James 1:9-18 – Humility

Read James 1:9-18

One of the basic themes of James’ letter is that God exalts the poor and humbles the rich. Why does he do that? It’s so only the humble can boast. Think about that for a second. When we allow God to work in our lives and give God the credit for what we have accomplished, our whole mindset shifts. Who gets the glory? Certainly not us, and rightly so.

Even Paul was clear on this. He told us he was glad to boast about his weaknesses because that showed God at work when he overcame times of adversity. Our text here in James is using the example of being poor and rich. James may be recalling Psalm 49:6 which reads, “They trust in their wealth and boast of great riches.” Think about some wealthy people you know. Do they humble themselves before God and give God the credit for their abundance? Or are they more like the one described by the psalmist?

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Joel 3:13-21 – Our Refuge

Read Joel 3:13-21

God is our refuge. Joel doesn’t use a lot of metaphors to describe God. We’ve have seen him portrayed as the leader of an army, a judge, and a roaring lion! But my favorite of all is found in verse 16, “But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a strong fortress for the people of Israel.”

Martin Luther’s hymn, “A Mighty Fortress” has some fitting words for the idea of God as our refuge and strong fortress. Growing up Lutheran, this is a song I sang over and over but am only now seeing the exquisite beauty in these words.

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Hebrews 12:5-13 – Divine Discipline

Read Hebrews 12:5-13

I was spanked as a child, were you? It was “for my own good,” I was told. Take a step back in time and think about how your parents disciplined you while growing up. I apologize if you were the “perfect” child who never riled anger or correction from your parents. I was not. Not even close! I spent many nights “grounded.”

When we become parents ourselves, our perspective on the whole idea of discipline abruptly changes. If not a parent, think of a time when you were put in charge of a room full of children and felt totally out of your element. (That’s what being a parent can feel like sometimes!)

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Hebrews 10:26-31 – Fear of the Lord

Read Hebrews 10:26-31

I like the meme that lists all the sins I haven’t committed yet today, adding “now it’s time to get out of bed!” We sin all the time. And, we’re probably even oblivious to much of our sinfulness, but God sees. Today’s text convicts us to be mindful of our sinning, especially if we’re continuing to sin in the same way over and over. It doesn’t matter the reason or purpose we’ve created to minimize the guilt, we are to avoid deliberate sin. Period!

These would be the sins we do on purpose or do even though we know they are sinful. When is the last time you did a deep dive into your own faith life and uncovered some sins that might have soon become “deliberate”? Maybe you’ll find some deep dark sin tucked away, but you’re unable to give it up. Examples that come to mind are addicts and atheists. Whether you’re doing things that distract you from God or you’re not living to honor God, you are sinning.

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Hebrews 10:1-18 – Sins Erased

Read Hebrews 10:1-18

The Preacher does it again. We are whisked back into the Old Testament to deepen the meaning of the message he is delivering. Understanding the old covenant would have been a lot easier for the Jews in his first audience. This description of the old covenant is quite something! The Preacher calls it a “dim preview of the good things to come.” Since we’ve been living in the new covenant our whole lives, it does us good to know and appreciate the “upgrade” done for our benefit. Keep in mind your response to God for his forgiveness and grace, the gifts included in this new covenant.

One such Old Testament reference is a quote from Psalm 40:6-8 which speaks for Jesus. Do you suppose the psalmist, David knew the depth of meaning his words had as they pointed to Jesus? Perhaps David had one of those “Holy Spirit moments” when he wrote something but wasn’t sure where it came from. I know there are times when things come out of my mouth that sound “so good”—I’m sure they came from the Holy Spirit!

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