Ed M. uses Deut 7.22 as the basis for his great devotional thought today.

Intentional. God did not drive the enemy out all at once. Some were left to test Israel, to see whether they would keep the way of the Lord, Judges 2:22,23. Without challenges, commitment becomes soft. An unexercised belief becomes a flabby faith, Hebrews 5:13,14. It is a dangerous expedient. Living in the midst of evil can strengthen or weaken an allegiance to the Lord. It is a calculated risk taken by a wise God to nurture His people, Deuteronomy 8:2; Judges 3:1. The faithful look back and acknowledge their indebtedness to the stress of the journey and the burdens along the way, Hebrews 12:11.

Focus question: What challenges to my faith have I faced lately? How has my commitment been strengthened or weakened by them?

Some profess their faith in the obscurity of night, John 3:2. Though, perhaps, excusable at first, such profession cannot be maintained over the long haul. It will either come into the light or die in the dark. The believer must fight the good fight of faith in the presence of many witnesses, I Timothy 6:12. He must “imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what is promised,” Hebrews 6:11,12.

Ed Mathews, Plow New Ground, July 18

Focus question: Before how many witnesses has your faith been fought?

Ed Mathews uses Haggai 1.12 today in his devotional to launch a meditation on fear. Besides appreciating the context of the passage, he says:

Fear as awe. The religious sense of fear—or awe—is a reverence for God. The fear of the Lord is a recognition of His sovereignty. It is the beginning of “knowledge,” Proverbs 1:7. It is an understanding of Jehovah as the foundation of “a disciplined and prudent life,” Proverbs 1:3. To fear Him means to reject every competing deity. It means to serve the Lord only, Deuteronomy 6:13. Awe for God is expressed by walking in all His ways, in serving Him with an undivided heart, Deuteronomy 10:12,13.

How can I cultivate my fear of God? What truths about the Lord, promises from him, or actions of his can help me develop my reverence for the one true God?

The office is in flux as I prepare to move. A paperback copy of Oswald Chambers’s My Utmost for His Highest was within arm’s reach, so I checked the index of biblical references for a passage in Psalms, just in case. Not there. I noted that, out of 365 meditations, only nine used a text in Psalms for the Bible verse. It surprises me a bit. The Psalms is a go-to book for me in my devotional time. No big conclusion here, just an observation.

From Deborah’s song Ed M. takes today’s devotional, Judges 5.23.

It is sad when God is ignored, when people turn a deaf ear, Matthew 23:37. They put other things ahead of the Lord. With calloused disregard, they excuse themselves. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” they ask, Genesis 4:9. As a result, the minority carried the load.

Focus question: Am I part of the inactive majority? If a part of the load-carrying minority, do I perform my work with resentment or bad feelings?

Tremendous thought today from Ed M., based on Malachi 3.13. In his full page of meditations, he says,

The reluctant say that it is “futile” to serve Him. There is no “gain” in keeping His commands, Malachi 3:14,15. These people believe religion ought to pay big dividends now. It ought to bring great rewards immediately. The general feeling is that folks surely will not serve God for nothing, Job 1:9. In spite of that sentiment, the faithful may live a lifetime without seeing a reward, Hebrews 11:13.

Focus question: When it seems there’s no advantage to faith, what am I thinking?

Last night as I bedded down, I read three chapters of the Bible, one of them 3 John. Imagine my pleasant surprise to read this morning Ed M.’s devotional thought for June 3 on 3 John 6. Every saint ought to read this one-page meditation. (I recommend the entire yearly work.) Among other things, he wrote,

Christian obligation. Gaius gave travel assistance to some fellow believers (though they were “strangers” to him), III John 5. These itinerant preachers had mentioned his goodness while visiting John, III John 3. So the venerable apostle asks Gaius for another favor. “Send them on their way” in a manner that God would approve, III John 6. These traveling evangelists were worthy of such help because “it was for the sake of the Name that they went out,” III John 7. Christians have an obligation to underwrite the work of those who minister the word, I Corinthians 9:7-12a.

Why cannot every church help every missionary who seeks support, with some amount, at least? (The reason why not: they’re spending their monies elsewhere, mostly on themselves.)

Focus question: Am I going, letting go, or helping to go?

Textual note: NLT translates “brothers” as “traveling teachers,” vv. 3, 5, 10. Quite interpretative, but they were indeed traveling evangelists, what we today call missionaries.

Ed M. gets behind a prophet’s eyeballs with Habakkuk 2.6 as his main text today.

The prophet was at a critical juncture. He staggered at the prospect of continual cruelty. How long, he sighed, will the interminable plundering of ruthless men go on? They seem to do their mischief with impunity, Habakkuk 2:6. Does God care?

What questions do ask in the face of long-term injustice? What answers do you find? What does this say about God?

It’s a hard life! Hard for the rich to be saved! Ed. M’s devotional lists three errors of those with “full wallets and empty hearts.” Then he says,

The elite are prone to oppress the poor, Amos 2:6,7. They plot against those who are innocent, who cannot resist their devious schemes, James 5:6. Wealth has always been a cruel master (though few of the wealthy recognize the danger). Everyone should pray for deliverance from the sin of greed. The consequences of self-indulgence are certain. Therefore, take note. Beware! The day of judgment is coming.

Focus question: How well or poorly do you use money? Are you rich toward God? Are you selfish with your possessions?

A beautiful thought today in Ed M.’s devotional, from 1 Samuel 23.16, along with this prayer.

Lord God, everyone has moments of despair. When life closes in on me, send a friend. When life closes in on someone else, send me. In Jesus, the greatest friend of all, Amen.

Focus question: When despair approaches, do you tend to shut yourself off from others, or ask God to send a friend? Are you a friend to those in despair?