Sunday, January 31, 2010

The power of praise

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 71:1-24

TO CHEW ON: “Let my mouth be filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all the day…
My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day…
My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to you… (Psalm 71:8, 15, 23)


The tongue is a pesky body part for bad and a powerful one for good. What we say can bog our hearers in a swamp of contradictions  or lift their attention Godward. There certainly seems to be a power in uttering things aloud, as in nailing down our thoughts in the physical act of speech.

That’s why Psalm 71 is so potent. It acknowledges the impact of out-loud utterance – by speech or singing – in the act of praising God. Eight times in this psalm the writer refers to speaking or singing our praise.

A footnote in my Bible puts it this way:
“His repetitious use of words such as mouth, praise, mention, declare, sing, lips, tongue, emphasizes the fact that praise is to be expressed openly in the congregation and not only as quiet thoughts in a secluded garden of meditation.” – New Spirit Filled Life Bible p. 739


This Sunday as you meet with fellow Christians in church, or host them in your home, or share a meal with family or friends in a restaurant, or spend time with neighbors in recreation, add to your conversation a little praise of God – for who He is and what He has done for you.

PRAYER: Dear God, may praise of You and my mouth be close acquaintances, today and always. Amen.

MORE: When praise doesn’t come naturally
Sometimes the circumstances in our lives are so far from ideal, praise for and in them seems like a contradiction. But those are just the times we need to dial up the praise even more.

Harold Hill (author of How To Live Like A King’s Kid) in the introduction to his book How to Live in High Victory lists ten steps to a victorious lifestyle. Praise figures in three of them:

1. Wrap everything in PRAISE and turn it over to Jesus as joint heirs with Him of the results.

2. Refuse to be impressed by appearances.

3. Do the next thing, and trust Jesus for guiding your paths: Proverbs 3:5-6.

4. Form the habit of PRAISE in the midst of, in spite of, or on account of whatever is going on: 1 Thes 5:16-18; Ephesians 5:18-20; Hebrews 13:15.

5. Learn to listen to God.

6. Don’t ask anyone else’s opinion about the guidance God gives you.

7. Stop doubting that God really did speak to you.

8. When God’s guidance comes, act immediately, PRAISING Him for results.

9. When doubt enters pray: “I’m going into action Lord. If I’m on a second-best course of action, it’s up to You to block me. But if I’m on the right road, open all doors and benefit everyone concerned.”

10. Pray: “Lord, make me as holy as You can make a sinner saved by grace.”


Melissa Boraski sings “I Will Praise You” (a song that talks about praising God in every situation) on this YouTube video, lyrics by Andy Park - Vineyard Music.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Three things to remember

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 1:1-19

TO CHEW ON: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew and approved of you as My chosen instrument, and before you were born I separated and set you apart, consecrating you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5 Amplified

It’s reassuring to see behind the scenes into the lives of people we consider spiritual giants – like Jeremiah. According to our passage today, he wasn’t exactly low maintenance when he got started. To help him get over his worries and misgivings, God made three things clear to him at the beginning of his prophet-ship:

1. He was picked for this specific assignment. Before he ever existed, God knew him, set him apart, and appointed him.

2. God had one answer to all his objections: “I am with you…”

3. His effectiveness was guaranteed. His power would be above that of earthly kings and rulers. His word and influence would root things out, pull things down. He would have authority to destroy, throw down, build and plant.


Though on some level this passage is specific to Jeremiah, on another these three principles apply to us too.

God knew each of us before we physically existed. From before time He had our destiny planned. (See also Psalm 139:13-16; Ephesians 2:10.)

Though we may feel inadequate to do the assignments He gives us, God’s words to Jeremiah are also His words to us: “I am with you. (See also Isaiah 43:1-3; Matthew 28:19-20.)

As God works through us we will have influence and authority far beyond anything that could be expected in the natural. (See also Matthew 18:18-20.)

So be encouraged. God has a specific plan for your life. He is with you. Your life will make a bigger difference than you ever imagined!

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me grasp Your potential for me and to bring it into reality in my life today. Amen.

MORE: On God’s call:
“It is easier to serve God without a vision, easier to work for God without a call, because then you are not bothered by what God requires; common sense is your guide, veneered over with Christian sentiment. You will be more prosperous, successful and leisure-hearted if you never realize the call of God. But if once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God wants will always come like a goad; you will no longer be able to work for Him on the common-sense basis…. Never consider whether you are of use; but ever consider that you are not your own but His.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (March 4 reading)

Friday, January 29, 2010

The secret-teller

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 14:20-40

TO CHEW ON: “But if all prophesy and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so falling down on his face he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.” - 1 Corinthians 14:24-25

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say something like – Who told the minister about my life? He was talking about me!

At other times when the gift of prophecy is operating, through the leader or members of the congregation, someone will later say – That message was perfect for my situation.

This supernatural aspect of prophecy – God’s way of giving thoughts and words to a speaker that relate perfectly to a listener in the congregation or crowd – is what makes it so powerful. God does this not to show up the speaker as super-spiritual, psychic, or weird and flaky. Rather, it’s to show the listener that He is aware of his life and loves him deeply.

PRAYER: Dear God, make me a mouthpiece of Your words today. Amen

MORE: Decency and orderliness
In addition to putting value on spontaneous and unscripted prophecies, Paul stresses the importance of orderly and peaceful church services. Churches where prophecy is encouraged support these easily conflicting values in different ways.

In our church when someone has a prophetic word, they must first go to the “front row pastor” – the pastor who is in charge of the service that morning. That pastor will look for an appropriate time to bring the speaker on stage (our church is large and the speaker needs a mic to be heard) to deliver his/her message.

Often these messages are encouragement, or a reminder of what God is like, or a recitation of His promises from the Bible. One Sunday a few weeks ago, someone told of a spiritual dream she had had. She came to church and no one welcomed or acknowledged her. She likened it to the little cliques and groups one sees in elementary school. The message she brought to us that day was, “Grow up.”

Does prophecy have a place in 21st century churches? What do you think?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Are you a prophet?

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 14:1-19

TO CHEW ON: “Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophecy.” 1 Corinthians 14:1

If there are chapters of the Bible some segments of modern-day evangelicalism would like to cut out, 1 Corinthians 14, at least the first 19 verses, is probably one of them. For it addresses two most controversial subjects: the gifts of prophecy and tongues.


Many have rationalized that these two things should not be part of the practice of church and private life in our time. They say their use expired with the New Testament church. Others profess to believe in them, but we never see them practiced. Or do we?

A sidebar article in my Bible throws some light on the gift of prophecy and its legitimate use. Here are some points it makes:

1. Prophecy is to be welcomed for its use in edification, exhortation and comfort.

2. Such prophetic words are not considered the very words of God as the prophetic words of Bible prophets are. Rather they are prophecy “in the sense of human words the Holy Spirit uniquely brings to mind.”

3. Prophecy is one reason for Holy Spirit fullness (Acts 2:17).

4. Modern prophecy fulfills the prophecy of Joel (Joel 2:28) and Moses (Numbers 11:29).

5. Prophecy is encouraged by Peter (1 Peter 4:11).

6. Paul says that every Christian has the potential to prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:31).

“It (prophecy) is intended as a means of broad participation among the congregation, mutually benefiting each other with anointed, loving words of upbuilding, insight and affirmation. Such prophecy may provide such insight that hearts are humbled in worship of God, suddenly made aware of His Spirit’s knowledge of their need and readiness to answer it (1 Corinthians 14:24-25).” – “The Propriety and Desirability of Prophecy” – Jack W. Hayford, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1599.

With the above description in mind, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of you are prophets – even though you may not know it. Perhaps you don’t call it prophecy, but whenever God indwells your words and applies them to another’s life to edify, exhort or comfort, don’t you prophesy?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, please indwell my words today. Make them prophetic as they edify, exhort, comfort and benefit others. Amen.

MORE:  Prophecy Q&A
This is by no means a complete treatment of prophecy. When you look up prophecy in a dictionary, the first definition listed usually goes something like: “the foretelling or prediction of what is to come.”

Q: Does this kind of prophecy take place in the church today?

A: It certainly does in some churches and Christian groups.


Q: Can we trust these prophets and their prophecies?

A: The Bible gives us some prophet tests:

- The true prophet confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh.

- The true prophet’s prophecies align with the general tenor of Scripture.

- The true prophet’s prophecies come true.
(see also “Criteria of a False Prophet – Notes on Deuteronomy 18:22


Q: What has been your experience with prophecy?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Story time

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Acts 26:1-18

TO CHEW ON: “At midday, O king, along the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun shining around me and those who journeyed with me.” Acts 26:13

If there’s anything people love it’s a story. In our reading today, the Apostle Paul tells King Agrippa the story of how he met God – or rather, how God met him.


"Paul Before Agrippa"
Stained glass window in the Union Congregational Church, Montclair, NJ 
Designed by Tiffany Studios

Telling your story is a powerful way to share your faith. Unlike the kind of defensive reaction you may get when trying to convince someone of God’s reality by using apologetic argument, people probably won’t get all huffy when you tell them your story. Your story will also put a sense of awe into your hearers as they come face to face with yet another evidence of God’s love, creativity, faithfulness and personal knowledge of us as unique individuals.

Paul’s story contained some pretty amazing happenings. I know my story doesn’t have lights brighter than the sun, disembodied voices, or energy that threw me to the ground. But perhaps more people can relate to a story of a little girl coming to Jesus at eight because she was afraid of what would happen to her if she died – and returning to Him in her 20s after finding out that life without Him only spiraled downward. That, in a peanut-shell, is my story. What’s yours?


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for drawing people to You in unique and wonderful ways. Please help me to have the boldness to tell my story at the right time.

MORE: Over years of blogging I’ve read some fabulous stories of how people came to faith. Here, for example is “My Two Year Journey to the Lord” - the story of writer friend Janice Keats, author of Evangelism: The Heart of the Matter (a whole book about how to share your story!).

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Who is Jesus?

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 4:14-30

TO CHEW ON: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind
To set at liberty those who are oppressed
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord….
Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing
- Luke 4:18-19,21

If you ask people who Jesus is (or was) you will get a variety of answers:
- a great teacher
- just one of many prophets
- a good moral example.

Here we find out what He thought of himself. The things He said He would do by claiming to be the fulfillment of Isaiah 61:1,2 were only things that Israel’s promised Messiah could do. He clearly claimed to be that Messiah.

"Jesus rejected at Nazareth"
by Andre Bida - 1874

Of course His hearers, completely familiar with what He had read and savvy as to what His claims implied, were enraged. When He lumped them in with all the prophet-rejecters of the past, their wrath exploded. They dragged Jesus out of the synagogue, took Him to a hilltop, and intended to throw him to His death. But it wasn’t His time and He walked away.

The reaction of these people to Jesus’ claims about Himself show us that they knew exactly what He was saying. They viewed it as blasphemy.

People who refuse to accept Jesus’ claims as God, yet insist He was a noble character must not have read passages like this. For it’s clear that either Jesus was who He clamed to be or something far less honorable – a liar perhaps, or deluded, or mentally ill?

I believe He is who He claims to be. As such, I believe the things He said carry a lot of weight – like:
- how we come to God.
- the fate of those who believe in Him.
- the fate of those who don’t.

Who do you think Jesus was? Why do you believe the way you do? Has it made any difference in the way you live?

PRAYER: Dear God, please show me who Jesus is. And may it be more than just an intellectual knowing. Amen.

MORE:
C. S. Lewis’s take on ‘Who is Jesus?’

C. S. Lewis’s statement ‘refuted’ – are you swayed?

Phil Johnson lays out a systematic theology-type answer to ‘Who is Jesus?’

Ravi Zacharias: “Who is Jesus?”

Saturday, January 23, 2010

It's not a competition

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31a

TO CHEW ON: “But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.” 1 Corinthians 12:18

It’s a rare person who doesn’t sometimes look at him- or herself and wish to be different. I’ve had such thoughts: If only I were funnier, more flexible, less serious, had a talent for drawing, found it easier to make small talk… Even being part of a church, where we know we should have a realistic view of ourselves, doesn’t do away with the tendency to compare ourselves with others – and feel we come up short.

But those are not God’s thoughts about us. Rick Warren says it so well:

“You are not an accident.

Your birth was no mistake or mishap, and your life is no fluke of nature. Your parents may not have planned you, but God did…..

God prescribed every single detail of your body. He deliberately chose your race, the color of your skin, your hair and every other feature. He custom-made your body just the way he wanted it. He also determined the natural talents you would possess and the uniqueness of your personality. The Bible says, ‘You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.’” The Purpose-Driven Life – pp. 22-23

What is true of you in general is also true of you in the church. Whether you are most comfortable hidden away working with the babies in the nursery or heading up some high profile ministry, you don't have to justify yourself or compete with others. Rather do your job, whether hidden or public, without apology. In this way you will fulfill your own destiny and God’s destiny for earth and its people as He accomplishes it through His body, the church.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me find my place in Your body. Help me to be content with who I am, knowing that someday I will need to account for what I’ve done with the strengths and talents you actually gave me – not the ones I wished I had. Amen.

MORE: So often our self worth is determined by the reaction toward us of the audience we are playing to. As Os Guinness says in his book The Call:

“Only madmen, geniuses, and supreme egotists do things purely for themselves. It is easy to buck a crowd, not too hard to march to a different drummer. But it is truly difficult – perhaps impossible - to march only to your own drumbeat. Most of us, whether we are aware of it or not, do things with an eye to the approval of some audience or other. The question is not whether we have an audience but which audience we have.

This observation underscores another vital feature of the truth of calling: A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others – the Audience of One. – p. 70

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Bible? - I don't get it!


TODAY’S SPECIAL: Nehemiah 8:1-12

TO CHEW ON: “So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense and helped them to understand the reading.” Nehemiah 8:8

Have you ever heard people say they don't understand the Bible? They read it and can understand the words but it doesn’t make sense?

In our reading today, Nehemiah had completed the task of seeing to the people’s physical safety by rebuilding the Jerusalem wall. Now he called an assembly to address another problem – the people’s ignorance of God’s law. He knew that unless they experienced a heart change, they would soon find themselves right back where they had come from.

The problem was the people’s hearts were hard and their spiritual senses dull. They needed help to understand what was read. Nehemiah used a baker’s dozen of men (with impossible-to-pronounce names – vs. 7) and the Levites to help with this. They interspersed the reading with explanation. And what a difference! Now the hearers understood and responded, even with emotion and tears.


What do we do to help us understand the Bible? There are many aids at our fingertips: dictionaries, concordances, commentaries, books, messages at church and on TV, podcasts and blog posts online. But beyond all these, we need divine help. God the Holy Spirit is the One who helps us understand what we read and how to apply it to our lives.

Next time you’re confused about what the Bible means, use the helps listed above, but also ask for God’s help to give you understanding at the deepest level.

PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, please help me understand the Bible and how to put it into action in my life.

MORE: understand = bin (bean). It means to understand, discern, perceive, grasp, consider, regard, be perceptive, have insight.

Check out these places this word is used in the Bible to ‘bin’ its facets of meaning (links are to the Amplified Bible):

  • Psalm 92:5-7: A person who denies God’s doesn’t ‘get’ His greatness.
  • Proverbs 24:11-12: God’s knowledge of us will lead to complete fairness at judgment.
  • Isaiah 40:21: The knowledge that we are creatures God has created is instinctive.
  • Daniel 10:12: An angel reassures Daniel that from the moment he “set his heart to understand” help was on its way.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

No room for racism

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Galatians 3:21-29

TO CHEW ON: For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus….There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26,28

Canada is a multicultural country. We welcome thousands of immigrants each year. Most are not white Caucasians but of other ethnic and racial backgrounds. The result is cities which have ghetto-like enclaves where these people settle and from which they continue to spread to the surrounding neighborhoods.

For over 20 years we lived in Surrey, BC, on the fringe of a vibrant East Indian community. Over the time we lived there many things changed. Shortly before we moved away it wasn’t uncommon when visiting the local grocery store to feel like the minority race. The local park went from being deserted during the day to packed with their elders as they played all-day card games at the picnic tables. Many an evening the smells of curry wafted into our bedroom as we prepared for bed (they customarily ate their evening meal late).

It’s easy to let racial and cultural differences bother us. But in the scheme of things that are important, these variations should be minor to non-existent. “You are all one in Christ,” Paul reminds the Galatians church. Once people have accepted Christ, there is more that brings us together than separates us no matter what our races. Jesus died for everyone of every race, so we can look on our increasingly mixed race population as the mission field coming to us.

Race isn’t the only thing that divides us. Other “nonessentials” that can cause barriers are a commitment to a particular leader, customs we follow in our particular church or denomination, social differences, education (or lack of it), social position, financial status, political beliefs etc.

Lloyd John Ogilvie, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate says, “When we ‘major in minors’ we end up separated from people who do not look or act or talk like we do. The only way to overcome this is to be sure Christ is first and foremost in our lives and to set aside the secondary things that have little ultimate value.” – “Kingdom Dynamics” New Spirit Filled Life Bible – p. 1635.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to recognize the bigotry within myself. Help me to see others as You see them.

MORE: Someday we will join with believers of every nation, tribe and language before the throne of God. If ever there is a reason for unity here on earth, this is it:

"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” - Revelation 7:9-10

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

When three is not a crowd

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ecclesiastes 4:7-16

TO CHEW ON: “Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

Threesome friendships can be awkward. Often two of the friends have a closer bond and the third person feels left out. Thus the old saying: “Two’s company, three’s a crowd.” But when the third friend in the relationship is Jesus –whether that relationship is platonic or romantic – everything changes.



Jesus’ goal for your relationships is unity. When you and your friend are both friends of Jesus, you have the same purpose and the same direction. When you fail or disappoint each other, Christ’s grace is both a buffer and an example. His standards for love, patience and forgiveness ensure that the friendship will be strong and lasting. Even prayer is impacted by such friendships. For when you and your friend pray about something, God has promised to be there right with you.

Friendships of all kinds are a gift from God. But friendships where Jesus makes it a threesome (or foursome or more) are forever!

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for my friends. Help me to put Your ideals of love, forgiveness and patience into practice in all my friendships.



MORE: If we could practice love like it’s described in 1 Corinthians 13 in all our friendships, wouldn’t they just flourish? Many relationship specialists have worked out ways to help us show unselfish love. One of them is Gary Chapman. In his series of books on the love languages, Chapman gives lots of ideas of how to communicate love to family members and friends in ways they will understand.

What are the love languages?

What’s your love language (a 30-second assessment)?

Check out other good stuff at Dr. Chapman’s The Five Love Languages website.

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Christian Carnival:

Are you interested in reading more about the Christian faith and life? Do you want to expand your blog-reading? The Christian Carnival is a great way to widen your horizons in both those departments. This week's carnival is hosted by Fish and Cans. Read it here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Are you just Rover on two legs?

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ecclesiastes 3:16-4:6

TO CHEW ON: “I said in my heart, ‘Concerning the conditions of the sons of men, God tests them, that they may see that they themselves are like animals.’

For what happens to the sons of men also happens to animals; one thing befalls them; as one dies, so does the other…” Ecclesiastes 3:18-19


There is nothing so humiliating as the reminder of our human frailty caused by accident or sickness.

Accidents can snuff out a life in a minute whether the victim is young or old. Our 20-something son fell one story off a roof onto concrete last summer. Though he has made a great recovery, the smell of death’s breath has changed even his youthful optimism about immortality and invincibility.

Right now I know about a dozen people who have cancer. When the doctor makes that diagnosis a lot of things don’t seem as important as they did before. The c-word reminds us all – those involved and those looking on – of our mortality.

In this passage the cynical old Preacher argues that we humans are really only just animals, destined to return to dust. If this was the sum-total of what the Bible said about death, it would be a gloomy picture. But it isn’t. Humans may be like the animals physically but we also have a spiritual side which, the Bible tells us over and over, lives on.

If you are experiencing the humiliation of a body in the process of returning to dust, know that it is not the end. Take heart: “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Read more…

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to live each day with eternity in mind.

MORE:
“Measured against eternity, our time on earth is just a blink of an eye, but the consequences of it will last forever. The deeds of this life are the destiny of the next. … Years ago a popular slogan encouraged people to live each day as ‘the first day of the rest of your life.’ Actually, it would be wiser to live each day as it if were the last day of your life. Matthew Henry said, ‘It ought to be the business of every day to prepare for our final day.’”
- Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life – p. 40

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kitchen glory

TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 2:1-12

TO CHEW ON: “This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” John 2:10 (emphasis mine)


Che Ahn defines God's glory in his book When Heaven Came Down:

“God’s glory is His manifest presence by which He reveals His character of goodness and displays His power through signs and wonders.” p. 28

At the Cana wedding Jesus displayed His "character of goodness" by helping out some desperate servants. The wine had run out – a potentially humiliating experience for the groom and his family. Jesus changed the water in six water pots into wine.

"The Wedding At Cana" by Gustave Dore

Like all the things Jesus does, it was quality workmanship – wine of such high grade the master asked the bridegroom why he had kept the best for the feast’s end. This miracle also blended into everyday life – like miracles often do. The wine didn’t glow or in any way distinguish itself from ordinary wine – except that it was better – so that the onlookers probably later asked themselves, did I really see what I thought I saw?

Another thing this story teaches us is where we can expect to experience God’s glory. We’re probably not surprised when a sense of His presence invades a worship service or prayer meeting. But here it came right into the middle of a domestic crisis. You’ve probably experienced plenty of those. I know I have. Have you ever asked God for a sign of His glory when you’ve lost your keys, clogged the toilet or discovered the washing machine has broken down? Let's ask God to enter our common everyday crises with His glory.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please remind me next time I’m in a jam that Your glory is available for that situation too. Open my eyes to the possibility of signs and wonders in my kitchen. 

MORE: Author friend Bonnie Bruno has assembled an entire book of stories about God revealing himself in ordinary situations. When God Steps In will lift your gaze upward and have you looking for evidences of His fingerprints on the most unlikely parts of your life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Faithful

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 36:1-12

TO CHEW ON: “Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens;

Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.” Psalm 36:5
 


Faithfulness. It’s a quality as old fashioned as afghans made by grandmas – and just as comforting. Faithfulness isn’t particularly trendy or sexy. In fact it’s unfaithfulness that contributes to the Hollywood mystique and puts our society’s heroes and stars on ET.

God, on the other hand, is faithful. What does that mean?

Faithful is from emunah (eh-moo-nah) which means firmness, stability, faithfulness, fidelity, conscientiousness, steadiness, certainty, that which is permanent, enduring, steadfast. The word “Amen” (It is firmly, truly so) comes from the same root.

A faithful eagle pair guard their nest and young


This psalm details some of the ways God is faithful:
- He preserves man and beast.
- He shows lovingkindness.
- He is trustworthy and provides security.
- He provides abundantly and His provisions satisfy physically, emotionally and spiritually.
- His ways are ways of life and light.

 How has God been faithful to you? Can you see His hand maneuvering your circumstances, bringing things together in wonderful little seeming coincidences?

Or perhaps there are times in your life when (on the surface at least) God has appeared unfaithful? If you look closely, can you see evidences of His faithfulness below the surface, or working in the background of even dreadful situations?

PRAYER: Dear God, I thank You for Your faithfulness. Help me to see evidences of that faithfulness even in times when I feel forsaken. Help me to take the knowledge and experience of Your faithfulness through this year. Amen.

MORE: When I think of God’s faithfulness, I think of the song “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Here is a little background to that song:

“The author of this hymn, Thomas Obediah Chisholm, was born in a log cabin in Kentucky. At age 16, he began teaching school, despite the paucity of his own education. He came to Christ at age 27 under the ministry of evangelist H. C. Morrison. But Chisholm’s health was unstable, and he alternated between bouts of illness and gainful employment in which he did everything from journalism to insurance to evangelistic work. Through all the ups and downs he discovered new blessings from God every morning. The third chapter of Lamentations 3 became precious to him: “His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

- From Then Sings My Soul – Hymn Stories by Robert J. Morgan – p. 285, emphasis mine.

Cece Winans sings “Great is Thy Faithfulness” – with lyrics

Friday, January 15, 2010

When God hates our worship

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Amos 5:16-27


TO CHEW ON: “I hate, I despise your feast days
And I do not savor your sacred assemblies…
Take away from me the noise of your songs
for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
But let justice run down like water
And righteousness like a mighty stream.” Amos 5:21,23-24


Have you ever heard waitresses say that they dislike serving church groups or people in business say Christian companies are the worst to deal with? Does this make sense? Shouldn’t a stingy, difficult-to-work-for, or hard-to-get-fair-service-and-timely-payment-from person who calls himself a Christian be an oxymoron?

In this passage God scolds Israel for putting on an outward religious show but neglecting justice and righteousness. What are justice and righteousness?
- justice: 1) The quality of being just (fair, evenhanded, impartial). 2) The rendering of what is due or merited.

- righteous: 1) Conforming in disposition and conduct to a standard of right and justice; upright, virtuous. 2) Morally right, equitable.

In plain words, justice is how we act toward others. Righteousness is our personal moral code- what we do and are even when no one is looking.

God hates it when our real selves – what we are like privately and when we’re away from those we’re hoping to impress, don’t line up with our outward show of worship. In fact, He rejects this worship entirely. Despite our raised hands and rapturous Sunday morning faces, God’s blessing will not fill our lives if, at the same time, they are full of deceit, envy, gossip, fighting, bitterness, unforgiveness etc.

How do I measure up in the justice and righteousness departments? How do you? God can show us where and how to make changes.

PRAYER: Dear God, I want streams and justice and righteousness to run through my life. Please show me how this can happen. Amen.

MORE:
“Never look for right in the other man, but never cease to be right yourself. We are always looking for justice; the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is – Never look for justice, but never cease to live it.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Seek Me"

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Amos 5:1-15


TO CHEW ON: “’Seek Me and live’…. Seek the Lord and live…. Seek good and not evil that you may live…” Amos 5:4, 6, 14

Like a many-faceted jewel, God’s instruction to “seek Me” has a myriad of angles.

It includes:

Prayer
An intense search
Repentance (admitting sinful ways and turning from them)
Obedience 

In Old Testament times, obedience meant adhering to the sacrificial law. Since Jesus has fulfilled that law by His death and resurrection, we no longer need to be concerned about keeping it. But Jesus has not left us in the dark about what obedience means for us today. If you’re not sure, for starters read Matthew 5-7 (Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount).

What does “seek Me” mean for you today? Perhaps it means calling out to Jesus for the first time and turning your self-directed life into His hands. Perhaps it means spending more time in prayer. Or maybe it means soaking in the Bible, and turning new-found insights into action in obedience.

Whatever it means to you – do it! The result – life – is worth it!

PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, please show me what God’s command to “seek Me” means to me. Amen.

MORE: "The Hidden Treasure" - James Tissot (1836-1902)



Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The begets

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 3:23-38

TO CHEW ON: “…the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmodam, the son of Er…” Luke 3:28

When you make a puzzle, the nondescript blue pieces that fill out the sky are as important as the detailed and colorful ones that bring the picture to life. The genealogy of Jesus tracing His ancestry through Joseph to Adam contains a lot of those nondescript pieces with names mentioned nowhere else in the Bible. We know nothing more about these people than that they’re part of Jesus’ family tree. But each name on that list is significant because each played a part in establishing Jesus as the Son of Man and a legitimate stand-in as a sacrifice for the human race.



You are also part of a human genealogy. If you had the knowledge, you could trace your roots back to the first man, Adam, in a physical sense.

Did you know you have another family tree as well? If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior and been born again you have a spiritual genealogy. Whose names are on that list – your parents? Grandparents? A Sunday school teacher? A TV pastor? John or Paul from the Bible?

Spend some time today, thinking about and thanking God for the people who helped birth you into God’s forever family. And ask yourself, have I begotten anyone?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for my spiritual parents. Help me to beget spiritual children of my own. Amen.

MORE:
11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:11-13, New King James Version)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Let's hear it for Joseph!


 TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 2:13-23
Joseph seeks lodging in Bethlehem
-painting by James Tissot

TO CHEW ON: “’Arise, take the young Child and His mother…’ When he arose, he took the young Child…. ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother…’ Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother…” Matthew 2:13-14 & 20-21

Though the Bible doesn’t tell us much about Jesus’ earthly father Joseph, the little it does say proves God’s wisdom in choosing that particular man for the role he played in Jesus’ life. At least three times an angel came to him in a dream to give him instructions on what to do. He never argued or demurred, just obeyed.

He used common sense too. When the angel told him to return to Israel, but didn’t tell him where in Israel to go, the fact that Archelaus, the son of jealous Herod was ruling in Judea made him wary of returning there. Of course the fact God warned him about that specific thing in a dream only confirmed Joseph’s wisdom. So he took his family to Nazareth, and thus helped fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene.

God knew that Jesus’ earthly father needed to be a man completely compliant to His will. He picked obedient Joseph for this important task.

Am I as quick to obey as Joseph was? Are you?

As you obey God’s every wish and command, He will use you in ways you had never imagined.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me to obey You at once and in every detail. Amen

MORE: “The great word of Jesus to His disciples is abandon….”
Get into the habit of saying ‘Speak Lord” and life will be come a romance.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Your rhema

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 3:1-22

TO CHEW ON: “While Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, the word of the Lord came to John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.” Luke 3:2

I wonder if John the Baptist fit in with the other boys his age. Did he play? Was he mischievous and spunky? In every Bible mention of him he appears intense, earnest, focused – one of God’s rockets.

In today's passage he would have been 30-ish (a few months older than Jesus) and spending time, not with a wife or friends but alone in the desert. But not really alone because God was there. During his desert retreat, “the word of the Lord” came to him.

The word used for “word” here is rhema – as opposed to logos. Rhema is the part of God’s entire word (the logos) which communicates to the reader/hearer. It is the same word used in the Ephesians 6 armor of God passage (“And take…the sword of the Spirit which is the word [rhema] of God”) where as believers are told to wield a portion of the word as a sword in the time of need.

The rhema which came to John that day in the desert was the message of repentance. Preaching it became his destiny.


Though you are probably not as intense and serious as John, God’s rhema word can come to you too. Looking for and finding such a message every day can make your relationship with God come alive. If you are having trouble hearing God, try these things:

1. Pray that God will open your ears to His voice.

2. Keep a record of God’s rhema words to you. They may come in many ways – through reading the Bible, hearing Scripture in song lyrics, remembering Bible verses, listening to talks, lectures or podcasts of Bible teachers…

3. Obey and put into action the things God tells you.

PRAYER: Dear God, I would like to hear from You every day. Please help me to be open and receptive to Your words.

MORE: Do you have a rhema word or passage that has guided your life?

Mercy Me sings "Word of God Speak."

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Jesus' proxies

TO READ: Psalm 72:1-20


TO CHEW ON:
“For He will deliver the needy when he cries,
The poor also, and him who has no helper
He will spare the poor and needy
And will save the souls of the needy.
He will redeem their life from oppression and violence
And precious shall be their blood in His sight.”  Psalm 72:12-14

Are you a naturally compassionate person when it comes to the poor and needy? I have to confess  I’m not. Last year while doing research for an article, I helped out with a project in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. A friend who works there all the time talked of the kinship she felt with the down-and-outers all around us. I couldn’t say I felt the same bond.

Yet whether we feel called to work with the needy or not, they will come across our path. I admit, to my shame, that I continue to struggle with knowing how to respond to panhandlers and being a friend to the needy and socially awkward.

However, God’s plans for them are not ambiguous. They include (according to Psalm 72) answering their cries, saving them and redeeming their lives from oppression and violence. How will He do those things? Through us. Here is a brief comment from my Bible's notes on Psalm 72:

“The Bible often speaks of God blessing His people, rewarding them for their godly behavior. As we grow in godliness, we begin to understand that God blesses us with a purpose in mind – blessing us that we might be a blessing to others and so that the nations of the world will come to know Him.” (p. 741 – New Spirit Filled Life Bible).

If you (and I) need any more motivation, we can read Jesus’ words when in judgment He separates people on the basis of how they treated the hungry, thirsty, naked stranger, prisoner: “…inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

GRACE: Lord, help me to see You in the addicts, the mentally ill, the social misfits – indeed all the categories of poor and needy – and to be a conduit of Your love and blessing. I can’t do this on my own!


MORE: Tim Huff is someone who serves the needy in Toronto, Canada. His award-winning book Bent Hope – A Street Journal is about that ministry. “Drunk Prayers” is a moving story from his life. 

Monday, January 04, 2010

Glory?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 60:1-9


TO CHEW ON: “…And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you… and His glory will be seen upon you.” Isaiah 60:1, 2


What is this glory Isaiah talks about?

glory: chabod (kah-vohd) means weightiness, that which is substantial or heavy, glory, honor, splendor, power, wealth, authority, magnificence, fame, dignity, riches and excellence. ("Word Wealth" from New Spirit Filled Life Bible)


When I think of God’s glory, I imagine the scene at the dedication of Solomon’s temple. The heavy cloud of God's  glorious presence made it impossible for the priests to stay and do their jobs. How incredible that must have been!

Che Ahn in When Heaven Comes Down – Experiencing God’s Glory in Your Life makes an interesting distinction between the glory of God that is the essence of His person (His eternal glory), and the glory of God which we perceive (His manifest glory).

“…The eternal glory of God is like the sun itself, far too fiery and brilliant for us to encounter directly or even to look at. But the sun’s light manifests itself to us in a variety of ways. It illuminates darkness, revealing the objects around us. It gives us spectacular light displays in beautiful sunrises and brilliant sunsets. It warms us and even tans our skin. Everywhere the sun goes, the sun’s light goes. But the sun’s light is not the sun itself. Rather, the light we experience from the sun is a manifestation of the sun.

“This distinction is helpful in understanding God’s glory. His eternal glory is like the sun: it is His very essence, beyond our comprehension or ability to encounter. Yet His manifest glory is like the sun’s light: a reflection of Him we can encounter in ways we are able to perceive, whether through physical healing, a peaceful presence in our spirit or an angelic visitation.” p. 26

Ahn settles on this definition: “God’s glory is His manifest presence by which He reveals His character of goodness and displays His power through signs and wonders.” p. 28

By this definition you can know God's glory in your life  any time you recognize His goodness - to you or through you. It could be the thought of where to look for your keys moments after you’ve prayed for help in finding them. It could be an unexpected cheque when you need money. It could be the reminder to pray for a friend. It could also mean coming away from a deadly accident unscathed, or seeing an angel or praying for someone and witnessing a miraculous healing. In Isaiah 60 God’s glory is shown when children return home, when there is joy, wealth, God’s house is glorified.

Has God’s glory come to your life? Look for signs of it today.

GRACE: Dear God, please open my eyes to evidences of Your glory in my life today. Amen.


MORE: A stirring rendition of Handel's "And the Glory of the Lord"

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Praise is beautiful


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 147:1-20

TO CHEW ON: "Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God;
For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful." Psalm 147:1


Our lives reflect what we spend our time thinking about. In our complex world, it's easy for our thoughts to get hijacked by fear, worry, pessimism, and anxious lists of what ifs.

Or we can choose to think thankful thoughts of praise. It's a matter of changing the direction of those negative thoughts by taking a deep breath spiritually, and affirming all the yes's in our lives.

We can do this because we're not merely changing our attitudes with whistling-in-the-dark optimism, but because our God has power and understanding.  He has put it all together - the world, its people, you, your family, your circumstances - in a meaningful, significant way. You may not see the meaning or significance just now. But your attitude of praise reflects your confidence in Him and pleases Him too.

Psalm 147 lists things (from the weather to national security) for which you can praise God. Re-read the psalmist's list, then make one of your own.

PRAYER: Dear God, today I will choose to praise, not pout. Amen

MORE: 

"How big is your chair?"

He Knows My Name - Maranatha Singers on YouTube


Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ecclesiastes 3:1-15


TO CHEW ON: To everything there is a season
A time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1


Every year-end (in time for Christmas) I sit down and compose a family newsletter. In that letter I sum up, for family and friends, the news - the births, deaths, accidents, reunions, special birthdays, challenges, victories, even the defeats - of the year just ending. For me it has become a type of family archive. You probably do something similar.

A few weeks later a new year begins. I put up crisp, unsullied calendars and wonder what appointments, events and commitments will soon fill those daily boxes.

These two life routines, coming so close together, are a picture of our life here on earth. Our days, as we look back on them, contain the variety of the list in Ecclesiastes 3: birth and death, planting and harvest, destruction and building, weeping and laughter, funerals and parties ... As we put up our new calendars, we know that they will soon be filled with more of the same. How can we bear to face a future that is bound to have things like accidents, disease, failure - even death in it?

We can face it because God is behind the scenes and at our side. "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 8:28 NKJV

As you face the things that cross your path in the new year - both good and bad - never forget that God knows, sees and cares. He transforms even the bad into something good. You can face 2010 with hope and optimism.


HAPPY NEW YEAR!

PRAYER: Lord, as I enter 2010, I give the new year to You. Please make beautiful  good things out of the next 365 days. Amen


MORE: January 1st is Holy Name Day in the Church Year. It is a celebration the day Mary and Joseph named their little son "Jesus."  Enjoy the liturgy written for this day. It includes a list of the wonderful names Jesus is called in the Bible.

Welcome

If one of your resolutions is to begin having a daily quiet time, you've come to the right place. You will find a new meditation posted here each morning.

Based on the daily Bible Reading Guide from the Canadian Bible Society each devotion will have:

* Today's Special*
- Bible Reading Guide passage
- linked through
Bible Gateway (you don't even need to own a Bible).

*To Chew On*
- a focus verse
- thoughts on how you can apply the ideas from this verse to your life.


*Prayer*
- a short prayer.


*More*
- quotes
- links
- songs
- etc. (Stuff to help you take what you learned from the Bible into your everyday life.)


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