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For God’s Little People

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  Luke 2:1–5

 

Have you ever thought what an amazing thing it is that God ordained beforehand that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem (as the prophecy in Micah 5:2 shows); and that he so ordained things that when the time came, the Messiah’s mother and legal father were living not in Bethlehem but in Nazareth; and that in order to fulfill his word and bring two unheard-of, insignificant, little people to Bethlehem that first Christmas, God put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus that all the Roman world should be enrolled each in his own town? A decree for the entire world in order to move two people seventy miles!

Have you ever felt, like me, little and insignificant in a world of seven billion people, where all the news is about big political and economic and social movements and outstanding people with global significance and lots of power and prestige?

If you have, don’t let that make you disheartened or unhappy. For it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake, but for the sake of God’s little people — the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem. God wields an empire to fulfill his word and bless his children.

Do not think, because you experience adversity in your little world of experience, that the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity or our fame but our holiness that he seeks with all his heart. And to that end, he rules the whole world. As Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” And he is always turning it for his saving and sanctifying and eternal purposes among his people.

He is a big God for little people, and we have great cause to rejoice that, unbeknownst to them, all the kings and presidents and premiers and chancellors and chiefs of the world follow the sovereign decrees of our Father in heaven, that we, the children, might be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ — and then enter his eternal glory.

By John Piper

Are You Driven By Fear Of Men Or Fear Of God?

Everyone experiences fear, worry, anxiety, stress, and burden in various ways and to varying degrees. God knows this fact, which is why in some form or fashion “fear not” is the most common command in all of the Bible.

In John, Jesus’ ministry grows–as is always the case–both with fans and foes. Eventually, the foes started publicly shaming and threatening Jesus’ fans to the degree that we read in 7:13, “for fear…no one spoke openly of him.” You likely know this fear. When coworkers, family, or friends are bashing Christ or Christians it makes you more likely to stay quiet and avoid the conflict. Online, things are even worse as trying to be reasonable about an issue on social media only encourages a public digital flogging.

Everyone lives either from fear of man or fear of God.

Fear of man is also known as people pleasing. People pleasers so hate conflict and criticism that they allow other people to boss and bully them around. Proverbs 29:25 says, “Fearing people is a dangerous trap…” When you fear someone, they take God’s place in your life. You live to please them, and do what they say to avoid them making your life hell on earth.

The solution to fear of man is fear of God. Fear of God allows you to remember that when you are left with the dilemma of saying yes to someone and no to God, or no to someone and yes to God that God should win. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…”

Fear of man is contagious. Once a few people stop speaking up and standing up it becomes normal. Fear of God is also contagious. Once a few people start speaking up and standing up they inspire contagious courage.

Who in your life is causing you to live from fear of man rather than fear of God?

By Mark Driscoll

Seven Things God Hates

“There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers”. (Prov. 6:16-19).

God hates sin in any form, but Proverbs 6:17-19 lists seven that are especially loathsome to Him. First is haughty eyes (v. 17), which pictures a proud and arrogant person with his nose in the air and his eyes uplifted. The pride in his heart is reflected in his mannerisms.

Pride is perhaps listed first because it is at the heart of all rebellion against God—beginning with Lucifer himself, who cried out against God, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa. 14:13-14).

God also hates a lying tongue (v. 17). Men often toy with truth, denying or distorting it to gain some supposed advantage. But God can’t tolerate deception of any kind. He expects us to live according to His truth.

Third, He hates murderous hands (v. 17). That speaks of people whose hatred and greed are so strong they will kill rather than be denied what they want. God created life and established its sanctity. That’s why He ordained that murderers be put to death (Gen. 9:6).

God also hates a wicked heart and malevolent feet (v. 18). Sometimes people fall into sin inadvertently. But these people carefully plot their sinful activities, then hurry to execute their plans.

Finally, God hates a false witness and a divisive spirit (v. 19). Bearing false witness is telling lies about an innocent party. That can obstruct justice, destroy a reputation, and even destroy a life. A divisive spirit is one who creates divisions where there should be unity.

Those sins characterize unbelievers, but Christians aren’t immune from them. So be on guard not to stray into attitudes and actions that God hates.

By John MacArthur

Plunge Your Mind into the Ocean of God’s Sovereignty

Sometimes we need to plunge our minds into the ocean of God’s sovereignty. We need to feel the weight of it, like deep and heavy water pressing in against every pore, the deeper we go. A billion rivers of providence pour into this ocean. And God himself gathers up all his countless deeds — from eternity to eternity — and pours them into the currents of his infallible revelation. He speaks, and explains, and promises, and makes his awesome, sovereign providence the place we feel most reverent, most secure, most free.

Sometimes we need to be reminded by God himself that there are no limits to his rule. We need to hear from him that he is sovereign over the whole world, and everything that happens in it. We need his own reminder that he is never helpless, never frustrated, never at a loss. We need his assurance that he reigns over ISIS, terrorism, Syria, Russia, China, India, Nigeria, France, Myanmar, Saudi Arabia, and the United States of America — every nation, every people, every language, every tribe, every chief, president, king, premier, prime minister, politician, great or small.

Sometimes we need to hear specific statements from God himself about his own authority. We need God’s own words. It is the very words of God that have unusual power to settle our nerves, and make us stable, wise, and courageous.

On the one hand hearing the voice of God is like a frightened child who hears the voice downstairs, and realizes that daddy’s home. Whatever those other sounds were, it’s okay. Daddy’s home.

On the other hand it feels like the seasoned troops, dug in at the front line of battle, and about to be overrun by the enemy. But then they get word that a thousand impenetrable tanks are rushing to their aid. They are only one mile away. You will be saved and the enemy will not stand.

Vague generalizations about the power of God do not have the same effect as the very voice of God telling us specifically how strong he is, how pervasive his power, how universal his authority, how unlimited his sovereignty. And that our times are in his hands.

So let’s listen. Let’s treat the Bible as the voice of God. Let’s turn what the Bible says about God into what God says about God — which is what the Bible really is — God speaking about God. And as we listen, let us praise him. There is no other fitting way to listen to God’s exaltation of God. This is what happens to the human soul when we plunge into the ocean of God’s sovereignty.

We praise you, O God, that all authority in the universe belongs to you.

“There is no authority except from me, and those that exist have been instituted by me.” (Romans 13:1)

 

We stand in awe, O God, that in your freedom you do all that you please and all that you plan.

“Whatever I please, I do, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)

“I work all things according to the counsel of my will.” (Ephesians 1:11)

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:9–10)

 

We marvel, O God, that you share this total authority and rule completely with your Son.

“I have given all authority in heaven and on earth to my Son, Jesus.” (Matthew 28:18)

“I love my Son and have given all things into his hand.” (John 3:35)

“I raised my Son from the dead and seated him at my right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion. . . . I put all things under his feet.” (Ephesians 1:20–22)

“I welcomed my Son into heaven. He is at my right hand, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.” (1 Peter 3:22)

 

We submit with reverence to you, O God, because, through your Son, you remove and install the rulers of the world.

“Wisdom and might belong to me. I change times and seasons; I remove kings and set up kings.” (Daniel 2:20–21)

“I sent my angel and struck Herod down, because he did not give me glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” (Acts 12:23)

 

Indeed, O God, you not only raise rulers and put them down; you govern all their deeds in every age.

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in my hand, says the LORD; I turn it wherever I will.” (Proverbs 21:1)

“I will put an end to the wealth of Egypt, by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. . . . I will break the yoke of Egypt, and her proud might shall come to an end. . . . I will strengthen the arms of the king of Babylon and put my sword in his hand, but I will break the arms of Pharaoh.” (Ezekiel 30:101824)

“I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.” (Jeremiah 27:6–7)

“As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. I will break the Assyrian in my land; and his yoke shall depart from my people.” (Isaiah 14:24–25)

“I will make the nations the inheritance of my Son, and the ends of the earth will be his possession. He shall break them with a rod of iron.” (Psalm 2:8–9)

 

We acknowledge with wonder, O God, that no plan of man succeeds but those which you, in unfathomable wisdom, permit.

“I bring the counsel of the nations to nothing; I frustrate the plans of the peoples.” (Psalm 33:10)

“No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against me.” (Proverbs 21:30)

 

And how mighty and wise you are, O God, that no man, no nation, force of nature can thwart your holy plans.

“No purpose of mine can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)

“I do according to my will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay my hand or say to me, ‘What have you done?’” (Daniel 4:35)

So, we bow, as dust in the scales, O God, and confess with joy, that we are as nothing compared to your greatness.

“I sit above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. I stretch out the heavens like a curtain, and spread them like a tent to dwell in. I bring princes to nothing, and make the rulers of the earth as emptiness.” (Isaiah 40:22–23)

 

The joy of our hope, O God, is that you magnify your greatness by lifting up the low, and putting down the proud.

“I look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand.” (Job 40:12)

 “I have scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; I have brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate.” (Luke 1:51–52).

 

And so it will be forever, O God. You rule over all, with an everlasting rule, for the sake of the lowly who trust your Son.

“I live forever, for my dominion is an everlasting dominion, and my kingdom endures from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:34)

“My Son will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:33)

 

Therefore, overflowing with praise and thanks, O precious and holy God, we rest in your absolute sovereignty over our lives. And rejoice to hear you say,

“Your times are in my hand.” (Psalm 31:15)

By Paul Tripp

The Direction of Words

There are many verses in the Bible that encourage me and fill my soul with hope. But then there are other verses that scare and sober me.

Proverbs 18:21 is near the top of that latter list.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (ESV).

I like how The Message summarizes it: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit — you choose.”

That verse compels me to wrap duct tape around my mouth. Why?

Because my words – and your words, too – are never neutral.

The Bible says that our words are either moving in a life direction, or they’re moving in a death direction. What we say either builds up or tears down.

There isn’t any middle ground.

I don’t know about you, but I often speak as if my words exist in a happy neutrality. It’s uncommon for me to think before I speak, “Is what I’m about to say in this moment going to bring life or bring death?”

But the Bible says that every word we speak is moving in one of those two directions. So how should this spiritual reality change the way we live?

I can see four ways: 

  1. Think more:Jesus says that we’ll give an account for “every careless word” we speak (Matthew 12:36). That same Jesus will speak perfectly on our behalf on the day of judgement, but we still need to take the time to consider the direction of our words before they roll carelessly off our tongue.
  2. Speak less:Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” In other words, the more you and I say, the higher the probability we have of bringing death and tearing down. Sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all.
  3. Rest in God:If you’re anything like me, there will be many words that you wish you could take back. But God’s timing is always right. He chooses to reveal these things to us at just the right moment, and he forgives every careless word we have spoken and will speak.
  4. Forgive others:If we’re going to rest in God for our own careless words, we need to give others the same grace that we’ve received. Be patient and forgiving as God reveals to others what he has revealed to you.

 

May we take advantage of the grace offered to us and move our words in the direction of life!

 

Devotional by Paul Tripp

The Source of Wisdom

 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov. 1:7, ESV et al.).

Everyone needs a new beginning with God. That is why we receive the gospel. We want what only God can do for us, and the fear of the Lord is how we receive it. The fear of the Lord is both a doorway and a pathway. It is a new beginning, and it never ends.

What then is the fear of the Lord? It is not a cringing dread before the Lord. The fear of the Lord is openness to him, eagerness to please him, humility to be instructed by him (Prov. 15:33). The fear of the Lord is a willingness to turn from evil and change (Job 28:28). The fear of the Lord is surrender to his will (Gen. 22:12). The fear of the Lord is one way we love him (Deut. 6:2, 5). Reverence toward God, perhaps surprisingly, builds our confidence and flows out as a “fountain of life” into everyone and everything we care about (Prov. 14:26, 27). It takes us to a place of maturity where no one has to follow us around with a tedious list of do’s and don’ts. We are motivated from deep within.

 

– Ray Ortlund Jr. in Proverbs