Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Shapeshifter enemy

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

TO CHEW ON: " ... for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light." 2 Corinthians 11:14

One of the main elements of winning a battle is knowing the enemy. Paul, in our reading today, draws our attention to two of our enemy Satan's characteristics.

  • Paul calls him crafty, in the way he deceived Eve (2 Corinthians 11:3, referring to Genesis 3:4,13).
[Craftiness - panourgia is "Versatile cleverness, astute knavery, sophisticated cunning, unscrupulous conduct, evil treachery, deceptive scheming, arrogant shrewdness, and sly arrogance. Used only five times in the N.T. it refers to: Satan's deceiving Eve (our passage); the Pharisees trying to trick Jesus (Luke 20:23); the deception of false teachers (Ephesians 4:14); the self-entrapment of the worldly-wise (1 Corinthians 3:19); and the improper method of presenting the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:2)" - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1584.]

  • He is also a transformer—a shapeshifter, able to appear as what he is not, i.e. an angel of light.

How can we know when a person who claims to represent Christ is actually a minion of crafty Satan, such as Paul accused the fake Corinthians apostles of being?

Wayne Grudem in his chapter on Satan in Systematic Theology says:

"...the Epistles indicate that demonic influence will lead to blatantly false doctrinal statements, such as exclaiming, 'Jesus be cursed' (1 Corinthians 12:3); or a refusal to confess 'that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh' (1 John 4:2-3). In both instances the context deals with the testing of people who may be 'false prophets' and who want to use spiritual gifts to speak in the assembly of the church (1 Corinthians 12) or specifically to prophesy (1 John 4:1-6)" Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p, 426.

How do we know what is a blatantly false doctrinal statement? How can we test it? I would submit that it is with what we have that is doctrinally true, i.e. God's word.

Again we see the importance of knowing God's word so that we are not tricked or lured away by deceitful 'angel of light' teachers or leaders.

PRAYER: Dear God, please alert me to Satan's crafty lies and deceptive transformations. Help me, by Your indwelling Holy Spirit, to recall and apply Your word when I am in doubt about a teaching or person.  Amen.

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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Monday, July 06, 2015

Demolish those strongolds

Castle fortress on a mountain
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 10:1-18

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.

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.

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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Sunday, July 05, 2015

Two harvest laws

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." 2 Corinthians 9:6

Two laws of the harvest come to mind as I ponder today's reading.

1. The first is the law of sowing and reaping. It is true in many areas.
Nature. Why are there always so many dandelions in the spring? Because dandelions sow bountifully. Each hoary head contains up to 400 (though the average is 180) little parachutes. When all the dandelions growing everywhere from fields to stingy cracks in the sidewalk release their quota, it's no wonder we are awash in yellow every May.

Work. The result of our work will be commensurate with our effort. If I send off many pieces of writing, the chances that I'll publish one or two are far better than if I just send off one or two.

Family and Friendship. We invest great amounts of love and training into our children in the hopes that we'll someday reap a mature, productive adult. When we are generous with love, caring, and helpfulness we will have far more friends than if we are self-centered.

Spiritually. If we are silent about our faith, we will harvest few disciples—though Jesus did talk about harvesting what we didn't sow (John 4:34-38).

2. Which brings us to a second harvest law. I'll call it the law of seasons
Sowing and reaping don't occur on successive days. There's a whole season between when you sow and when you reap. For dandelions it's a matter of weeks. For apple trees it's years. For the Monterey and Pond pines, it's the right conditions because the cones need the heat of a fire to burst them open and seed more trees.

There's a lesson for us in this too. We need faith and patience—faith that something is actually happening in all the places we've scattered the seed, and patience to keep tending our bountifully sown fields of work, family, friendship, and Christian service.

Wherever you and I are today, let's continue with lavish sowing, knowing that the time of harvest will come.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the principles of nature that help me understand spiritual life. Help me to be more lavish in spreading seed in every department of my life. Amen.

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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Saturday, July 04, 2015

But He's just a carpenter

Jesus in the Nazareth synagogue - Artist unknown
Jesus in the Nazareth synagogue - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 6:1-13

TO CHEW ON: " ' Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?' So they were offended at Him." Mark 6:3

That old saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt" is enacted here right before our eyes. At the synagogue in His home town the wisdom of Jesus' teaching and the miracles He performed astonished His old neighbors. But because they had seen him grow up, knew Him as an ordinary carpenter, and were acquainted with His family, they were "offended" at Him.

[Offended - scandalizo originally meant to put a literal snare or stumbling block in front of someone. The noun it relates to is a snare or bait stick. According to my Bible's Word Wealth author, "In the NT scandalizo is always used metaphorically of that which hinders right conduct or thought hence, 'to cause to stumble' " - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1309.]

Could the same attitude be true of us and our leaders? The pastor is the little kid we knew from our Sunday School class years ago. The evangelist went to school with our younger siblings. We made better marks than the author. How could they be anything special?

But when we think like this, we don't take into account the difference the presence of the Holy Spirit makes in a life. When He lives within, everything changes.

  • The Spirit of the Lord in Saul changed him into a new person - 1 Samuel 10:6.
  • This renewal comes by waiting on the Lord - Isaiah 40:31.
  • The Spirit renews minds enabling people to be in sync with God's will - Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23, 24.
  • This renewal is not dependent on the look or state of the physical body- 2 Corinthians 4:16.
  • The individual's choices influence this renewal. Paul tells Christ-followers to "put off" old ways of behaving and to "put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him" - Colossians 3:8-10.
  • But this renewal is still essentially the work of the Holy Spirit - Titus 3:5.

As we relate to our leaders and each other, let's not be similarly "offended" by what we know of someone's family tree, childhood, past, or occupation. Rather, let's recognize that the Spirit of God within opens up a whole new realm of wisdom, power, and ministry effectiveness.

PRAYER: Dear God, please open my eyes to see past ordinary exteriors to the Holy Spirit working in and through people, making their lives extraordinary. Amen. 

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, July 03, 2015

What to do about 'undignified' worship

Michal despises David - James Tissot
Michal despises David - James Tissot
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Samuel 6:1-23

TO CHEW ON: "Then David returned to bless his household. And Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet David and said, 'How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!'" 2 Samuel 6:20

How deflating to return home from a grand and successful day, feeling full of love and good will toward your household, only to be met by the sarcastic words of a disdainful wife.

What was Michal's problem?
  • Did she think David had actually debased himself before the people with his leaps and spins of celebratory worship?
  • Or perhaps she thought she needed to educate him in behavior seemly for a king, seeing she had grown up in a king's household?
  • Obviously she didn't understand the depth of his devotion to God—a devotion that didn't pay any attention to his own dignity.

David didn't accept the put-down. His response matched Michal's in heat when he said, "It was the Lord who chose me instead of your father..." (entire answer - 2 Samuel 6:21,22).

This story is a cautionary tale to those of us who would judge others for their style of worship. Michal's criticism reminds me of the way the scribes and Pharisees reacted to Mary who showed her love for Jesus by anointing His feet with expensive spikenard perfume and wiping them with her hair. Let's let Jesus' rebuke of them ring in our hearts and minds any time we're tempted to criticize (verbally or mentally) the way someone else is worshiping: "Let her (him) alone..." John 12:7.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me not to be held by the chains of "what will others think?" or "we've never done it that way." May I not shackle others with those things either. I would rather say with David, 'I will be even more undignified than this, and will be humble in my own sight." Amen.


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, July 02, 2015

Promotion in God's time

David crowned king in Hebron
David crowned king in Hebron
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Samuel 5:1-16

TO CHEW ON: "David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years." 2 Samuel 5:4

Though David was thirty when he was crowned king of Judah in Hebron and thirty-seven when he took Jerusalem and became king of all Israel (2 Samuel 5:5), his path to the throne began years earlier.

The story of Samuel anointing him king is in 1 Samuel 16. He is the eighth and youngest son of Jesse. The writer of 1 Samuel describes him as "….ruddy with bright eyes and good looking" (1 Samuel 16:12). But he doesn't tell us David's age at the time Samuel anoints him .

I think we can assume he wasn't full-grown because of the way he reacts to putting on Saul's armor in preparation for facing Goliath: "'I cannot walk with these …'" (1 Samuel 17:39). Let's suppose he is seventeen. That makes a 13-year gap between when he is anointed and when crowned king of Judah, and a 20-year gap before he is king over the whole nation.

The years in between aren't easy either. He spends several running and hiding from jealous Saul. Some of the psalms he may have written while he is on the run show how difficult this time is for him:
  • In Psalm 7 he expresses outrage at being wrongly accused and persecuted (Psalm 7:3-6).
  • In Psalm 27 he gives thanks to God for keeping him through a time when the wicked came "To eat up my flesh" (Psalm 27: 2), an army "may encamp against me" (Psalm 27:3); "the time of trouble" (Psalm 27:5); even a time "when my father and mother forsake me" (Psalm 27:10).
  • In Psalm 31 he describes "the net which they have secretly laid for me (Psalm 31:4). In that psalm he tells of feeing grieved and weak (Psalm 31:10), repulsive to neighbours and acquaintances (Psalm 31:11), forgotten (Psalm 31:12), slandered as they plot against him (Psalm 31:13).

But all through the years between his anointing and his becoming king he never forces the issue. In fact several times when Saul is in his hands, and with the full knowledge that he is God's anointed, David refuses to take the life of his pursuer:

* David to Saul after David spares his life the first time: "'But my hand shall not be against you'" (1 Samuel 24:12,13).
* David to Abishai, his general who is urging him to kill the sleeping Saul: "'…the Lord forbid that I should stretch out my hand against the Lord's anointed'" (1 Samuel 26:11).

What an example for us! For if God has put an anointing on our lives, a dream of usefulness or ministry in our hearts, He is the one who can bring it to pass. Even if the delay is long, let's wait for Him:

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up" - James 4:10.

"Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time" - 1 Peter 5:8.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this inspiring example of David, who waited for You to lift him up instead of doing it himself. Help me to follow His example. Amen. 


New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Put off...put on

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Colossians 3:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." Colossians 3:2

After we have accepted God's gift of salvation (here Paul calls it being "raised with Christ") we don't just float lazily on to heaven. In order to flesh out that new quality of life, there's determination and doing involved on our part.

Paul gives some pretty explicit instruction on that doing in our reading today. Its nature is wrapped in the verbs. To get at all their native goodness, I've looked them up in my favourite online lexicon. So here, via a simple word study are some instructions on how to live a successful Christian life according to Paul.

1. Seek (Colossians 3:1).
[seek = zeteo: To seek in order to find; to seek (in order to find out) by thinking, meditating, reasoning, to seek after, seek for, aim at, strive after.]
What are we to seek? Those things that are above.

2. Set your mind (Colossians 3:2)
[Set your mind = phroneo: to direct one's mind to a thing; to seek, to strive for.]
What are we to set our minds on? The things above, not on things on the earth.

3. Put to death (Colossians 3:5)
[Put to death = nekro 3499: to make dead, put to death, slay, to deprive of power, destroy the strength of]
I can relate especially to "deprive of power." How does one do that physically? One way is to stop feeding the thing.
What things are we to put to death, i.e. stop feeding? Fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, covetousness.

4. Put off (Colossians 3:8)
[Put off = apotithemi: To put off, or aside, or away]
What are we to put off? Anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, lying.

5. Put on (Colossians 3:10, 12)
[Put on = enduo: To sink into (clothing), put on, clothe oneself.]
What are we to put on? The "new man" (which is unhindered and uninfluenced by race or position), tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, forgiveness, love.

6. Let the peace of Christ rule (Colossians 3:15)
[rule = brabeuo: to be an umpire, to decide, determine, to direct, control, rule]
Where is Christ's peace to rule or be an umpire? In our hearts. I understand this to mean that we pay attention to the state of the heart. When we are uneasy or not peaceful about something, that is a sign that something may be spiritually wrong.

7. Let the word of Christ dwell (Colossians 3:16)
[Dwell = enoikeo: to dwell in, to dwell in one and influence him (for good).]
What are our hearts and minds to be full of? The word of Christ, living in us, in all wisdom, so we can teach, admonish one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and singing with grace in our hearts to the Lord.

Do you notice how much of this starts in the mind? It is our original and basic battleground.

PRAYER: Dear God, these instructions are plain — not hard to understand. But putting them into practice in my life is another thing altogether. Help me to live them today. Amen.

MORE: Canada Day

Today we celebrate Canada and her 148th birthday. There will be festivities in cities and towns around the country. If you are Canadian, however you celebrate, Happy Canada Day to you!

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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