The instruction of the Lord is perfect, renewing one’s life; the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise. –Psalm 19.7 (CSB)
Unconscious incompetency is when you do not know that you do not know something. It is also where everyone starts in their learning experience. The final stage is unconscious competency—where you are so proficient that you don’t even have to think about doing it (Think of driving when you started out verse now—I’d hope you’re a better driver today!).
There are many things in this life that we are unconsciously incompetent of and I’m thankful for that. And of some things we are consciously incompetent. This means we know that we don’t know. In fact, I believe the Bible speaks of all men being consciously incompetent regarding the things of God so long as they remain in their sin (Rom. 1.18-23). We choose to suppress truth and we choose to live in such a way that harms both us and others.
Though we be experienced in sin (dare I say we are even experts?), we are totally inexperienced in the true things of God! While we naturally know how to submit our lives to the ruler of this world (Eph. 2.2), we must be taught how to submit to God in all areas of our lives.
How are we taught to submit to God? We are taught through the truth of God’s Word. The Psalmist reminds us in today’s verse that God’s word is “perfect, renewing one’s life” and that it is “trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise.” Through the Word, as the Holy Spirit illuminates our hearts, we can understand who God is, how we are to live, and how we are to serve both God and others.
Friend, do you want wisdom? Then submit yourself to the truth of God as revealed in Scripture.
In what areas do you need God’s wisdom, clarity, and insight in your life?
What wisdom does God’s Word offer you regarding your situation?
Pray and thank God for the truth of his Word.
Father, I thank you that you have revealed yourself in your Word. Help me to submit to you in all things and trust that your word is true and profitable
I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? (2) My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. –Psalm 121.1-2 (CSB)
As we traveled from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon, I was stunned by the beauty of the landscape. Flat land was occasionally interrupted by rolling hills and mountains. The further we traveled, the more beautiful it became. To see the grandeur of creation was breathtaking and God recalled today’s verse to my mind.
We are finite beings; our power, reach, and knowledge are limited. We fall short in ways that we are both aware and unaware of (Psalm 19.12-13). However, God is infinitely powerful and knowing; his reach knows no end. He is infinitely perfect and creates by verbal fiat (Gen. 1)! By his sheer will, he holds all things together (Col. 1.15- 20).
By observing his creation as I did in the west, we are reminded of his infiniteness and of our finiteness. Therefore, we come to better understand today’s verse. The infinite God provides help in all areas of our lives. There is nothing he cannot do. As the finite ones, we lift our eyes upward, we look past creation that is here today and gone tomorrow (Mt. 24.35) and find help from the one who created all things and holds all things together.
When you consider your situations and circumstances, do you feel small and unable to address your concerns in adequate fashion? Then know this: You’re in good company! Saints throughout history have been in similar situations and have echoed the Psalmist’s words and have found the help they needed in those moments.
Our help comes from outside of ourselves—it comes only from God. Lift your eyes, dear friend, and trust in the one who can help in all things.
When confronted with difficulty, where do you normally turn to for help? Why?
How can you foster the habit of turning to God for your help?
Pray and thank God that he is our source of help in all things.
Father, I thank you that you are my help in all areas of my life. Please remind me that you always stand ready to help me in the circumstances of life.
I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world! –John 16.33 (CSB)
The League of Nations was the predecessor of the United Nations (UN) and was designed to help foster lasting peace and unity among the nations of the world. It was founded in 1920 and ceased operations in 1946 soon after the UN was founded a year earlier. Unfortunately, we know that this attempt to prevent war was and remains futile. With sin in the equation, the nations will rage (Psalm 46).
People attempt to pursue peace whatever the cost and are often left empty-handed. If we’re transparent, we might say that the peace Jesus speaks of seems elusive—always appearing within our grasps but quickly fleeting when we try to embrace it.
I recognize that the worries of this life can leave us beaten down and defeated. However, Jesus offers us hope: “In me,” he says, “you may have peace.” This peace is not as elusive as we like to think it. Rather, it is ours for the taking because Jesus is our peace (Eph. 2.14).
Though we “will have suffering in this world,” we also have perfect peace in our Lord. What is peace? It is the calm assurance amid life’s difficulties that God remains in control. Why can we have peace? Well, our King has conquered the world! He is not defeated nor in retreat. He is totally victorious—even in this moment.
When the world seems to have the upper hand, Jesus is still on the throne. Since this in the case, friend, why do you worry about things you cannot control? Why wrestle with battles that are not yours, but God’s?
When you feel overwhelmed and confused about things in our life that cause you stress, fear, and anxiety, look up and remember that King Jesus is victorious and has conquered the world, once and for all! (Rom. 6.10)
What are the top three things in your life that cause you the most fear, anxiety, or concern?
How does knowing that Jesus has overcome the World encourage you to trust him and release the fear, anxiety, and concern that you may have?
Pray and thank God that Jesus is victorious and gives us his peace.
Father, I thank you that in Christ I have access to your perfect peace. Help me to remember that you are my hope and my peace when the worries of this life weigh me down and make paralyze me. In Jesus’ name, amen.
The Lord is my shepherd; I have what I need. –Psalm 23.1 (CSB)
I originally planned on writing on this verse last week but pursued a different route instead. However, it came up again in my quiet time yesterday evening and I decided to write on this familiar Psalm today. This Psalm has become so familiar that we often lose sight of the beauty of these Holy Spirit-inspired words.
Consider first the reality that “The Lord is my shepherd.” Our Good Shepherd knows us personally. We are not a randomly generated number or a person who is obscurely known at the bank or grocery store. No, we are known by name. In fact, Jesus tells us that as our Good Shepherd, he calls us by name and knows us personally (John 10.3). This is reassuring news! The Lord God of the universe knows you personally and relates to you in such a way that you can understand him. He does not relate to us in a “one-size fits all” approach.
Our Good Shepherd also leads us personally. He does not subcontract out his leadership. Through the indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit, we have all we need for life and godliness (2. Pt. 1.3). We have direct access to our Shepherd, and he leads us to the very places we need to be. When the journey there becomes difficult, he renews our life (Ps. 23.3)
Our Good Shepherd also provides for us from his abundance. Remember, our Shepherd is the owner and creator of the whole universe; he lacks nothing.
Finally, consider the final words of verse one; “I have what I need.” When David wrote this, he really meant it! If we be in Christ, then all of our needs are met: spiritual and physical. Now, it’s important to note that Jesus determines our needs—not us. Often, we are not sure what we need, but God in his sovereign omniscience knows all that we need even before we do (Mt. 6.8)
When we follow Jesus, we can trust that he is indeed our Good Shepherd who knows us, leads us, and provides for us in all things for all of time. Friend, there is never not a time when the Good Shepherd ceases to be your Good Shepherd.
Ponder this reality today and find rest for your heart and confidence to faithfully obey him in all things.
Meditate on Psalm 23.1. Consider how God has been your Good Shepherd. Consider how he has provided for your needs in the past and what needs you may have in this season of life.
We discussed three ways that our Good Shepherd cares to us: 1) He knows us personally; 2) He leads us personally, and 3) He provides for us. Which impacted you the most? Why?
Pray and thank God for being your Good Shepherd and for providing all your needs.
Father, thank you for being my Good Shepherd who knows me, leads me, and provides for me. Help to rest in your presence as I follow you in the everyday stuff of life
When the time came to completion… --Galatians 4.4a (CSB)
For two years we prayed that God would send us a Minister of Music and Senior Adults. Countless prayers, resumes, and interviews. Countless prayers and words of encouragement for a committee that was growing increasingly discouraged. However, at just the right time, God led us to our man.
Whether as a church or individually, we all have similar stories. We were seeking to follow Jesus in the everyday stuff of life. We were patiently waiting for God to answer prayers and to clarify reality for us. Yet, the answers seemed to never come.
Throughout the New Testament, we’re reminded that the arrival of our Savior came “at the right time” (Rms. 5.6; cf. Gal. 4.4). Jesus did not arrive too early or too late; he arrived just on time. We’re told that God is not delay concerning his promises (2. Pt. 3.9) and that he provides all we need at the exact moment we need it (Phil. 4.19; cf. Gen. 22.12-14).
I can imagine the faithful praying earnestly to God to send the Messiah. Yet, they never stopped. God heard their prayers and was faithfully working to arrange everything in such a way that his ministry would have the greatest impact: “When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, (5) to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4.4-5).
There is no greater act that God could perform than to secure our salvation! Creation is great. The establishment of his eternal kingdom is even greater. But the greatest thing he has done? Well, it’s to redeem us from our empty way of life (1 Pt. 1.18-19).
Friend, whatever it is you’re praying through, whatever it is that you’re prayerfully hoping God will allow you to do, know this: God will answer at just the right time. We can trust God with our eternity. Therefore, we can trust him with our today and tomorrow.
At just the right time, he’ll answer.
What prayers as God previously answered in your life? How long did you spend praying?
What are you currently praying through as you wait for God’s answer?
Pray and ask God to help you trust him and his timing. Pray that he would empower you to patiently wait on him and continually trust in him.
Father God, I thank you that you have always answered prayers in the right time and in the right way—both in your Scriptures and in my own life. Teach me patience as I wait on you to answer my prayers. If I’m not asking the right thing, please show me what to pray instead and to wait on your in the meantime. In Jesus’ name, Amen
I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you, I will give counsel.
“Lord, I don’t know what to do.”
This phrase has become commonplace in my conversations with God. I often find myself faced with situations and circumstances that leave me baffled and confused with no clear course of action. I know which Biblical principles I should follow but exactly “how” I should emulate them is often my question.
In those moments, I return to today’s verse: “I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you, I will give counsel.” I am not required to know exactly how I’m to respond or move forward (i.e., “How am I supposed to live out faithfulness to you in this situation?”), but I am required to be ready and willing to move forward in obedience once he shows me how. We often know the principle to employ, but not how we ought to employ it.
Consider when a group of students disregarded the rules on a student trip. While we did not know of their disobedience on the trip, we did find out afterwards and it required discipline. These young people were key leaders with massive leadership potential. If we came down to harshly, we might do a great deal of harm. But to overlook their disobedience would also produce harm. So, we asked the question: “How do we discipline in a way that leads to restoration of these young people and a concrete demonstration of God’s grace and mercy in their lives?”
The question at hand was not “Should they be disciplined?”; the answer was an obvious “YES!”. However, the question was: “How can we discipline them in a redemptive way?”
God saw all that was going on and was careful to show how to move forward. He showed us how to apply the Biblical principles we knew were at play in a way to honor Him, discipline these young leaders who erred, and also restore them in the process.
Months later, two of those young people came and thanked me for how we handled. They saw God’s love in our response and in the discipline and they responded accordingly.
When we allow God to show us the way to go, we tend to not make a mess of things. Yet, when we choose to disregard his counsel and instruction, we bring hurt and pain on both ourselves and others—regardless of the circumstance.
When you find yourself in a difficult situation, who do you turn to first? Why?
In what ways might your handling of situations be different if you first asked God for his insight and understanding?
In what areas do you need God’s wisdom and instruction?
Pray and ask God to help you respond to his leading in all areas of your life.
Father, I thank you that you see what’s going on and that you are willing to show me what to do. Help me to listen to you and obey your instruction. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
For Ezra had determined in his heart to study the law of the LORD, obey it, and teach its statutes and ordinances in Israel. –Ezra 7.10 (CSB)
Bus 57. That was our lifeline for transportation; it would take us from our home to just about anywhere we needed to go. While accurate, nobody told a young man from rural Louisiana that the direction of the bus also had bearing. With great confidence, I convinced my housemate after grocery shopping that we needed to back on the bus going in the same direction as the one we got off to get back home. Though confident about Bus 57, I was wrong about the route. What was supposed to be a 20-minute trip turned into a 2+ hour endeavor. I was ignorant and made a poor decision and what’s worse was that I was confident about it. I embodied the one liner: “I’m not always right, but I’m never in doubt!”. A little knowledge could have gone a long way.
This experience serves as a parable of sorts: Many are confident their course of action is correct, though it is not. I’m sure you have similar experiences in your own life and as you’ve observed others. Many today are confident of their decisions and plans while God looks on and mocks them (Prov. 3.34-35; Jms. 4.6). They believe they have one-upped God by denying him and worshipping the created. They believe they can legislate, educate, or buy their way into prosperity, peace, and order. Yet, God gives us a different plan.
Only through devoting ourselves to him are we able to find all that our hearts desire (Ps. 37.4). Only through him are we able to find life and life abundant (Jh. 10.10, 15.5). There is no other way than by devoting ourselves to our Creator.
That’s what we see in today’s verse: Ezra first “determined in his heart to study the law of the LORD.” Why? So he could be transformed by it. So many want to get through the Bible but are not concerned about the Bible getting through them. Had I recognized my ignorance about the bus lines, maybe I would not have been confidently wrong.
Then, he determined to “obey it.” What good is it to know the commands of God if you never obey? Know this: The Word is always profitable (2 Tim. 3.16-17). So devote yourself to studying it and then obey it. God’s word makes the inexperienced wise (Ps. 19.7), so you won’t go wrong seeking to obey his commands.
Finally, Ezra determined to “teach its statues and ordinances to those in Israel.” King David echoed a similar desire in Psalm 51. After pleading for restoration, he determined to “teach the rebellious [God’s] ways” (v13). God does not teach us his commands for us to simply hold on to them and not share.
May we do as Ezra did and devote ourselves to the study of the Word as we seek to obey it and teach others.
In what ways are you devoting yourselves to studying God’s Word?
In what ways are you obeying God’s Word?
In what ways are you teaching others God’s Word?
Pray and ask God to make you a student of his Word so that you might share it with others.
Father, I thank you that your Word gives me everything I need for life and godliness. Help me to obey you in all things as I study your Word and share it with others.
“If you are a student of the Word, your doctrine will be sound.” –Rev. Bill Miller
Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” –Isaiah 40.9 (ESV)
Think of our church. What comes to mind? Is it positive? Negative? Is it neutral? What are the issues, as you understand them? I’ve been amazed in my first month at how quick some have been to say: “The problem is this ____insert person or thing____ and if we just did ____insert action____ then we would be in a better place.” Frankly, the problem is not a temporal problem. Our problem is not of this world, but rather is out of this world: it’s spiritual.
I believe we are at crucial point in the life of Four Mile Creek. We have believed the lie that our problem is simply temporal and that a temporal solution is required to fix it. In doing so, we have completely removed God from the equation. Friend, let me put it to you straight: This is not a busted pipe that we can fix in a few hours and move on.
Rather, our situation is one that requires the greatest Physician and Church Builder in history. It requires the one who said: “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Mt. 16.18b, CSB). Though it is his work to accomplish, we still have a part to play. We are to do the very thing Judah was exhorted to do: “BEHOLD YOUR GOD!”
That is our course of action and nothing else. Yes, we preach the Word. Yes, we pray. Yes, we reach out to our community. But can I just tell you, “If we cease to behold our God, it’s all for naught.”?
We must fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12.2) as we seek to serve him in all things (__). We must extend the invitation to others to come and experience their Creator and then behold him in his awesome splendor.
As you read Isaiah 40, you discover the magnificence of God. You discover his unmatched power, plan, character, knowledge, and list goes on! You will discover one who can accomplish more than the greatest we can imagine (Eph. 3.20)! Know this: God has taken care of your eternity and he can certainly take care of your tomorrow and this church’s tomorrow.
So, dear friends, “Here is your God!” (10) See, the Lord God comes with strength, and his power establishes his rule. His wages are with him, and his reward accompanies him. (11) He protects his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them in the fold of his garment. He gently those that are nursing.” –Isaiah 40.9-11 (CSB).
Read Isaiah 40.
What characteristics of God stand out to you in your reading?
How does the reality of God’s character encourage you and impact your life?
Pray and ask God to align your view of him with his word and to empower you to behold him and his glory.
Father, I thank you that you are big and powerful! There is nothing you can’t do and no challenge that has left you perplexed. Help me behold you for who you are so that I might boldly serve you and your kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, (13) bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. –Colossians 3.12-13 (CSB)
I was living in Wales when Matt and Kayla convinced me I needed to update my wardrobe. Together, we went shopping in the city center and we found a “new style.” Instead of boot-cut jeans and fishing shirts, I found black skinny jeans, a long-sleeve white t-shirt (with a green flannel button down), and some white Converse. Though I was reluctant, I bought one set of this style. I debuted it (with very little confidence) on Monday morning. I felt like a Muppet, and I changed into my old clothes at my earliest opportunity.
While I’ve not been able to forget this horrible experience (and waste of money), I have found it useful to describe Paul’s commands in Colossians 3. In Seminary, Dr. Vandercook dubbed this the “Put Off/Put On Passage.” It makes sense, too. Paul tells us in Colossians 3.5-10 to “put off the old self” (v9) and to “put on the new self” (v10). In other words: Take off the clothes that no longer fit (and make you feel uncomfortable) and put on the new clothes (those that are rightfully yours and fit).
We’re told to “put to death” the “earthly nature” (v5) and to “put away” how the old self expresses itself. But, as one writer noted, “holiness not just saying ‘no’ to sin, but ‘yes’ to God!” So, as we put off the old self, we’re to put on the new self. What does this look like? Today’s passage tells us what we ought to be wearing: Compassion, Kindness, Humility, Gentleness, Patience, and Forgiveness (v12-13). This list is certainly not exhaustive! Even so, we’re to put on these things because we are “God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved” (v12).
We’ve been crucified and the grave clothes we were wearing have no place in a resurrected life. We have exchanged our grave clothes for royal robes; to wear the grave clothes is an afront to the completed work of King Jesus and simply not becoming of who we are in the Christ.
When we choose to live in disobedience, we essentially pick up an old set of clothes (which we should have done away with long ago), put them back on, and parade them around as if this is how it should be. But thanks be to God, that through the indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit, we no longer must wear those dirty, ill-fitting, and ugly clothes. We are dressed in the royal robes, secured by King Jesus himself—all for his glory and our good.
Read Colossians 1.1-17.
What do you need to “put off” (v. 5-11)?
What do you need to “put on” (v.12-17)
How might our interactions with each other change if we each sought to clothes ourselves as “God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved” (v. 12)?
Pray and ask God to help you identify the areas in your life that need to be brought into alignment with his Word.
Father, I thank you that I am one of your chosen ones, holy and dearly loved. Help my life reflect the great work you’ve done as I seek to put off what doesn’t belong and put on what does belong. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.