Monday, March 29, 2010

Sinister entry

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 22:1-23

TO CHEW ON: “Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains how he might betray Him to them. Luke 22:3-4

How chilling those words, “Then Satan entered Judas…” How sobering their continuation, “… (Judas) Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.” If a member of Jesus’ closest circle was not immune to Satan’s entrance how all the more must we be vigilant against it.

The tendency is to think of Satan’s entering and controlling someone as a bizarre paranormal thing, evidenced by spooky behaviors  or a cursed, sickly life. But I believe it can be a lot subtler than that.

We need only think of our “besetting sin.” Do we struggle with anger, or find ourselves often covering our tracks with deceit, or letting bitterness cloud our outlook? There is a section in Ephesians 4 which mentions specific sins Holy Spirit-controlled followers of Jesus are to “put away.” These are common, run-of-the-mill sins that we all have no doubt been caught in at some time or other: lying, anger, stealing, corrupt talk, bitterness, wrath, clamor, evil speaking with malice. Right in the middle of that list (immediately after the reference to anger) are these words: “nor give place to the devil.” Doesn’t this warning imply that we are at risk of giving Satan entrance when we cultivate these behaviors and attitudes?

How tiny it starts as the devil squeezes into that sliver-thin crack of our dissatisfaction, takes more territory as we augment our complaints with imaginings, then cements them in us when we voice them to others (compounding our sin as we influence them to join us on this destructive path). How big it eventually ends. In Judas’s case he betrayed his best friend. It earned him the very woe of Jesus.

We do well to follow Peter’s warning: "Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

PRAYER: Dear God, I want no one but You in my life. Please sensitize my “spiritual antennae” to the presence of anything that would give Satan opportunity or entrance into my life. Amen.

MORE: What happened in Judas’ mind and heart to make him regret what he’d done? Once the betrayal was accomplished, did the devil’s strong influence leave him? Or had he rationalized that his action would force Jesus’ hand to reveal Himself as king and when that didn’t happen, he realized the immensity and gravity of what he’d done? What do you think?

“Judas Returns the Money” (1886-1894) by James Tissot


Do your 8-12-year-olds have devotions?  Bible Drive-Thru is a daily devotional blog for kids.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The low road, the small place

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Philippians 2:1-18

TO CHEW ON: Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men.” Philippians 2:5-7

Jesus’ humility didn’t come the way ours often does, through being humiliated - though the religious leaders tried often enough to humiliate Him. Rather, it was demonstrated as He freely chose to make Himself low. We can’t imagine the extent of His plunge. The prophet Daniel’s description of His place of origin gives us a vocabulary-limited idea. It was indescribably grand. He had unlimited power. But He chose to leave all that and join us, small-minded, self-centered creatures on this sin-pocked planet. It’s mind-boggling really.

That’s why Jesus’ example of humility is so instructive to us. For none of us will ever have the reasons to be proud and uppity that He had. I love how a sidebar article in my bible describes it:

“Christ-like humility is manifested in the freedom of God’s Son to affirm the fullness of all God has placed in Him, without needing to flaunt or prove or push it through self-advancement. Jesus’ complete absence of any need to “clutch” for power or attention is manifest humility.” 
Fuchsia Pickett in the New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1662.

Don’t you just love that kind of humility – and want it in your life?

Here are some other facets of humility gleaned from the Bible:

1. It is one of three things God requires of us.
2. Humility on our part shows we are in touch with reality. (See also Romans 12:3)
3. It makes us teachable.
4. It is demonstrated through service.
5. Humility is the foundation of a gracious, others-centered life.
6. It is through humility that Jesus attained His ultimate destiny.
7. Humility will also lead us to attain the highest purpose for our lives.
8. Childlike humility is the route to true greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven.

PRAYER: Dear God, please forgive me my proud, overweening spirit that longs for attention, glory and praise. Give me the desire to be humble and the will to choose the low road, the humble way, the small place. Amen.

MORE:

Converting To Childhood

Jesus: “... unless you are converted and become as little children
you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:3


You lose sophistication and veneer
and become clear
sing, skip and play
easily laugh and cry
then fall asleep without a care
for Daddy is nearby.

No longer do you worry
about whether there will be
food to eat, clothes to wear
how to get from here to there.


Our grandson - in a special small place.
You’re malleable clay again
learning your family’s ways and graces.
And once again you fit
into small places.

© 2007 by V. Nesdoly

(First published in 2007 at Utmost Christian Writers)

****************
Are you enjoying these devotions? You might also like Bible Drive-Thru - daily devotions for kids.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Great leaders use the servant entrance

TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 12:12-26

TO CHEW ON: “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me, and where I am, there my servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him will My Father honor.” John 12:26

“Servanthood is the time-tested entrance prerequisite for trustworthy ministry,” begins a sidebar article in my Bible. “Since God’s Word seems to reveal such service as the basis for any advancement in leadership, we are wise to be cautious if such credentials are not found in a rising leader today.” – Joseph Garlington Sr. New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1466

Have you noticed how many Bible leaders first served?
- Moses served Jethro.
- Joshua served Moses.
- Elisha served Elijah.
- David served Saul.

If we dream of having ministries and being leaders, we’d better get used to the idea of being servants.


How comfortable are you with serving? I often watch the Customer Service clerks at our local Superstore with admiration. The best ones handle grouchy, complaining customers with  a humility, grace and willingness to help that puts me to shame. Personally, volunteering in our church’s Alpha program has made me even more aware of some of the hang-ups about serving that I have. It has shown me I have a lot to learn about this unlikely, Kingdom of God route to greatness.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to have a servant’s heart in everything I do – not to prove my greatness, but because You were a servant, and I follow You. Amen.

MORE: Want to learn more about serving? This comprehensive article by John MacArthur is a mini-seminar: "Spiritual Gifts – the Permanent Edifying Gifts – The Serving Gifts: Leadership, Serving and Giving."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reflecting the extravagance of God

TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 12:1-11


TO CHEW ON:But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone, she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not always have.’” John 12:7-8

“For the poor you have with you always.” Doesn’t that sound awfully familiar? Indeed, we read the passage that Jesus is referring to, yesterday. He is quoting it in defense of Mary who had just anointed His feet with oil of spikenard - a most expensive perfume made from the dried roots of the nard plant and imported in alabaster containers from its native India. Jesus defended her after Judas’ criticism: “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor.”

Judas’ reaction is rooted in a thought process common to us. It goes something like: There is only a limited amount of resources (of any kind). Therefore I must look out for myself, making sure I get enough. (In this case Judas getting enough involved swiping from the disciples’ collective purse; some of those 300 denarii would doubtless have found their way into his pocket.)

Jesus, on the other hand, operated by an entirely different economy. He accepted this wasteful and precious act of love, interpreting it in a way that probably sent chills down Mary’s back as well as everyone who heard Him: “She has kept this for the day of my burial.” In heaven’s economy it was but a poor symbol of His extravagance to us when He died, taking the punishment for our sin.

Don’t you just love Mary’s lavish outpouring of devotion? We can begin to respond the same way to God and others when we operate on the assumption that in God our resources are limitless. My giving to you does not deplete those resources to me. God is the source of not one pie, cut in a finite number of pieces, but an infinite number of pies! It makes about as much sense as God the creator, forming distant galaxies, deep ocean fish and high alpine flowers that no eyes but His will see.

PRAYER: Dear God, may my attitude be rooted in Your abundance. I want to be like Mary – giving to You (and to others) with open-handed abandon. Amen.


MORE:

"Pour My Love On You" by Dan Dean and Gary Sadler, (sung here by Jonathan Stockstill, I think).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Debt free!

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Deuteronomy 15:1-11

TO CHEW ON: “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts…. except when there may be no poor among you; for the Lord will greatly bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance.” Deuteronomy 15:1,4

I think the Prime Minster of Canada needs to read this passage – and our premiers and our mayors. Isn’t this just the simplest solution for poverty: forgive all debts every seven years!

Here the Israelites were told to not only lend freely with the view of forgiving all debts every seventh years, but to lend freely even it if was the sixth year, knowing that there was little chance their debt would be repaid. The underlying reason was to help their brother, not profit from him, in his misfortune.

I’m no economist, but even my simple understanding of how our financial system works tells me that such a rule would wreak havoc in Canada in 2010. No more 20- or 30-year mortgages, no personal debts that last past seven years, no more national debts over generations, and probably no more billion dollar debt nations! I don’t know any person or nation that lives this way – do you?

Despite how impractical this passage seems, it illustrates a couple of important principles about material prosperity that are as relevant today as ever.

  • We should look out for each other and be willing to lend a hand (or money) even at our own expense.
  • Prosperity is not meant to fatten us, but to flow through us.

I must admit I fall far short in this area. The story Jesus told of the two debtors  comes to mind. It makes me realize that this principle applies to me too, for I too have been forgiven much, perhaps not in the money sense but in the sin sense (even to the extent of my sin of possessiveness and stinginess).

PRAYER: Dear God, I have much to learn about Your generosity – including in material things. Loosen my clutch on the things I call mine. Grow in me a spirit that reflects Your willingness to give and forgive with no strings attached. Amen.


MORE:

Hear the Call of the Kingdom” by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Though this song isn’t specifically about material possessions, it talks about how the Kingdom of God impacts our lives in many areas. As you listen to it and consider the lyrics, give some thought to what you might usually take as referring to only spiritual things (being the “children of light,” having the “mercy of heaven,” reaching out to the lost “with the Father’s compassion” etc.) to material possessions.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Father's business

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 2:41-52

TO CHEW ON: “And He said to them, ‘Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’” Luke 2:49

I wonder if these words of Jesus, “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?’ sent a pang through His earthly father Joseph’s heart. Did they drive home again the fact that, even at this early age, Jesus was not truly ‘his’ – even as our kids aren’t ‘ours’?

"St. Joseph the Carpenter" by Georges de la Tour, 1645

The reaction of Jesus to His parents reminds me of something Oswald Chambers says, and I paraphrase: When God tells you to do something, don’t hesitate to obey because of the impact your obedience will have on others. Don’t take their reaction as your responsibility. Let God deal with them.

So much for others’ obedience resulting in our inconvenience. What about the personal cost of being about the Father’s business? It is wide-ranging. Jesus’ words, “I do not seek my own will but the will of the Father Who sent me” (John 5:30), reverberate all the way down to us: “As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21

A sidebar article in my Bible says:

"Yielding to His call in the pragmatics of daily living means that we recognize His purpose for us during times we would otherwise seek indulgence for our self-interests or run from the demanding implications of His leading at a given moment (ouch!)… it is not ours to excuse ourselves from our places of service but to choose His choice, that is to say, His choice is my choice, my consecration to Him.”
- Fuchsia Pickett, New Spirit Filled Life Bible page 1390.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me understand what a privilege it is to be busy doing Father-God business. I pray with the psalm-writer, “Take my eyes away from looking at worthless things and revive me in Your way” today. Amen.

MORE: Today is the Feast of St. Joseph – a church commemoration of the godly man who married Mary despite the scandal surrounding her pregnancy, and was an earthly father to Jesus.

The Collect for today:
“O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The necessary spark

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Hebrews 4:1-13

TO CHEW ON: “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” Hebrews 4:2

One of the most well-known verses about God’s Word comes in this passage. You’ve probably memorized it: “For the Word of God is living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Keeping in mind the power of God's word this verse describes, it's interesting that, 10 verses earlier, the writer says, “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them…” Such ‘living, powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing’ words not profitable? Why?

Here's why: “…not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” – Hebrews 4:2

The match that sets God’s Word ablaze, the spark that ignites its explosive charge is faith. Faith in what? It seems to me that in order for God’s Word to come alive to us, we must have faith in three areas:

1. Faith that we even need a Savior. This kind of faith means believing words that tell us we’re lost sheep. and that our best efforts to impress God aren't good enough.

2. Faith that accepts Jesus’ death as more than fire insurance, but also makes Him Lord of our livesour Shepherd, the One we follow.

3. Faith that the upside-down life of the Kingdom of God – of which the Bible is the roadmap – is the true reality.

If the Bible seems dead, impractical, closed, irrelevant, boring, mysterious, senseless or any number of other things to us, we need to take a look at our ignition system – the state of our faith. Personally, the fact that I need a Savior is settled for me. It’s with Jesus’ lordship and living the Kingdom of God life that my faith often needs shoring up.

How can I increase my faith?
- I can ask for it
- I can keep immersing myself in God’s Word to increase it (and how’s that for coming full-circle?).

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your amazing Word, the Bible, which is made alive to me by faith. Please increase my faith for making You Lord of my life and for living by the uncommon-sense principles of Your kingdom. Amen.


MORE: Michael Card and John Michael Talbot sing “One Faith”


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Loved though imperfect

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 146:1-10

TO CHEW ON: “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,

Whose hope is in the Lord his God.” Psalm 146:5

As I read this psalm the first time this morning, the phrase “the God of Jacob” popped out at me. I know “Jacob” here can be taken as a figure of speech where the example signifies the whole (‘Jacob’ is a stand-in for all the patriarchs). But today I’m going to take it as an intentional mention of Jacob the man.

Of all the patriarchs, Jacob appears one of the most flawed and human in his good and bad qualities.
- He was deceptive and sneaky
- He was sensitive to God’s voice.
- He was a hard worker.
- He preferred one wife over the other. This led to jealousy and dissension in his family.
- He tolerated idol worship.
- He showed favoritism to Joseph = more domestic strife.
- He had a pessimistic outlook on life.
- Despite all the above, he was a conduit of God’s prophetic blessing.

God loved Jacob and was loyal to him despite his faults. Of course God worked on his faults too. He came to him in crisis experiences like the night before he was reunited with his brother Esau.  God also dealt with him in the daily grind when, for example, he had to relinquish his darling Benjamin so that Ben could accompany his other sons to Egypt for more food.

Happy are we, says the psalmist, when the God of Jacob – this God who sticks with us despite faults, but also loves us enough to deal with them – is our help (ezer from azar = help, succor, ally).

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your steadfast love, loyalty and the promise of Your help despite my imperfect humanity. Through good times and bad I put my hope in You.


MORE: “Never Been Unloved” by Michael W. Smith

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ministry of tears

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 126:1-6


TO CHEW ON: “Those who sow in tears
Shall reap in joy.
He who continually goes forth weeping
Bearing seed for sowing
Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing
Bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5,6

Emotion is never glossed over in the Bible. In Scripture real men and women cry. “Tears in Scripture play a unique role in spiritual breakthrough,” begins a sidebar article in my Bible.

Here are some of the varieties in the ministry of tears:
- Tears of sorrow or suffering – 2 Kings 20:5
- Tears of desperation – Esther 4:1,3
- Tears of joy – Genesis 33:4
- Tears of compassion – John 11:35
- Tears of travail or birth – Isaiah 42:14
- Tears of remorse – Matthew 26:75
- Tears of repentance – Joel 2:12-13
- Tears of planting – our focus verses above.

What tears are you shedding today? Tears of remorse over some failure or shortcoming of your own? Tears of suffering over sickness (your own or someone else's) or the death of a loved one? Tears of travail over the state of an unsaved son, daughter, parent, spouse or friend? Tears of frustration over the apparent lack of effectiveness of your life?

Whatever your tears, don’t hide them from God. He understands and in due course will answer. Your liquid prayer has its purpose in His plan.

PRAYER: Dear God, my heart breaks over many things. See my grief, helplessness, desperation, and need. Please use my tears to nurture your plans and purposes on earth. Amen

MORE: Sayings about tears

“Tears are liquid prayer.” ~ Charles Spurgeon.

"Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts." ~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, 1860

"Tears are God’s gift to us. Our holy water. They heal us as they flow." ~Rita Schiano, Sweet Bitter Love, 1997, published by The Reed Edwards Company

"What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul." ~Jewish Proverb

“You number my wanderings;
Put my tears into Your bottle;
Are they not in Your book?” ~ Psalm 56:8

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stay-at-home prodigal

"Prodigal's Brother" Woodcut
by Johann Christoph Weigel 1695  
 TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 15:11-32

TO CHEW ON: “’But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’

And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours.’” Luke 15:30-31

I love this story for its hopefulness about prodigals – both those who leave and those who stay home. Trouble is, I find myself identifying with one of them. Maybe it’s because I too am an oldest child and tend to be duty-driven that I empathize with that older brother.

He was all work and responsibility with, no doubt, a pinch of self-pity and a dash of self-righteousness. He probably resented the fact that he was left at home to work for Dad but may have congratulated himself on his work ethic and moral lifestyle. Perhaps he even dreamed of the day his brother would return and get a tongue-lashing from Dad. Of course Dad would hold him up as the example to follow. Thus on the day older brother returned from work to find the house alight and vibrating with celebration over the return of the scoundrel, his unmet expectations boiled over in stubborn standoffishness, and then, when Dad begged him to join the party, a heated exchange.

Their little conversation illustrates some things about stay-at-home prodigals, who can be just as distant in their relationship with God as their runaway counterparts.

1. Even though he lived with his father, the older son didn’t really know him. Surely he had seen his dad go out every day to scan the horizon for a sign of the kid returning. Yet that action never registered as yearning father-love, and big bro was surprised by his father’s delight at the prodigal’s return.

2. He didn’t communicate with his father. When he objected to Dad’s lavish celebration with “…you never gave me a young goat that I might make merry with my friends,” father replied, “Son, you are always with me.” I read that as, ‘Why didn’t you ask? I was here all the time.’

3. He didn’t know what was at his disposal. He could have had that young goat and much more. “All that I have is yours,” his dad told him.

If we find traces of ourselves in the stay-at-home prodigal, we can change the situation by working on his three areas of lack.

  • We can get to know God. We see God the Father at work in the Old Testament. Jesus, His Son, lives out God’s father-heart of love in the New. We can get to know Him and His love for us and for everyone, deserving or irresponsible, as we read the Bible.
  • We can communicate with Him – in prayer. “You do not have because you do not ask,” James says.
  • We can get familiar with our inheritance and begin enjoying all the wonderful things at our disposal as children of God right now.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, Thank You for telling this inclusive story. We are all prodigals. Thank You for welcoming us back. Amen.

MORE: Know your inheritance:
The older brother may have saved himself a lot of grief if he had realized his father's generosity with his inheritance even while he (Dad) was still alive. We too have a grand inheritance now:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rejected

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Samuel 15:10-23

TO CHEW ON: “’Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the Word of the Lord, he also has rejected you from being king.’” 1 Samuel 15:22-23

Some years have passed from when Samuel anointed the handsome Saul as Israel’s first king. The monarch has changed from a shy, humble young man to a confident ruler who is full of himself, looks out for his own interests and is agile with excuses.


When Samuel confronts him with the fact that he didn’t obey God in completely destroying the Amalekites, he takes a self-defense tack that is not unfamiliar to us:

1. "What sin?" He pretends he hasn't done anything wrong and acts like everything is as it should be.
Saul: “I have performed the commandment of the Lord.” vs. 13

2. He makes excuses for himself, blaming someone else.
Saul: “…the people spared the best of the sheep and the oxen …” vs. 15

3. He quibbles over definitions, changing the meaning of words to suit himself.
Samuel: “Why did you not obey the voice of the Lord?” vs. 19
Saul: “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord.” vs. 20-21

4. He rationalizes his disobedience, and twists it into a good thing.
Saul: “The people took of the plunder…to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” vs. 21

Samuel exposes the root of Saul’s actions and defenses. His opposition to God’s commands is really rebellion and stubbornness, equivalent to witchcraft and idolatry. It results in God rejecting him as king.

If there is a quality that characterizes our society today, it is rebellion. Note the second definition of rebel:  “a person who resists any authority, control, or tradition.”

Rebellion comes to us naturally. Our society admires defiant and rugged individualists. Criticism of authority and resistance to it is the very life-blood of the media. And though the success of a democracy depends on the ability of citizens to make wise choices about leadership (which includes critical thinking), we need to beware that rebellion doesn’t creep into our attitude toward God.

What do I do when confronted by my disobedience? If I pretend there is no issue, make excuses, blame someone else, quibble over definitions, or rationalize my sin into a good thing, perhaps there is rebellion (witchcraft and idolatry) in my own heart.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to obey you implicitly. Point out any rebellion in my heart, then help me to deal with it. I want no God but You. Amen.


MORE: “Our insistence in proving that we are right (when confronted with some aspect of Jesus’ teaching) is nearly always an indication that there has been some point of disobedience.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest - June 30th reading

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Come out singing

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 32:1-11

TO CHEW ON: “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.” Psalm 32:7

When I hear ‘hiding place’ I think of Corrie Ten Boom’s book by that name. It was well-titled, for Corrie’s family was arrested for giving Jews a hiding place in their home when Holland was under the Nazis. Later she relates several instances of God performing feats of hiding for her and her sister. In one, they managed to smuggle a Bible into prison right under the nose of their captors.

That God’s followers would need hiding or preservation or deliverance points to a sobering truth about the Christian life: just because God is in our lives doesn’t mean we are immune from trouble. We are just as vulnerable to calamity, sickness, accidents and natural disasters as the next person. However, in those times we have these promises: God will hide us; God will preserve us; He will surround us with songs of deliverance.

The need for “songs of deliverance” implies that we’ve been caught, or very close to it. My Bible has cross references from this phrase to Exodus 15:1 and Judges 5:1. The Exodus reference is to the song that Moses sang after Pharaoh’s army drowned in the Red Sea after pursuing the Israelites in an attempt to bring them back to slavery. The Judges song is one Deborah and Barak sang after Jael, a feisty desert woman, killed Sisera, the army commander of their enemy King Jabin (Judges 4).

Next time you’re in the thick of trouble, don’t take it as a sign of God’s displeasure or punishment. Rather, welcome it as another opportunity to strengthen your faith as you experience God’s care for you in the midst of it. He will bring you through, singing your own song of deliverance.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for being with me in times of testing, threat, and sickness. Please hide me, preserve me and help me to come out the other side singing. Amen.


MORE: A quote from O.C.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Romans 8:35


“God does not keep a man immune from trouble; He says – “I will be with him in trouble.” It does not matter what actual troubles in the most extreme form get hold of a man’s life, not one of them can separate him from his relationship to God. We are “more than conquerors in all these things.” Paul is not talking of imaginary things, but of things that are desperately actual; and he says we are super-victors in the midst of them, not by our ingenuity, or by our courage, or by anything other than the fact that not one of them affects our relationship to God in Jesus Christ. Rightly or wrongly, we are where we are exactly in the condition we are in. I am sorry for the Christian who has not something in his circumstances he wishes was not there.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, May 19th reading

Monday, March 08, 2010

Your Source hasn’t changed

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Joshua 5:9-15

TO CHEW ON: “Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.” Joshua 5:12

"The Gathering of the Manna"
by James Tissot 1896-1900
Imagine that first morning of going out to collect manna as usual and finding – none! What God had provided every morning six days a week for forty years stopped as suddenly as it started. I can just see the people looking all around them puzzled, scanning the more distant terrain, and someone asking, “What day is today?” thinking perhaps it was Sabbath after all.

But no, their eyes weren’t playing tricks on them and it wasn’t Sabbath. The miraculous provision of their daily food was over. From now on they would have to work the land for their three squares.

Change. It comes to us all. I wonder if the Israelites welcomed this one. No doubt some of them did, for they had had their moments of complaining about their one-item menu in the past. I’m sure, though, that others looked back on the manna years as the good old days, spoke fondly of their mother’s ingenuity in preparing it and sometimes hankered after just one more taste.

There was one constant in this, though. The One behind the provision was still God. Before He withheld the manna, He made sure there was something to take its place.

Has your current supply of manna stopped? Perhaps you’ve lost your job, or a big client hasn’t renewed a contract. You’re wondering, how will my needs be met?

This is a good time to remember your source. It’s not your boss, or your client, or the company, but God. The God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills - who has promised to supply all your need according to His riches . Of course life after your current ‘manna’ may not be quite the same. Your new provision may demand a different kind of effort or a new level of responsibility. Still, God promises to supply what you need.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your presence in my life and for Your provision for me in many ways. Help me to have the flexibility to change when that is required.

MORE: Stuart Townend sings “Psalm 23

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Whose fault is it?

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 13:1-9

TO CHEW ON: “Or of those eighteen on whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed then, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:4-5

We will not soon forget scenes of the Haiti earthquake of January 12th. A disaster like that gets people questioning why and inevitably someone makes the suggestion that Haitians were in some way to blame. I’m not going to argue the point one way or the other. We find instances in the Bible where the moral life of a nation and subsequent disasters they suffered were interpreted as God’s judgment. We see just as many examples of God apparently withholding His judgment even though it would seem deserved. And we could well ask, which nation or individual doesn’t deserve judgment?

Jesus here answers questions about two local tragedies, where the word going around was that the victims were to blame because they were “worse sinners” than those who were spared. Jesus said no. He doesn’t explain why these tragedies happened, but rather points out that we’re all sinners and unless we repent we’ll all perish.

Of course we know that we’re all physically terminal and will someday perish physically. So Jesus, by implying there is an out from perishing shifts our attention from physical perishing (death by whatever means) to the spiritual realm and the possibility not perishing.

We’re all disqualified from this, though, because we’re all sinners. A “sinner” (opheiletes) is a debtor, one who owes a moral obligation, a defender, a delinquent, a moral transgressor. “We are morally bound to live a life free from violation of God’s commandments; failing in performance we become delinquent transgressors and debtors to divine justice.” (New Spirit Filled Life Bible p. 1415). As sinners, we’re all headed for an ultimate disaster that will make Port-au-Prince, Phuket, and New Orleans look like a picnic.

The only escape is to repent – a decision that means a change of mind. We change our mind about trying to earn God’s favor our way (earn our way to heaven by being good enough, for example) and accepting Jesus as our substitute. Then we give Him the controls of our lives, no longer living to please ourselves but Him. And guess what – that new imperishable life begins now,  at the moment we make that decision!

PRAYER: Thank You, Jesus, for dying for me so that I can have eternal life and not perish, as I deserve.


MORE: Kristian Stanfill sings “Jesus Paid It All”


Saturday, March 06, 2010

My conscience, yours, or both?

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 10:18-11:1

TO CHEW ON: “Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

In our passage today Paul addresses a tricky cultural problem in Greece. Pagan worship (out of which many of the Christians came) involved feasts and eating. Paul warns Christians not to be a part of pagan celebrations and feasting. For just as taking part in the Lord’s Supper signified fellowship with God, taking part in pagan feasts signified fellowship with demons.

However, sometimes meat that had been part of pagan ritual found its way into the public market. What if they inadvertently bought some of that idol-consecrated meat. Were they then guilty of the same thing?

Paul advises them:
1. The meat in itself is neutral.
2. They can just not ask about the meat’s status – when it’s for sale or served in someone’s home.
3.However, if someone tells them that they are about to eat idol-consecrated meat, then they shouldn’t touch it. Why? For the sake of their own conscience, and for the sake of the person who told them and for whom eating the meat may have spiritual significance.

Of course we will probably never encounter exactly such a situation. But the principles apply to us too. We do things or refrain from doing them for two reasons:

  • Because our own conscience allows or forbids it.
  • Because we consider the conscience of our brother.

Here’s how a modern working out of those principles might look. You go to dinner with a former alcoholic. To this person alcohol means the old life of partying and bondage. For you a glass of wine with your meal is perfectly harmless. While your conscience allows you to have a drink, you’re not sure how that action will affect your friend. Therefore on this day, in deference to your friend’s conscience – considering what alcohol signifies to him and how you having a drink might actually make him feel tempted to have one too – you abstain from the wine.

As we live not only by the dictates of our own consciences, but also considering how our actions will affect others, we glorify God who is honored when every part of the Body (the Church) is healthy and pure. Can you and I be so mature that we set aside our rights in consideration of others?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to live by the dictates of my own conscience and with others in mind, “not seeking my own profit but the profit of many that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10:33)


MORE: Chris Tomlin sings “Give Us Clean Hands”

Monday, March 01, 2010

Spirit-filled for arts and crafts

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Exodus 31:1-15

TO CHEW ON: “And I have filled him (Bezalel) with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.” Exodus 31:3

This passage contains one of the earliest scriptural references to a person being filled with the Spirit of God. The exciting thing is that it’s for work in the arts and crafts.

"Bezalel" by James Tissot

We tend to look at the gifted artist or craftsperson as someone with a natural gift or talent not needing outside help. No doubt there was some native talent in Bezalel and Oholiab, the men God told Moses to put in charge of constructing the tabernacle and its accessories. But here we find that in addition to any inherent talent they possessed, God imparted to them extraordinary abilities in three areas:

1. Wisdom: Have you read the instructions for building the tabernacle and furnishings? One would certainly need wisdom to know how to interpret and carry them out.

2. Understanding: I am always amazed by reno and fix-it shows on HGTV. Craftsmen like Mike Holmes understand how to solve complicated structural problems from the inside out. The Holy Spirit gave these men that kind of understanding.


3. Workmanship: God imparted Bezalel and Oholiab the skill to actually do the work – to carve the almond blossoms and pomegranates, to cast the rings and the cherubim, to fit the pieces together and overlay them with gold.

 "The Tailor" by James Tissot

I find myself readily asking for the Holy Spirit’s infilling when it comes to “spiritual” things. But doesn’t this passage indicate we can also ask for His infilling when our assignment is to design the centerpieces for the church potluck or the church’s float in the community parade? I know these jobs aren’t as exalted as building the Tabernacle but they are part of our worship, and thus worthy of our best and more than we in ourselves have the natural ability to accomplish.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this example of Your filling people for work in the arts and crafts. Help me to rely on Your Spirit’s filling for all I do. Amen.

MORE: Os Guinness speaks about the Christian’s vision and inspiration:

“It is easy to abuse vision and make it serve as chaplain to our conceits or bellhop to our desires. Christian vision, by contrast, must be held accountable because it is inspired directly or indirectly by the call of God. It is an act of imaginative seeing that combines the insight of faith, which goes to the heart of things below the surface, and the foresight of faith, which soars beyond the present with the power of a possible future. This combining of the not-yet-combined is the secret of visionary faith. Vision and reality, word and fulfillment, present and future, situation and possibility, restlessness and reaching out, anger at what is wrong and an aim for what is better – whatever the contrast between the pairs, visionary faith is out to close the gap.” (Os Guinness – The Call, p. 177, emphasis mine)

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