The Fear of Man

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

The Fear of Man

By Rev. David Bast on July 28, 2022

Read: Matthew 10:16-33

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe. (Prov. 29:25)

In one of our early devotionals in this series, I mentioned that we don’t seem to pay much attention to the fear of the Lord today. But there’s another kind of fear we may worry about far too much—“the fear of man.” This isn’t the reasonable fear of what harmful people might do to us; it’s the excessive fear of what critical people might say or think about us. The fear of man is worrying about our social standing. It can lead us to be embarrassed about being identified as a Christian at work or school. It can shame us into conforming to the world’s values and behavior or make us keep silent when speaking the truth is unpopular.

When a gang came to arrest Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, Peter pulled out a sword and fought, ready to make good his boast that he would die for Jesus. But just a few hours later, a serving girl’s simple question caused him to deny all knowledge of his Lord. As Christians we probably won’t be asked to lay down our lives for Jesus, but we will likely be asked to risk social ridicule and ostracism for following him.

The antidote to the fear of man is the fear of God, the only one who decides eternal issues (v. 28). So let’s put things in perspective: “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6). —David Bast

As you pray, ask for the grace to risk embarrassment for your faith.

A Good Name

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

A Good Name

By Rev. David Bast on July 27, 2022

Read: Acts 9:36-42

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. (Prov. 22:1)

When Proverbs talks about choosing a good name it’s not referring to expectant parents having lengthy conversations about what to call the baby. It’s talking about caring in the right sense for your personal reputation. Our next devotion will address the problem of being overly concerned about your reputation in your community, whatever that community is (workplace, school, town, church, club). But today we’re invited to reflect on what it means to want and have “a good name.”

Eulogy literally means “good word.” When someone dies, a eulogy is usually given at the funeral, focusing (one hopes) on the virtues of that person’s life and character. When Dorcas fell ill and died, the eulogy at her funeral wasn’t just verbal, it was visual. As Peter entered the upper room where the body was laid out, “All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them” (Acts 9:39).

It has been pointed out that eulogy virtues are very different from résumé virtues. Résumé virtues are all about credentials and accomplishments; eulogy virtues are all about character. At your funeral, people probably won’t talk about what you owned or how much money you made or what kind of house you lived in. But they are certain to talk about what kind of name you had. You can choose to make it a good one. —David Bast

As you pray, reflect on how you might choose a good name today.

Lord Willing

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Lord Willing

By Rev. David Bast on July 26, 2022

Read: James 4:13-17

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. (Prov. 27:1)

When I was growing up, it was customary for the church bulletin to feature the letters “D.V.” in the schedule of events for the coming week—as in, “The Ladies Missionary Society will meet on Thursday afternoon at 2 p.m. D.V.” The letters stood for a Latin phrase, Deo volente, “God willing.” It seems a quaint, bygone custom now, and I suppose it did become a bit ritualistic, but there was real wisdom behind those little letters. That wisdom came straight from this proverb, as expanded upon in the book of James.

Whenever we make plans, even if it’s just where we plan to have lunch tomorrow, our plans must always be contingent. We’re not really in control of the future. We live as if we were, and most of the time it’s true. Until suddenly it’s not. We might not have tomorrow, let alone next year, to “trade and make a profit” (v. 13). Tomorrow belongs to the Lord, not to us. Nothing is guaranteed us beyond today.

Of course, we can and should still make our plans. By all means make your business plans and vacation plans and retirement plans; block out your week, schedule your meetings, write down your appointments. But as you do, always—mentally if not out loud—add “If the Lord wills, we will . . . do this or that” (v. 15). I’m not suggesting we need to put D.V. back in our calendars; just that we should always bear it in mind. —David Bast

As you pray, thank God that we can trust him for the future.

An Eye for an Eye?

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

An Eye for an Eye?

By Rev. David Bast on July 25, 2022

Read: Matthew 5:38-48

Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.” (Prov. 24:29)

Speaking of payback, let’s listen to Jesus: “Turn the other cheek,” “Go the extra mile,” “Give him your cloak too.” In these famous examples Jesus is modifying what was known as the lex talionis—the principle of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Matt. 5:38). That Old Testament law was actually a moderating influence. Human nature being what it is, people have a tendency to adopt escalating acts of retaliation. As mobster Jim Malone said to federal agent Eliot Ness in the movie The Untouchables, “[Al Capone] sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue.” The Law said no, you can’t do that. You can’t take an eye for a tooth. The penalty must match the offense.

But even that is too much for Jesus, at least when it comes to our personal quarrels. Thankfully, in North America, we live in democracies that have legal systems and police forces. When functioning properly, these are God’s means of protecting our lives and property. Jesus isn’t saying we mustn’t go to court to defend our rights. Turning the other cheek is how we should respond to an insult, not to a criminal assault. Jesus is telling us that the little grievances or demands that may come our way shouldn’t provoke us to violence. Just let them go, he says. Leave it to the Lord. —David Bast

As you pray, ask each day for the fruit of the Spirit to ripen in your life.

Don’t Get Even, Get Generous

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Don’t Get Even, Get Generous

By Rev. David Bast on July 24, 2022

Read: Romans 12:9-21

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you. (Prov. 25:21-22)

Have you ever thought about the difference between Proverbs and proverbs—the human sayings that have been around forever and that offer advice for everyday life? The book of Proverbs comes from heaven. Human proverbs sometimes come from the other place. For example, when someone insults you or cheats you, the human response is: “Don’t get mad, get even.” Proverbs says don’t get even, get generous.

Paul quoted this verse in a section of Romans devoted to Christian ethics. Sounding very much like Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, the apostle told us to “Bless those who persecute you . . . Repay no one evil for evil . . . [and] never avenge yourselves” (Rom. 12:14, 17, 19). Instead of vengeance, we must show kindness to our enemy, offering help instead of harm. And here’s the reason: doing that will heap burning coals on the head of the one who has hurt us.

I wonder how that works. Does it mean that the wrongdoer will really get it in the neck when the Lord of vengeance finally judges everyone? Or could it be that the “fiery coals” means that our gracious response causes this person to burn with shame at the thought of their shabby behavior? If that’s the case, perhaps we’ll have turned an enemy into a friend. —David Bast

As you pray, ask God for the grace not to respond to evil in kind.

“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child”

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

“Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child”

By Rev. David Bast on July 23, 2022

Read: Hebrews 12:3-11

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (Prov. 3:11-12)

The book of Proverbs is famously big on parental discipline, including discipline that seems unduly harsh to us. Remember “Spare the rod and spoil the child”? That’s based on Proverbs: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die” (Prov. 23:13). Well, maybe he won’t. But there are better corrective alternatives. For many families today, much corporal punishment has been replaced by the “time out,” and that’s a good thing. Don’t use Proverbs as an excuse to beat your child.

But discipline isn’t just for kids. Hebrews quotes this passage in Proverbs to describe God’s fatherly treatment of us. Discipline is teaching; it is not the same as punishment. God does not punish us for our sins; Christ has taken all that upon himself, draining the cup of God’s wrath (John 18:11). Our cup, wrote John Newton, is not penal; it’s medicinal. God disciplines us in order to draw us closer to himself. We all sometimes need God’s tough love to help us turn from the world towards him, the source of all that is good and true and beautiful. So how does God do that? When Hebrews 12 says “discipline,” what it’s referring to is suffering. Experiencing suffering offers us a choice: to turn away from God or run to him in faith and trust. —David Bast

As you pray, ask God to draw you closer to himself.

Keep Your Hand on the Tiller

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Keep Your Hand on the Tiller

By Rev. David Bast on July 22, 2022

Read: James 3:1-12

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov. 10:19)

Have you ever wished you could take back something you said to someone too hastily, without thinking of the consequences? Have you ever regretted words you spoke without realizing who could hear them? Of course you have. So have I.

Another of Proverbs’ themes, echoed by the New Testament wisdom book of James, is the power of the tongue, both for good and ill. Some examples: “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (12:18). “The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly” (15:2). “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (15:4). “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (18:21). “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble” (21:23).

So how do we learn to control our tongues, to restrain our lips as Proverbs says? It takes a steady hand on the tiller! Perhaps the first step is recognizing the importance of our speech. Our words can be powerful, powerfully good or powerfully bad. Then we might also remember that restraint is a sign of true wisdom. And if we want wisdom, James tells us what to do: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). —David Bast

As you pray, ask God for wisdom.

True Humility

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

True Humility

By Rev. David Bast on July 21, 2022

Read: Philippians 2:1-11

Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor. (Prov. 3:34)

The apostle Peter quoted this proverb, then drew a practical lesson from it: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6).

Paul, in urging the Philippian Christians to submit to one another in humility, cited the example of Jesus. He told them to think like Christ. Though he was God, Jesus didn’t cling to his divine status and prerogatives, but lowered himself all the way to a criminal’s death. That’s the essence of humility—to get lower. “Humble” comes from humus, which is Latin for “earth, or soil.” Humility means getting lower with respect to our neighbor so that we can’t look down on them. It means lowering our estimate of our own rights in order to serve the needs of others. It means forsaking our privilege and focusing on raising up the down-and-out. It’s important to do this voluntarily, because if we insist on being high and mighty, God will bring us down.

Do you recall Jesus’ parable of the guests at the wedding feast (Luke 14:7-11)? His advice was to take the least important seats at the table so as not to be embarrassed by the host moving you lower. You want to be pleasantly surprised by God’s treatment of you, rather than being humiliated by it. Think how much nicer it will be when he lifts you up instead of casting you down. —David Bast

As you pray, ask God for the grace to get lower.

Do You Want to Be Forgiven?

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Do You Want to Be Forgiven?

By Rev. David Bast on July 20, 2022

Read: Matthew 18:21-35

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. (Prov. 21:13)

You’re familiar with the concept of poetic justice. We call it “poetic” because it’s kind of sweet and fitting, like a poem. It appeals to our aesthetic sense; it just seems right. Like Haman being hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. Like the unforgiving servant being jailed for debt after refusing to cancel his friend’s little loan. You get what you give. So if we turn a deaf ear to our neighbor’s plea for help, we shouldn’t expect God to come running when we cry out to him in need.

This is especially true when it comes to forgiveness. There is only one petition in the Lord’s Prayer with a condition attached to it: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Jesus went on to reinforce this point, just in case we weren’t paying attention while reciting the prayer. “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt. 6:14-15). In Luke’s account, Jesus expands on the positive side of this principle: “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:38). I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to do a whole lot of forgiving. —David Bast

As you pray, forgive before asking forgiveness.

Who Speaks for the Poor?

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Who Speaks for the Poor?

By Rev. David Bast on July 19, 2022

Read: Amos 5:11-24

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. (Prov. 31:8)

What does Proverbs mean when it tells us to open our mouths for the mute? Here we might remember an important principal of Hebrew poetry: parallelism. In both Psalms and Proverbs, the writer often emphasizes a point by saying essentially the same thing in a slightly different way in both halves of a verse: “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” (Ps. 103:1). Sometimes the parallelism is progressive, when the second phrase in the verse advances the thought of the first. So here, the mute aren’t physically unable to speak, they’re the poor whose cries for justice aren’t listened to.

In our society those with a lot of physical and social capital—money in the bank, a good education, a strong extended family, a wide circle of friends, a decent job or career, insurance, retirement benefits, easy access to legal advice and medical care—have the means of protecting themselves and defending their rights. But there are many who lack those advantages. It may be because they are literally destitute, or it may be because they are socially marginalized.

So who will advocate for the rights of the defenseless among us—the immigrant who doesn’t speak the language, the poor person who can’t afford to pay for help, or the most voiceless and defenseless of all—the unborn? Who will speak for those who can’t speak for themselves? Amos did. Will we? —David Bast

As you pray, ask how you might speak.

The Friendly Church