For My Welfare?

Isaiah 38:10-20

By John Grimm

For my welfare?  We think we know what is best for ourselves.  We plan, we maneuver, and we make connections so that we can have the best life possible.  Then troubles come our way and we are at a loss.  Getting through the troubles strains us.

We then ask ourselves, is the trouble because of my own sins?  Are we the ones who caused our own souls to be bitter?  Or is the truth that someone else caused our misfortune and our problems?  Is it not that since we live godly lives, we can escape such bitterness?

When we know that we have caused our own bitterness, then we repent of our ways.  We confess our sin to God and he restores us.  We may even eventually see that God had been protecting us, despite our willful rebellion against him.  As soon as we recognize the good God was keeping us for, we thank him that he did not allow us to be punished for all time because of our rebellion. 

When we do not know the source of the bitterness in our life, we should keep turning to God.  It is through Jesus that we find salvation, even in the midst of bitterness.  It is during these times that we catch a glimpse of how much evil that God has kept from us.  Yes, going through the bitterness was for our welfare!

It is by living through bitterness brought on by our own sin or someone else’s sin that we can praise God!  Then we get to be in the sanctuary with other believers to sing and praise God for his work in our lives.  What a witness we have when those around us know of the bitterness of our souls and they get to hear us praise God.  Maybe it is during this pandemic that the bitterness of our souls is for our welfare.  It seems like a good time to praise God for getting us through these days.  What better way to shrug off bitterness than to be in the house of the Lord, thanking God for our deliverance?

God, we know who and what has caused bitterness in our souls.  It was not you.  We allowed that bitterness to grow.  Yet, you are using the state of our souls so that we may see how you are working to deliver us.  As we become content in your faithfulness, may we see the bitterness washing away and hear chords of praise coming from our lungs.  It is in Jesus’ name that we thank you for making a way for our welfare even when we could not grasp what was happening.  Amen.  And Amen!

Faith Proven by Works

Hebrews 11:17-19 (NLT)

It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead. 


By ‘Debo Onabanjo

As was noted in last Monday’s reflection, Abraham for all intents and purposes had mentally offered his son to God before he attempted the physical act. Because of his demonstrated faith, God later reiterated his plans to bless Abraham and give him descendants beyond number (Genesis 22:16-18). 

Abraham not only believed God, he clearly demonstrated through his willingness to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering that he was prepared to prove his faith through his actions. As James later wrote, faith without works is no faith. James cited the example of Abraham’s offering of his son Isaac on the altar as faith and action working together.

According to James, Abraham’s “actions made his faith complete.” (James 2:17, 21-22.) God was never interested in Abraham offering his son as a sacrifice and later gave the Israelites strict instructions through Moses that anyone who offered their children as a sacrifice to the pagan god Molech should be put to death. (Leviticus 20:1-5.)

In what ways are you putting your faith in the Lord into action? Can people see through my actions that I have faith in God and believe his promises? Even though God does not require us to sacrifice our children as burnt offerings, he freely gave his only begotten Son as atoning sacrifice for our sins. All that he asks is that we offer ourselves to him as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2) by demonstrating unwavering faith through our actions. As Scripture tells us, “It is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6). 

Just as God tested Abraham to be sure that his faith was real, God is going to test our faith in the crucible and furnace of affliction. It is not a question of IF but WHEN. We can be sure that God is not going to demand that we sacrifice our children as a burnt offering to him. God does not delight in our offerings as much as in our obedience. But God will test our faith to be sure that we are truly on his side. 

I do not know how God will test my faith or how your faith will be tested. It will come through our trials and tribulations, but when we abide in Jesus regardless of whatever comes our way, we will definitely be able to pass the testing of our faith like Abraham and Job and many others before us have done. It is important to remember that it is through our actions in the face of travails that we demonstrate the vitality of our faith. 

The only way to be sure that our faith will not fail is to keep our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus became the pioneer and perfecter of our faith because he learned obedience through his own temptation and looked beyond the pain of the cross to the joy that awaited him.

Almighty and ever living God, we thank you for your love for us demonstrated through the sacrifice of your beloved Son Jesus Christ. Help us to persevere when our faith is tested by looking unto Jesus who alone is the author and finisher of our faith. Let us follow his perfect example as we live out our faith one day at a time. By abiding in Jesus, we can overcome our trials and tribulations and bring God glory. Keep us faithful to the end in the power of your Holy Spirit. Thank you, Jesus, for your nearness to us at all times. Accept our humble prayers offered in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen.

When Our Faith Is Tested

Genesis 22:1-2 (NLT)

Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. “Abraham!” God called. “Yes,” he replied. “Here I am.”  “Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.”


By ‘Debo Onabanjo

After a long wait of 25 years from when the Lord first called and entered into a covenant with him, Abraham and Sarah against all odds had Isaac, the child of promise. Abraham was 100 years old and Sarah 90 years old when Isaac was born.

What we learn from the story of these two biblical characters is that when our Lord makes a promise, it can be trusted. Abraham’s greatest desire to have a male child through Sarah became a reality when all seemed hopeless. After having experienced a lot of challenges as part of his walk with the Lord, it was reasonable for Abraham to expect to live out his remaining years in peace. However, God had other plans for Abraham and decided to put his faith through the wringer.

A cursory reading of the story surrounding today’s verses brings an obvious question to mind. How could a loving God who had made promises to bless Abraham through his seed now ask that Abraham should go and sacrifice his son as a burnt offering? There is no doubt that this instruction by God would be repugnant to any right-thinking person. But the introduction tells us that this was a test, although Abraham was not aware that it was a test. If you were in Abraham’s shoes, what would you have done?

Abraham could have tried to reason with God and offer to give all of his livestock – and he had plenty to sacrifice to God. Even though it is not mentioned, it would have been unreasonable for Abraham to have discussed this matter with his wife Sarah. It is inconceivable that after having waited 90 years to have a son, Sarah would have acquiesced to God’s instruction for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering.

In addition to animal sacrifices, which were quite common in the ancient near East where Abraham lived, some of the pagan nations also sacrificed their children to their gods. If pagans could sacrifice their children to idols that could not do anything for them, God wanted to see if Abraham had enough faith and respect to give up Isaac. 

Without any equivocation on his part, we read that “the next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about.” (Genesis 22:3). Just imagine with me for a second what must have been going through Abraham’s mind. Before he set out with Isaac, he had already sacrificed him in his heart.

On day three of their journey, Abraham parted from his servants and proceeded alone with Isaac. He placed the wood he had chopped on Isaac’s shoulders while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the father and son walked on together, Isaac, who was definitely a grown lad by this time, realized that something was missing. He had no doubt witnessed many animal sacrifices by his father and therefore questioned him.

“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?” 

In one of the most powerful faith responses recorded in Scripture, Abraham responded, “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son.” They walked on together and after they arrived at the designated place, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. We are not sure if at this time it finally dawned on Isaac that he was the designated “sheep” for the offering, but there is no record of any struggle as Abraham tied his son Isaac and laid him on the altar on top of the wood (Genesis 22:9). Without further ado, Abraham took the knife and prepared to kill Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering to the Lord. 

But at that moment, the angel of the Lord called to Abraham and told him not to lay a hand on Isaac. The angel said, “Do not hurt him in any way, for I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.” (Genesis 22:12).  Abraham passed the test. God had no desire for Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, but chose to test Abraham’s faith to be sure that Abraham was willing to do anything for him, including offering his only son as a burnt offering.

Are you prepared to do anything for the Lord?

Gracious and loving God, you freely gave up your only Son to die in our place. Help us to be willing to do anything as a demonstration of our faith in you. We pray in the name of Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Amen. 

Love and Truth

2 John (NLT)

This letter is from John, the elder.

I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I love in the truth—as does everyone else who knows the truth—because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever.

Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.

How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.

I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.

I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.

If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.

I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.

Greetings from the children of your sister, chosen by God.


By Chuck Griffin

While we call them “books of the Bible,” some of those books really are just short letters. Second John is printed in its entirety above.

The “chosen lady” likely is a personification of the recipient church, with her “children” being the members of that church. The last line of the letter seems to confirm this, showing the letter’s author wrote from a “sister” church.

I have a particular fondness for this letter because it emphasizes the nature of Christian love. Yes, we are to be very open and giving with our love. This agape love for each other does not mean, however, that we forget to first love God. We love God by obeying what he commands of us in Scripture and telling the truth about those commands to others.

Even in Christianity’s earliest days, the church struggled with deceivers, with “antichrists,” people who pose as bringers of a holy message but who actually are looking out for their own unholy interests. They will deny the reality of the resurrection; they will deny other teachings clearly communicated in the New Testament about God’s expectations of us.

No doubt, such deceivers will be with us until Christ returns in full. John the Elder could have written this letter to any of our churches today.

Love and truth walk hand in hand. In fact, it is a very unloving thing to deceive people about God’s expectations for his followers, or to allow these deceptive teachings to happen in the midst of Christian fellowship. Too much is at stake.

Lord, help us to discern clearly what is being spoken in the midst of our congregations, testing what we hear against the revelation found in your Holy Bible. Amen.

Evening Prayer

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor
Psalm 17:1-7. A Prayer of David.

O Lord, hear my plea for justice.
    Listen to my cry for help.
Pay attention to my prayer,
    for it comes from honest lips.
Declare me innocent,
    for you see those who do right.

You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night.
    You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong.
    I am determined not to sin in what I say.
I have followed your commands,
    which keep me from following cruel and evil people.
My steps have stayed on your path;
    I have not wavered from following you.

I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God.
    Bend down and listen as I pray.
Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways.
    By your mighty power you rescue
    those who seek refuge from their enemies.

At first glance, I find this prayerful psalm puzzling—perhaps even frustrating. It seems to have been prayed by one who believes himself to be without sin, making the prayer irrelevant to me.

Stranger still, it’s clearly marked as a “prayer of David,” certainly a man loved by God, but also a known sinner. David’s recorded story pulls no punches about his failures, the worst of them being adultery with Bathsheba and the arranged betrayal and murder of her husband Uriah.

A deeper reading, however, reveals the particular context for this prayer. David may have been imperfect—what human isn’t—but it seems he was in a situation where he was not at fault, and he sought vindication and protection from his enemies.

Now this prayer is starting to make sense. Perhaps it is even useful!

David asked to be tested. Such a request can come only after much introspection. Specifically, David had sought and apparently continued to seek that his words and actions be tested in the night, knowing his faults from the prior day would be revealed to him in the morning.

Sleep does reveal much. For people who actively seek God’s will, the night can either be filled with regretful tossing or peaceful rest. At this point in his life, David apparently rested well, receiving assurance God was with him.

Living in a different time than David, we know more clearly than he how God has rescued us from our ultimate enemies, the evil and death that result from sin. Jesus Christ has broken the power of both, and through our belief in his work on the cross, we are saved.

What remains is to align ourselves with our holy God more closely each day. We can begin by living in the light—living as people who know they will make it their evening prayer that they be examined through the night.

Lord, may we be conscious of your will not only day by day, but moment by moment. Amen.