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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Day 34: Matthew 14:1-21 & Psalm 34 - Can We Foresee the Consequences of Our Actions?

Today's Reading: Matthew 14:1-21 & Psalm 34

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Can We Foresee the Consequences of Our Actions?

"And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother." - Matthew 14:9-11

Poor Herod. Those may seem like odd words for a man who had John the Baptist beheaded and whose father ordered the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem, but for some reason I always feel sorry for Herod in this situation. Maybe it's because I've made my own foolish choices and have had to face the consequences too many times. Herod was a man who has given himself to sensuality and ended up being manipulated into murdering an innocent man. 

We never know what consequences our actions may have, for the good or for the bad. When we give ourselves over to a certain sin - sensuality, greed, envy, covetousness, pride - it often leads us to others we may never have chosen otherwise. Solomon's desire for foreign wives led the wise builder of the Temple into idolatry. David's neglect of his duty to the army as king - his lazy self-indulgence - led to his adultery and murder. 

Thankfully, the same unforeseen consequences are true in the good direction, too. We don't know how our faithful actions of obedience will be used by God. In the story that immediately follows the execution of John the Baptist, the disciples were told by Jesus to feed a crowd of thousands. The problem is that they only had five loaves and two fish. How could they feed so many with so little.

“Bring them here to me.” (v. 18) Jesus' words were simple and direct. The disciples obeyed and the result was powerful, amazing, literally miraculous.

So, the question for us seems simple enough, though it is more difficult than we could even imagine: Will we give ourselves to our sin or will we bring whatever we have and give it to Jesus? Will we seek to run our own lives our way and serve our own desires, or will we surrender everything to Christ and let Him take our meager resources and multiply them for His glory?

Prayer Based on Psalm 34:

This is such a wonderful Psalm. Several years ago, the school where I served as Headmaster memorized this Psalm. It sings with power, truth, grace and wisdom! 

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!

Heavenly Father, I do indeed bless Your name. Every day I bless You, for You are faithful and wise, holy and good. I have nothing in myself in which to boast - no wisdom, no power, no righteousness - but I will boast in You, O Lord. Your steadfast love, Your saving grace, Your patience, Your power, Your purposes, Your glory - for all of these and for so much more, You and You alone are worthy of praise and I need to praise You, to magnify Your name and not my own, to worship You, to serve You, to love You. 

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.

Lord, when I have sought You, it has been clear that it has only been because You were always seeking me. You call me to Yourself and as soon as I turn to You, You answer me and deliver me from all my fears and failures, from all my troubles, sins, distresses and enemies. You are the Great Deliverer of Your people. O Lord, deliver those who are ensnared in sin or persecuted by enemies today. 

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
    for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Lord, Your goodness is real, so real we can taste it in every bite of food, in every daily portion of pleasure and provision. We truly lack no good thing under Your gracious hand. Lord, let us see this clearly. Teach me the contentment of knowing that You have given every good and perfect gift, everything needed for life and godliness. You are too good and too wise and too powerful to leave Your children lacking anything we truly need, any truly good thing. 

Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life
    and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
   and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.

Father, it is so clear that the path of the life is found in following after You. Keep my tongue from evil - from boasting, from lying, from flattery, from foolish talk. Turn my feet away from evil to good. Make me a peacemaker and let me seek the peace that You would have me pursue. Give me the grace to forgive as I have been forgiven and to reconcile as I have been reconciled. 

The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
    and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.

Oh Lord, how wonderful it is to know that Your eyes are always on Your children and that Your ears always hear us when we cry to You in faith, You love us. You hear us, You deliver us. You comfort us and strengthen us when we need You most. 

Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones;
    not one of them is broken.
Affliction will slay the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants;

    none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Lord, there are so many in the world today who hate the righteous, from ISIS and other Islamo-fascist terrorists to God-haters here in America intent on silencing Your people and forcing us to abandon Your truth. Redeem us and keep us. Let us not be led astray or intimidated into silence, and let us not repay anyone evil for evil. May we always trust in You and obey Your command to love our enemies. For You are our glorious Lord and we are in Your hands.

In Jesus' name, Amen.

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