Daily Nourishment

If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but tremble. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Romans 11:17-21

As a wild olive shoot, we as Gentiles, were grafted into the vine. The key part of these verses is this: “the root supports you.” As we get nourishment from the sap of the root, we can thrive. When we stop getting nourishment from this root, it’s bad news for us. This means a daily connection with the root. Jesus said, “apart from me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) I tend to take that literally, as I’m sure many of you do as well.

But, like many of you too, we forget. In times of passion and in the heat of the battle, we forget. We forget how we got there. We forget who got us there. And we forget that in our pursuit for being right or wanting to make a name for ourselves that we are instruments of God.

The daily nourishment we get from Christ through the Holy Spirit gives us a good start, but we need more than that. Somehow we need to connect to Christ in such a way that we are able to think before we speak and act, and repent immediately when we are even the least bit off course. I admit it’s a bold challenge, but it’s certainly a worthwhile one.

Patience

Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! Romans 11:11-12

The patient work of God in the lives of people is simply amazing. We are often so short-sighted because we live in the here and now. God obviously has his eye on the past, present, and future.

So if God made Israel envious, does He still do that today with people? Of course He does. Think how long it took you to come to Christ. Was it after one or two Gospel tellings? Perhaps, but there were a lot of moving parts leading up to those messages, things we may never even know was happening.

Many years ago I was catching up with an old friend. He told me that I had sent him a Christian music cassette in the mail to his overseas location, and it was but one small factor (among many) that led to his faith in Christ (and I didn’t remember sending it!). For my friend, it was a series of events and words and even music over several years that led to faith in Christ.

There are two elements to this story. First, continue to plant seeds wherever and whenever you can. You can’t know the outcome of at which step the person is in his life, but you can plant the seeds. Second relates to the first: continue to pray for that same person because you don’t know which phase he’s in.

Why Why Why

What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written:

“God gave them a spirit of stupor,  eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear,  to this very day.”

And David says:

“May their table become a snare and a trap,
    a stumbling block and a retribution for them.
May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
    and their backs be bent forever.”  Romans 11:7-10

So why did God give Israel a spirit of stupor, causing them not to see and hear? Entire volumes of data have been researched and written on this and most other major doctrines of the Bible, including this passage. Part of the very short answer lies in the fact hat they were not ready to see and hear. Even though God was watering the seeds of belief, they were still not ready to believe. The information was all there for them to see if they would only notice. We would say it was “as plain as the nose on his face.”

Having 20/20 hindsight, we can see what’s been written and boast about what we would have done had we been in their shoes. Well, not really. If history is any indicator at all, we and any generation of unbelievers since then – Jewish or otherwise – are pretty much alike. We doubt. We fear. We ridicule what we don’t understand. In the end, though, we want proof.

We still want proof. We want proof that if we pray God will answer.
We want proof that if we make a certain life choice it will turn out fine.

But, like Israel back then, we don’t get that proof. We may have the benefit of hindsight after the fact, but that’s all we’re going to get in terms of physical proof.

It brings us back to Faith, faith in God to work out the little things and the big things. It took faith back then; it takes faith today.

A Mystery

And Isaiah boldly says, “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.”
But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” Romans 10:20-21

Although we don’t like to admit it because it makes us look small and insignificant, but much of what we know about God is a mystery. Sure we have the living Word of God to study and we can find out a great deal about God.

But the mysteries genuinely puzzle us.

Why does He reveal Himself to one person but not so much to another?
And still yet, why does He wait for what seems like an eternity for some people?

Perhaps a better question we should be asking is, “why does He wait so long for us to ‘get it?'”

Hearing and Understanding

Again I ask: Did Israel not understand? First, Moses says,
“I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” Romans 10:19

To follow up yesterday’s devotional, perhaps one of the reasons for such animosity towards the Christian faith has been because they have understood the message and don’t want to change their ways.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “it’s not the parts of the Bible I don’t understand that worries me. It’s the parts of the Bible I do understand that worries me.”

Continue to pray for one or two people you know who embody this lesson. You cannot reach the world, but you can at least pray for those within your circle of friends.

Over the Target

But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Romans 10:18

In the West it has become fashionable to mock Christianity. There are no shortages of people who love to tout their “tolerance” except when it comes to Christianity. I say we are partly to blame as Believers. Not every criticism directed at us is valid, but some of them are.

The point of this devotional isn’t about what we are doing right or wrong but it is that little by little the message of the Gospel is getting out. Truth is setting in. Most people who target Christianity with their rants cannot articulate precisely why they are upset with the Christian faith. Some site “hypocrisy in the church” or something similar to debunk an entire religion. When pressed for specific examples, most cannot. To be sure, some have legitimate examples of being wronged or hurt by Believers, and should not be dismissed.

Throughout the last 50 years, Christians have “bombarded” the radio and television airwaves with the Gospel message in a variety of formats. Then there’s the billboards, Gideon’s Bible distribution in most hotels, Gospel tracts, celebrity and sports testimonials, and countless ministries aimed at reaching a specific group of people. Again we read the verse in this light:

But I ask: Did they not hear? Of course they did:
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” Romans 10:18

Longing

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

What do you long for in life? I’m not talking necessarily about the rewards of heaven and the hope in Christ and all of that, but in this life what do you look forward to?

What do you hope to achieve?

Besides the kids and the alarm clock, what wakes and energizes you every morning?

Do you have something that you long to do or long to be?

If so, what steps are you taking to get there?

Saving and Dwindling

Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow. Proverbs 13:11

The principle in this proverb is unmistakably clear: if you are dishonest in your business dealings, what you “earn” will just dwindle away.

Putting aside money gradually allows you to build up what you have. The principle is also clear: you don’t need to save thousands and thousands at one time. In fact, it’s probably better that you don’t do it that way. Instead, put a little away at a time. You won’t notice it being gone from your pile, but you are in the habit of doing it.

Do either of these two principles ring true with you today?

Asking for Trouble

He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. Proverbs 13:3

Have you ever said something without giving it much thought? Or perhaps the question might very well be, how many times this week have you spoken without thinking?

We do it all the time, don’t we?

Much of the trouble we encounter in life is of our own making: the decisions we make, the words we speak, and the friends we keep all contribute to our success or demise. When we do any of those three things rashly and without forethought, we’re asking for trouble.

As I stated yesterday, instead of asking for trouble, we probably should ask for the words to say from the Holy Spirit.