Thursday, November 15, 2018

Revealing speech

Image: Pixabay.com
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 3-4; Psalm 9

TO CHEW ON: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Paul sets out a high standard for how a Christian should act in everyday life in Ephesians 4. In verse 29 he talks particularly about speech. There are three parts to his advice:

1. What speech should not be: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth…”

[
“Corrupt” (sapros) means rotten, putrefied, of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless.]

The Amplified Bible spells out quite clearly what such corrupt speech sounds like: “Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word, nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth…” - Ephesians 4:29 AMP.

This says to me that certain words, some humor, and certainly unkindness and viciousness toward others (gossip, slander) are inappropriate.

2. What speech should be:
“…good for necessary edification…”

“… but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others as is fitting to the need and the occasion…” (AMP).

This says to me that helpful speech comes out of knowing the need of the person you’re talking to, out of empathy, and out of an awareness of the spiritual dimension of the situation. Good speech builds up rather than discourages.

3. What speech should accomplish: “… impart grace to the hearers.”  
“… that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it” AMP.

[“Grace” (charis) is that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, grace of speech, good will, loving-kindness, favor.]

Of course behind all speech is the mind/heart of the speaker. Jesus’ words (“‘…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’” - Luke 6:45) remind us that at its root, speech is a heart issue.

If we’re finding the above speech standards difficult or impossible to uphold, maybe our energy would be best spent looking at and dealing with what’s in our hearts.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help me to see speech problems as symptoms of a heart that needs Your touch. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 9

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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.

Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible,
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Passing through foreign territory

Image: Pixabay
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ephesians 1-2; Psalm 8

TO CHEW ON:
"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." Ephesians 2:1,2

Do you sometimes feel like the society in which you live is against many of the things you value? Marriage and the family are under attack. Public education removes any reference to God. The people most honored, admired, and influential are the beautiful, wealthy, and entertaining who charm and excite through movies, music and sports.

Feeling like we're misfits, traveling through a foreign land shouldn't surprise us. One of the reasons why is found in Ephesians 2:2 where Paul talks about a character, "the prince of the power of the air," who directs these things. The writer of my Bible's study notes describes his influence:
"The mood and manner of society is shaped by the prince of the power of the air, a title for Satan as he exercises influence globally and within each culture" Jack W. Hayford,  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1646.

We see Satan referred to as a princely ruler in other places:

  • He tempted Jesus on the basis of this position: "'And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish'" - Luke 4:5,6.
  • Jesus predicted, and God the Father agreed, that Jesus' death would "'cast out'" the "'ruler of the world'" as He (Jesus) would " '…draw all peoples to Myself'" John 12:28-32.
  • Satan and his system had no claim to or presence in Jesus - John 14:30.
  • Jesus, before He died, told the disciples of the Holy Spirit who would come to them after He left. One of the Holy Spirit's functions would be (and is) to "…convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment …. of judgment because the ruler of this world will be judged.'" John 16:11. In other worlds, through the Holy Spirit we understand that God will someday judge this world's ruler and the system he oversees.
  • Satan has power over the minds of those locked in his system - 2 Corinthians 4:3,4.
  • And in our passage—Ephesians 2:2—Paul describes those in the clutches of this prince as "dead in trespasses and sins."

So maybe we should view our discomfort within our society and our sense of living at enmity with it as a good thing. When we feel like "strangers and pilgrims" it's a sign that we are really citizens of a different tribe, traveling through this earth system to a "homeland" and "heavenly country" - Hebrews 11:13-16.


PRAYER:
Dear Father, help me to know how to conduct myself while I'm in this world system controlled by the "prince of the power of the air." Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 8

The Bible Project VIDEO: Ephesians (Read Scripture Series)



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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 13, 2018

The force in us

Image: Pixabay.com
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 5-6; Psalm 7

TO CHEW ON: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." Galatians 5:6

Paul states his position about the need for circumcision. He says it doesn't "avail" anything.

Different Bible translations use different words for "avail": "… neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything" (AMP); "… means anything" (NASB); "… has any value" (NIV);  "…amounts to anything" (MSG); "… there is no benefit" (NLT).

[Ischyo is the Greek word translated "avail."  It means to be strong in body, robust, in sound health; to have power, be a force, avail, be serviceable, able.]

What does avail? It's "… faith working through love." That sounds wonderful and simple, though also somewhat ethereal. What does "faith working through love" look like in real life? Other places in the Bible help fill in the picture.

  • This love is a fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22.
  • It grows in us as we make a home for Christ in our hearts and He reveals to us the extent of His love for us - Ephesians 3:17-19.
  • It is demonstrated through the body-like workings of the church - Ephesians 4:16.
  • As individuals "faith working through love" looks like:
    • Obedience: "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfect in him. But this we know that we are in Him" - 1 John 2:5.
    • Love for our brothers and sisters: "He who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him" - 1 John 2:10.
    • Avoiding the things that are against what the Father stands for: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" - 1 John 2:15. "World" is defined in the next verse as the "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life" - 1 John 2:16.
The Message translation of this passage is so clear: "Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father" - 1 John 2:15,16 MSG (emphasis added). (See also 1Timothy 6:9-11.)

Wow! We might concur with the sentiments the Galatians may have had when they understand the extent of what "faith working through love" meant—Circumcision was a lot easier! But thank God they weren't left to do achieve this by themselves and neither are we. For it's all Jesus working both the faith and the love in us and through us by the Holy Spirit.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I need this force of faith working through love strengthened in my life. Thank You for living in my heart through Your Spirit and broadening my practical understanding of that what truly avails (counts, means something, has value, amounts to something, benefits). Amen. 

PSALM  TO PRAY: Psalm 7

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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.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scriptures marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.



Monday, November 12, 2018

An effective ransom

Charles Lindbergh Kidnapping poster
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 3-4; Psalm 6

TO CHEW ON:
"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." Galatians 4:4,5

Kidnapping is a crime that strikes fear into a parent's heart. Though the demands for ransom that sometimes accompany kidnappings give a glimmer of hope, the stories of abduction victims never redeemed but found dead even after ransom was paid, are chilling (10 Unsolved Ransom Kidnappings).

God is a parent whose human children were, in a sense, abducted—kidnapped by Satan. As such they (we) were in bondage, not tied up in the trunk of a car or hidden in an out-building, but prisoners to Satan and his workings in circumstances and through our enemies, captive to our default setting of sin, to our inability to keep God's law, to the curse of sin on creation, and to death.

But, praise the Lord, our kidnapping has a happy ending. The ransom paid—Jesus' death on the cross—was effective. Because of it we are or can be redeemed from:
  • circumstances - Psalm 34:19-22.
  • enemies - Psalm 69:18.
  • the bondage and guilt of sin - Psalm 130:7,8.
  • the need to keep the law - Galatians 4:5.
  • And we look forward to a time when this ransom will effect the release of nature from the curse of sin (Romans 8:19-23), including death (Psalm 103:2-4).

Do we appreciate God's ransom—His Son Jesus become human for us, dying for us? Have we applied it personally to our own lives? Do we live by faith, as freed sons and daughters of the Father who has redeemed us?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for sending Jesus who laid down His life as a ransom for me. I no longer belong to Satan but to You. When I forget this, please remind me by Your Spirit that I am Your daughter—that You are my "Abba" - Daddy. Amen.
 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 6


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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 11, 2018

Taking a principled stand

Peter and Paul by El Greco
"Peter and Paul" by El Greco
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 1-2; Psalm 5

TO CHEW ON: "And I went up by revelation and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles." Galatians 2:2

In Galatians 1, Paul told the Galatians (a collection of churches in Galatia) that he had special revelation from Jesus (Galatians 1:12). In chapter 2 he goes on to explain how, after fourteen years of ministry, he went to see the leadership in Jerusalem to explain his position.

What was his position? That Christ's work on the cross alone was sufficient for salvation. The law-keeping work of circumcision was not needed to be saved (Galatians 5:1-6).

But in Jerusalem he got push-back.  Some "false brothers" insisted Titus (a Greek) be circumcised. He and Titus resisted this (Galatians 2:3-5).

The Jerusalem leadership did eventually accept his message and ministry to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7-9), but not without reluctance from Peter, who had started avoiding fellowship with Gentile Christians. Paul pointed out the hypocrisy of this. Peter had earlier championed freedom from dietary laws so why was he now reverting back to separating himself in a "holier-than-thou" way (Galatians 2:11-14)?

What I admire about Paul here is his principled stand and how he stuck with it no matter what others said. He wasn't swayed by "false brethren." Nor did he change his message for "those who were of reputation"—the church leadership.

There's a lot of pressure on Christian leaders to change message of Christianity these days. That pressure is coming form outside the church and within it, to soften official positions especially in the realm of sexual ethics.

Though the Bible takes a clear position on things like adultery, fornication, homosexuality and gender identity, pressure is exerted from all sides (within and without the church) for churches to move from biblical positions of calling these things sin to accepting them as normal. Will our pastors and leaders have the courage to continue to uphold what the Bible says, even when it's unpopular? What about us in the pews?

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to live first and foremost for Your approval. Help me especially to not be swayed by social pressure. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY:  Psalm 5

The Bible Project VIDEO: Galatians (Read Scripture Series)



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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.


Saturday, November 10, 2018

When weak is strong

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 11-13; Psalm 4

TO CHEW ON: "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10

Overshadowed as 2 Corinthians 12:10 is by grand verse 9, I've never before today noticed the list of things Paul takes pleasure in:

Infirmities [Astheneia. In English infirmity means the state or quality of being infirm: debility, weakness, a physical or mental defect or weakness.]

Reproaches [Hubris. "It means hurt, loss, injury arising from violence, damage caused by the elements, hardship, detriment, trouble, danger... In 2 Corinthians 12:10 hubris denotes insolence, impudence, a haughty attitude, insult, injury, outrage, persecution and affront. ... it is adversarial" - Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1540.]

Needs [Anagke - calamity, distress, straits. Several other translations render this hardships.]

Persecutions [Diogmos. The dictionary definition of persecute is to harass with cruel or oppressive treatment. To maltreat or oppress because of race, religion or beliefs, to annoy or harass persistently.]

Distresses [Stenochoria - narrowness of place, a narrow place (metaphorically). The Amplified translates this perplexities and distresses, the ESV calamities.]

Is there a negative condition we could encounter that we don't find here? And Paul says he "takes pleasure" in them because Christ comes through for him and in him via that weakness. The turnaround is not because of him but because of who indwells him: "My grace is sufficient for you for My strength is made perfect in weakness." That, for Paul, is a reason to welcome infirmities, reproaches, needs, distresses, persecutions and difficulties—so that he needs and depends on the power of Christ to flow through his needy self .

I ask myself, what item on Paul's list do I identify with today? What about you? Are we sick, beleaguered by the reproaches of nature or people, needy, persecuted, perplexed, distressed, in a tight spot?

Instead of viewing this as a negative thing, we can begin with Paul to thank God for our bad, challenging, overwhelming thing. We can invite Him into the circumstance or event for the first time, or again, with a more helpless, dependent attitude. Then we can watch Him turn our weakness into strength as He changes our attitude, gives us the ability and patience to cope while we wait for Him to bring about a change, or provides us a download of  wisdom to know how to improve or change things. 

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You that Your grace (undeserved favour and blessing) is enough for any and every bad thing that could come my way. Help me to be like Paul—glad in negative circumstances, welcoming them as opportunities for Your abilities and resources to shine through my inability and disability. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 4

MORE: I Need Thee Every Hour - Fernando Ortega




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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 09, 2018

Demolish those strongolds

Castle fortress on a mountain
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 9-10; Psalm 3

TO CHEW ON: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:4,5


Joyce Meyer, in her book Battlefield of the Mind says: "The mind is the leader or forerunner of all actions .... Our actions are a direct result of our thoughts" - Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, p. 3.

What  a key scripture 2 Corinthians 10:4,5 has become in my life as I seek to think rightly.

'Strongholds' seemed like an old-fashioned word, though, and I wondered how different Bible translations rendered it. Surprise! in four that I consulted (Amplifed, NLT, NIV, and ESV)  the word strongholds was used. So I looked up stronghold.

[The dictionary says it is "a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack, also a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld."]

My Bible has a wonderful article which gives an anatomy of the mental strongholds Paul talks about here:


"Strongholds are first established in the mind; that is why we are to take every thought captive.

Behind a stronghold is also a lie—a place of personal bondage where God's Word has been subjugated to any unscriptural idea or personally confusing belief that is held to be true.

Behind every lie is a fear and behind every fear is an idol.

Idols are established wherever there exists a failure to trust in the provisions of God that are ours through Jesus Christ.

Some of the weapons that pull down these strongholds are:
  • God's Word (Hebrews 4:12-13).
  • The blood of the Cross (Revelation 12:11).
  • The name of Jesus (Mark 16:7).

Strongholds are pulled down and confronted bondage is broken as these spiritual weapons of our warfare are employed (see Ephesians 6:13-18)" - Christopher Hayward, "Pulling Down Strongholds," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1621,2 (formatting added).
You will recall that Ephesians 6:13-18 is the Armour of God passage where the weapons named are truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to recognize the strongholds in my life and to identify the lies, fears, and idols behind them. Help me to use Your weapons to tear these strongholds down. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 3

MORE: We need to know the Word
"Second Corinthians 10:4,5 clearly indicates that we must know the Word of God well enough to be able to compare what is in our mind with what is in the mind of God; any thought that attempts to exalt itself above the Word of God we are to cast down and bring into captivity to Jesus Christ" - Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, p. 4.

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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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