Sunday, November 19, 2017

A life to aspire to

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 3:6-4:12

TO CHEW ON: “… aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands…” 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Who, these days, does that—“aspire(s) to lead a quiet life” or, as the Amplified puts it: “Make it your ambition … to live quietly…”? It’s far more common to want to be noticed, to get attention with lots of “LIKES” on social media, for example, or to achieve the goal of all goals and go viral.

Yet to me, perhaps to you too, there is something attractive and alluring about these instructions on how to live:

  • “lead a quiet life”
- “Lead a quiet life” brings to mind verses like “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” - Isaiah 30:15.

- Peter’s instructions on how to be a beautiful-from-the-inside woman include: “… a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” - 1 Peter 3:4.

- However, many Bible references to quietness also harbor within them an aspect of tension—the tension of waiting for something to happen: “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly / For the salvation of the LORD” - Lamentations 3:26.
“Truly my soul silently waits for God; / From Him comes my salvation” Psalm 62:1.

  • “mind your own business”
This advice is, at some level telling the people not to gossip and be busybodies. This must have been a problem in Thessalonica because Paul addressed it in 2 Thessalonians 3:11,12. I wonder how Paul would have viewed Facebook!

  • “work with your own hands”
From crocheting a shawl to building a house I’m sure most of us have experienced the satisfaction of a project we’ve completed with our own hands. Physical work is something the Bible endorses from cover to cover (Genesis 2:15; 1 Timothy 5:8).

These three bits of good-life advice are not only to make the readers’ lives better, but to serve as an example of a good and godly life to pre-believers - 1 Thessalonians 4:12.

In this time when we can be barraged with communication, information and noise from morning to night, doesn’t this lifestyle sound like a refreshing option?


PRAYER: Dear Father, at the root of this lifestyle of quietness, self-control, and work is confidence in You and Your ability to work things out in my life without my interference. Please help me to trust you so implicitly that quietness becomes my default setting. Amen.

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Friday, November 17, 2017

A sanctified imagination

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Judges 5:11-31

TO CHEW ON: "'Thus let all your enemies perish, O Lord!
But let those who love Him be like the sun
When it comes out in full strength.'" Judges 5:31



Judge Deborah was a woman with a vivid imagination. The "Thus..." in the verse above refers to the details of her victory over Sisera as we find them in her song (Judges 5:1-31). This victory ballad is full of imaginative specifics.

She describes the incident of Jael, the tent peg, and the hammer in gory detail (Judges 5:24-27).

She imagines Sisera's mother waiting for her son to return from battle. When he delays, she envisions how this woman and her maids will explain his lateness to themselves:

"Are they not finding and dividing the spoil:
To every man a girl or two;
For Sisera plunder of dyed garments..." (Judges 5:30).

But Deborah's most inspiring use of her imagination is in Judges 4, before she ever had reason to sing that song. Then the situation was still dire. Israel under the thumb of Canaanite King Jabin (and Sisera, his army commander), hadn't seen a ray of hope in twenty years (Judges 4:3). Yet Deborah said to Barak (the commander of Israel's army):

"Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?" (Judges 4:14).
Her faith in God fueled her imagination so that she saw the victory before it ever actually happened.

Deborah's use of imagination demonstrates three ways we can use our imaginative ability.

  • To communicate the human experience in literature: Her description of Jael's actions is imagination put to use in the service of story and poetry. It is one God-given way we can use our visionary ability.
  • To reassure ourselves: Deborah's speculation of how Sisera's mother was handling her son's delay shows how imagination can bolster feelings of well-being. However this kind of imagining can easily disintegrate into worry when we  fuel it with pictures of the bad things that could be happening.
  • To affirm our faith: We sanctify our imaginings when we use them in the service of faith like Deborah did. This is building a visionary future on God—His person and promises—and then going into action to make it a reality.

May we have more of the kind of imagination that, ignited by God's promises and fed by faith, sees victory before the battle has even begun.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for my imagination. Please help me to fuel it not with fear but with faith in You. Amen.

MORE: The gift of imagination
"Imagination is the greatest gift God has given us and it ought to be devoted entirely to Him. If you have been bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, it will be one of the greatest assets to faith when the time of trial comes, because your faith and the Spirit of God will work together" - Oswald Chambers, February 12th entry in My Utmost for His Highest.
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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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Thursday, November 16, 2017

When mothers arise

"Deborah" by Gustave Dore

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Judges 4:21-5:11

TO CHEW ON: "In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,
In the days of Jael,
The highways were deserted,
And the travelers walked along the byways,
Village life ceased, it ceased in Israel
Until I Deborah arose,
Arose a mother in Israel." Judges 5:6-7


A mother arising—I love that picture. I can identify with it, especially as it relates to mothers arising in defence of their children.

  • Sarah was such a mother when she asked Abraham to expel Hagar and Ishmael from their home to guarantee that Isaac would be Abraham's sole heir (Genesis 21:9-13).
  • Jochebed, Moses' mother, arose, albeit ever so secretly, to protect her infant son from Pharaoh's butchers (Exodus 2:1-3).
  • Hannah's arising in the form of pleading prayers caused God to open her womb and she became the mother of prophet Samuel (1 Samuel 1:9-17).
  • Bathsheba's arising took the form of a meeting with elderly King David to remind him of his promise to anoint Solomon as his successor, even as Solomon's brother Adonijah was organizing his own coronation (1 Kings 1:15-17).

But Deborahs's arising was on another level altogether. Her mother-heart embraced all the citizens of the nation as her children. The forsaken villages and deserted highways—emptied as people hid in fortifications for fear of Jabin and Sisera—outraged her. She, together with Barak and their army of 10,000 eventually routed Sisera and his iron chariots. He alone fled on foot to Jael's tent where she dealt the final blow (Judges 4:21).

As mothers we have tremendous influence. The proverb "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world" is no idle saying. And that influence isn't only through the impact of our kids. It comes in other ways too. Have you noticed, for example, how many women have arisen, often out of personal tragedy, to form organizations that bring good things out of bad:

Candace (Candy) Lightner started Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) after a drunk hit-and-run driver killed her 13-year-old daughter.

Betty Fox formed the Terry Fox Foundation (an organization that raises money for cancer research) after cancer took the life of her son Terry.

Wilma Derksen was instrumental in bringing Child Find to Manitoba and started Victim's Voice, an organization that supports victims of crime, after her 13-year-old daughter Candace was abducted and murdered. (She tells her story in Have You Seen Candace?)

As mothers let's harness the powerful nurturing force within us by rising up first within our families, and then by following God's leading into other ventures in our communities and nations.


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the example of Deborah's mother-heart for her nation. Help me to take my place with all the godly mothers who have arisen to make an impact in their homes, their communities, their nations, and the world. Amen.

MORE: Wilma's story

In the 2011 100 Huntley Street video "Wilma Derksen—A Victim's Voice," Wilma and Cliff Derksen talk with Magdalene John about the impact of Candace's death, how God helped her through this time of unthinkable tragedy, and the good things that have come out of it.



The man accused and sentenced for Candace's murder in 2011 has since been retried and in October of 2017 declared not guilty. Read the Derksen's reaction to this development in "It's over for us" - (National Post).

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Deborah - anointed leader

"Deborah" by Ferdinand Max Bredt

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Judges 4:1-16

TO CHEW ON: "And Barak said to her, 'If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!' Judges 4:8

We read here of a rare time when a woman led Israel. Deborah was the nation's judge. Her wisdom attracted the children of Israel to come to her for counsel and justice (Judges 4:5).

She was also a visionary who called for Barak to deploy troops and go to battle against Jabin.

Barak was willing to go. But he wanted Deborah to go with him. Was this a lack of faith or wise realism? Even my Bible's notes differ on what his reluctance to go without Deborah meant. The footnotes to Judges attribute this to a lack of faith. But I like the interpretation expressed in the sidebar article "A Woman Essential to Victory":

"Barak, a great man of faith (Hebrews 11:32) is a classic study in the wisdom of a man's acknowledgment of the potential power of a woman's contribution to a goal. Because of Deborah's godly and skillful leadership traits, Barak (as commander of Israel's armies) would not go into this battle without her, even when told that he would not get full honour for the victory (Judges 4:9). His priority was the welfare of the nation, and he knew that their combined efforts would ensure success as each brought their distinctive, God-given strengths to the challenge" - Jane Hansen, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 319.

Doesn't Barak's reaction help us recognize our own desire to be led by people—men or women—in whose lives God's presence and power is evident? Such anointed leaders are God's gifts to us as individuals and the church.


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the godly men and women who are the leaders in my life and my church. Help me to follow their lead and respect them as Your gift to me. May I be experience Your anointing as I lead in my small way. Amen.


MORE: Deborah in art

Canadian artist Donna Smallenberg uses art to depict inspiring Bible women and spiritual themes. Her painting of Deborah and the explanation of the painting give us even more appreciation for this Bible character. 

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Avoiding spiritual osteoporosis

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 24:45-25:13

TO CHEW ON: ‘Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his master made ruler over his household, to give them food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.’” Matthew 24:25

This passage has been a rhema word to me this morning. Let me explain.

Over the past few weeks I’ve toyed with the thought of ceasing to write these devotions. My idea has been to use the several hours of morning writing time for other projects. In fact, I’ve tried that out for a few weeks (frequently re-posting devotions here).

Yes, I’ve still had a short Bible reading and prayer time before the other writing. But the clock moves quickly and the start time for “work” comes all too soon. So these personal devotion times have felt unsatisfying.

Further, as I thought of no longer having a place to document what I’m learning (yes, I can record things in a my writing journal, but it’s not the same), I felt like I was about to demolish an important part of the structure of my daily life. (Reminds me of the verse “The wise woman builds her house, / But the foolish pulls it down with her hands” Proverbs 14:1.)

My decision to quit has been bugging me. In fact, before going to this Matthew passage this morning, I spilled some thoughts in my journal. As I did that, two verses came to mind:

"When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.

For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer" Psalm 32:3,4.

"Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not" Jeremiah 20:9. 

I noticed both had to do with deteriorating bones and wrote to myself: “I’m sensing a possible bone condition. Interesting thing about bones. They need exercise to stay strong. Perhaps God is saying to me—‘Violet, you can do this, stop writing these daily devos and posting them. But there will be consequences to you, just like if you stopped your daily physical walk. Do you want to get spiritual osteoporosis?  For your bones will weaken if you don’t feed and exercise them. This daily devo writing is a  good way to feed and exercise those bones and keep them from growing old.’”

And then I opened my Bible to work on the next devo and read Matthew 24:45. It’s not lost on me that the name I’ve chosen for this blog has to do with food.

When one reaches a certain age, one is expected to retire, at least in my culture. But God has made it clear to me this morning that the time to retire from writing these isn’t quite yet. I need to keep faithfully “so doing”—giving out this Other food in “due season.”

What about you? What is God telling you to be faithfully found “so doing”?


PRAYER: Dear Father, You are faithful in giving me the direction I need at the moment I need it. Help me to listen to Your voice above all others. so that I will be found doing the things You’ve tasked me with when You return, or call me home to You. Amen.

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Monday, November 13, 2017

A promise we can count on

lightning (Image from Pixabay.com)
Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 4:23-44

TO CHEW ON: ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.’” Matthew 4:35.

In our reading today, Jesus’ message seems mixed. On one hand, He says watch for these things (in Matthew 24:14-16, 29-30) for they are signs that the Son of Man is coming soon. On the other, don’t try to figure out the timing.

I like His example of the fig tree as a way to tell his coming is near:

'Now learn this parable from the fig tree. When its branch has already b'ecome tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near'” - Matthew 24:32.

My Bible’s study notes take the mystique out of the comparison:
“As the budding tree signifies the coming of summer, the signs described by Jesus will give warning of His coming” - J. Lyle Story, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1335. 
So we look at Jesus’ list of specifics and watch for them as we watch for signs of seasonal change in the trees. When we see them playing out, we know His coming is getting nearer, just like we know summer’s around the corner when trees bud in spring and the world turns green.

Over and over, though Jesus reminds His listeners (and us readers) that we won’t be able to tell the exact time, and not to be caught by surprise.  

His coming:
  • Will be as sudden as zigzags of lightning - Matthew 24:27.
  • As to its timing, will be a surprise to even the angels - Matthew 24:36.
  • Will come in the middle of life as usual - Matthew 24:38.
  • Will separate the prepared and unprepared in the middle of what they’re doing - Matthew 24:40,41.
  • Is to be on our list of things to watch for and expect - Matthew 24:42.
  • Will be as unwelcome a surprise to some as a thief breaking into their house - Matthew 24:44.

What if it were today? Am I ready and expectant? Are you?




PRAYER: Dear Jesus, this reading reminds me that I need to take the promise that You would return, seriously. Help me to live daily in this hope with this expectation. Amen.

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

The beginning of the end?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 24:1-22

TO CHEW ON:
" ' All these are the beginning of sorrows.' " Matthew 24:8

If you had never read today's passage and someone handed you its contents on a scrap of paper, would your impression would be (choose one):
a] This sounds entirely unfamiliar.
b] This sounds a lot like current conditions in the world.
c] This sounds like something that could never happen.

If you're like me, you chose b, because this sounds like the writings of someone in the room with me as I watch the nightly news or scan the latest headlines on the computer.

In early parts of this passage (Matthew 24:5-7) Jesus gives us a list of spookily familiar events that herald the near coming of His return to earth / the End:*
- The appearance of false and deceptive Christs.
- Wars and rumours of wars.
- Famines, pestilences and earthquakes.

But, Jesus says, these things are just the beginning of "sorrows." Some translations call them "birth pains" (NIV, NLT, NASB, ESV)—an interesting comparison suggesting earth-shaking events will become more frequent and intense as they near a climax. Could this be the time we're living in right now? If so, what do we have to look forward to? Jesus' answer:

" 'Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake' " - Matthew 24:9.

Who is the "you" Jesus refers to here? It was to His band of disciples He delivered this private message (Matthew 24:3). So we can, I think, conclude that His disciples of all eras are on notice. That's us. Jesus warns and advises (Matthew 24:10-14):

- We can expect offenses, betrayals, hatred, and death.
- We must be on guard against false prophets.
- We need to be aware of the potential for spiritual lawlessness and coldness.
- Our endurance will be challenged.
- While the above is happening there will also be a great spread of the Gospel to peoples of every nation.

Let's live alert in these perilous days!

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to remain watchful, to be unfazed if I am hated, and persecuted for being a Christ-follower, and to stay the course as I do my little bit in spreading the Gospel. Amen.

* "In His private teaching to the disciples on the Mount of Olives, Jesus responded to three questions, concerning 1] the destruction of the temple, 2] His Second Coming, 3] the End. These topics are interwoven and sometimes it is difficult to determine which event is being described. This difficulty is partially resolved with the realization that most prophecy is capable of both a near and remote fulfillment. Jesus uses the tragic events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.70 as a picture of conditions preceding His own return" - J. Lyle Story, Study notes on Matthew 24:1-51, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1334.


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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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