of this sort—though they must do so with incredible wisdom: “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22–23).

Interacting with people who doubt and wander requires a deep knowledge of our own weaknesses and failures. It requires maturity of faith. Jude gives three specific instructions: that we build ourselves up, pray in the Spirit, and keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21–22). This interaction requires the work of a God “who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24).

How do destructive people in your life influence you? Based on how they influence you, how should you approach or end the relationship?

Rebecca Van Noord

July 31: Cosmic, Creation, Chaos

2 Samuel 23:1–24:25; Jude 1:17–25; Psalm 148:1–150:6

Psalm 148 is cosmic in scope and comforting in message. It’s a depiction of how Yahweh brought order to chaos in the very beginning. Yahweh put the heavens, heights, angels, hosts (His armies), sun, moon, stars, and waters in their place—each a sign of His rule over the universe (Psa 148:1–5). Yahweh rules over the elements commonly depicted as gods in the ancient Near East; He rules over the symbols of chaos. And this cosmic depiction is comforting.

The version of the creation story we typically hear tells how things came to be, which is good. But when the story is cast like it is in Psa 148—where we see God as ruler and Lord over chaos—the message moves beyond an intellectual knowledge. If God rules over chaos, and has since the beginning, He can bring order to the chaos in our own lives. For this reason, the psalmist praises Yahweh both for His creation and for His work in his own life.

The end of Psa 148 further reveals Yahweh’s intimate work with the worshiper: The psalmist declares Yahweh praiseworthy because “he has raised high a horn [the symbol of strength] for his people … for the children of Israel, a people close to him” (Psa 148:14). Yahweh’s work in creation proves that He is the most worthy partner in adverse situations. When things get tough, Yahweh will come through.

Sadly, the message of God’s provision for us has become so cliché that it’s easy for us to take for granted. Perhaps that’s why it’s the central message of so many biblical books. For example, when Jude prays for protection for believers, he calls out to Jesus—dedicating his message to Him and His work (Jude 17–25). In doing so, Jude uses the words that would have traditionally conjured up images of God’s work in either creation or war—both of which parallel psalms like Psa 148. Jude declares that Jesus deserves “glory, power, and authority” (Jude 25) because He is the “savior” of people and the universe, both of which Yahweh created (Jude 24). Jesus is the one who came to earth to win the battle against chaos.

Next time things seem to get rough, try replacing the cliché of “God is in control” with “God is Lord over chaos.” The tense here is important. God isn’t trying to be Lord—He is Lord. When God spoke, the chaos was subdued. Likewise, when God speaks truth into our lives, the chaos in our lives is subdued. Through Christ’s work, we have the opportunity for this intimate relationship with God. Through Christ’s efforts in us, we can become people who act with Him to subdue chaos.

What chaos do you need God to subdue today?

John D. Barry[1]

 


[1] Barry, J. D., & Kruyswijk, R. (2012). Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.