Friday, October 31, 2014

How to live free

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 8:23-47

TO CHEW ON: "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, 'If you abide in My word you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'" John 8:31-32

The Bible connects the ability to discern truth with obedience in several places. Paul does it in Romans 1 when he talks about sinful people "who suppress the truth in unrighteousness (or wickedness)" (Romans 1:18). Their refusal to acknowledge God as God and glorify Him (which surely includes obedience), results in foolish darkened hearts and lives that are enslaved to physical lusts, passions and outright rebellion (Romans 1:18-32).

In our focus verse today Jesus states the same idea only coming at it positively, maybe because of the sympathetic crowd ("Those Jews who believed Him"):

"If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 
And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

Let's look closely at Jesus' words to see how He connects obedience, to  knowing truth, to freedom.

"If you abide in My word..." Abide (Meno) means to remain as one, not to become another or different. A cross-reference to this verse in my margin is John 14:23-24: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word." The NIV says "If anyone loves Me he will obey My word" (NIV).

"...You are My disciples indeed..." Disciple (Mathetes) comes from the root "math" which means thought with effort. My Bible defines disciple as "a learner, one who follows both the teaching and the teacher" (Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1307).

"...And you shall know the truth..." Know (Ginosko ) means to perceive, understand, recognize, gain knowledge, realize, come to know. "Ginosko is the knowledge that has inception, a progress and an attainment. It is the recognition of truth by personal experience" (Word Wealth - New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1459).

"...and the truth shall make you free." Made free (Eleuthero) means to make free; set at liberty from the dominion of sin.

What does this mean for you and me? We could say that obedience to God and what He tells us of His will in the Bible is key to us being  disciples and to understanding truth in a way that is only possible once we've actually lived it. Oswald Chambers expresses the connection between obedience and understanding truth so well:

"The golden rule for understanding spiritually is not intellect, but obedience. If a man wants scientific knowledge, intellectual curiosity is his guide; but if he wants insight into what Jesus Christ teaches, he can only get it by obedience. If things are dark to me, then I may be sure there is something I will not do. Intellectual darkness comes through ignorance; spiritual darkness comes because of something I do not intend to obey."
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, July 27th reading (emphasis added).
A corollary of living this way is that I'm set free from sin being the boss in my life. Ironic, isn't it, that freedom comes through putting oneself under the will of Another.

It sounds great in theory... now to consistently put it into practice!

PRAYER: Dear God, I want to live free. Help me to identify where I am still in bondage because of disobedience that keeps me blind to the truth about You and myself. Amen.

MORE: Halloween

Today is Halloween. It is a secular holiday that has sacred roots. It is still listed in the Lectionary as a holy day: Vigil of All Saints.

An All Saints Vigil Liturgy (found on an ecumenical liturgy site) includes a renewal of Baptism. The leader begins that part of the service with the invitation: "I invite you (to stand) to affirm your commitment to Christ and your rejection of all that is evil."

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

You pastor's words

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-3:5

TO CHEW ON: "For this reason we also thank God without ceasing because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it, not as the word of men but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe." 1 Thessalonians 2:13

Do we consider the message our pastor preaches each Sunday the actual "word of God" to us? Do we welcome it as Paul's readers did? Or do we hear it with a critical ear and the intention to obey only the comfortable bits?

It might be a good idea to keep Paul's words in mind next Sunday as we listen to our pastor preach.
  • We can ask ourselves is there something we need to hear?
  • If pastor's sermon sounds like a repeat of other messages he's preached, we can examine our lives for disobedience. Maybe the reason God is impressing the same message on our pastor's heart week after week is because we aren't obeying.
  • If we find it hard to concentrate, taking notes may help. We could write down his main points, statements that grab our attention, and Scriptures that he refers to so we can reread them later.
  • We can listen with the goal of taking something practical home with us. We could look for a truth or principle to apply to everyday life or one change we could make.
  • And one more thing: why don't we pray for our pastor throughout the week that he will hear from God for us, and have the freedom and liberty to speak what God impresses on him to preach. Let's not take lightly God's choice and anointing of our pastor as a means of building us up (His body the church).

PRAYER: Dear God, I thank You for my pastor. Please help him to hear from You this week, and to preach with confidence and conviction next Sunday. Amen.

MORE: Understanding your pastor's challenges

For us in the pews, it's easy to think a pastor's job is a piece of cake. After all, doesn't he just have to get his sermon ready each week and preach on Sunday? What can be so hard about that?

However, the reality is quite different. Kevin DeYoung, an author, blogger and pastor writes of the challenges of being a pastor:

"Ask any pastor who really takes his work seriously and he will tell you of the pressures he feels in ministry—people in crisis, people leaving, people coming, people falling through the cracks, people disappointed by the pastor, people disappointing to the pastor. In the midst of this work the pastor is trying to find time for study, prayer, preparation, and family. He’s trying to improve himself, train up new leaders, meet the budget, get to know a few missionaries, champion important program, manage staff, take care of administrative details, provide for deep, accessible worship and preaching, be responsive to new ideas, listen to new concerns, be ready to help when people are in trouble."
Read all of "Pastoral Pressure and Apostolic Anxiety."

May this insight into pastoral life add to our incentive to pray for our church's pastors and leaders.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A literal step of faith

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Joshua 3:1-17

TO CHEW ON: And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” Joshua 3:13

Moses is gone and Joshua is now the leader of the Israelites. His is a daunting job and he knows the challenges all too well for he was with Moses for the duration of the exodus.

His first task is overcoming a literal barrier—the Jordan River. He must somehow get an entire nation from one side to the other. How will he do it?

God's instructions are explicit. The priests carrying the ark are to lead the way. They are to walk into the flood-stage Jordan.

I wonder if there were any skeptics in the crowd that day. Probably. Because remember, almost the entire generation of Israelites had died off during the forty years of wandering. This relatively young crowd had only heard of the crossing of the Red Sea. The ark-carriers themselves had to have faith as they walked into the water when there was as yet no sign that anything unusual would happen.

I like Matthew Henry's reflection on this scene:

"God could have divided the river without the priests, but they could not without him. The priests must herein set a good example to the people, and teach them to do their utmost in the service of God, and trust him for help in time of need." - Matthew Henry's Commentary

The priests walking into the water is an illustration of how faith works for us too. Though God could work without us, He often asks us to step into the fast-flowing waters of our Jordan Rivers in a literal step of faith.

I ask myself, what Jordan River am I facing today? Perhaps it's starting a new project, teaching a class, volunteering in my community, or talking to my friend about Jesus. What about you?

Is God telling us to take a step of faith in regard to it and this way show our confidence in Him to help us do what seems impossible?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to have the faith to obey Your directions when I face impossible circumstances. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Spirit of antichrist

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 John 4:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is from God is not from God. This is the spirit of antichrist, which you heard was coming, and now is in the world already." 1 John 4:2-3

Professor Albert Mohler writes of a Rev. Klaas Hendrikse and new developments in the PKN, a mainstream Protestant denomination in the Netherlands:

"Pastor Hendrikse doesn’t believe in life after death, nor even in God as a supernatural being. He told the BBC that he has 'no talent' for believing historic and orthodox doctrines. 'God is not a being at all,' he says, 'but just an experience.'
Furthermore, as Pigott (the BBC reporter who broke this story) reports, 'Mr. Hendrikse describes the Bible’s account of Jesus’s life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.'”

According to 1 John 4:2-3, such views are not new. They were present in the early church, persist to this day, and shouldn't confuse us. John labels the spirit from which they come the "spirit of antichrist."

And how can we inoculate ourselves from becoming infected with this spirit? By becoming familiar with God's word and what it says about Jesus. Because beliefs not founded on God's word become something other than Christianity entirely.

Professor Hijme Stoffels of the Free University of Amsterdam called the new approach to Christianity in the Netherlands “somethingism.” The majority of Dutch citizens, he explains, desire some form of spirituality, but not the God of the Bible: “There must be something between heaven and earth, but to call it ‘God’ and even ‘a personal God,’ for the majority of Dutch is a bridge too far” - Hijme Stoffels,  quoted in "Dutch rethink Christianity for a doubtful world."

Let's get to know what the Bible says and cling to it. Or we are apt to find ourselves taken in by this antichrist spirit, which is alive and well all around us.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to learn Your Word so I can detect this antichrist spirit. Help me not to become infected by it. Amen.

MORE: Today is the Feast of St. Simon and Saint Jude

The liturgy for this day begins with the following collect:

"O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Read Dr. Albert Mohler's article "A Laboratory for Christianity's Destruction."
Read Robert Pigott's "Dutch rethink Christianity for a doubtful world."


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Who is your audience?

man on stage in front of an audience
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 23:1-12

TO CHEW ON: " 'But all their works they do to be seen by men.' " Matthew 23:5

In his book The Call, Os Guinness tells a story about the American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie and his mother. The Carnegies started out in Pittsburgh as a poor family. One day Andrew found his mother weeping in despair. Trying to console her, he said:

"Someday I'll be rich. We'll ride in a fine coach driven by four horses."

"That will do no good over here," his mother snorted, "if no one in Dunfermline (Scotland) can see us" - Os Guinness, The Call, p. 69.

Have you ever felt that way? What good is this accomplishment if  __x___ (my boss, my family, my Facebook friends, my colleagues, the people in my church, my city) don't see it?

Guinness says:
"Only madmen, geniuses, and supreme egoists do things purely for themselves. … 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" - Ibid, p. 70.

Here Jesus revealed to the crowds and the disciples who the audience of the sanctimonious scribes and Pharisees was: other people ("men"). The irony of this is that they posed their religious observances as done for God. But their actions—exaggerating the religious parts of their clothing (phylacteries and borders), loving the best places at feasts, insisting they be addressed as "Rabbi" demonstrated who they were really trying to impress.

I ask myself, who is my main audience? Whose opinion do I value most? What about you? If it's Jesus, as we say it is, then we will do the things that He values. Several of them are named here:
  • Serve.
  • Humble ourselves.

I love how Guinness concludes this chapter in his book:
"Do you wish to be inner-directed rather than other-directed and truly make one Audience decisive, the Audience of One? Listen to Jesus of Nazareth; answer His call" - Ibid p. 74.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, how often I get distracted from living first and foremost for You, letting my thirst for the praise and attention of people dictate my actions. Help me to value Your opinion more than any person's so that my life will show that my audience truly is You.  Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

What's your heart's condition?

sick heart
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 22:34-46

TO CHEW ON: "Jesus said to him, ' "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." ' " Matthew 22:37

Here Jesus quotes the great commandment (from Deuteronomy 6:5). The word "heart" is, of course, a metaphor. We don't love God with the literal physical organ that circulates blood through our bodies. So what is Jesus talking about when He refers to the "heart"?

Easton's Bible Dictionary describes the heart: "…the center not only of spiritual activity but of all the operations of human life" - Easton's Bible Dictionary accessed through

Some things the Bible teaches about the human "heart."
  • It is naturally wicked; we're born with sin-diseased hearts (Genesis 8:21).
  • Our evil hearts contaminate our thoughts and words (Matthew 12:34; 15:18).
  • Our hearts must be changed before we can willingly obey God (Ezekiel 36:26).
  • They are changed by repentance, i.e. by turning from our natural sinful tendencies to seek God (Joel 2:12) and accept His way of salvation (Acts 8:36-38).
  • The heart's attitude and direction are under our will. David, when he commissioned Solomon to build the temple, summed up all his detailed instructions with "Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God (1 Chronicles 22:19) emphasis added.
  • Our changed hearts are characterized by attitudes like belief (Acts 8:36-38), obedience (Psalm 119:2,34), trust (Proverbs 3:5), and loyalty (2 Chronicles 19:9).

The condition of the human heart hasn't changed since Jesus spoke these words. His command to love God and neighbor wholeheartedly are as impossible to fulfill as they ever were, with unchanged hearts. Wherever we are on this continuum of heart change, let's press forward (with all our hearts) in our lifelong quest of a spiritually healthy heart.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to evaluate my heart's condition by Your word, allowing it and Your Spirit to point out areas of heart disease. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fruit Test

apple on an apple tree
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 7:15-29

" 'You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit but a bad tree bears bad fruit.' " Matthew 7:16,17

Comparing a life to fruit-bearing plants, Jesus points out how ludicrous it is to expect edible fruit from weeds. And by the fruit, He suggests, one evaluates a life.

Good fruit—what is it?
What is the fruit of a life? Surely Jesus isn't talking about how many physical children we have, or the multitude of things with which we surround ourselves? Most likely not. There is a fruit list in Galatians 5. Paul says there is no law against these Spirit-fruits: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control Galatians 5:22.

Good fruit—how do we bear it?
How do we find it within ourselves to produce such crops? Well, we don't. In John 15 Jesus gives instructions about fruit-bearing as a metaphor where God is the Vine, and individuals are branches. To bear good fruit it is necessary for us individuals to "abide" or live in the Vine. Abiding in the Vine will line up our will with the Vinedresser's so that prayers will be answered, because they are what He wants too. The branch's  abundance will glorify God even as it brings the branch joy.

Fruit-bearing—it's serious business.

In John 15:6 Jesus also alludes to something sobering which He mentions in our passage as well—that non-fruit-bearing branches and plants will eventually be "cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matthew 7:19, see also Matthew 13:7).

What can fruit-bearing branches expect?

Pruning (John 15:2). But pruning is cutting! Ouch! Indeed, pruning may come in many ways: through circumstances, through people that challenge, irritate, and sand us to smoothness. We may do some pruning ourselves as we cut extraneous, non-fruit-bearing activities out of our lives.

As we go into today, let's reflect on what kind of fruit our life-plant is bearing. If it's not good, let's examine our attachment to the Vine; do we need re-attaching? If we're producing a measly crop, let's ask ourselves what we might do to increase that yield.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be an abiding branch that allows Your fruit-producing activities of prayer and obedience flow through me even as I submit to Your pruning.  Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

Persistent children

Praying child
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 7:1-14

TO CHEW ON: " ' Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened.' " Matthew 7:7,8

If you've ever lived with a child determined to get his or her way, you'll have experienced a bit of what these verses talk about from God's point of view.  "Mom, please. Why not? You said…Please? When?"

My Bible's commentary says about the grammatical construction: "The Greek imperatives ask, seek and knock (vs. 7) are in the present tense suggesting continued petition" - J. Lyle Story, commentary on Matthew, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1302.

However, prayers that take a long time to be answered are much more than our attempts to convince God that it's answer time. Persevering prayer:
  • proves to God and us our deep desires.
  • reminds us of our ignorance of God's timing.
  • focuses us on what is really important enough to stay on our prayer list year after year.
  • may have us searching our lives for hindrances to God answering our prayers,
  • while at the same time living alert to ways God is working and the part He may want us to play in bringing about the answers.

Daniel Henderson, in his book Transforming Prayer says about prayer generally:
"He has ordained prayer as a means by which we depend on and trust in Him. He answers our prayers to give us what He knows we need to bring Him glory. … We often pray to escape our difficulties rather than embrace discipleship" Daniel Henderson, Transforming Prayer, p. 79.

About the parallel passage to this one (Luke 11:9-13) Henderson says:
"Jesus clarifies His focus on the good things we should expect with these words: 'How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!' (Luke 11:13). The life spring of all the good things the Father wants to give us is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit" - Ibid, p. 81.

So we can and should keep up our persevering ways in prayer, knowing that the answer—whatever it is, whenever it comes—will be good.

PRAYER: Dear God, please keep the burden heavy on me over the things You want me to continue to pray for. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Enduring legacy

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 90:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands." Psalm 90:17

Does it seem to you that Christmases are coming around faster than they ever did when you were a child, and birthdays, and anniversaries? I don't know what it is about getting older that makes time seem to fly. Perhaps it's the realization that it's running out. The top of the timer is only half full, one third full, one quarter full...

The theme of Psalm 90 is the brevity of life and the stewardship of time. What vivid pictures the writer, Moses, paints to show how short life is:

To God a thousand years are like yesterday (before you realize it, only a memory), and a watch in the night (a few hours on duty) - Psalm 90:4.

To us life is like a flash flood, a sleep when time passes without our awareness, grass that grows in the morning but by evening is cut down, as slight as a sigh - Psalm 90:5-6,9.

Other Bible passages add paintings to the "Life is Brief" gallery:
  • "Our days on earth as as a shadow" - 1 Chronicles 29:15.
  • "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle" - Job 7:6.
  • "My life span is gone, taken from me like a shepherd's tent; I have cut off my life like a weaver. He cuts me off from the loom" - Isaiah 38:12.
  • "You have made my days as handbreadths" - Psalm 39:5.
  • "He comes forth like a flower and fades away" - Job 14:2.
  • "For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" - James 4:14.

In the setting of such fragility and brevity, Moses' request seems almost brash: "...establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands."

[Establish = kun means to be firmly established, stable, secure, enduring, directed aright, fixed aright, steadfast.]

Isn't this what we all want—to do something significant, to leave something that endures past the span of our short lives?

Just over a month ago we celebrated the thirteenth anniversary of 9-11. I would suppose that the men who designed those twin towers thought they had left a multi-generational legacy in the massive structures. Yet they came down in mere hours. What everyone celebrated on the anniversary was not the memory of those buildings but the acts of heroism, self-sacrifice, and love performed by many who died that day and how they made a lasting difference to lives.

Our love for people, as it works itself out in a hundred different ways, is also the best legacy we can leave. It is an investment in never-dying souls. Let's concern ourselves with leaving such a legacy especially as it involves introducing those souls to Jesus, the giver of eternal life.

PRAYER: Dear God, Moses' prayer is my prayer today: 'Let the beauty of the Lord my God be upon me. And establish the work of my hands for me. Yes, establish the work of my hands. Amen.

MORE: a poem...

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The gift of a leader

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 78:56-72

TO CHEW ON: "So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands" - Psalm 78:72.

All in all, this is a pretty depressing psalm until we come to the last three verses. There we see that God didn't give up on these people despite their long history of unfaithfulness. Instead, he gave them what they needed, though they didn't deserve it: a chosen leader in David, whose leadership was characterized by integrity and skill.

The people God chose for leadership and prominence are characterized in many ways in the Bible.
  • God called the tribe of Levi—the Israelites separated to serve Him in the worship service of the tabernacle and temple—as "Mine" and a "gift" (Numbers 3:12; 8:19; 18:6).
  • The prophet Haggai named Zerubbabel as God's "servant" who was "like a signet ring," i.e. His very stamp of authority (Haggai 2:23).
  • God called Paul a "chosen vessel" (Acts 9:15).
  • But God's leader choices are not always the obvious ones. Paul, in Colossians tells us how upside-down they sometimes look: "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world ... and the base things and the things which are despised ... and the things which are not to bring to nothing the things that are" - Colossians 1:27-29.

Actually David was an example of that. He had no royal upbringing but apprenticed for the job as king in the fields  as a shepherd. Yet it was the perfect preparation for his role as Israel's shepherd.

Two things come to mind:
1. Do I, do we, value and support our leaders, viewing them as God's gift, His hand of authority, His choice vessels for us?

2. Maybe some of us are leaders in training but don't even realize it. The Colossians verses remind us that sometimes God's choices are not the obvious ones. We may not feel like leadership material, but that doesn't mean we aren't. Are we ready to lead should God put His hand on our shoulder for the job?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the leaders—the pastors, deacons, board members, small group leaders etc.— You provide. Help me to respect and listen to them, regarding them as Your gifts to me. Amen.

MORE: Leadership journey

Eleanor Clitheroe's leadership journey was not smooth. A profile article about her begins:
"She was one of the most powerful women in Ontario, controlling not only every light switch in every home, but also the huge industrial machines and every computer in the financial district on Bay Street. Today she is simply an Anglican curate."

Her firing from Ontario's Hydro One in 2002 plunged her into turmoil and stress, but also put her on the path to a different kind of leadership. Read's story of this remarkable Canadian leader: "The Winding Road of Faith"

10-minute 100 Huntley Street video profile of Eleanor Clitheroe

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Guises of unbelief

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 78:40-55

TO CHEW ON: "How often they provoked Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert! Yet again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel" - Psalm 78:40,41

The beginning of today's reading strikes me with its list of ways the Israelites demonstrated their unbelief: "provoked ... grieved ... tempted ... limited." The trouble is we find even more ways than this if we go through the psalm's 72 verses:

  • Broke covenant and were lawbreakers (Psalm 78:10).
  • Forgot His word and His power (Psalm 78:11, 42).
  • Sinned and rebelled (Psalm 78:17).
  • Spoke against God (Psalm 78:19).
  • Disbelieved God and didn't trust Him (Psalm 78:22,32).
  • Were insincere, i.e. flattered and lied to Him (Psalm 78:36).
  • Were disloyal and unfaithful (Psalm 78:37).
  • Provoked and grieved Him (Psalm 78:40, 56, 58).
  • Tempted and limited Him (Psalm 78:41).
  • Backslid and turned aside from Him (Psalm 78:57).

Unbelief has many guises. What a checklist for our own lives! Is there any chance we have some of these outfits hanging in the closets of our hearts?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to recognize unbelief in my heart, no matter what form it takes. Help me to know You better and experience You at every level, so that it becomes second-nature for me to exchange unbelief for faith. Amen.

MORE: Covenant

The hurt and outraged tone in God's voice—as rendered by Asaph—brings us to the question, what did/does God expect? This passage speaks of the expressions of God's expectation they had violated, calling them covenant and law (vs. 10), salvation (vs. 22), and testimonies (vs. 56).

Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology speaks of God's agreements with man in a section titled "The Covenants Between God and Man." This bit from his introduction to that section helps us understand what they were and meant—to the Israelites and to us:
"How does God relate to man? Since the creation of the world, God's relationship to man has been defined by specific requirements and promises. God tells people how he wants them to act and also makes promises about how he will act toward them in various circumstances. The Bible contains several summaries of the provisions that define the different relationships between God and man that occur in Scripture, and it often calls these summaries 'covenants.' With respect to covenants between God and man in Scripture, we may give the following definition: A covenant is an unchangeable divinely imposed legal agreement between God and man that stipulates the conditions of their relationship.

Although this definition includes the word agreement in order to show that there are two parties, God and man, who must enter into the provisions of the relationship, the phrase divinely imposed is also included to show that man can never negotiate with God or change the terms of the covenant obligations or reject them ....

This definition also notes that covenants are unchangeable. They may be superseded or replaced by a different covenant, but they may not be changed once they are established. .... the essential element at the heart of all of them is the promise, 'I will be their God, and they shall be my people' (Jeremiah 31:33; 2 Corinthians 6:16, et al.)" - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 515, 516 (emphasis added).
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Paul's mother-care

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:8

TO CHEW ON: "But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but our own lives, because you had become dear to us." 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

What untypical words to read from Paul, who is usually so instructional and corrective. They remind me of a little saying:

"People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care" - John C. Maxwell.

This might be a good time to refresh our memory about who these people were that Paul was writing to (the Thessalonians) and how the church at Thessalonica came into existence.

It was only the second church started on the European continent. The first was in Philippi, about 90 miles northeast. You will recall how Paul and Silas traveled from Troas to Macedonia (on the continent of Europe) in response to a vision (Acts 16:9). The mission at Philippi took a bad turn when Paul and Silas were thrown into prison. But an earthquake sprung them from their cell. They then led the jailor to Jesus and soon left town. (Their Philippian adventures are recorded in Acts 16:11-40.)

Their next stop was Thessalonica. Their stay there was just as troubled. Paul spent mere weeks with them, teaching for three Sabbaths in the synagogue where he "...reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead saying, 'This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ'" - Acts 17:1-3).

His message kindled a big response: "...a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women joined Paul and Silas" - Acts 17:4. But the gospel was too controversial for the Jews, who also envied the missionaries their success, hassled Jason their host, provoked a riot, and essentially ran Paul and Silas out of town (Acts 17:5-10).

It is to these believers Paul had known only a matter of weeks that he wrote this letter. It demonstrates the bond of love that Christians everywhere can feel for each other even though they have barely met. For Paul the relationship was especially poignant, as the people he had left behind were brand new believers. And so he used the language of motherhood, assuring these spiritual babies of his mother care for them: "...we were gentle among you just as a nursing mother cherishes (literally 'keeps warm') her own children.... pleased to impart to you not only the gospel...but our own lives."

I ask myself, do I have that spirit of sacrificial mother-love, especially toward those who are new and immature in the faith? Physical babies take a lot of time. Toddlers can tax one's patience. It's not so different with spiritual babies. I want Paul's words to be a model of Christian nurture to me as I interact with believers in all stages of maturity. You too?

PRAYER: Dear God, please grow in me love and gentle care for other believers, especially those who are new in their faith. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Available wisdom

Jesus teaches about paying taxes - Artist unknown
Jesus teaches about paying taxes - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 22:15-33

TO CHEW ON: "When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way. … And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching." Matthew 22:22,33

The Pharisees were determined to trip up and silence Jesus. And they had the perfect way to do it. They would out Him as an enemy of Rome by getting him to declare Himself on the contentious issue of taxes.

To add clout and witnesses they took along their disciples—probably the brightest minds in Jerusalem—and some Herodians. The Herodians were a political party that sympathized with the Herods in their policies of governing and introducing new social customs into Jewish society.

But when the troupe got to Jesus and confronted Him, He saw right through their little scheme. Those pharisaic wolves, who had circled their prey and were licking their chops in anticipation of the take-down, were disappointed, while the surrounding crowd marveled at the wisdom of Jesus' answer (Luke 22:17-21). The same thing happened to the Sadducees who tried to trap Him later (Luke 22:23-32). For Jesus was wise.

  • Isaiah prophesied Jesus' wisdom - Isaiah 11:2; 53:11.
  • He was wise from childhood - Luke 2:40.
  • He astonished all who heard Him, especially His neighbours - Matthew 13:54.
  • The amazing thing is that His wisdom can be ours! In Colossians 2:3, Paul describes Christ as the One: "… in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Paul goes on to encourage his readers, "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in him … For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him" - Colossians 2:3-9.

Let's ask to receive His wisdom for all kinds of situations. And then let's move ahead in faith, acting on the answers He gives - James 1:5-8.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I need the spirit of wisdom and revelation for everyday living as much as for special problems. I ask for Your wisdom today. Help me to trust and act on what You tell me through Your word and in prayer. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Leaders are human too

Luke the Evangelist (detail from the Saint Luke Alterpiece, Andrea Mantegna
Luke the Evangelist - by Andrea Mantegna
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Timothy 4:9-22

TO CHEW ON: "Only Luke is with me…" 2 Timothy 4:11

Demas, attracted by worldly things, has left for Thessalonica, Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. I could use Mark. I'm cold, bring my cloak. I'd love the books and parchments. Alexander the coppersmith has done a lot of damage to me. At my trial, everyone deserted me… (my paraphrase of 2 Timothy 4:10-16)

This is hardly a list we would expect to read from the pen of the man who wrote: "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13); "Take up the whole armour of God" (Ephesians 6:13); and "For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power" (1 Corinthians 4:20).

It shows us that even our strongest and seemingly most invincible leaders have down days. They are not immune from feeling forsaken, lonely, persecuted, physically and mentally needy, and generally discouraged.

But there is a bright spot for Paul. "Luke is with me." Luke, the doctor who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles stood by his beleaguered friend and leader, apparently unaffected by his downturn in fortune, his unpopularity and beaten-up spirit.

Our leaders have their ups and downs too. Do we realize this? Or do we put them on some sort of pedestal, expecting them to be always cheerful, upbeat, encouraging, energetic?

What do we do when someone bends our ear with a complaint about our pastor? Do we listen, sympathize and pass it on? Or do we defend him or her, and make sure the complaint stops with us?

Let's be Lukes who support and are loyal to our leaders through the good times and the bad.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to resist any temptation to criticize and gossip about my pastor. Help me to remember that he is as human as I am, and to pray for him and his family regularly. Amen.

MORE: The Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

Today the church celebrates Luke in the Feast of St. Luke.

Today's liturgy begins with this Collect:

Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Friday, October 17, 2014


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 33:12-23

TO CHEW ON: "So the Lord said to Moses, 'I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in my sight, and I know you by name.'" Exodus 33:17

Moses was close to God. God was close to Moses. Our reading today shows how intimate they were. Let's take a look at their relationship to discover some of its secrets.

God and Moses had conversations. In this one (Exodus 33:1-3, 5), God gave Moses a hard message for the Israelites. Moses' respect for God meant that he didn't try to defend or justify the sins of the people he led. Instead, he relayed all God's hard words and for once the people were grieved and repented.

Moses made his own little tent "tabernacle" before the elaborate one that God designed ever existed. It was "outside the camp," away from the hustle and bustle, the commerce and labor, the interruptions and emergencies of everyday life. There God met him in a visible way (Exodus 33:9-10) and "...spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend" (Exodus 33:11).

Moses felt weighed own by the burden of leadership and asked God to send someone to work alongside him. I wonder if he was surprised by God's answer to his request: "My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest."

In response to God's promise of Presence, Moses pledged to keep God's people separate—a people to Him alone (Exodus 33:16). God replied by reassuring Moses of their special relationship: "I know you by name."

Finally Moses asked for God for an actual sensory experience of Him: "Please show me Your glory" (Exodus 33:18). God gave him a visual glimpse of His receding presence (Exodus 33:20-23).

Do we want to be intimate with God like that? If we do, let's examine our lives for the characteristics of intimate relationships found in Moses' friendship with God.
  • Are we respectful of what He says, or do we argue and justify ourselves to Him?
  • Are we intentional about setting aside a time and meeting Him there?
  • When we meet, are we transparent? Do we bare our hearts? Are we honest about our fears and insecurities? Do we listen for God's (sometimes surprising) answers?
  • Are we expressive? Do we tell God how much we love Him? Do we pray, praise, and worship using our voices (not saying the words only in our heads)?
  • Do we want more intimacy? Do we keep pressing in?

PRAYER: Dear God, I love this description of Your relationship with Moses. Please show me where I can improve my relationship with You. I want to you say of me, "I know you by name." Amen.

MORE: Intimate with Jesus
"When once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely, we never need sympathy, we can pour out all the time without being pathetic The saint who is intimate with Jesus will never leave impressions of himself, but only the impression that Jesus is having unhindered way, because the last abyss of his nature has been satisfied by Jesus. The only impression left by such a life is that of the strong calm sanity that Our Lord gives to those who are intimate with Him" - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, January 7 reading.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Do you have an "outside the camp" place?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 33:1-11

TO CHEW ON: "Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting. And it came to pass that everyone who sought the Lord went out to the tabernacle of meeting which was outside the camp." Exodus 33:7

This is a story of the exodus, when the people of Israel lived in portable houses—tents. "Outside the camp"—beyond the boundaries of their tent city—was a place that always seemed negative to me. But on checking references to it in the Bible, I discover it had a mixed connotation. It was:

"Outside the camp" was a necessary and frequently visited place because it was the desert's bathroom facilities - Deuteronomy 23:12.

- For the person with a contagious disease like leprosy, or for someone who was unclean because of  having touched a dead body for example, "outside the camp" was a place they were sent to live in short- or long-term isolation - Leviticus 13:46; Numbers 5:3.
- Capital punishments, like stonings, happened outside the camp - Numbers 15:35.

- Parts of offerings were performed "outside the camp" - Leviticus 4:12,26.  (The writer of Hebrews likened Jesus' death outside the Jerusalem gates to the animal sacrifices killed outside the camp of Israel - Hebrews 13:11-13)
- A clean place outside the camp was where the priests were to store the ashes of the purification ceremony, for example (Numbers 9: 3,9).
- In our reading, we see Moses going outside the camp to meet with God.

Why do you suppose he chose that place?

  • My Bible's commenter says: "Moses placed it (the tabernacle of meeting) a great distance from the camp because of the desecration by the moulded calf" - J. C. Tollett commentary on Exodus, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 119.

I can think of other advantages to having this meeting place outside the camp:
  • It forced a break in Moses' day-to-day routine.
  • It gave him some distance from the immediacy and urgency of his problems and the problems in the camp.
  • It was a buffer against distractions and interruptions.
  • In Moses' case, the distance may also have been protection for the people from God's glory cloud.

I, perhaps you too, would do well to have a place where we meet with God "outside the camp." No, we may not be able to literally leave our houses for this but we can find our own "outside the camp" place. Jesus talks about going into one's closet and shutting the door to pray - Matthew 6:6 KJV. Susannah Wesley threw her apron over her head and prayed behind it. David Wilkerson went to a place in the woods near his home. Sometimes we may feel the need to do more and also break our eating routine with a fast.

However we do it, let's meet with God outside the camp. You've got to love Joshua in this. He enjoyed God's presence so much he "did not depart from the tabernacle" (though he probably didn't have crying babies or a hungry family waiting for his attention back in the camp either!).

PRAYER: Dear God, what a powerful place Moses' prayer tabernacle must have been! Help me to establish my own tabernacle of meeting "outside the camp" where I regularly meet with You. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

All knees will bow

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 45:14-25

TO CHEW ON: "I have sworn to Myself;
The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness,
And shall not return,
That to Me every knee shall bow,
Every tongue shall take an oath." Isaiah 45:23

Our reading today is a continuation of Isaiah's prophecy to Cyrus—a Persian king who would not be born for about another 100 years. The way Isaiah addresses him by name (Isaiah 45:1) has caused some scholars to question whether Isaiah really wrote this prophecy. Of course, people who believe in the supernatural character of prophecy and the divine inspiration of Scripture have no trouble trusting that God can make such predictions.

Today we read how Cyrus will dominate Egypt and Arabia (the Sabeans) (Isaiah 45:14). But he will prove to be God's instrument of freedom for the exiled Jews in Babylon (Isaiah 45:17).

This prophecy was fulfilled. In 539 B.C. Cyrus came to power. First he returned the temple valuables to the Jews (the Babylonians had taken them, along with the people, when they looted Jerusalem) and let some exiles return to rebuild the temple. Eventually he let them all return to their land. The book of Ezra is the story of that return. (Read Cyrus's decree in Ezra 1:1-5.)

From predicting the specifics of using Cyrus for His purposes, God declares (through Isaiah) His dominion over all the earth.
- He is the only God - Isaiah 45:21.
- He is the only Saviour - Isaiah 45:22
- It is only to Him that every knee will bow and tongue take an oath (of allegiance) (Isaiah 45:23, see also Philippians 2:9-11).

As a citizen of a nation that prides itself on tolerance, openness to, and acceptance of any and all religious creeds as equally true, I find myself, despite knowing better, cringing at such bold pronouncements. The way I have been influenced by my prevailing culture demonstrates how I need as much faith to believe this as the Israelites did at the time it was spoken. 

The Hebrews of the exodus needed faith that God had sent Moses and that he would indeed lead them out of Egypt, slavery and eventually to the Promised Land.

The Jews of the Babylonian exile needed faith that Yahweh was God over the idols of their captors.

We in our time need faith that the God of the Bible is who He says He is and will show Himself the only God, in the face of our culture's intolerance toward claims of objective truth.

PRAYER: Dear God, I believe You when You say that every knee will someday bow to You and every tongue confess that You are Lord. Help me to work out what this means in regard to how I interact with people all around me who don't believe. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Clay backtalk

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 45:1-13

TO CHEW ON: "Woe to him who strives with his Maker!
Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth!
Shall the clay say to him who forms it
'What are you making?'
Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?" Isaiah 45:9

Included in today's amazing prophecy about Cyrus (the Persian king whom Isaiah predicted would free Israel from captivity 100 years before it happened) is a warning. It begins "Woe to him..." signalling that all who find themselves described in the words should pay attention. It answers the person who would take exception to God's method of using a heathen king to accomplish His work.

The warning pictures a lump of clay complaining to the potter about the way it is being shaped. I like how the NLT translates it:

"What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator.
Does a clay pot argue with its Maker?
Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it,
saying 'Stop, you're doing it wrong!'
Does the pot exclaim, 'How clumsy can you be'?"

Do we ever do this--find ourselves discontented with the way we were created physically, mentally, emotionally? Do we wish we were taller or more athletic? Smarter and more creative?  More expressive, or less?

Accepting how God has made us is an aspect of belief or unbelief. Practicing contentment with our lot in life, including our physical appearance and the strengths and weaknesses with which we were born is part of the fabric of our confidence in God.

I love how the idea that God knew what He was doing when he intentionally created each one of us is echoed in Ephesians 2:10. Here it is in the Amplified:

"For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live]."

How amazing to be His handiwork. [The NLT translates it "masterpiece." The Greek word for "handiwork" is poiema - get it—poem.] What an adventure to discover and then do those "good works which God prepared beforehand" and find those works a perfect fit for us because we were made just for them.

PRAYER: Dear God, I so readily question and talk back to you about the way I am and my apparent weaknesses and lacks. Help me to have the uttermost confidence in Your wisdom when forming me. Help me to find and do those "works" that are my destiny. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked Amplified are taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Rain cycle of blessing

Happy Thanksgiving with cornucopia

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 9:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God - 2 Corinthians 9:10,11

I love stories of financial needs being met, to the dollar and in the nick of time. The lives of Christian adventurers—like foreign and home missionaries—are full of accounts of specific sums of money prayed for and supplied, not a moment too soon or too late, often through unsolicited donations received as cheques in the mail or found in an envelope at the door.

Not only is the recipient blessed through these events. The giver us most surely blessed too when they discover that the money amount they felt impressed to tuck into an envelope was the exact sum that the person needed and for which she was praying.

Paul is referring to this cycle of generosity when he prays blessing and multiplication on the sower's seed. That physical multiplication can morph to "… increase the fruits if your righteousness" as they bless others with this increase.

This results in thanksgiving. Paul expresses it as "thanksgiving through us to God," that is, through the person receiving the gift. But I would suggest it also becomes thanksgiving to God through the giver, as they realize they are part of this divine "rain cycle" of blessing.

On this Canadian Thanksgiving Monday, whether we are recipients or givers of generosity, let's give thanks!

Dear God, thank You for connecting us to others' needs and them to ours, by Your Holy Spirit. Help us to bring our needs to You and open ourselves—our homes and wallets—in generosity when we are moved by the needs of others. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wedding clothes

girl wearing white clothes
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 22:1-14

TO CHEW ON: " 'But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man who there who did not have on a wedding garment.' "  Matthew 22:11.

Like so many of Jesus' parables, this one is full of eternal truth goodies. In a way it's like the gospel in 12 verses. Here's how I understand it:

The King's son's arranged marriage is God's relationship with His chosen people Israel.

The king's servants are the prophets who invited Israel's citizens over and over to join the wedding celebration, i.e. live in obedience to God's laws and with a right heart attitude.

The people who were invited in the story treated the king's invitation as casually as Israel did the prophets' repeated calls to repentance and revival. Just as the people in the story ended up killing the king's messengers, so too Israel mocked, tortured, and even murdered some of its prophets.

The people of the highways and " all who they found both bad and good" are the individuals from all over the earth who are not Jews—us Gentiles from "all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues" (Revelation 7:9)—who now have an invitation to God's party.

It was a free invitation for the people in the parable, but apparently a special wedding garment was given to each guest before entry into the banquet hall. What is  the meaning of that garment?
  • Paul talks about our earthly bodies clothed in life—the clothes of immortality—life forever (2 Corinthians 5:3).
  • He also talks about putting on the new man—clothes of "true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).
  • The clothes of the "new man" are not only for after this life but for now. They come in styles of "…tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…" (Colossians 3:10,12).
  • In Revelation John sees these clothes as white and with this outfit comes a new name (Revelation 3:4).
  • This garment needs to be worn at all times so the guests are prepared when the master drops in (Revelation 16:15).
  • God's subjects will wear this outfit in heaven, the "fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." And guess what the heavenly occasion is? The Marriage Supper of the Lamb, coming full-circle, right back to our parable (Revelation 19:8,9)!

The sobering ending to Jesus' story—the guest with no wedding garment being "cast into outdoor darkness" —tells us that God's invitation has one simple condition: the need to exchange our rags (Isaiah 64:6) for the garment of salvation that God gives: "For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness" - Isaiah 61:10. It too is free to us. But we must put it on.

Dear God, this Thanksgiving Sunday I thank you for an invitation to Your party, and the clothes of salvation that You provide. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Phinehas: a leader to follow

"Moab Leads Israel Into Sin"
1728 engraving 
by Gerard Hoet & Pieter Sluiter

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 106:24-48

TO CHEW ON: "Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
And the plague was stopped.
And that was accounted to him for righteousness
To all generations forevermore." - Psalm 106:30-31

Phinehas is a minor Old Testament character to whom our psalm writer pays a major tribute. Let's delve into his life a bit.

This Phinehas (there is another in the Bible—the son of Eli, who was evil) was the noble grandson of Aaron (Exodus 6:25).

The deed that he did and which was "accounted to him for righteousness" was—well, grisly. The people of Israel, camping near the Midianites during the exodus, had fallen prey to their idol worship. It happened through Israelite-Midianite coupling. God spoke to Moses about rooting out this evil and Moses gathered the leaders and people in front of the tabernacle. Even as the assembled people were weeping there, an Israeli man (the son of a leader) traipsed past the crowd with a Midianite woman (the daughter of a Midianite chieftain) on his arm. It seems he may have even taken her into the tabernacle.

Phinehas saw it, took Moses' message to heart, and went into action (Numbers 25:7-8; read the whole story: Numbers 25:1-17). That act of zealousness for God's holiness stopped the plague of punishment from advancing and earned him the tribute ("accounted to him for righteousness") which only one other Bible character received. The same thing is said of only Abraham (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:1-3, 9-19, 19-24, Galatians 3:5-7).

Phinehas was born into a family of leaders. But he proved to be a true leader by doing the difficult job of standing up for God's holiness and actually rooting out that evil. As such he became a stander-in-the-breach between God and the people—a type of Christ.

Leadership remains a difficult job. It is definitely not a place for people-pleasers. If we are leaders, we can learn a lot from the principled and fearless leadership of Phinehas.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me, wherever I lead, to seek Your approval and not the approval of people. Amen.

MORE: More about Phinehas
  • After the above event, Phinehas led the people into battle against the Midianites with unusual weapons: "...the holy articles and the signal trumpets in his hand" - Numbers 31:6. How telling: spiritual weapons for a spiritual battle.
  • Later, his leadership in breaching a potential rift between Reuben, Gad, Manassah and the rest of the Israelites averted a potential civil war. Read that story in Joshua 22:1-34.
  • It was he who inquired and heard from the Lord as to whether to continue the war against the treacherous tribe of Benjamin. Read that story in Judges 20:1-48.
  • He was a direct descendant of Levi, the son of Israel - 1 Chronicles 6:1-4.
  • He was from a family of singers and worshipers whose descendants were still serving in that way at the time of David - 1 Chronicles 6:1-4, 31-33.
  • He was also in charge of the gatekeepers of the tabernacle. In that capacity the Bible says of him "...the Lord was with him" - 1 Chronicles 9:19-20.
  • Ezra was his descendant - Ezra 7:5.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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