Monday, May 31, 2010

Prophetic echoes

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 1:39-56

TO CHEW ON: "And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.'" Luke 1:46-47

Today is the celebration of the Feast of the Visitation -- commemorating the visit the newly pregnant Mary paid to her elderly cousin Elizabeth, who was herself miraculously with child.

At the sound of Mary's voice on arrival, Elizabeth reported that her baby "leaped in the womb" -- a sign to her that someone very special had just arrived. Elizabeth's greeting was a prophecy which began with a quote from another prophetic song. "Blessed are you among women," is what prophet and judge Deborah sang about Jael -- the woman who craftily killed Israel's enemy Sisera.

Mary answered with her own prophetic "song" (1:46-55) which roughly echoes Hannah's song (1 Samuel 2:1-10).

Three months later when John the Baptist was born, his father Zacharias broke his silence with his own prophetic outburst (Luke 1:67-79). It too is full of Old Testament references. “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, from verse 68 recalls "‘Blessed be the LORD God of Israel" from 1 Kings 1:48  and "He has visited His people (same verse) the words " “I have surely visited you " from Exodus 3:16 . The words  "And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David" (verse 69) reflects the thinking of Psalm 132:17. And there are more.

Still later after the birth of Jesus, old Simeon came to Joseph, Mary and the baby in the temple during Jesus' presentation and blessed the child with another prophetic message (Luke 2:29-32). His blessing also contains allusions to Old Testament scripture (for example his words: "For my eyes have seen Your salvation" vs. 30 remind us of  "And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God from Isaiah 52:10).

An endnote in my Bible says, "Note… how the new era is signaled by the renewal of the gift of prophecy, which has been dormant. The various prophecies and songs of these two chapters reflect the best of Old Testament piety and prophecy." New Spirit Filled Life Bible p. 1386

What impresses me about these prophecies is how loaded they are with scripture. The speakers, from teenaged Mary to elderly Simeon, had obviously saturated themselves with the psalms and prophets. Which brings me to ask myself -- how familiar am I with scripture? Do I know it well enough for the Holy Spirit to bring it to mind during prayer or in a time when I need to encourage myself or others (in prophecy)?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to intentionally fill my mind with the stuff of Your word. Amen.

MORE: Scripture Memorization
  • What scriptures do you know "cold"? For me this would include verses like John 3:16; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23, Isaiah 53:6, Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 23; the Lord's Prayer.
  • What scriptures would you like to know?
  • Do a scripture memory project:
1. List the scripture verses or passages you'd like to know.
2. Choose one and write the words of that verse or passage on a file card.
3. Spend 10 minutes a day (use a kitchen timer) memorizing them.
4. Over time, commit all your favourite passages to memory this way.

What methods of memorizing Bible passages have you found useful?

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

The mysterious work of 'conviction'

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 16:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment." John 16:8

"The work of God is hidden and silent; what we do is something distinct and tangible. Conversion and faith, prayer and obedience are conscious acts of which we can give a clear account; while the spiritual quickening and strengthening that comes from above are secret and beyond the reach of human sight." Andrew Murray - Abide In Christ

I never tire of listening to the story of my husband's conversion.

He was working in Toronto for a trust company at the time and loved two things: his work and his time off. He spent the latter with friends at the bar.

Though he had grown up in a Christian home and gone to church as long as his parents could force him to, he had long since left all that behind. However, they continued to send him stuff like new translations of the Bible and Christian books. And they continued to pray even though it didn't look as if their prodigal was any closer to coming to the Lord than he had been for years. Things were happening though, and on various fronts.

It was during this time that Anita Bryant  came to Toronto. Her presence at People's Church led to demonstrations against her and the brouhaha gave my husband pause as he realized he was on the side of the controversial speaker, even though he didn't know why.

His bar life began to satisfy him less and less. He watched as his married friends spent their evenings drinking with the guys and wondered why they weren't at home with their wives and families. He realized that if he married, he wanted his wife to be someone with whom he could build a lasting relationship, preferably a Christian. But what Christian woman would want to marry him?

He started watching Christian programs on TV. In fact, before stumbling into bed after coming home liquored up late Saturday night/early Sunday morning, he'd set his alarm to wake him in time to watch People's Church.

Finally one holiday he decided that instead of going to Montreal, he'd stay home (where he had a pool and bar buddies) and read one of the books his dad had recently sent him. It was while reading that book (Born Again by Chuck Colson) that he took the final step and surrendered his life to Jesus.

His story bears out the truth of Jesus' words about the work of the Holy Spirit. While his parents and others prayed, the Holy Spirit was busy convicting him and drawing him, though, as Andrew Murray points out, it was a hidden work.

Are you praying for a loved one but getting discouraged because you see no evident change, no progress toward God? Stay the course. The Holy Spirit is still in the business of convicting. Though that process is often hidden with no exterior signs that much is going on, in the fullness of time it will come out.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the convicting work of Holy Spirit. Help me to trust that You are working in the spiritual lives of people I'm praying for even when I don't see outward evidence. Amen.


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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tribulation: the back door to HOPE

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 5:1-11

TO CHEW ON: "…but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character, and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:3-5

Tribulation. Even the word is enough to make me squirmy. I've read enough tribulation stories to know I don't want it and wouldn't voluntarily choose it even to gain the noble qualities of perseverance and character.

And yet, if we think of it, tribulation (a condition of affliction and distress, suffering, also that which causes it) comes to us all. Just last night I got word of the death of a cousin, only four years older than I am, who finally succumbed to cancer. This after literally years of treatments, fighting to live through the ravages of chemo, discomfort, pain. No, it may not be exactly the kind of tribulation Paul is talking about here, but it's tribulation nonetheless. As we grow older we see ever more clearly that tribulation of one kind or another is either upon us or surely just around the corner.

Whatever the source of our tribulation, we can resist the natural tendency to sink into despair because, as Paul reminds us here, we have hope: "A confident expectation in things beyond this world" (definition of "Hope" from my Thompson Chain Bible).

Hope's source is the Scripture. It is the lasting quality or feeling  that helps us believe the promises of God even when we don't yet see them coming true. It is so real that it impacts the way we live life here and now. Its presence in our lives even makes us an inspiration and encouragement to others.

I must say, after reviewing all that, I'm feeling better every minute about tribulation!

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You that You work difficult things into the fabric of my life for good. Help me to turn the lessons of tribulation into perseverance and character because of the HOPE (confident expectation in things beyond this world) that You (Holy Spirit) plant and grow in my heart. Amen.

MORE:

"Take the Shackles Off My Feet So I Can Dance" ('hood version)




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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Creative Son

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 8:20-36

TO CHEW ON: "Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman
And I was daily His delight
rejoicing always before Him
Rejoicing in His inhabited world
And my delight was with the sons of men." Proverbs 8:30-31

If you need proof of the wisdom necessary for the creation of planet Earth, you need only look at a few of the details. While other planets have atmospheres that range from non-existent on Mercury (with temperatures of 660 F. by day, -274 F by night) to Neptune with its methane-rich atmosphere that is liquid, then becomes metallic toward the center (with an average temperature of -369 F), earth's atmosphere is just right for life:

"The atmosphere is an envelope of air kept near the Earth by gravity. It absorbs energy from the Sun, recycles water and other chemicals, and works with electrical and magnetic forces to provide a moderate climate and so supports life on Earth. It also shields us from the high-energy radiation and the vacuum of space."  

Facts At Your Fingertips - Readers Digest Books, 2003, p. 46.

The ingredients of that atmosphere combined with Earth's distance from the sun, the angle of its axis and speed of rotation all work together to maintain these life-friendly conditions. If just one of these variables changed, life on our planet would be threatened. (Which is why those who hold to the theory of human-caused global warming are so adamant that no price is too high to pay to reverse what they fear human activity is doing.)

Proverbs 8: 22-31, where Wisdom speaks of her part in creation, changes in tone at verse 30. Suddenly it's as if someone human has grabbed the mike. The speaker describes Her/Himself as a "Craftsman…I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him…and my delight was with the sons of men."

Do your thoughts go, as mine do, to Jesus and how He is described in John 1?

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. John 1:1-3, 10-11

Other Bible passages also describe Jesus as Creator: 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:1-2.

Put it all together. Here we have ultimate, eternal Wisdom, who created the earth and all the intricacies of life on it, come to earth, offering Himself for us, so we can be reconciled to God. Then He defeats death and after He ascends to heaven, gives His followers the indwelling presence of His very Spirit. What wealth of creativity and wisdom is available to us!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I worship You for Your creative wisdom. Help me to demonstrate that worship by entrusting my life to You for Your purposes. Amen.

MORE: Mark Raborn's spec fiction Journal of the Angelic, Odyssey of the Divine is an interesting read for anyone up for an imaginative delve into the time before time. Here are the first paragraphs my review:

“Karmus…Karmus…
Hearing my name is my earliest memory, and my clearest...Like a whisper awakening me from a long, deep slumber, the call seemed ghostly, perhaps dreamlike, though I could see nothing.

These earliest memories introduce us to Karmus, the last created angel, as he becomes conscious. He is our guide through events that take us, in Mark Raborn’s speculative fiction Journal of the Angelic, Odyssey of the Divine, from eternity past — when the angels were one glorious and united community — through the rebellion of Lucifer and a great heavenly war, to the heartbreak of a divided heaven, and the saga of earth and humanity.
Read the rest of the review here.




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Monday, May 24, 2010

wisdom (wiz' dɘm) n.

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 8:1-19

TO CHEW ON: "Receive my instruction, and not silver,
And knowledge rather than choice gold;
For wisdom is better than rubies,
And all the things one may desire
cannot be compared with her." Proverbs 8:10-11

The story of young King Solomon asking for wisdom above everything else has always intrigued me. How did he know to ask for something so wise? Which prompts me to ask, what exactly is wisdom? How do we know if we've found it? How do we know if we're wise -- or foolish?

My old Funk and Wagnalls College Dictionary defines wisdom: 1] The power of true and right discernment; also conformity to the course of action dictated by such discernment; 2] Good practical judgment; common sense.

Of course the Bible puts its own shades of meaning onto the word. Let's do a little drilling down to see what this most desirable quality is from a biblical perspective.

We'll start with today's reading -- Proverbs 8 -- which is a poem devoted almost exclusively to wisdom. In it wisdom speaks telling the excellence and benefits that she has to offer. We see that wisdom is a focus on the excellent, the right, the true (vs. 6-7). It is righteousness -- not crookedness or perversity (vs. 8). It is associated with prudence, knowledge and discretion (vs 12). The wisdom-seeker may need to expend some effort to gain it (vs. 17) but the search is worth it because of wisdom's lasting results (vs 18-19).

The Bible speaks of wisdom in many other places as well. We learn that:
  • The ability to speak with with wisdom at the right time is a spiritual gift.

These facts about wisdom are wonderful to know. But one needs a whole new batch of wisdom to know how to apply the theory to the challenges of modern life as they relate to:
- parenting
- family relationships
- our jobs (employer/employee relationships; business ethics).
- in the positions we take personally and as churches on moral issues in a society where the only absolute is shifting public opinion.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be a lifelong wisdom-seeker and wisdom-applier. Amen.

MORE: Wisdom test

Test your Bible knowledge about Godly wisdom in an online test.

Here's test of practical wisdom linked by the New York Times.


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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Helper, Comforter

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 14:15-31

TO CHEW ON: "'And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may abide with you forever.'" John 14:16

We cherish a person's last words, whether we hear them in person or read them in a letter or story. Here, through John, we are privy to some of the last teachings and conversations Jesus had with His disciples. They didn't know what was about to happen, but we do and that makes them all the more poignant.

Jesus, realizing He will soon be gone, pre-comforts his soon-to-be-bereaved disciples with words on which they will probably meditate a lot in the days to come. He will soon send them "another Helper" -- the Holy Spirit. We learn a lot about this third person in the Trinity from this chapter (and John 16).

1. Holy Spirit will be given to all. Jesus gave this promise to His assembled disciples, not one individual (14:16).

2. Different Bible translations describe Him as "Comforter"  also "Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby" (Amplified). Each of these names adds a layer of meaning to our understanding of Him (14:16).

3. He will live with them and be in them. What amazing intimacy (14:16-17)!

4. He will "abide forever" (14:16). In other words, He will be a permanent guest.

5. Jesus calls Him the "Spirit of truth" (14:17). In contrast, Satan, who is the "ruler" or "prince" of this world is known for his lying.  No wonder Jesus says the world wouldn't see, know or receive the Holy Spirit.

6. The Holy Spirit will continue to reveal Jesus to them even though He is physically absent (14:21).

7. He will remind them of what Jesus said and teach what it means (14:26).

8. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin righteousness and judgment (John 16:13).

9. He will guide them into truth (16:13).

10. He will explain future events to them (16:13).

11. He will explain and glorify Jesus to them (16:14).

The thrilling thing is that this Holy Spirit is available to us today. He draws us to Jesus and as we give Him the controls of our lives, is with us and in us, just as Jesus described. We probably aren't aware of a fraction what the Spirit does in us, around us, hopefully even through us.

But we can also stymie His presence and activity in our lives. We can test Him, lie to Him, grieve, vex or sadden Him, resist Him, insult Him, and blaspheme Him. On this day when we celebrate His coming to the church, let's let Him search us for anything that would hinder His presence and activity in our lives.

PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, thank You for being my constant companion. Please help me to realize this fully and, in the knowledge of it, live boldly. Amen.

MORE: Today is the Day of Pentecost (or Whitsunday), when Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit as told in Acts 2. Enjoy the liturgy for this day.

Cece Winans sings - "Holy Spirit Come Fill This Place"




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Friday, May 21, 2010

Groaning intercession

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 8:18-39

TO CHEW ON: "Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered." Romans 8:26

Has there ever been a time in your life when need has so overwhelmed you that you couldn't even form words to pray? This is the situation Paul addresses in the latter part of Romans 8.

So how did he get from the picture of wholeness in God we saw yesterday to such brokenness and raw need? He comes via the realization that the ideal and the actual are still far apart. For the glory that will someday be revealed in the universe and in the sons of God (us) is still in the future. And just like creation "groans and labours with birth pangs together until now" (vs. 22), we can be puzzled, frightened, overwhelmed, freaked out, scared wordless by the things that come our way.

At this very moment I can think of a handful of people who may be feeling just this way. In one case cancer treatments have almost been exhausted. It is time for a decision -- do they try one more possible life-lengthener, or let nature take its course? In another there has been cancer, surgery, a painful complication, more surgery, and now waiting for the body to strengthen so treatments can resume.

It is, I believe, in just such a context that the type of prayer Paul talks about would fit. And such prayer may be the privilege and responsibility of those of us who are bystanders. For when one is weak and sick oneself, it's hard to pray, to focus, even to stay awake long enough to think the words.

It is prayer that starts out not sure what it wants or should ask for. As a sidebar article in my Bible explains it:

"Presumption -- supposing we already know how to intercede for others -- will not only hinder maximum effectiveness, it will also cause us to miss the thrilling sense of adventure God wants to bless us with as we receive His insight and enablement for intercessory prayer. How do we know without infinite minds whether God wants to move through us with weeping, travailing, wrestling, fasting, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, dreams, visions, mental pictures, impressions, verses of Scripture quickened to us, or silence? Only by waiting on God and giving Him time to move on and through us. Psalm 62:5 teaches this wisdom: 'My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.'"
- A. Joy Dawson from "The Spirit's Direction" - pp. 1562-3, in the New Spirit Filled Life Bible.

"…thrilling sense of adventure"? Wow, that's a new way of looking at intercessory prayer! Maybe it's time for me, and you, to set out on such an adventure for our beleaguered friends and family members.

PRAYER: Dear God, please teach me about prayer, and to pray with the help of Your Spirit. Help me to be willing to give my time, energy and emotions for such intercession. Amen.

MORE: O.C. says:

"Worship and intercession must go together, the one is impossible without the other. Intercession means that we rouse ourselves up to get the mind of Christ about the one for whom we pray? Too often instead of worshiping God, we construct statements as to how prayer works. Are we worshiping or are we in dispute with God -- "I don't see how You are going to do it." This is a sure sign that we are not worshiping. When we lose sight of God we become hard and dogmatic. We hurl our own petitions at God's throne and dictate to Him as to what we wish Him to do. We do not worship God, nor do we seek to form the mind of Christ."
- Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest, March 30th reading.


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Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to live as Abba's child

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 8:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "...you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out Abba, Father." Romans 8:15

Chances are if you come across an article or a book that promises to teach you the secrets of success in your chosen occupation, you'll read it. If your primary job is mothering, an article titled "Six Things You Must Know to Be a Successful Mother" would pull you in, as would "Decor Tips that Make Your Home Sing" if you are an interior decorator. For the Christian, Romans 8, our reading today, would be such an article.

In it Paul sets up life as a choice between two options. We can choose to live according to the flesh, i.e. governed by our physical and emotional life. Or we can choose to live according to the Spirit - governed by the Holy Spirit who indwells us.

Found in this passage are clues on how to live that Spirit-governed life.
1. First, we need to be "In Christ Jesus" (vs. 1). That means we've accepted Him as Saviour (from the law's demands - vs. 2-4) and Lord.

2. We need to "set our minds" on the things of the Spirit. How does this look practically?
- We submit our thoughts to God's scrutiny.
- We fill our minds with worthy things. One way to do this is to read, memorize, and meditate on Scripture.
- We direct our minds to God's goodness to us .
- We take to heart the advice of Bible writers on how else to direct our thoughts.

3. We even entrust our physical health and well-being to the Holy Spirit (vs.11).

4. We get and follow God's leading (vs. 14).

5. We have the assurance that God is our Father (our Abba "Daddy" Father) and we are His children and heirs (inheriting both suffering and glory - vs. 15-17).

Now to put all that into practice!

PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, I pray that You will direct and govern my life today. Help me to set my thoughts on the right things. Father God, I want to experience Your leading and tender care as my Abba Father. Amen.

MORE: "Abba Father" by Hillsong






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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Angels 101

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 104:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "Who makes His angels spirits
His ministers a flame of fire." Psalm 104:4

I have noticed a fascination with angels in the last few years. Perhaps the TV show "Touched by an Angel" is partly responsible. People wear angel jewelry pieces almost as amulets of good luck or protection. Some speak of their dead loved ones as now existing as angels. Of course all kinds of angel lore has been around for ages (plug "angel lore" into Google and you'll come up with a hodgepodge of facts and hearsay from Christianity, Judaism, Islam and New Age).

The Bible talks about angels -- more than I realized before I did today's little study. If anything, it has increased the mystery and the wonder. Here are some things I discovered:

Creation:
- Angels are created beings. But they were created before humans, because they are described as present with God when the world was created (Genesis 2:1; Job 38:4-7).

- Angels were created with a free will. But Lucifer and others rebelled against God (Isaiah 14:12-15). Thus angels are responsible for the origin of evil. As my trusty old Lectures in Systematic Theology puts it: "Here is the place where we should discuss the problem of the origin of evil; for evil originated in heaven and not on earth" (H.C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1963 - p. 194).

What angels are like:
- They have discernment and wisdom (2 Samuel 14:17,20)
- They have unusual strength (Matthew 28:2, 2 Peter 2:11)
- They can show themselves (Genesis 19:1-3; Hebrews 13:2)
- They have the ability to transcend the physical limitations of earth (Revelation 10:1-3).

What good angels do* (this is where it gets exciting):
- They stand before God and worship Him (Matthew 18:10; Revelation 5:11).
- They protect and deliver God's people (Psalm 91:11; Acts 12:11).
- They guide and encourage God's servants (Matthew 28:5-7; Acts 8:26).
- They interpret God's will to men (Daniel 10:5,11; Zechariah 1).
- They are the executors of judgment toward individuals and toward nations (Ezekiel 9:1,5,7; Genesis 19:12-13).
- They carry the saved home when they fall asleep in Jesus (Luke 16:22).

The actual words "guardian angel" don't appear in scripture, but the concept of a personal angel assigned to each one of us probably comes from Matthew 18:10 (link above), where Jesus speaks in defense of children whose angels have continual access to God, and Psalm 91:11-12 which promises:
"For He shall give His angels charge over you,
         To keep you in all your ways.
 In their hands they shall bear you up,
         Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

As to their activity in our lives - we may or may not ever be aware of their presence. But they are definitely one of the means by which God accomplishes His will on earth regarding us: Hebrews 1:13-14.

PRAYER: Dear God thank You for the angelic part of creation -- which I do not understand and have never seen, but gladly accept. Thank You for help You have sent my way at their hands. Amen.

MORE: Angel Tracks?

It was late when they reached Falcon Lake and snowing hard. My husband and his parents decided to stop at the local motel that December 1978 night before pressing on to Thunder Bay. Trouble was, try as they might, they couldn't rouse anyone. So there was nothing to do but go on.

"The road was white from shoulder to shoulder," my husband remembers, "and it was snowing hard." Then he noticed tire tracks on the road ahead. Despite the heavy snow, they were fresh -- and remained visible for the next hour or so, until the storm was left behind. Never once, though, did anyone in the car see any sign of taillights or the vehicle. Hubby says of that night: "I said at the time, and I still think today, those tracks were made by an angel, guiding us through the storm."

Have you ever had an experience with an angel?

* I took these points from H. C. Thiessen's Lectures in Systematic Theology (Eerdmans, 1963) pp. 205-206


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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Glory-worthy

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 17:1-26

TO CHEW ON: "Jesus spoke these words, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: 'Father the hour has come. Glorify Your Son that Your Son may glorify You….And now, O Father, glorify Me together together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.'" John 17:1, 5

How do you feel about someone who is constantly shifting attention to herself, directing the conversation to be about her, her family, her accomplishments? Hard to like, right? Yet isn't that just what Jesus is doing here -- praying that He and God will get glory?

If you are at all familiar with the Bible, you will recognize this as one of its themes --God's preoccupation with His own glory. I've pondered this: How does it make sense that the God who values humility in us gets away with praising Himself? Thus I was delighted when I discovered that John Piper dealt with this very subject in the first chapter of his book Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist.

First he defines what God's glory is and involves:
"God's glory is the beauty of His manifold perfections….God's ultimate goal is to preserve and display His infinite and awesome greatness and worth, that is, His glory" (Desiring God, p. 42).
Then Piper goes on to explain why God is justifiably intent on His own glory. Here is his argument in my own words: We would all agree that a good, righteous, pure, etc. God would only admire what was the ultimate in goodness, righteousness, purity. And what or Who is the embodiment of these things? Why it is He, Himself of course. Therefore He must glorify Himself.

As Piper puts it:
"…He loves himself infinitely. Or: He Himself is uppermost in His own affections. A moment's reflection reveals the inexorable justice of this fact. God would be unrighteous (just as we would) if He valued anything more than what is supremely valuable. But He Himself is supremely valuable. If He did not take infinite delight in the worth of His own glory, He would be unrighteous. For it is right to take delight in a person in proportion to the excellence of that person's glory." p. 42-43

That's why Jesus here prays that He and His Father will be glorified. As the embodiment of all that is admirable, They are worthy.

The amazing thing is that we can add to this glory. We do this by aligning ourselves with God and all that He stands for. In His prayer Jesus lists some practical ways. We give God glory when we stay true to Jesus (vs. 11), refuse to be seduced by the world (vss. 14-15), let God's word sanctify us (vs. 17), live in unity with other Christians (vs. 21).

And of course we can also voice our praise. As we gather with other Christians in church today, we can raise our voices knowing we are secure in admiring and praising the most admirable and praiseworthy -- the One worthy of all glory!


PRAYER: Praise the LORD!
         
 Praise God in His sanctuary;
         Praise Him in His mighty firmament!
         
 Praise Him for His mighty acts;
         Praise Him according to His excellent greatness!….


Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
         
         Praise the LORD! - Psalm 150: 1,2 & 6

MORE: One more quote from Desiring God:
"Because God is unique as an all-glorious, totally self-sufficient Being, He must be for Himself if He is to be for us. The rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator. If God should turn away from Himself as the Source of infinite joy, He would cease to be God. He would deny the infinite worth of His own glory. He would imply that there is something more valuable outside Himself. He would commit idolatry" p. 47.







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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Come!

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Revelation 22:6-21
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.

"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.

"Come now and let us reason together," begins God's invitation to Israel in a call to receive cleansing.

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

"Come to Me," says Jesus to the weary and burdened, "and I will give you rest."

"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.

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.

MORE:

Come Ye Sinners - Amy Grant & Fernando Ortega

bondservant007 | MySpace Video




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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Coming Again!

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Acts 1:1-11

TO CHEW ON: ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:11

The giddy, wonderful, too-good-to-be-true days of Jesus with them again didn’t last. One day when he was with His disciples He had His last face-to-face conversation with them. “Go to Jerusalem and wait to be baptized by the Holy Spirit,” He said.

Some still didn’t get it. “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Jesus put them off with typical grace. “It is not for you to know times or seasons…” Then He gave them their assignment and was gone, drifting up from their sight, soon obliterated by clouds.

I wonder if they realized at the time it really was the last time they would see Him. I can just imagine them berating themselves and each other for not asking more questions, listening more closely. They hadn’t realized that Jesus would leave them again so soon. No doubt in those first days they looked up a lot.

We’re still looking up, awaiting His return. The Bible writers don’t say much about it. But what various ones do say from across time help us understand that Jesus return will be:
  • Delayed and unexpected, though when it comes, it will be a catalyst for massive upheaval and destruction on earth and throughout the universe: 2 Peter 3:3-13.

How do you feel about His second coming? Do you give it much thought? If He comes during your lifetime, will it catch you off guard? I want to be one of those who “eagerly await” it! Don't you?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your promise to return. Help me to be ready, expectant and eagerly awaiting it.

MORE: Today the church celebrates Christ’s ascension, called “Ascension Day.”

The liturgy for the day begins with this Collect:

"Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen."


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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Exalted

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 110:1-7

TO CHEW ON: “The Lord said to my Lord
‘Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” Psalm 110:1

Much is made in our culture of how people of authority and power treat each other. Eagle-eyed, we watch the hugs and handshakes as presidents, kings and prime-ministers greet, looking for signs that someone is preferred or out of favor. We read into guest lists and who attends what function which rulers are in or out of favor with the most powerful. Meanwhile the media feeds the rumor mill by dishing out news of gaffes and apparent snubs.

The body language of Bible rulers is much easier to interpret. The favorite, next-in-importance to a leader sat at his right hand. Psalm 100, our passage today begins by “the Lord” (God) placing “My Lord” (Jesus) at His right hand.

This psalm is commonly taken as referring to Messiah (the editors of the Bible I use subtitled it “Announcement of Messiah’s Reign”). The first part of it is quoted twice in the New Testament.

Jesus quotes it  when He speaks to the Pharisees about Messiah’s identity, using it as proof that Messiah, though a human descendant of David is also divine or deity because David addresses Him as “Lord.”

In Acts, Peter quotes this verse at the end of his sermon on the day of Pentecost, saying that the giving of the Holy Spirit is proof that the first part of the prophecy (Jesus at the right hand of God) has been fulfilled.

It would seem we are still in that time frame, waiting for the working out in history of the final prediction – His enemies becoming His footstool – a state the Bible writers in both Old and New Testaments predicted:

Daniel 4:3
Daniel 7:14
Zechariah 9:10 (This verse is engraved on Canada's Peace Tower!)
Ephesians 1:22
1 Peter 3:22

It is important for us to settle the matter of how we stand with Jesus now, when He comes as our Savior and friend, rather than leave it for later, when He will come as our judge:

1 Corinthians 4:4-5
2 Timothy 4:1
Acts 10:42

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I so easily regard You as a friend and buddy, forgetting that You are also a judge and king. Today I exalt You as the authority and first ruler of my life. May Your kingdom come on earth (including my life) as it is in heaven. Amen

MORE: Twila Paris sings “He Is Exalted





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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Apostolic Prayers

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 1:1-23

TO CHEW ON: “I… do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.” Ephesians 1:15

Has anyone ever prayed over you things that you were inwardly longing for? Or perhaps someone prayed for you things you hadn’t thought of but when you heard them, something inside you responded ‘Yes!’

Ephesians 1:15-20 contains one of the great Apostolic Prayers of the Bible. These are prayers prayed by the Apostles (mostly Paul) over the early church. In his introduction to the chapter of Apostolic Prayers in his book Praying The Bible: The Book of Prayers, Wes Campbell describes Apostolic Prayers in general as fatherly, foundational, God-focused, positive and for the church. Elaborating on this last, Campbell says:
“This means that Apostolic Prayers are meant to be prayed with someone or someplace specifically in mind. These are not ‘God bless the whole wide world’ prayers! When praying these prayers for yourself, personalize them by changing the pronouns and ask that God would do these things in your own life. Then pray the exact same words over your friends and family, putting their names in the text.” – Wes Campbell, The Book of Prayers, pp. 190-191.

Let’s spend a minute unpacking the prayer in today’s reading.

1. Thanks
Paul begins by thanking God for the Ephesians. What a great thought – you and I can be the cause of gratitude. We can give thanks for others. Who in your life causes you to give thanks?

2. Wisdom, revelation, understanding
Paul prays that the church will understand who Jesus is. His request that the “eyes of your understanding be(ing) enlightened” implies that this understanding may come as an ‘aha’ moment, an epiphany, a sudden seeing of something we hadn’t grasped before. Jack Hayford says of this ‘revelation’:
“Such ‘revelation’ refers to an unveiling of our hearts that we may receive insights into the way God’s word is intended to work in our lives. It may be used of teaching or preaching that is especially anointed in helping people see the glory of Christ and His purpose and power for them.” (Jack Hayford, “The Spirit of Revelation” in the New King James Version - NKJV - New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1646).

3. Hope
This understanding mutates into Hope.Paul talks about the “hope of His calling.” My mind goes to some of the things we are called: children of God; joint heirs with Christ; the Bride of Christ.

This hope also has to do with being aware of “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.” I think of fellow Christians – a family that spans the centuries and the globe. I call to mind my own church family.

4. Power
Paul prays that the Ephesians will grasp the immensity of the power that’s available to them. This is no mere 10 points on the Richter scale earthquake power but the very power that conquered death. And it’s available to us.

Does this prayer resonate with you? Pray it over yourself, your family and friends today.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the people in my life. I pray that You, the God of my Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory will give me the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, that the eyes of my understanding being enlightened, I may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward me, who believes, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in heavenly places. Amen.

MORE: More Apostolic Prayers (titled by Wes Campbell):

“Revival Power” – Acts 4:24-31
“Outpouring of Divine Love” – Ephesians 3:14-21
“Just Say No!” – Titus 2:11-13
“A Prayer of Prosperity” – 3 John 2
“Jude’s Doxology” – Jude 24-25





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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Called and led

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Acts 16:1-15


TO CHEW ON: “Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia but the Spirit did not permit them… Now after he had seen the vision (of a man saying ‘Come over to Macedonia to help us’) immediately we sought to go to Macedonia concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel there.” Acts 16:6-7,10

A reader, Judy, tells of a missions trip she took to South Africa (used with her permission):

"First of all God supplied the funds. In 1966 I taught school on First Nations reserves north of Souix Lookout. I bought two large paintings for $35 each from Norval Morrisseau when he visited the isolated community I was teaching in. During our years of teaching in the Arctic they hung unframed, tacked up with push pins in several homes.

"Fast forward ahead to 2008 when after reading something on Becky's blog I said to Christian, Where are those paintings? I'd done some research on the Internet and realized they just may have some value. I sold one of the paintings for $6,500. Christian said immediately that I should do something very special with this unexpected windfall. I like to imagine our Lord saying on the day I bought the painting, "Do I ever have a surprise for you. It will be arriving in 42 years."

"I heard about the volunteer group in South Africa, again through Becky's blog. One of her daughters had worked in an orphanage and had had a very positive experience. I wanted to teach and found a school along the east coast that seemed to be a good fit. I did make it clear that I did not want to teach computers or run an after school recreation program. They said that was fine I could just be in a classroom.

"I was picked up in East London by a different volunteer group than the one I'd communicated with. I thought that was a little unusual. The next day I found out that the first group (name redacted) had contracted me out to a second group (name redacted) AND . . . . . perhaps you can guess what is coming; they wanted me to teach computers and run an after school recreational program. For a few moments to use my mother's term, I was floored. Then I thought about the lessons I'd learned in home studies the previous winter studying the life of Abraham. Don't focus on the "problem". Focus on God.

"I was sure God could/would enable me to do the tasks but I also knew the desire of my heart and where my strengths lie. I had immediate assurance from Him that there would be a solution to the situation. It took a couple of days until I was at King's Playschool. That was the last name of the people who ran a rural facility out of their home. I had noticed the verse "They shall shine like stars in his crown" from the song "When He Cometh" based on Zech. 9:16, on their sign. So .. . . I knew they were believers but they didn't know I was.

"When I had the opportunity I told Tracy that I was a follower of Jesus Christ, that I knew He had led me to South Africa but that I didn't know what I was supposed to do. She said she'd been praying for someone to relieve her of classroom duties while she dealt with the rest of her life. Here's what was on her plate."

"Pentecostal Pastor's wife of a growing church.
Home schooling their 3 children
Running the school of 50 children and 10 employees
In the process of adopting two black babies who had been abandoned
Teaching a class

"I had three glorious weeks of teaching eager 5 year olds. Most of my ideas were new for them… Both Tracy and I felt so blessed…. Who, but our loving Father, would take a woman from northern North America and team her up with a woman from Southern South Africa at exactly the right time! These kinds of experiences just light a fire under my faith which was already strong. An entire year later I still marvel at it and hope I always do.

They light a fire under my faith too! I never cease to marvel at God’s way of putting together the circumstances of our lives to work for His kingdom and our blessing if that’s our desire.

In today’s reading Paul and Silas were shunted off the track they were on by the Holy Spirit. How that looked, I’m not sure – a feeling of uneasiness, a prophetic message? However it happened, they knew they were not to go to Asia. At Bithynia likewise “the Spirit did not permit them.” The vision to go to Macedonia, then, was most welcome. Here was clear direction .

In Philippi – one of the largest cities in Macedonia – was Lydia and a band of believers who met at the riverside regularly for worship. Can you imagine how she must have felt the morning Paul and Silas showed up and told her the story of how they got there.

Judy’s story shows us that God still works in behind-the-scenes ways. It freights these familiar verses with a new and personal relevance:

“Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:27-28

PRAYER: Dear God, please put my life in the stream of Your usefulness. Help me to hear Your Spirit’s instructions and obey them. Amen.


MORE: Happy Mother's Day! to all mothers reading today.  How appropriate to be able to tell the story of remarkable women in our reading today.

Motherhood stories, in particular, are always heart-warming.



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Saturday, May 08, 2010

The parent reality

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Proverbs 23:17-25

TO CHEW ON: “Listen to your father who begot you,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.” Proverbs 23:22

A few days ago I watched the story of Tiger Woods on the Biography channel. The documentary was made before his 2009 accident uncovered his double life and was mostly positive. I could not help but be struck by the close relationship he had with his father. The most meaningful part of each win, each tournament no matter how it ended, was the big bear hug he got from his dad when it was over.

Thus the Nike commercial that played on the eve of his return to golf doesn’t offend me (as it did some, not others). It shows a sober, black-and-white image of Tiger looking into the camera while in the background, the voice of his father (deceased May 2006) says, “I want to find out what your thinking was, what your feelings are. And did you learn something?”

The commercial illustrates the strength of the parental bond talked about in our reading today. Our parents have a whole lot of influence on us. Their voices can follow us past the grave. Our yen to please them can be a positive thing - especially if they gave us wise counsel and steered us onto a good path.

Of course when we become parents it cuts the other way. We find ourselves on the giving end, trying to give our kids good direction, rejoicing with them when things go well, hurting with them when they go through tough times.

Whatever else this parent-child relationship is, it is life-impacting. From the moment of birth, you are someone’s child. From the moment you give birth, you are your child’s parent. There is no wiggling out of or resigning from these things.

This relationship is also a God-thing. The Bible is not silent about it. It tells us that mocking our parents, cursing them and generally treating them with contempt are dangerous things to do. Instead we are to honor them (it’s one of the ten commandments), heed them  and thus do them proud . (In this area Tiger seems to be on the right track, at least if the commercial is true to what’s happening in his mind and heart.)

PRAYER: Father God, thank You for inventing the parent-child relationship. Thank You for my parents and children. Thank You for being my Father, and for Jesus who is our example as an ideal son. Amen.

MORE: Brian Doerksen sings  “Faithful Father






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Friday, May 07, 2010

Do you want to be well?

TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 5:1-18

TO CHEW ON: “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?’” John 5:6

Do you want to be made well?” What a question to ask a man who has been ill for 38 years. Of course he wants to be well - doesn’t he?

Jesus’ question causes me to ask a few questions of my own:
  • Is Jesus here implying that physical healing and wholeness have more to do with having a will to recover and live than we give them credit for? (I have certainly heard of people who seem to hang onto life until they have seen a certain person or a special event has taken place.)
  • Should we continue to seek physical healing despite years of God’s apparent “No” to our request?
  • Can we conclude, when someone doesn’t get healed, that there is something wrong - that they haven’t prayed hard enough or don’t have enough faith?

These are hard questions and don’t have easy answers. I remember reading Joni Erickson Tada’s story. After the accident which made her a quadriplegic, friends advised her to pray for divine healing and then, in faith, get out of her chair and walk. She couldn’t - despite prayers and exercising all the faith she could muster. It brought up great conflict in her and precipitated a crisis of faith. Finally, she accepted her situation and moved on.

On the other hand, I’ve heard accounts and read stories of people who were miraculously physically healed, some shortly after the sickness began, others after years of being sick.

Divine healing was/is part of the atonement (“by His stripes we are healed”). But does God always heal? Obviously not. Even Paul was left with a “thorn in the flesh” after praying to have it removed (though we’re not told what that ‘thorn’ was; some think it was physical illness, others that it was something else).

However, if you are sick, don’t just lie there, resigned to the fact that this is now your lot. Rather, follow the advice of James to call for the elders of the church and pray for healing.  And if you are not healed, James has more advice.

As Oswald Chambers says:

“To choose to suffer means that there is something wrong; to choose God’s will even if it means suffering is a very different thing. No healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he chooses God’s will, as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not. No saint dare interfere with the discipline of suffering in another saint.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, August 10 reading.

PRAYER: Dear God, the state of my physical body can challenge my faith in Your goodness. Please help me to understand Your mind on these things - for myself and for others. Amen.

MORE: Not everyone gets healed. This fact can cause consternation if the unhealed person is you. Mary Lou Cornish wrestles with the fact of not getting healed in her powerful poem “I Chased My Healing.” It begins:


I chased my healing hard
           
   And harried,

Down lengths of longing,

Through labyrinths of pain. 
 
I chased my healing

As if I deserved it
           
   (There is no one righteous, no, not one),

As if I were worthy of it
           
   (If we claim to be without sin,
            
     we deceive ourselves).

As if I earned it,
           
   (Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord).

Read the entire poem.


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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Blood: a cleanser?

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 John 1:1-10

TO CHEW ON: “…and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7b

I used to think it strange that blood was called a cleansing agent. We’ve all dealt with the aftermath of a bleed and know that blood dirties. Unless tackled immediately it leaves a stain that is hard to ever get out.

Then I did a little research and discovered that blood is indeed a cleanser – a powerful one which our bodies can’t do without. Besides doing many other things, like carrying nourishment, regulating body temperature and aiding in healing, blood cleanses. It cleans out waste made through body processes by picking up carbon dioxide from our cells and carrying it to our lungs to be exhaled. It also cleans out invaders like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites that get in through our orifices or broken skin.

Of course I am aware of the cleansing aspect of Jesus’ blood in the way He died as our substitute – taking the punishment for our sin. The shed blood of an animal sacrifice was vital because it proved that animal had given its life. When Jesus’ side was pierced and blood poured out, it was proof that He was indeed dead. The punishment for sin was paid. You and I are now pure before God because the sinless Jesus shed His blood in our stead.

But maybe we could look at His blood giving life another way too. For it is His presence or life force within us (and “the life...is in the blood”) that cleanses our everyday lives, just like our human blood cleanses our bodies. As we give Him control over all the aspects of our living, we become aware of unworthy thoughts, attitudes and actions. As we live in obedience, changing our ways and conforming ourselves to His standards, His life in us (His blood) is cleansing us from sin. What do you think – is this too far-fetched and fanciful a thought?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for my blood – so vital to health and life. Thank You for Your blood, poured out in death for me and cleansing me as You live in me now. Amen.


MORE: Did you know…

  • Blood makes up about 7% of your body's weight.
  • An average adult has about 14 to 18 pints of Blood.
  • One standard unit or pint of Blood equals about two cups.
  • There are about one billion red Blood cells in a few drops of whole Blood.
  • Red Blood cells live about 120 days in our bodies.
  • Red Blood cells can be stored under normal conditions for up to 42 days.
  • Frozen red Blood cells can be stored for ten years, and more.
  • Platelets must be used within five days.

Many more blood facts here.

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Staying green

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 92:1-15

TO CHEW ON: “Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
They shall still bear fruit in old age;
They shall be fresh and flourishing (green).” Psalm 92:13-14

As I was cleaning tables after the last Alpha session of the season, one of the leaders came up to me and began talking about the testimonies of the people who had attended. “Even women your age were telling how they came to the Lord,” he said. My thought: I wonder how old he thinks I am!

In our culture which so values youth, beauty and vitality, aging is not something we eagerly await. Retirement – maybe, if we are weary of work. More free time, a slower pace, the excuse to migrate south, and the seniors’ discounts may awaken some sense of anticipation. But generally we dread growing old.

It’s hard to avoid the physical realities – graying hair, lines and wrinkles, aches and pains. The social facts are even more sobering. We’re shunted off to a siding at work. More and more of our friends die. We realize we’re no longer the generation that’s pushing society’s limits but rather the one that longs to hold onto tradition. How did that happen?!

The comforting thing is that God still values us in old age. Here are some things the Bible says about aging:
  • God promises to carry us, bear us, and deliver us “even to your old age.” (Isaiah 46:4)
  • The way we act and conduct ourselves can give our lives dignity and impact. (Titus 2:2-3).

I find this comforting – exciting even. I’m not about to be put in the compost bin. I can still look forward to useful, productive years. May it be so!

PRAYER: Lord, I claim Your promise of greenness and fruitfulness for all my days. Amen.

MORE: Chris Tomlin sings “All the Way My Savior Leads Me





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