The Dirty Secret of Wicked Prosperity

“But as for me, my feet came close to stumbling, my steps had almost slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” (Ps 73:2-3)
 
Perhaps nothing is more capable of crushing our faith than the prosperity of the wicked. Like air-brushed photography, the people in positions of power and influence of society are often painted as happy, blessed, care-free, and full of vitality. When a Christian looks over the fence and sees that those living without God in their lives seem to be so blissfully happy, the temptation to believe we have chosen the wrong path becomes strong.
 
We must do as the psalmist does “I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end” (Ps 73:17).
 
The political elite seem at peace until the scandal hits and we realize the hidden skeletons that have been tormenting them. Unbeknownst to us, they’ve been masking a double life all along.
 
The celebrities are so chic and care-free until we begin to count up the divorces, the suicides, the lawsuits, the bankruptcies, and the addictions. When we see those statistics, we are confronted with the fact that Hollywood is star-struck and quite consistently grief-stricken.
 
It turns out that the daily struggles to be a better you are a thousand times better than the regret of a life lived in the fast lane of pride and self-indulgence. Don’t be fooled and don’t second-guess your faith. You don’t want an air-brushed life – you want an authentic one.
 
“Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.” (Pr. 23:17)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

Righteousness and Peace Have Kissed

“Lovingkindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” (Ps 85:10)
 
Truth and righteousness demand fairness and justice. Without them, we would live in a world where lies were acceptable, fraud and bribery are encouraged, and the powerful are expected to crush and oppress the weak. Without truth and righteousness, there would be no demand for accountability and no expectation of fair play.
 
Yet, we also hope for forgiveness and kindness, too. Kindness is the act of doing something that is beyond what is fair play. It is stopping to help the downtrodden even when you didn’t put them in the dirt. Forgiveness seeks peace and reconciliation even when it means suffering a loss to do so. Kindness and peace are the hallmarks of a good society, not merely a just one.
 
The Bible provides the only logical roadmap ever provided to balance truth and righteousness right alongside lovingkindness and peace so that they are perfectly balanced and united. Only the Bible shows a righteous God that hates wickedness, but is also willing to die to offer peace and reconciliation.
 
No other religious document addresses this issue. And yes, I know that is a bold statement. Test it. Compare the teachings of other religions – other holy books simply don’t hold up to the Bible’s explanation of this issue.
 
We don’t want to live in a world without truth and righteousness, and we also don’t want to live in a world without kindness and peace. Only God can provide that.
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

When Worship Was Considered a Privilege

“My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.” (Ps 84:2)
 
Ask David how he felt when he couldn’t go to the temple or gather with his fellow Jews because Saul had exiled him. Ask Daniel what it felt like to pray facing Jerusalem knowing he would likely never visit it. Ask Jeremiah what it was like to watch the temple torn down and Judaism outlawed in his homeland.
 
We’ve lost track of what matters in a worship service. We worry about whether the pews are padded and whether the songs are contemporary enough. We are coached to find a church that “speaks to our hearts” and that has good childcare services… something went really awry with our priorities. We’re busy trying to decide whether it is worth it to get up on a Sunday morning to go to services while the first-century Christians were wondering if they would be arrested for meeting. We’ve gone soft… and by ‘we’ I don’t mean ‘everyone else’. I mean me.
 
I’m soft and lazy and I take for granted the privileges to gather openly with God’s people to talk about things like life, death, heaven, and the glory of our Creator. I forget to be in awe of what opportunities I enjoy that Christians in China, India, and dozens of other countries don’t due to government persecution, systemic generational persecution, and cultural attacks.
 
What I can do freely, others have had to do shrouded in secrecy while facing the constant threat of violence against themselves and their families. At least for American Christians: it’s time we all grow up and show up. We’ve got it too good to waste the blessing.
 
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (Jhn 4:23)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

Who Can You Save?

“No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him – for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever.” (Ps 49:7-8)
 
We cannot save anybody. It doesn’t work that way. The apostle Paul expressed that he would happily give his life for the souls of his countrymen, but ultimately, each person must choose Christ for themselves (see Rom. 9:1-3).
 
You cannot save others, you can only “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Php 2:12). The best we can ever do is choose to serve God ourselves and pray that others will want to do the same.
 
Ignoring sin in the lives of our loved ones won’t make it go away (calling good evil and evil good has never been successful – Isa 5:20). Pretending that there is more than one way to heaven won’t work either (Jesus says that He is the only way – Jhn 14:6). Avoid the hard conversations won’t cut it either (Paul said his countrymen were perishing for lack of knowledge – Rom 10:1-2).
 
The only answer is to point to Christ and then walk toward the Light yourself. There is no other road to redemption.
 
“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:3-4)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

The Theme of Our Heart

“My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” (Ps 45:1)

If what we say comes from our hearts (see Matt 15:18), then the theme of our words shows the theme of our hearts.

A theme is the recurring idea that pervades our lives.  Is the theme of your life joy? Is it hope and peace?  Or is it bitterness and complaining?  Your words speak of the theme that overflows from your heart.

“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Lk 6:45)

Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

Learning to Trust

“For I will not trust in my bow, nor will my sword save me. But You have saved us from our adversaries, and You have put to shame those who hate us. In God we have boasted all day long, and we will give thanks to Your name forever.” (Ps 44:6-8)
 
Trust is a tricky thing. It is often easier to trust in yourself – after all, you know ‘you’ better than anyone, and can therefore, comfortably assume that you will not backstab yourself.
 
Putting your trust in yourself is the path of least resistance, but it has its drawbacks.
 
What if the problem is bigger than you can handle? What if “my” bow and “my” sword fail me in the moment that I need them most? Perhaps I can trust my intentions, but I can’t always trust my success rate. At very best, when we boast in ourselves we find a mixed bag of victories mingled with failures and good intentions connected to bad results.
 
Trust in yourself may be easier, but trust in God is better. Trusting an unseen God takes faith (not blind faith… there are plenty of good evidences that He exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him), but faith in an unseen and powerful God beats putting my faith in a seen and obviously flawed me.
 
God is good all the time. Can you say that of yourself?
 
“for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

Look to the Heavens

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (Ps 19:1)
 
A quick image search for ‘Hubble images’ will bring up some stunning photos of our galaxy and the galaxies beyond. Trillions of stars scatter the cosmos. Each unique and each releasing more power than a nuclear bomb EVERY SECOND. Where did all this power come from?
 
The heavens declare the glory of God in two ways. One, they remind us of our smallness and that such smallness reflects that something very, very powerful must have created all of this. And two, it reminds us of our privilege in the cosmos.
 
The farther we look, the more convincing the evidence becomes that we are alone. SETI has provided zero evidence of extraterrestrial life, and the research of the constants needed for a planet to sustain life have piled up to the point that statistically, it is shocking that we are here. This world is finely-tuned and we live on a privileged planet that gives every sign of being designed to sustain life.
 
And design requires a Designer.
 
Matt 4:4 #Biblebites

A Heritage for His Children

“The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.” (Ps 16:5-6)
 
Inheritances are funny things. When a loved one passes for this earth, their closest relations are gathered together to hear the reading of the will. Lawyers inform the family members what they will inherit – the specifics of each of their heritage.
 
This gathering can be particularly insightful when the will is specific. Cousin so-and-so inherits the fine china. Brother Billy is to receive the piano. Miss Margaret is to be given her pick of the oil paintings. Each receives a lot – an inheritance hand-picked by this dearly departed loved one that thoughtfully considers them.
 
That is what God is offering to us if we will trust Him. Not the life we would choose for ourselves, but the one He would hand-pick for us. Where would He draw the boundary lines of our lives if we give it over to Him? What roads would He have our feet tread and what cups would He have us drink? We’ll never know unless we trust Him, but chances are, the places are more pleasant and the heritage more beautiful than you can imagine.
 
“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Col 3:23-24)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

The Practical Atheist

“The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’ His ways prosper at all times; Your judgments are on high, out of his sight…” (Ps 10:4-5)
 
There are two types of atheists. The first is the vocal atheist who tells everyone there is no God. The second is the silent atheist who may say he believes in God but lives like he will never meet Him.
 
Prosperity can create silent atheists. When our lives are easy here, judgment seems far enough away to be inconsequential. Out of sight, out of mind.
 
But just because we can’t see things doesn’t mean they don’t exist. We wash our hands to protect from invisible bacteria. We buy carbon monoxide monitors to protect us from unseen poisons, and we enjoy the warmth of an unseen summer breeze.
 
Just because you can’t see Him doesn’t mean He isn’t there.
 
“To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Tim 1:17)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

What the Children Understand

“From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease.” (Ps 8:2)

Jesus will quote this verse in Matthew 21:16, when the children were shouting His praises in the courts of the temple and the priests and the scribes were upset by it.

God has made children to naturally recognize what we attempt to ignore or rationalize away as we get older.  Sometimes age and education can be used to blind us to what children understand through common sense.

Children naturally believe in the divine – they have to be taught to be atheists (Don’t take my word for it, look it up – studies show time and time again that children are born with a predisposition to faith)

Children see purpose in the world around them and beauty in God’s design.

Children are willing to accept a higher authority and are willing to submit as well as trust.

Children are naturally curious about life and death.  It is children that often ask the uncomfortable questions at a funeral (“Where did Grandpa go?”) that the adults are avoiding.

Through the eyes of a child we are designed with a purpose to live and explore a beautiful world made by our Creator and to ask the big questions and expect answers to them.

“But when Jesus saw it, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.’ ” (Mk 10:14)

Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites