Monday, December 31, 2018

Taking a break

Sunset over the marina at Summerside PEI (Photo © 2018 - V. Nesdoly)


We have come to the end of another year. In a few hours 2018 will be history. With the December 31, 2018 meditation I have completed nine years of posting a devotion every morning (not always newly written; sometimes reposted from a previous date).

Thanks for reading! To subscribers, thank you for inviting me into your email inbox daily. What an honour!

Writing these devotions has been a wonderful learning experience for me. I have challenged myself to dive deep into the Bible and get some message for myself that I hope has also resonated with you. I have learned so much. However, it is time for me to take a break.

I will not be carrying on writing these for the foreseeable future, though I will leave the blog up for anyone who wishes to read past articles. 

 I may, in the months ahead, gather some of these pieces into a devotional book. If I do that I’ll post details here, so stay subscribed if you would like to know about that.

For now, farewell. I wish you a Happy New Year and I pray God blesses you richly in 2019!

Image: Pixabay


Come!

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Revelation 21-22; Psalm 48
TO CHEW ON: "And the Spirit and the bride say 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely." Revelation 22:17

"Come over for coffee."
"Come shopping with us."
"Why don't you come for dinner?"

How sweet the word "come," that tells us we're included, we're invited, we're wanted! That word features prominently in this last chapter of Revelation - the last chapter of the Bible. But it also occurs in other places. Let's take a little trip through the Bible to see other places this one-word invitation was given.

"Come into the ark," God says to Noah, inviting him into a place of safety (Genesis 7:1).

"Come to the house of the Lord." Hezekiah's letter summons the tribes of Israel to a renewed Passover celebration. It is an invitation to revival (2 Chronicles 30:1).

"Come now and let us reason together," begins God's invitation to Israel in a call to receive cleansing (Isaiah 1:18).

"Come to the waters…come buy and eat. Yes come buy wine and milk…" is God's enticement to all who want lasting satisfaction (Isaiah 55:1).

"Come to Me," says Jesus to the weary and burdened, "and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).

"Come to the wedding," says the king in Jesus' story about the wedding feast. "Come for all things are now ready," is the summons in another one of Jesus' stories. They are invitations to the gospel feast (Matthew 22:4; Luke 14:17).

And then there's this invitation from Jesus in Revelation. It's from God the Spirit and His bride, the church. It's also from those who have already responded ("him who hears").

It is to anyone who is interested. There's nothing exclusive about this invite.

It's for the one who thirsts - who recognizes a need for water that is life-giving. It's an invitation to take an initial drink of that water and to live on that water.

What are your needs today? Whether for safety, revival, spiritual sustenance, or rest, God's invitation is always "Come."

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for this warm and wonderful invitation. Help me to take you up on it in all the circumstances of my life. And help me to extend it unceasingly to others. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 48

The Bible Project VIDEO: Heaven and Earth (Theme Series)



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

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Contemplate Jesus

Jesus on the white horse (Revelation 19:11) - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Revelation 19-20; Psalm 47

TO CHEW ON:
"Now I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God" - Revelation 19:11-13

What a wonderful opportunity we have to contemplate Jesus in these verses. Let's look at the various images and what they tell us about Him (using help from Earl Wesley Morey, the writer of my Bible's notes on Revelation, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1842):

"…a white horse…" - The white horse symbolizes victory. Jesus will be victorious!

"… called Faithful and True …" - That is the name of the One riding that horse, or one of His names. He is called that because His judgments are right. "His standards and methods are qualitatively different from those of the dragon and his allies." Isaiah gives a fuller description of what characterizes the judgement of this descendant of David: The Spirit of the Lord rests on Him, the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear of the Lord. He judges not according to appearances but with righteousness and faithfulness"(Isaiah 11:1-5).

" … He judges and makes war…"
- His final victory in war makes clear to earth-dwellers the victory of the Cross and Resurrection, long acknowledged by believers.

"His eyes were like a flame of fire"
- We think of what fire can do: illuminate, warm, purify, destroy. Our Bible commenter says of His flaming eyes: "(They) symbolize eternity, wisdom and omniscience" - Op. Cit., p. 1818.

"… on His head were many crowns" - "Many crowns represent unlimited diadems of sovereign authority (Revelation 11:15)" - As I'm writing this, the old hymn is playing in my head:

"Crown Him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne:
Hark! how the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own!
Awake my soul and sing of Him who died for Thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King through all eternity" - Matthew Bridges

"… He had a new name written that no one knew except Himself"
- "The fullness of Jesus is beyond human comprehension." (See also these references to our new name - Revelation 2:17; 3:12,13.)

"He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood" - Not the blood of battle, for the battle has not yet happened, but His atoning blood—the blood that fulfilled and was necessary as God's requirement as a sacrifice (Hebrews 9:22).

"His name is called the Word of God"
- Another name. We recall the many other times Jesus is called the Word as He reveals the character and purpose of God - John 1:1,14,18; 10:30; 14:9-10; 1 John 1:1.

What a picture of our victorious Saviour and King. The  last stanza of "Crown Him With Many Crowns" is  a fitting response as we offer Him our hearts' adoration and worship:

"Crown Him the Lord of heaven: One with the Father known,
One with the Spirit thru Him given from yonder glorious throne.
To Thee be endless praise, for Thou for us hast died;
Be Thou, O Lord, thru endless days adored and magnified."  

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, these verses paint a complex and awe-inspiring picture of You. I worship You for who You are and what You have done. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 47

MORE: Revelation 19 in Handel's Messiah

We readily recognize words from the Hallelujah Chorus taken from Revelation 19
"KING OF KINGS
AND LORD OF LORDS" - Revelation 19:6.

Here is the "Hallelujah Chorus" sung by the Tafelmusik Chorus and Orchestra.




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


Saturday, December 29, 2018

Be still; know God

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Revelation 17-18;  Psalm 46
 

TO CHEW ON:"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble...
Be still and know that I am God..."Psalm 46:1,10a



Someone from the Sons of Korah wrote Psalm 46 to encourage and give hope to people who were in trouble. By the things the psalmist mentions it seems the trouble was war with another nation. The writer begins with a declaration about who God is:

"God is our refuge  — shelter, protection, fortress, hope, place of trust — and our strength  — power, security — in trouble" 

He reminds the people about the security of the city (Psalm 46:4-5). It has an underground stream that provides water even if the city's main water supply is cut off by siege. (Though there is no actual river flowing through Jerusalem, "...it is believed by many that there is a subterranean water supply that is the source of various fountains and pools in Jerusalem" New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 723.) God's presence in her makes her unshakeable in case of battering. He will help her at sunrise, which is a likely time for the enemy to attack.

He says more about the identity of God (Psalm 46:7-9). He calls Him Yahweh Sabaoth — the Lord of Hosts. Remember the story of Elisha in a city besieged by  Syria's army? In the morning, Elisha's servant saw the army and was afraid. But Elisha drew his attention to another army — an army of heavenly hosts: "Do not fear for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" - 2 Kings 6:8-17.

He also calls God the "God of Jacob." This reminds them of their history with God when, in the past, He preserved their forefather Jacob and his descendants. 

In the light of all this, God Himself steps to the mic, telling the readers/listeners: "Be still and know that I am God."

The comment writer of my Bible suggests this is "God addressing the wicked warring nations." That may be so. But I think God is also addressing the worried, wailing people. He tells them to still the fearful voices around them and in their own heads, perhaps even to shush their own ideas and suggestions to God about how He could help them.

We may not be living in a city surrounded by an enemy army but our lives can feel just as attacked. Circumstances, demands of home, family and church, sickness, sandwich pressures (simultaneously looking after kids and parents), the clamor around us (internet, TV, radio, the constant demands of social networking via the phone, Facebook, Twitter) can make a mighty din, causing us stress, anxiety and fear.

At such times, let's use the encouragements of Psalm 46. We can:
  • Know our God — a shelter, strength, the Lord of Hosts.
  • Remember our history with God. ("He is the God of ___" [insert your name here]).
  • Drink from the river that flows within — get strength from the Bible and the Holy Spirit's application of what we read.
  • Be still — turn off the noise in our environment, refuse to listen to the chatter in our heads, even silence our own suggestions to God while we wait for His solutions (Exodus 14:13-14).

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to take advantage of what is available in You when I'm feeling stressed, anxious, surrounded by demands, or trouble. Help me to be still and wait for You to work.  Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 46

************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, December 28, 2018

Your works - they're following you!

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Revelation 14-16; Psalm 45

TO CHEW ON: "Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, 'Write: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."' '"Yes," says the Spirit, "that they may rest from their labours and their works follow them."'" Revelation 14:13

In the midst of the mayhem and chaos of Revelation 14, the thunderous voices and the smoke of everlasting torment comes the reassuring benediction of our focus verse to those who "die in the Lord."

Though death is something we all try to avoid, here the heavenly voice tells John to call them "Blessed."
["The word "blessed"  comes from the root "mak" meaning large or of long duration. "It suggests happy, supremely blessed, a condition in which congratulations are in order. It is a grace word that expresses the special joys and satisfaction granted the person who experiences salvation" "Word Wealth," New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1296.]

These dead are blessed for more than just the reason the cynical author of Ecclesiastes gives — because oppressions of life are finally over. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 lays out in detail why death for the believer is so hope filled. It's because Christ conquered death. Since He rose from the dead, we too can looking forward to resurrection — a life that goes on into eternity (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).

In Revelation 14, the Spirit refers to death as "rest." The time for working is done. But the effects of that work go on.

There are some interesting examples of after-death influence in the Bible:

1. On her death, Dorcas's friends mourn and show Peter her very tangible "work" — the tunics and garments she made (Acts 9:39).

2. Jesus predicted that the act of the woman who poured oil on His head would be retold wherever the gospel was preached (Matthew 26:6-13).

3. Perhaps one of the most curious examples is of  after-death influence is the story Elisha's. When a dead man was hurriedly buried in his tomb (the rush because of approaching raiders) on touching Elisha's bones, the man sprang to life (2 Kings 13:21).

4. However, it is clear that our works will follow each one of us to a final day where their quality will be revealed:
"...for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is..." 1 Corinthians 3:13.

What a challenge to consider carefully how we live, what we live for, and the eternal reverberation potential of the common things on which we spend our time each day!

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to live mindful of how significant are the everyday choices I make. Help me to not to waste time or fritter away opportunities to do lasting work, work that will follow me, in any case, into eternity. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 45

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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.


Thursday, December 27, 2018

The Christmas story with prequel and sequel

The woman and the Dragon - Rev. 12 (Artist unknown)
The woman and the Dragon - Rev. 12 (Artist unknown)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Revelation 12-13; Psalm 44

TO CHEW ON: "She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her child was caught up to God and His throne." Revelation 12:5


After our Christmas focus during this month, do you recognize the Christmas story in today's reading? John skips telling the story of the Nativity in his gospel, but he gives his version of it here in Revelation. As we read, we see that he puts the events of Jesus' birth into a far larger story.

It's a story told here in apocalyptic literature style using lots of symbols. But they're not hard to unlock. Even common readers like us can get their meanings.
  • The woman (Revelation 12:1 and on) is Israel ("garland of twelve stars" = the twelve tribes of Israel).
  • The child to which she gives birth is Jesus.
  • The fiery red dragon is Satan.
  • Revelation 12:7-9 is a flashback scene (the prequel) of Satan being cast out of heaven to earth. (Remember Jesus' words: "'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven'" Luke 10:18?)
  • Satan's current battle is with Israel and her offspring (Christians) - Revelation 12:7.

This view of history explains so much. It helps us understand:


  • The persistent persecution of the Jews and their survival (Revelation 12:13-16). 
  • The force behind all the evil on earth—the bloodshed, hatred, natural disasters, sickness, interpersonal conflict in wars and terrorism etc. Our world is in its desperate state because it's under the influence of Satan "… who deceives the whole world; he was cast to earth and his angels were cast out with him. … For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath because he knows that he has a short time" - Revelation 12:9,12 (emphasis added).
  • Where we fit in. This story isn't finished. We are right now part of the sequel of the Christmas installment, involved in the thick of the battle of the last verse: "And the dragon was enraged with the woman and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" - Revelation 12:17 (emphasis added).

However, victory over this red, angry, teeth-gnashing, tail-lashing dragon is possible. How?
"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" - Revelation 12:10 (emphasis added).

Our weapons are the blood of Jesus painted on the doorposts of our hearts that keeps out the death angel and the word—God's plan in history and our own involvement in it ("the word of their testimony" in both the Bible and our lives). When we find ourselves in the thick of any battle, let's not forget what our weapons are and not cease to use them.

 

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for giving us this behind-the-scenes glimpse of history. Help me to keep this big picture in mind and my weapons in hand when I'm in the thick of battle. 


PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 44

The Bible Project VIDEO: Revelation - Part 2 of the 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.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Jesus reigns

"The Two Witnesses"
Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, 
Pitts Theology Library, Candler School of Theology, 
Emory University

The Two Witnesses - Revelation 11:12-13
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Revelation 10-11; Psalm 43

TO CHEW ON: "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'" Revelation 11:15
 

In the midst of all the surrealistic happenings of today's reading—John told by an angel to measure the temple (Revelation 11:1,2); two men, witnesses, wearing strange clothing wreaking havoc with fire-breathing mouths and plague-producing powers that remind us of Elijah and Moses (Revelation 11:3-6); the witnesses killed and the whole world seeing and rejoicing (Revelation 11:7-10 —trending on Twitter for sure); a great earthquake destroying a tenth of Jerusalem (Revelation 11:13-14)—we hear an angel shouting a familiar message: "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" (Revelation 11:15).

We've heard this or similar before:
  • "He shall have dominion from sea to sea" - Psalm 72:8 and Zechariah 9:10.
  • "For unto us a child is born …. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end…" - Isaiah 9:6-7.
  • "His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. And His dominion from generation to generation" - Daniel 4:3.
  • The devil's offer to Jesus: "…all the kingdoms of the world and their glory ….' will I give you if You fall down and worship me'" spurned - Matthew 4:8-10.
Because Jesus had the authority that came from His Father:
  • " Even the winds and sea obey Him" - Matthew 8:27.
  • "'… with authority He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey Him'" Mark 1:27.
  • "The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand" - John 3:35.
  • "Who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him" - 1 Peter 3:22.

There may be much about coming events as predicted in Revelation that we don't understand. But one thing is clear, not only from Revelation but all of the Bible: Jesus wins and will be the ultimate ruler of the kingdoms of earth and heaven! Let's take heart as we live with that fact in mind today.

PRAYER:
Dear God, thank You for the theme of Your victorious kingdom that threads through the Bible. Help me to live by faith in the fact of Your ultimate victory. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 43

MORE: Hallelujah - Handel's Messiah

Words from today's reading are part of Handel's magnificent Hallelujah Chorus:

Revelation 11:15 15. . . the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever.

Here is a flashmob rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus, performed in 2011 by the Cowtown Opera Company, Calgary, Alberta Canada



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


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Pondering God's promises

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 2:19-33

TO CHEW ON: "But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19

From the day the angel came to Mary with the almost incomprehensible message, "The Lord is with you; blessed are you among women .... You shall bring forth a Son .... and of His kingdom there will be no end," her life was changed (Luke 1:28-33).

When she went to visit her relative Elizabeth, she was greeted with more unusual words: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb" - Luke 1:42.

The strangenesses continue when shepherds find the new parents in their cowshed accommodation and tell them that an angel has announced their baby's birth, identified Him by His manger bed and swaddling clothes, and proclaimed Him "A Savior who is Christ the Lord."


Mary's response: "She kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." And at least three more times in Luke we find Mary puzzled and pondering things that are playing out in the life of her child Jesus - Luke 2:33,50,51.

Though our experience will never mirror Mary's we too may have promises and dreams that set us pondering. They may be dreams God has put in our hearts for our own futures. They may be things people have spoken over us. They may be the destiny we see for our kids. They may be the role we envision our church will play in the community, or our country will have on the world stage.

Joyce Meyer had such a dream. Early in her Christian life she caught a vision of a ministry she believed God had for her. In her book Battlefield of the Mind, she describes how that vision was challenged. But claiming Romans 8:26 for the things she did not understand, she confronted naysaying thoughts with a determination to believe, not doubt, God's promises. She says:
"As Christians, we need to learn to decide to believe. God often gives us faith (a product of the Spirit) for things our minds just can't always seem to come into agreement with. The mind wants to understand everything—the why, the when, and the how of it all...


I had decided long before to believe what the Word says, and to believe the rhema (the revealed Word) that God gave me (the things He spoke to me or the promises He gave me personally), even if I didn't understand why, when, or how it would come to pass in my life" - Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, p. 51.
As we ponder the promises God has given us, let us too study them in the light of faith. Mary obviously did. Why else would she have told the servants, troubled at running out of wine during the wedding in Cana, "Whatever He (Jesus) says to you, do it" (John 2:5)?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to ponder Your promises to me with faith, knowing that You can do "exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20). Amen.

MORE: Mary, Did you Know? - Gaither Vocal Band



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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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