Two-Faced People

Keep Me From Them—Keep Me From Being Them

Hypocrisy is not a crime, rarely is there any kind of sanction for duplicity and for certain, two-facedness carries no real social stigma. Yet here is One who doesn’t keep quiet about their nasty ways. God’s righteous gaze cuts through the syrupy surface of their lives with utter moral clarity and labels the wickedness of their hypocritical hearts, calling them what they truly are: Workers of iniquity. The Bible’s advice about two-faced people: avoid them…and don’t be them!

Enduring Truth // Psalm 28:3

Do not drag me away with the wicked—with those who do evil—those who speak friendly words to their neighbors while planning evil in their hearts.

There is a category of people whose behavior for some reason we seem to excuse—but God doesn’t. He doesn’t find them acceptable; they and the unseen attitudes of their hearts he finds deplorable. Who are they? They are the kind of people who will say one thing to your face, then another behind your back. Even worse to God than what they say about you is what they think about you in their hearts. The psalmist says they speak peace when they are in front of you, but even before you are gone, their minds are flooded with ill will toward you.

We call them two-faced; the Bible calls them hypocrites. And while two-faced people are unpleasant, our culture pretty much excuses their behavior and accepts their ways. Hypocrisy is not a crime, rarely is there any kind of sanction for duplicity and for certain, two-facedness carries no real social stigma. Yet here is One who doesn’t keep quiet about their nasty ways. God’s righteous gaze cuts through the syrupy surface of their lives with utter moral clarity and labels the wickedness of their hypocritical hearts, calling them what they truly are: Workers of iniquity.

Now I realize that at this point in your reading you might be thinking this is anything but an encouraging little devotional thought for the day. And truthfully, it is not. Rather, this is an exhortation. And the exhortation I have for you is twofold:

One, it is most likely that you will rub shoulders today with the kinds of people David describes in this psalm. Be cautious around them. Discern their hypocritical hearts and don’t be tainted by their iniquitous ways. If you allow them into your inner circle, watch out: they will ensnare you. So be careful, be very careful!

Being two-faced is not a crime in our culture; there’s not even any real sanction for relational duplicity or social stigma for being hypocritical. But in God’s eyes, people who say one thing to your face and another behind your back “talk a good line of peace then moonlight for the Devil.” (The Message)

Be careful around two-faced folk, and most importantly, don’t be one!

And two, don’t be one of them. It is so easy to fall into this kind of two-faced living. Ask God to keep you from hypocrisy. Don’t fall into the trap of saying one thing but thinking another in your heart. Ask God for integrity of word and thought.

That’s what David prayed: Keep me from them, and keep me from being one of them. I hope you will pray that too!

Thrive: Try praying another prayer of David found in Psalm 139:23-24 with the specific motive of cleansing your life of hypocrisy: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test my thoughts. Point out anything you find in me that makes you sad, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

God, Heal Our Land!

52 Simple Prayers for 2018

Are you broken over the violence, disgusted by the wickedness, fed up with the corruption and hopeless over the divisiveness in America these days? Are you demoralized by the moral decay in our nation? Does your heart break that “men have forgotten God.” Does the condition of our culture turn your stomach? It should! But it shouldn’t stop there. Let the turning of your stomach turn your heart to God in intercession for a spiritual awakening once again in our land. Never get used to sin. Rather, let it provoke an urgency that leads you to humble yourself before the Lord to acknowledge sin—yours and ours—that we might repent and turn to the Great Healer for the healing of our land.

A Simple Prayer for National Repentance:

Dear God, hear our cry, forgive our sin, and heal our nation! Cause us to lament our sinfulness, not the least of which is turning from you. Forgive our waywardness and our wickedness. Cleanse of from evil and impurity. Put an irresistible passion in our hearts to humble ourselves and fully return to you. Restore us, O Merciful God.

Tears In A Bottle

Spilled Tears Are God's Reminder That He Cares

What is it that is making you cry today? A heart broken by a fractured relationship? A dashed hope or the death of a dream? A failed family? A personal sin? The consequences of a past mistake that continues to haunt you? What is it that is making you feel such deep sadness? Entrust those tears to God. And let the very next tear that fills your eyes and spills down your cheek be a reminder that your tears never really just dry up and fade into a painful memory, they go right into the bottle of that One who truly cares!

Enduring Truth // Psalm 56:8

You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book

Aren’t tears a mysterious part of what it means to be human? It is strange that we have the capacity to cry—to expel water from our eyes when we are sad. It seems to serve no real purpose—although science can explain the physiological “why” and mental health experts can explain the psychological “why”.

That still leaves the question of “why” tears—why were we created with that capacity?

Perhaps this psalm provides a clue. Maybe they are to remind us that God cares about the things that make us sad enough to shed tears. So much does he bear our sorrow that he collects our tears in a bottle, as the New Living Translation says, or as other versions put it, “he records them in his ledger.” In other words, God takes note—implying that he is not only aware of our sadness, but he will not forget it.

What is it that is making you cry today? A heart broken by a fractured relationship? A dashed hope or the death of a dream? A failed family? A personal sin? The consequences of a past mistake that continues to haunt you? What is it that you feel such deep sadness over?

It is likely that no one truly knows the depth of what you are feeling right now. Maybe no one will ever see those tears that have rolled down your cheek—and the intense hurt that caused them. Even if they do see your tears, how sad it is that long before your pain is healed, people will forget and move on.

But there is One who sees…and One who cares…and One who never forgets…and One who will never move on! And He wants you to know that, my friend. And that One, your Heavenly Father, simply asks you to take comfort in His compassion for you:

The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. (Psalm 103:13)

And that compassionate, loving Heavenly Father likewise asks you to place your trust in him. In fact, so strongly does he desire your trust, that he extends the invitation twice in Psalm 56 just to make sure you really know his heart for you:

In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me? (Psalm 56:4,10-11)

I hope you will do that. Entrust those tears to God. And let the very next tear that fills your eyes and spills down your cheek be a reminder that your tears never really just dry up and fade into a painful memory, they go right into the bottle of that One who truly cares!

Thrive: What is it that is making you cry today? A heart broken by a fractured relationship? A dashed hope or the death of a dream? A failed family? A personal sin? The consequences of a past mistake that continues to haunt you? What is it that you feel such deep sadness over? Why no other human being may know how deeply you feel, or if they do know, they may not care all that much, just remember, there is One who is collecting those tears as you lift your brokenness to him.

God, Help!

52 Simple Prayers for 2018

Our capabilities and resources are not the deciding factor in the outcome of that for which we pray. Rather, God is the best solution to our every challenge, even our people problems. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “In all times of danger from men our wisest course is to fly to the Lord our Helper. He has ways and means for delivering us which we know not of. He can either turn our enemies into friends or else so check all their efforts that they shall do us no real injury.” If you are facing a challenge, perhaps even a people problem, the easiest yet most powerful prayer is simply to pray, “God, help!” And why not, for the Bible says, “The Lord is our help and our shield.” (Psalm 33:20)

A Simple Prayer for God’s Help:

Dear God, help! I ask you to fight for me. I’m overwhelmed and powerless in myself, but you have promised to be with me, to be for me, and to make me more than a conqueror. So I boldly ask for a supernatural supply of victorious power to meet the challenges of this day. For your glory alone, I pray this in the strong name of Jesus. Amen.

God Will Perfect That Which Concerns Me

There's No stopping God!

“God will perfect everything that concerns me.” How comforting and empowering to know that if we are passionately pursuing God’s purposes, God has passionately committed himself to fulfilling his purposes in us. No matter what things may look like, God will never abandon the work that he has lovingly and painstakingly invested in us, and he will ultimately bring that work to perfect completion. No way—you can’t stop God from doing what God does!

Enduring Truth // Psalm 138:8

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.

“God will perfect everything that concerns you.” (Psalm 138:8, NKJV) I have heard my wife use King David’s phrase many times in her public prayers. I like that thought, don’t you? Nothing will stop God from fulfilling his purpose for my life—nothing!

That was the essence of David’s thinking in this psalm. Nothing could get in the way of what God had in mind, that is, God’s perfect will for David’s life—not even his own fleshly desires. That’s the caveat to this truth: the perfecting is of that which is according to God’s will, which of course, is what ought to concern us more than anything else in this life.

The New Testament writer Jude capture the essence of this truth in his benedictory prayer when he wrote, “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” (Jude 1:24-25) Likewise, the Apostle Paul wrote similar words in Philippians 1:6, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

How comforting and empowering to know that if we are passionately pursuing God’s purposes, God has passionately committed himself to fulfilling his purposes in us. No matter what things may look like—horrible circumstances and hateful people notwithstanding (Psalm 138:7)—God will never abandon the work that he has lovingly and painstakingly invested in us, and he will ultimately bring that work to perfect completion.

What David had discovered was that when we are for God, and when God is for us, we cannot lose! 2 Chronicles 16:9 reminds us this profound truth,

“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

Wow! God so desires to fulfill his purposes in this world that he is actually scouring the earth looking for fully devoted people in order to release his enabling power in their lives. Is your heart fully committed to him? If it is, then God will find you, and sooner or later you will come into the greatest joy that anyone can ever experience in this life: God fulfilling his purposes for you and through you.

Yes, God will perfect that which concerns you! In other words, There’s no stopping God!

Thrive: What are the obstacles standing in your path to pursing God? According to Psalm 138:8, God will repurpose those stumbling blocks into building blocks. Try praying a thanksgiving prayer for everything that seems to impeding your progress. Then ask God to empower you to work with him to use those very things to perfect you. Pray this risky prayer: “God use this to shape me.”

Of Filthy Rags And Transformed Hearts

My Hope is Built on Nothing Less than Jesus’ Blood and Righteousness

The hymn writer got it right: “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” So relax about trying to be righteous and morally perfect! Jesus did it for you. God accepts Christ’s efforts on your behalf as good enough, so you don’t have to be good enough. All you have to do is accept it, believe it, and conform your life to it!

Enduring Truth // Romans 10:9-10

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

You cannot be saved by your good works. Period! No matter how hard you try, your “good” is not good enough for the perfectly holy and completely righteous God. Nor can you be saved through an alternative, less stringent means, for only through God is eternal salvation possible.

Moreover, you cannot be saved by your moral perfection—no matter how moral you are or how close to moral you get. As the Old Testament prophet Isaiah pointed out, your righteousness is about as good as a “snot rag”. (Isaiah 64:6). I have actually cleaned that up a bit, because as some Bible scholars has suggested, the Hebrew words for filthy rags, ukabeged ehdim, may very well have meant, “like as rags of menstruation.”

Sorry if that disgusts you, but it’s Scripture—so blame Isaiah. The point is, both our acts of righteousness, and the quality of righteousness that we hope they produce, are disgusting to God. So if you are disgusted by Isaiah’s language, think of how God is repulsed by our efforts to get him to save us.

So what hope is there for our salvation? Well, no hope resides within us. None whatsoever. Ephesians 2:1 says “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” All a dead person can do is lay there and be dead, let alone try to be righteous before God.

No, our righteousness—and let’s be clear, we do have to be righteous to be acceptable to God—comes from Christ alone. You see, God sent his Son to die on the cross—hanging there as our sin—in order to pay the just punishment for sin that we deserved. That is our only hope, that Jesus became sin—our sin—and in so doing, he likewise became our righteousness. II Corinthians 5:21 says it well,

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

How dishonoring to God’s grace and Christ’s atonement when we therefore try to save ourselves by our acts of righteousness and our efforts at moral perfection. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we will discover salvation by grace along through faith, as Paul spoke about in in Philippians 3:8-9,

I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them [our best efforts] rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

It is only through the power of Christ’s resurrection and our death to self (Philippians 3:10-11) that our heart—the core of who we are, that which represents every fiber of our existence—will get transformed. And it is out of a transformed heart, and only that, that our tongue can confess Jesus is Lord.

Then, and only then, are we saved.

So relax about trying to be righteous and morally perfect! Jesus did it for you. God accepts Christ’s efforts on your behalf as good enough, so you don’t have to be good enough. All you have to do is accept it, believe it, and conform your life to it!

Thrive:Try memorizing and meditating on Romans 10:9-10 each day this week: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.”