Apprentice

Read: Genesis 9-11, Matthew 4

You’re a professional. You own your own business and you’re looking for a succession plan. You want to train someone in your line of work to take over the business when you retire. Where are you going to start looking? Most people will go looking in a similar environment. If you’re a carpenter, you’ll go looking at construction sites, cabinet shops, or a furniture builder. If you’re a baker, you’ll go looking at a bakery or restaurant. If you’re in insurance, you’ll go looking at an insurance office. If you’re a pastor, you’ll go looking in a church, seminary, or Bible school.

As Jesus began his ministry, he knew he only had a few years to get his job done. He needed a succession plan right away so he went looking for men he could train to take his place. Without knowing the story, most people would have him looking in the synagogues. If you’re going to be a Jewish minister, wouldn’t you want someone trained in Jewish ministry?

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.

Matthew 4:18 (NIV)

Instead of doing the expected, Jesus did as he always did—the unexpected. He didn’t go looking for help in the temple where he’d find learned—but idle—men. He went to the lake where he found men at work. Archaeologists believe that, at the time of Jesus, the Sea of Galilee had been overfished. Those who made their living on the lake were used to long hours and hard work. They would have had to come up with creative ways to do their work and repair their equipment. These are the men Jesus went to find.

Matthew 4:19-20

In a culture where very few left the family business, these brothers jumped at the opportunity to leave a failing venture. Some believe that the draw of Jesus was too strong to resist.

Jesus calls us all. Will he find us idle? Or will he find us at work? Will he find us willing? Or will he find us hesitant to leave behind the only thing we’ve ever known?

Jesus isn’t looking for people who know everything, but those who are willing to do anything. The only qualification you need is the call. And you’ve already got that. What are you waiting for?

Watchman

We all have to follow rules in life. As kids, we must obey the rules our parents set out for us or risk a slap on the hand or being grounded for a week. As students, we must obey our teachers or risk failure or detention. As adults, we must obey our employers or risk being fired. For the most part, because we are not willing to risk the punishment, we’re okay with being obedient. We want to be obedient because it means that our lives will be better for it.

So why don’t we respond to God with the same attitude toward obedience?

“Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, pass it on to the people immediately. If I warn the wicked, saying, ‘You are under the penalty of death,’ but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible, demanding your blood for theirs. If you warn them and they keep on sinning and refuse to repent, they will die in their sins. But you will have saved your life because you did what you were told to do.”

Ezekiel 3:17-19 (NLT)

When God called Ezekiel to minister to the Israelite exiles in Babylon, He demanded obedience. If the prophet relayed God’s words to the people when they were given as they were given, Ezekiel would not be held responsible for the actions of the people. But if he failed to present the word, he’d be punished right along with the Israelites.

To us, when most Christians treat obedience to God as optional, the guidelines God set out for Ezekiel may come across as rather harsh. But are they? If we claim to be followers of God, should we not also be obedient to His Word? If we are so willing to submit to those in authority over us, how much more should we be willing to submit to God?

When we profess Jesus as Lord, we become accountable not only to what we do, but also to what we don’t do. If God has called us to do or say something and we refuse, we are as guilty as Ezekiel would have been, withholding the truth from those who needed it. As God’s hands and feet, as His ambassadors on Earth, it behooves us to live our lives in obedience to His Word and His call on our lives.

Like Ezekiel, we are watchmen and should be waiting for every opportunity to practice obedience to our Father.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 1-3, Hebrews 9

Planned with purpose

I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my spokesman to the world.

Jeremiah 1:5 (NLT)

Though these words are spoken by God directly to Jeremiah, it is not the first time we’ve seen this idea. David, too, spoke of God knowing each of us before we were ever conceived.

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

Psalm 139:16 (NLT)

When you make plans, when you set out to begin a project, what is your intended outcome? Do you plan to fail? Do you make certain that your project will never be suitable for its intended use? Of course not!

While you may have measures in place in case of failure, you don’t plan with it at the forefront of your mind. You plan for success. You do everything in your power to be sure that all of your time, energy, and effort does not go to waste.

God put a lot of thought, time, and effort into creating every human being. Psalm 139 talks about all of the thoughts God thinks about you. They are too many to count. We all began in God. As a thought. When He began to form you in your mother’s womb, His plans for you were all about success, never failure.

So when you make an excuse that you aren’t good enough or that you don’t have what it takes to answer the call of God on your life, you’re really insulting God’s plans. God didn’t create you with a failsafe or a kill switch or failure precautions because He created you exactly the way He needed you to fulfill His plans for you. You are what He intended you to be and you have all that you need to fulfill His purpose.

Do you get off track? We all do. But that doesn’t negate God’s plan or purpose. Remember that He knew all of your days before you even existed. The life you’ve lived, the mistakes you made can still be used for His glory. Nothing you can say or do can change the fact that God planned you with purpose.

Daily Bible reading: Jeremiah 1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2

Worthy

Do you ever have a hard time receiving a gift when you know you don’t deserve it? You try to give it back, but the person giving it to you insists that you take it.

Our lives in Christ are full of gifts that we are not worthy of. From beginning to end, God grants us gifts that we have no business receiving. Yet, in addition to giving us these gifts, He also makes us worthy of them.

And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you worthy of the life to which he called you. And we pray that God, by his power, will fulfill all your good intentions and faithful deeds.

2 Thessalonians 1:11 (NLT)

When God calls us to a life beyond our means, He holds no expectations that we work ourselves to the bone to become worthy of that life. He’s given us the gift and He is the only one who can make us good enough to receive it. That’s the point.

Then everyone will give honor to the name of our Lord Jesus because of you, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the undeserved favor of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1:12 (NLT)

Because we are undeserving and because we are unable to live up to the life God has called us to in our own strength, we must rely on the power of the Holy Spirit within us to accomplish what God has called us to do. In this way, not only do we increase the Kingdom of God, but we bring honour and glory to the name of Jesus. When the world sees us do what we cannot do, they will have no choice but to recognise the power of God.

So go ahead, accept that gift. And in accepting the gift of the call of God on your life, accept the fact that He has made you worthy to receive it and He will give you all that you need to do it. And, most importantly, after all of this happens, be sure to give the glory to the only One who is worthy of it.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 65-66, 2 Thessalonians 1

You All Everybody

The fictitious British rock band, Drive Shaft, had one hit song. You All Everybody was featured throughout the television series, Lost. Today’s wisdom comes from this song.

I know you see what I have been
And compare with what I am
But I don’t care now what you’ve seen
I’m just doing what I can

What does a song performed by people who ever actually existed have anything to do with anything? Everything.

Be sure to do what you should, for then you will enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

Galatians 6:4-5 (NLT)

We live our entire lives comparing and being compared. Why can you be more like him? I wish I could do that like her. Unless you’re a complete recluse, you’ve most likely fallen prey to a line or two (thousand) like this. But that’s not what we should be doing.

God made each of us with specific talents to accomplish a specific purpose.

I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

Psalm 139:14 (NKJV)

The more we compare ourselves to others, the more we insult God by saying He got it wrong. The only life we should ever be comparing ourselves to is that of Jesus himself. The only actions we should reflect are his.

Where you’ve been and where you are don’t matter so much as where you are going. What people may have seen from you in the past doesn’t matter as much as what they will see from you. We should never measure ourselves against the call God has placed on others because we weren’t created for that call. Do what God has called you to do, do it to the best of your ability, and enjoy the personal satisfaction of having done your work well.

…What counts is whether we have really been changed into new and different people.

Galatians 6:15b (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 13-15, Galatians 6

Find her

We often look upon wisdom as this elusive, nigh unattainable thing. Wisdom is just for a select few. Maybe you’re born with it, maybe you’re not. If you have it, hold on to it. If you don’t have it, good luck finding it.

How we ever began thinking that way of wisdom is beyond me. Wisdom isn’t a country club for the rich and famous. Wisdom is out on the street corner calling out to anyone who will listen to her. She cries out to the foolish and simple-minded aching to be heard above the dull roar of humanity.

I call to you, to all of you! I am raising my voice to all people.

Proverbs 8:4 (NLT)

Wisdom is for anyone and everyone who will stop to listen to her voice. Wisdom isn’t fleeting or coy. She does not play hard-to-get. She isn’t corrupt, but rather pure. We should all seek wisdom above all else.

Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge over pure gold. For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can be compared with it.

Proverbs 8:10-11 (NLT)

Wisdom will not only lead you from foolish decisions, but she will lead you toward knowledge, understanding and wealth.

Unending riches, honor, wealth, and justice are mine to distribute.

Proverbs 8:18 (NLT)

But wisdom should not be sought for the purpose of gaining wealth. For if wealth is what you seek, wisdom is not what you will find.

I love all who love me. Those who search for me will surely find me.

Proverbs 8:17 (NLT)

This sounds a lot like something someone else said…

Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And the door is opened to everyone who knocks.

Matthew 7:7-8 (NLT)

Wisdom and God go hand-in-hand. God formed wisdom before He formed the earth. If we find Him, we will find wisdom. If we find wisdom, we will find God. The two are inseparable.

For whoever finds me finds life and wins approval from the Lord.

Proverbs 8:35 (NLT)

Ask for wisdom. Look for her. Seek her. Find her. She will multiply your days and add years to your life (Proverbs 9:11).

Daily Bible reading: Proverbs 7-8, 1 Corinthians 14:21-40

Free gift

Like many of the Jews in Paul’s time, there are a lot of people now who are still under the impression that God won’t hand out His grace unless we work for it. If I can just do this one thing, then God will love me or if I can accomplish that, then I’ll be worthy. That’s not how this faith thing works.

So that’s why faith is the key! God’s promise is given to us as a free gift. And we are certain to receive it, whether or not we follow Jewish customs, if we have faith like Abraham’s.

Romans 4:16 (NLT)

God’s promise—salvation—is given to us as a free gift. All we need is faith like Abraham. So what did Abraham’s faith look like?

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was absolutely convinced that God was able to do anything he promised. And because of Abraham’s faith, God declared him to be righteous.

Romans 4:20-22 (NLT)

All Abraham did was believe that whatever God said was true—whether he could see it immediately or not. In fact, the longer Abraham believed without seeing, the more he brought glory to God! God didn’t tell Abraham His promise would be fulfilled if only Abraham did A, B, and C. He simply made the promise.

But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work.

Romans 4:5 (NLT)

The law is impossible to fulfill. God knew that when He gave it to Israel. The fact that we cannot fulfill the law on our own makes our need for a covenant with God obvious. That is why Jesus was sent to be the fulfillment of the law (Matthew 5:17).

It takes all the pressure off of us when we come to the realisation that Jesus came and did what we could never do on our own. The only price we must pay to receive the free gift of salvation is our humility—admitting that we cannot do enough works to make ourselves worthy, but need to accept what Jesus did for us on the cross in order to be made righteous. I once heard a pastor say that the greatest fight to our faith is learning not to fight. Abraham simply believed and was made righteous. The more he believed, the more he brought glory to God.

…you are faithful to your promises, O God.

Psalm 71:22b (NLT)

Let’s stop complicating righteousness. It’s one of the easiest things in the world to receive. I was born into this world with a sinful nature. I cannot do anything to make myself worthy of God’s call. God made a way for me and it’s free. All I need to do is hold out my hand and accept it. It’s a free gift.

And really, who doesn’t want to accept a free gift?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 70-72, Romans 4