Sunday, June 30, 2013

Kingdom children

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 9:43b-62

TO CHEW ON: "And Jesus...said to them, 'Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you'll be great.'" Luke 9:48

In our passage today Jesus again confronts His disciples (and us) with the upside-downness of the kingdom of heaven. The disciples are arguing about who will be the greatest. Jesus answers by putting a child before them and making the startling statement, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me."

In a passage that speaks of the same event, Matthew reports Jesus saying, "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" Matthew 18:3.

What qualities of children make them good kingdom citizens? I can think of at least five (and [Ha!] they all start with 't' just like a sermon).

Children are trusting. Look at how a child lays its head on the shoulder of a parent and falls asleep. That's how we are to trust God .

Children are transparent. They easily show their feelings and live without trying to be someone they are not. Jesus told His disciples to live with such lack of guile: "Let your yes be yes, your no, no."

Children are teachable. Think of the ways a child develops physical skills, picks up language and attitudes. Such a teachableness is the key to entering the kingdom  and continuing in it.

Children are tolerant. They don't discriminate against people because of shabby clothes or poor social standing. We should be just as accepting.

Children are telling. A little child full of good news finds it impossible to keep that news inside. We are to be just as overflowing with the good news that our sins are forgiven, our friendship with God is restored and that we have eternal life.

I ask myself, am I nurturing within me these childlike qualities? Are you?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me relate to You as a child to a trusting parent. Help me to live these qualities in my relationship with others too. 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.

You’re malleable clay again
learning your family’s ways and graces.
And once again you fit
into small places.

© 2007 by Violet Nesdoly — all rights reserved.


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The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Have you thought about the finish line?

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Timothy 4:1-8

TO CHEW ON: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

“Shortly after noon on July 5, 1997, the doctor told me I had cancer,” writes Larry Crabb in the Introduction to his book Soul Talk. He goes on, “My wife and I cried when the doctor left. He had made no promises. We didn’t know if I’d live or die. It takes a while to realize what life is all about. We don’t ask the hard questions until we have to. That day I had to. …The curtains covering my soul fell back and I began to see what was happening inside. When that occurred, the battle began. But it’s also when life began” (Soul Talk, p. 2).

The “curtains covering my soul” got a definite tug in 2006 – the year my mom died. As I made funeral arrangements then cleaned out her apartment and gave away and sold her things, I began to know at a gut level it would be only a matter of time before the person whose heap of stuff needing to be dealt with was me. And I’d better start living more than ever with those hard questions in mind.

Questions like: Have I discovered what I’m here for? Have I made a difference? What will I be remembered for? If I died today, would I have regrets? What would they be?

Paul was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge will give to me on that day.”

What about you? Have you begun asking yourself the hard questions? It’s never too soon to begin, so that you can end like Paul did – with no regrets!

PRAYER: Dear God, please keep the light on inside me. Help me live today with the end in mind. Amen.

MORE: More finish lines
  • Today the church celebrates the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. The liturgy of the day begins with this collect prayer:
"Almighty God, whose blessed apostles Peter and Paul glorified you by their martyrdom: Grant that your Church, instructed by their teaching and example, and knit together in unity by your Spirit, may ever stand firm upon the one foundation, which is Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."
  • Every Christmas, Concordia College in Moorhead Minnesota presents a program of choral music. For years they have performed it against the backdrop of a 20 x 60-foot painted Christmas mural reflecting the year's theme. For many of those years David Hetland designed the stunning murals for those concerts, then supervised the volunteers who painted them. In 2006, at the age of only 59, Hetland died – but not without a sense that he had achieved something of significance.
David Hetland talks about his life and work.


A David Hetland mural
  • Gavin MacLeod became famous for playing parts on the Mary Tyler Moore show and the Loveboat series. But now that he’s older, he considers a couple of far less prestigious projects the ones that define what his life is about.
Gavin MacLeod "The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry"




If you had to make a 2-minute video like this, what would you say about your life?
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The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
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Friday, June 28, 2013

Legalism--still alive and well?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 4:21-5:6

TO CHEW ON: "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace …. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." Galatians 5:4,6

Though the legalism that insists circumcision is mandatory to be 'in'  has never been an issue in my life, there are other legalism manifestations. What about the legalism that insists on a certain mode of baptism, that judges lifestyle liberties (like drinking alcohol), that insists on certain versions of the Bible? What about the legalism that comes in the guise of its symptoms—irrational, unexplainable fears (like the fear of dying because at some level I feel like I haven't measured up to God's standard)?

Paul's theme in this whole letter is to explain and extol how the gospel is not the good news of which laws to keep but the good news of grace that results in spiritual liberty.

A brief overview of that LIBERTY shows its rich dimensions:

  • It frees us from the fear of death - Psalm 107:14; Romans 8:2.
  • It puts us in a servant / master relationship of choice, not coercion - Psalm 116:16; Romans 6:18.
  • It springs us from the prison of spiritual blindness - Isaiah 42:7; John 8:32.
  • It gives us a compelling message - Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:18.
  • It impacts all of creation - Romans 8:21.
  • It makes for a liberated life - 2 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 2:4.

The "Introduction to Galatians "in my Bible sums up the book's message and impact well:
'The same perversion of the gospel that Paul combats in this letter keeps appearing in various forms. Legalism, which teaches that justification or sanctification depends upon a person's own efforts, thus denying the sufficiency of the Cross, is the most persistent enemy of the gospel of grace. Circumcision and other requirements of the Mosaic Law may no longer be issues pertaining to salvation, but oftentimes the observance of certain rules, regulations, or religious rites is made coordinate with faith in Christ as the condition of Christian maturity. Galatians clearly declares the perils of legalism and establishes the essential truth of salvation by faith alone" - Jerry Horner, Introduction to Galatians, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1629.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your gift of salvation. Help me to never make it something I have to earn or expect others to try and earn. Amen.

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Swamped by circumstances?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 77:1-20

TO CHEW ON:
"And I said, 'This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High'" Psalm 77:10

Asaph, the writer of this psalm, is in distress. He can't sleep. Words fail him. He feels forgotten and neglected. The tap of God's favor has been turned off.

Then Asaph turns himself around. "This is my anguish," he declares. "But…" How does he do it? His method has to do with two thought patterns and two actions.

"I will remember…" (Psalm 77:10,11). He will recall the times of God's favor, His word, His works, His wonders, the evidences of His presence, no doubt in nature and life.

"I will also meditate on all Your work" (Psalm 77:12). To meditate is to continuously direct the mind along a certain course. He will direct his thoughts towards God's actions and accomplishments.

"And talk of Your deeds" (Psalm 77:12)
. He will express those remembrances and meditations, further cementing their reality, their importance, their superiority over the bad things he has been dwelling on.

"Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary" (Psalm 77:13). He will seek God's company and the company of other believers by going back to God's house where the focus is on "the God who does wonders…" (Psalm 77:14-20).

Could we do the same things when life's pressures pummel us and the clouds of circumstances block out His presence?

  • Remember the good times, God's goodness, His works in nature, His wonders in history and in our lives.
  • Meditate on all His work. We can think about God's work in our lives, in creation, in history, and in redemption. The verses we have memorized will come in handy here. Recalling and repeating them will wear wholesome paths in our brains—paths to purity (Psalm 119:11); truth (Psalm 119:29); what is of value (Psalm 119:36-37); song (Psalm 119:54); wisdom (Psalm 119:66); the right course to take (Psalm 119:105); light (Psalm 119:149) etc. (Read all of Psalm 119 to find more benefits of meditating on the Word).
  • Talk of God's ways. Commit to them in speech.
  • Go to the sanctuary. Seek out the company of other believers where we will find moral and spiritual agreement and support.
PRAYER: Dear God, it's easy to let circumstances swamp me. When it feels like that's happening, help me to recall and do these things. Amen.

MORE: Mental inventory
"You should take inventory on a regular basis and ask yourself, 'What have I been thinking about?' Spend some time examining your thought life.

Thinking about what you're thinking about is very valuable because Satan usually deceives people into thinking that the source of their misery or trouble is something other than what it really is. He wants them to think they are unhappy due to what is going on around them (their circumstances), but the misery is actually due to what is going on inside them (their thoughts)" - Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, p. 61.




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Sunday, June 23, 2013

No room for racism

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Galatians 3:15-29

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 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 being packed with elders playing card games at the picnic tables. Many an evening the smells of cooking curry and onions 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 we have become disciples of 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 non-essentials 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

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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Faith graft

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 3:1-14

TO CHEW ON: "This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect in the flesh:" Galatians 3:2-3

If you had the possibility of getting a university degree either by earning it with studies or having it bestowed as an honour, which would you choose? Personally, though an honorary degree would be nice, I think I'd choose the work way, just to have the satisfaction of knowing I had earned it and was worthy of that degree. It's that way with a lot of things in life.

There's something in us humans that loves being capable. It's hard for us to accept others doing something for us. However, establishing and maintaining a relationship with God ia not in the category of something we can do for ourselves.

Earlier in Galatians, Paul has explained that we can't earn our salvation. In today's reading he goes on to say it's just as impossible to be sanctified ("made perfect in the flesh") through works.

Andrew Murray in his book Abiding In Christ, addresses our dilemma:
"A superficial acquaintance with God's plan leads to the view that while justification is God's work by faith in Christ, sanctification is our work, to be performed under the influence of the gratitude we feel for the deliverance we have experienced and by the aid of the Holy Spirit. But the earnest Christian soon finds how little gratitude can supply the power. When he thinks that more prayer will bring it, he finds that, indispensable as prayer is, it is not enough. Often the believer struggles hopelessly for years, until he listens to the teaching of the Spirit as He glorifies Christ again, and reveals Christ, our sanctification to be appropriated by faith alone."

He goes on to explain this "appropriation" as a tree graft:
"If I want a tree made wholly good I take it when young, and cutting the stem clean off on the ground, I graft it just where it emerges from the soil. I watch over every bud which the old nature could possibly put forth until the flow of sap from the old roots into the new stem is so complete that the old life has, as it were, been entirely conquered and covered by the new. Here I have a tree entirely renewed -- emblem of the Christian who has learned in entire consecration to surrender everything for Christ, and in a wholehearted faith wholly to abide in Him."

Murray suggests that if the gardener talked to the tree, this is what He would say:
"Yield now yourself entirely to this new nature with which I have invested you; repress every tendency of the old nature to give buds or sprouts; let all your sap and all your life powers rise up into this graft."

And the grafted tree would say to the Gardener:
"When you graft me, O spare not a single branch; let everything of the old self, even the smallest bud, be destroyed that I may no longer live in my own, but in that other life that was cut off and brought and put upon me, that I might be wholly new and good." (Abiding In Christ - Chapter 9 - Kindle version).

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this grafted-in life that You make available through the finished work of Jesus. Help me, by faith, to live this way. Amen.

MORE: Grafting
The picture of a plant graft could also be implied by Jesus when He talks about us abiding in Him in John 15:1-8 (in fact, that is the passage on which Murray's book is based). Grafting is an interesting process. As you read this Wikipedia explanation of plant grafting, look for ways it is like our life in Christ.

"Grafting is a method of asexual plant propagation widely used in agriculture and horticulture where the tissues of one plant are encouraged to fuse with those of another...
"In most cases, one plant is selected for its roots, and this is called the stock or rootstock. The other plant is selected for its stems, leaves, flowers, or fruits and is called the scion. The scion contains the desired genes to be duplicated in future production by the stock/scion plant.
"In stem grafting, a common grafting method, a shoot of a selected, desired plant cultivar is grafted onto the stock of another type....
"For successful grafting to take place, the vascular cambium tissues of the stock and scion plants must be placed in contact with each other. Both tissues must be kept alive until the graft has taken, usually a period of a few weeks. Successful grafting only requires that a vascular connection take place between the two tissues.
Read the whole article.

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

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Patience

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 8:4-18

TO CHEW ON: "But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience." Luke 8:15

"When people ask me what kind of time commitment it takes to write a novel, I give them two numbers: 2000 and 10" says Randy Ingermanson in his popular email newsletter called "Advanced Fiction-Writing Ezine". "2000 hours is the 'typical' number of hours that a novelist spends developing her craft so that she's good enough to get published. 10 hours per week is the minimum number of hours per week that a novelist should be spending in order to write a book in a year."

I don't know about you, but Randy's advice speaks to me about patience, perseverance, endurance -- the very things that are also necessary for producing a harvest of good fruit in the Christian life.

That's the subject of the Jesus' parable part of our reading today. In it, the sower seeds the Word of God (Old Testament stories, psalms, proverbs, prophets, the teachings of Jesus, the teachings of the Apostles). It falls on all kinds of ground (receptive and non-receptive ears/lives). But it only bears fruit (yields visible results in changed allegiances, priorities and lifestyles) in good soil, and needs the added ingredient of patience to do this.

[Patience comes from the word hupomone. It means constancy, perseverance, continuance, bearing up, steadfastness, holding out, patient endurance. "It describes the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances, not with passive complacency but with a hopeful fortitude that actively resists weariness and defeat." p. 1741 New Spirit Filled Life Bible.]

The Bible speaks of patience in many places.
  • Job was famous for it (James 5:11). 
  • The way Jesus endured beatings and the cross was our example in it (1 Peter 2:18-23). 
  • Several of the early churches were commended for it (Revelation 2:2; 2:19).
  •  It is closely related to hope (Romans 8:25). 
  • It can earn us the title of "ministers of" or "true servants" of God (2 Corinthians 6:4), 
  • "blessed" (James 5:11) 
  • and can make us worth following (2 Timothy 3:10).

I ask myself, do I have patience? Do you? It's worth developing, not only for the short-term projects it will help us complete (children raised, houses built, quilts made, novels written) but also for its result in producing lasting life-fruit of all kinds.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to develop patience, endurance and perseverance. I want my life to produce a harvest that lasts.

MORE: "Worth it All" by Rita Springer







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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Prayer practices from Psalms 42 & 43

prayer
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 42:1-43:5

TO CHEW ON: "Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance - Psalm 42:5


In these two Psalms (42 & 43) we see a person who is praying from a place of deep distress. I love it that Bible writings like this show us that people who lived back in Bible times were a lot like us. They felt discouraged, intimidated, depressed, overwhelmed, and very needy. But this Son of Korah wasn't content to stay in that dark place. These psalms are his prayers and they illustrate some excellent prayer practices.
  • He tells God how much he needs Him and why - Psalm 42:1,2. His need seems to be based in part on the scorn of people around him. Those mockers point out that God hasn't come to his rescue so maybe He doesn't even exist. Our Son of Korah tells God about this - Psalm 42:3,10.
  • He remembers the good times of going to 'church' with the multitudes (Psalm 42:4) and the nation's history with God (Psalm 42:6) and in this way bolsters his faith.
  • He talks to his discouraged self. Three times he repeats self-talk that begins with "Why are you cast down, O my soul…(Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5). A sidebar article about these verses says:
"…he refocuses himself on the promises of God, confronts the fears and contradictions deep in his soul, and challenges himself about every semblance of unbelief in his heart …. Faith comes alive by hearing the truth so the psalmist seems to be preaching to himself being renewed in hope as he reviews who God really is" - David Bryant, "Preparing Yourself to Pray," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 720.
  • He puts into words what he wants—exactly what he envisions God will do for him:
- Show him lovingkindness - Psalm 42:8.
- Replace his anxious nighttime thoughts with songs and prayers - Psalm 42:8.
- Set him free from the schemes of deceitful, unjust men - Psalm 43:1.
- Send His truth and light as direction for living - Psalm 43:3.
- Bring him back to church with songs of praise - Psalm 43:4,5.
Maybe we should embrace some of these practices in our own lives. We could:
- Talk to God with brutal honesty—telling Him about our troubles and how much we need him.
- Talk to ourselves, repudiating our feelings with the truth of who God is and His promises to us.
- Recall how God has helped us in the past.
- Express in detail what we'd like God to do for us.

PRAYER:
Dear God, sometimes I feel a lot like the Sons of Korah. Please help me to remember these prayer practices and use them. Amen.

MORE: Who is God? What are His promises?

"…Faith comes alive by hearing the truth so the psalmist seems to be preaching to himself being renewed in hope as he reviews who God really is," says our Bible commenter. What is the truth about God? What are His promises?

One of the best ways I've found to remind myself of who God is and what His promises are is to recall / recite Bible verses I have memorized. Verses like:

Exodus 14:14
Isaiah 54:10
Hosea 6:3
Matthew 7:7,8
Philippians 4:5,7

What verses would you suggest?

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Truth + Discipline = Joy

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 5:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You." Psalm 5:11

If there's anything we all seek in life it's happiness. We spend millions of dollars and travel thousands of miles in search of it. A close relative to happiness is joy (the words are often used interchangeably in dictionary definitions).  

[Joy (joi): 1. A strong feeling of happiness arising from the expectation of some good or from its realization; gladness, delight. 2. A state of contentment or satisfaction: to have joy in one's work.] 

 Joy has always seemed to me the more substantive of the two.

Calvin Miller in the first chapter of his book That Elusive Thing Called Joy says:
"Three things I do every morning that my life may possess happiness all day long. The first is to affirm the reality of Jesus Christ and thank Him for His lordship. The second thing is to call to mind the reality of Satan, who will seek throughout the day to make me a miserable contradiction of joy. The third thing I do, is to call to mind the gifts that are mine in Christ" p. 13.

Do you suppose Miller used Psalm 5 as a template of his three daily "call to minds"? For they are all there in David's morning prayer:

1. In Psalm 5:1-4 David reminds himself of the qualities of the God he worships. He acknowledges God as his ultimate authority ("My King"), yet as someone who even as exalted as He is, hears. He is a good God who eschews evil.

2. In Psalm 5:5-6 &  9-10 David calls to mind the reality and strength of evil. He sees it in terms of how God will react to those under its sway. Those who are proud don't have a chance. Liars invite God's destruction. Flatterers who seek to profit from their wickedness and rebellion will be doomed as they follow their own advice.

3. David's reason for joy rests in what he has in God (Psalm 5:11-12). Coming to God's temple reminds him of God's mercy. His meditation about God leads to a request for His guidance. It culminates in a bubbling up of joy as he mulls over the benefits of belonging to such a God: a God who will defend him, bless him, and surround him with favour "as with a shield."

Miller extends the meaning of "the gifts that are mine in Christ" to include the abilities and opportunities unique to each of us as individuals. He continues from the quote above:
"…If I live each day faithful to my gifts, developing and improving them, I find I am indeed a happy person. If I am sloppy and careless in developing my gifts, I find a predictable negativity fixing itself into my day." p. 13.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to frame my day with right and realistic thinking in regard to You, the reality of evil and my responsibility. May I look to you today (and every day) as my source of genuine, lasting joy. Amen.

MORE: God does not exist to make us happy
"God does not exist to make us happy. Anyone who holds such a preposterous view of God is going to have a miserable relationship with Him. The attitude of many Christians seems to be that He exists to lavish His children with soul-contentment so that we may "lollygag" in spiritual ecstasy between conversion and death. God is a giver, but He does not give joy. He gives redemption, meaning, security, love, victory, and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And our happiness is our response to His gifts."
- Calvin Miller, That Elusive Thing Called Joy, pages 11-12.

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 30:7-33

TO CHEW ON: "This is a generation that curses its father, and does not bless its mother." Proverbs 30:11

I don't think I can recall a TV show or commercial lately where fathers are honoured. The message is more likely to follow along the lines of a certain brand of credit card promotions, where the dud of a father books a flight on air mile points (to his parents' home or a vacation spot) at an inappropriate time because his inferior credit card company has blocked all the good weeks.

What follows is scenes of the family in full sweaty costume celebrating all the year's holidays in the heat of summer, or on the beach besieged by storms, or the tennis court hassled by swarms of bugs. The camera segues to one of the kids who mutters, "Dad needs to get a *Brand xyz* card," followed by him / her looking at the camera and asking, "What's in your wallet?" They're funny, but they do carry the message: Poor dad. He sure is stupid. But his smart kid isn't.

This attitude is not new. In fact it's as old as Jacob deceiving Isaac to get the blessing of the firstborn (Genesis 27).

There are many ways we can dishonour our fathers (and mothers; the Bible usually talks in terms of both parents):

1. By living lives of disobedience, rebellion, stubbornness and sensuality (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

2. By showing lack of respect (Deuteronomy 27:16).

3. By taking sides and promoting dissension and quarreling in the family (Micah 7:6).

4. By failing to provide for them when they are in need and we have the means (Mark 7:11).

The Bible teaching is unequivocal in its stand supporting fathers and parents in general.
1. The command to honour parents is one of the ten, and accompanied with the promise of long life (Deuteronomy 5:16).

2. The child who treats parents disrespectfully is living dangerously (Proverbs 30:17).

3. Robbing parents of what is their due puts children in cahoots with the destroyer (Proverbs 28:24).

4. Children betraying parents is one of the unnatural family behaviors that will typify end times (Matthew 10:21; 2 Timothy 3:2).

The application to us cuts many ways.

If you are a father, you will want to live in a way that earns the commanded respect.

If you are the wife of a father, it's important to refrain from undermining your husband to your children by going behind his back with deceitful, underhanded speech or manipulations like Rebekah did.

If you are a child and your father is still living, you can provide for him (time, attention and respect are provisions as well as financial help if he needs it and living support if he is elderly or failing).

Whether your father is dead or alive, you can focus on the good in him, refusing to dwell on the hurtful actions or lacks that may be a part of your memories.

How will you honour your father today?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for earthly fathers. Thank You for the gift of my dad and his godly example. For those of us who don't have earthly fathers, thank You for promising to be a father to the fatherless. Amen.

MORE: Steve Green sings "Find Us Faithful"







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

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Lessons from Jesus and women

Woman anoints Jesus feet
Woman anoints Jesus' feet
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 7:36-8:3

TO CHEW ON: "And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities … who provided for Him from their substance." Luke 8:1-3

Jesus went against His culture in the way He interacted with women.The Pharisee at whose house He was eating expected Jesus to draw back in revulsion at even the touch of the woman who was making a scene—standing at His feet sobbing. When her tears wet His feet, she dried them with her hair, then poured perfumed oil on them.

Jesus sensing Simon's scornful thoughts (for that was the Pharisee's name) told him a little story about forgiveness. It was designed to make Simon and the other guests reflect on their own relationship with God. And then, with great tenderness, He said to the broken woman, "Your sins are forgiven … your faith has saved you. Go in peace."

Our focus verses draw attention to the fact that Jesus took support from three named women and "many others." They had once been unfortunates—outcasts with their "evil spirits and infirmities." But Jesus had cast out those things. Now they expressed their gratitude to Him in a public way by supporting Him and accompanying Him on His travels.

Jesus' words and actions invite us to look at our own.
  • Do we have a bit of the Pharisee in us in the way we treat people? Do we look at their lifestyles, their sex, their appearance and at least in our thoughts, turn up our noses? There is in Jesus' acceptance of all kinds of people a picture of God's heart for them. Let's ask God to help us strip off all the outer trappings and see people as He sees them—each an infinitely valuable and precious soul.
  • We have all been forgiven—and much. Are we even conscious of the extent of His forgiveness? Are we expressing our gratitude? These women expressed theirs with perfume, wealth, and their presence. How will you, how will I say 'thank you'?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for this picture of Your tender heart toward the broken. Help me to see the worth of each person and to express my gratitude for Your forgiveness of me in ways that cost me something. Amen.
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The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
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Friday, June 14, 2013

Hypocrisy Exposé

"Paul turns to the Gentiles (Acts 13)" by F. Laporta
"Paul turns to the Gentiles (Acts 13)" by F. Laporta - Bible Artwork Vol. 10

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 2:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "For before certain men came from James, he (Peter) would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy."  Galatians 2:12-13

Here it seems Peter let his actions be influenced by peer pressure In spite of his championing the cause of the Gentiles in front of the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15:6-11) he was again distancing himself from them. While before he had been happy to eat with them, the presence of "certain men … from James" caused him to withdraw. Peter had influence and so his actions were causing others, even the encourager Barnabas, to follow suit.

Paul named Peter's actions hypocrisy.

[Hypocrisy - hypokrisis was used of play-acting, role-playing, pretending and thus acting insincerely.]

I see a double warning in Paul's exposé of Peter's hypocrisy:


1. We too can be influenced by the legalists among us, letting our actions be governed by what these 'super-spirituals' will think and say rather than by what God has revealed in the Bible. Paul's foundation is rock-solid in this regard. This incident is the setting from which he wrote his inspirational living-by-faith-not-works manifesto:

"For I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me" - Galatians 2:20  (emphasis added).

2. We can be the legalists whose emphasis on outer things causes others to act hypocritically. Let's examine our pet standards. They may come from good sources: our upbringing, denominational emphases, life experience. Still we need to ask, does the Bible support them? Or are they the type of burden Paul accused the false brethren of imposing here?

PRAYER: Dear God, please give me the wisdom to spot hypocrisy in my attitudes and that of others. Help me to live in Your freedom and not in the shadow of human-made restrictions and rules of exclusivity that change according to which group I'm with. Amen.

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The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Prophetic words of knowledge

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Kings 21:17-29

TO CHEW ON: "Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite saying, 'Arise, go down to meet Ahab King of Israel, who lives in Samaria. There he is in the vineyard of Naboth where he has gone down to take possession of it.'" 1 Kings 21:17-18

The sordid little tale of Ahab and Jezebel setting up the murder of Naboth so that Ahab could get the plot he wanted for his vegetable garden reminds us of similar intrigues. For example there was the scheme of David  in arranging for the demise of Uriah so that he could cover up the fact that he got Bathsheba pregnant (2 Samuel 11-12:15). In both cases God sent one of his valets--a prophet--to expose the sin and impose the punishment.

This kind of prophetic exposure of secrets and sin didn't happen only in the Old Testament. Jesus had such an encounter with a Samaritan woman (John 4:16-42). When Ananias and Sapphira conspired to give a false impression about their offering, Peter knew (Acts 5:3). He confronted them with their sin of lying to the Holy Spirit and both died, on that very day. (Read the whole story - Acts 5:1-11.) 

Which just shows us that we can't sneak around on God. He knows what's up and has His ways of bringing our sin into the light.

The part Elijah played in the Naboth garden story also has something to teach us. The fearful, depressed, even suicidal man from 1 Kings 19 has disappeared. In his place we see the old Elijah, ready to leave on God's assignments at a moment's notice. Answering Ahab's wry, "Have you found me, O my enemy," with the authority of his Boss: "I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord."

I ask myself, would I be as quick to carry out such an intimidating task? As unquestioning, as Elijah seems to be, of later fallout for myself (remember, Jezebel had recently threatened his life). Such an example gives new meaning to verses like, "I have been crucified with Christ. Nevertheless it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to live transparently before You. May I be as completely at Your beck and call as Elijah was. Amen.

MORE: Modern prophetic words of knowledge

We would call what Elijah, Nathan and Peter communicated to the people they confronted, prophetic words of knowledge. Paul lists prophecy as one of the gifts of the Spirit  and describes prophetic encounters in a church service as one way God convinces people of His reality, convicts them of sin, and causes them to worship Him.

In some churches and denominations, such communications are considered flaky and not for today. Tabo Huntley of The King's Arms Church in Bedford, England wouldn't agree. Here is his experience with and teaching about prophetic words of knowledge in use today: "Words of Knowledge" by Tabo Huntley.


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

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The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

One secret to perseverance

Illustration from Lyman Abbot Commentary on Acts

Oriental Prayer Meeting - Illustration from Lyman Abbot Commentary on Acts
Oriental Prayer Meeting
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 13:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "So being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus." Acts 13:4

What strikes me about the disciples here is their lack of personal agendas. They have no five-year plan to evangelize the world. There seem to be only two items on their to-do list: hear and follow God's instructions.

When those instructions come via the Holy Spirit saying "Separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them" there is immediate obedience. No hanging back with—'Well, we had planned to visit our families, take a vacation, write a book…'

Their sense of being appointed and sent by God Himself on this mission was, I think, key to how they would handle what was ahead on this, Paul's first missionary journey (called Saul here, but his name was later changed to Paul). They didn't know it yet, but they would face opposition from a sorcerer, city-to-city hassling by the Jews, the desertion of a team member,  the threat of stoning in one place and actual stoning in another (Acts 13 & 14).

The lesson I take from this is  that I too need to listen to God's voice when I see opportunities to be sure that what I take on is by His leading and not my own idea. I need to be open to new tasks in areas I hadn't even considered. And when I don't hear anything specific, I need to be content to carry on faithfully with what I'm doing, knowing He is perfectly able to let me know when it's time to change course.

This sense of God's call is important because it is sure that I, that you, will face opposition, discouragement, misunderstanding, maybe even threats and physical danger while on Kingdom assignments. The knowledge that God has called us to any specific task will help us to persevere.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this clear picture of how You worked in Bible times. Help me to be as available as Paul and Barnabas were, and to follow Your direction, knowing that if You call me to a job, You will see me through it no matter what comes my way. Amen.

MORE: Feast of St. Barnabas

Today the church celebrates the Apostle Barnabas. The liturgy for today begins with this collect:

Grant, O God, that we may follow the example of your faithful servant Barnabas, who, seeking not his own renown but the well­being of your Church, gave generously of his life and substance for the relief of the poor and the spread of the Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.
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Monday, June 10, 2013

Underdog success

Peter's angelic jail break - Artist Unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 12:6-25

TO CHEW ON: "Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God grew and multiplied." Acts 12:23,24

When watching sports events, do you often find yourself cheering for the underdog? There is something about a supposedly weaker team or person facing a stronger that arouses our sympathy. Perhaps it's our empathy as well, as we sometimes feel like underdogs ourselves.

In our story, the Christians were definitely in the minority. Compared to the rest of the population they numbered, at this time, probably in the low thousands—a spectacular increase when you consider that the number of disciples on the day of Pentecost was only about 120. Still, hardly a force with which to be reckoned.

Their biggest foes, the Jewish leaders, no doubt thought that it would be only a matter of time before this rogue movement  was stamped out altogether. They even had Herod on their side. He had already killed James and when he saw how it pleased them, he arrested Peter intending to make him next.

But of the gospel's foes hadn't counted on supernatural intervention. Who could stand against angelic interference that caused chains to fall off and an iron gate to "open to them of its own accord"?

And so the tables were turned. Instead of Peter's head on the chopping block, it was those unfortunate soldiers charged with guarding him. And instead of the gospel being the casualty, it was proud Herod.

This is an encouraging story for Christian underdogs today, wherever they are. For the same God who engineered Peter's prison break and Herod's parasites is at work today, seeing to it that the word of God will keep growing and multiplying, no matter how strong the resistance to it or how impressive the forces that oppose it.

PRAYER: Dear God, I take courage from these stories that remind me of how unstoppable the gospel is. When I see my efforts and those of my church and Christians in general meet with resistance, help me, help us, not to take matters into our hands, but leave the 'battle' to You. Amen. 


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