Saturday, November 29, 2014

Giving thanks

"Feeding the Multitude" 
by William Brassey Hole

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 6:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "And Jesus took the loaves and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise the fish as much as they wanted." John 6:11

This passage with its narrative of Jesus giving thanks then distributing bread and fish resonates with other scenes and meanings.

  • On the following day, Jesus explained the miracle in another teaching session. There He said, " 'I am the bread of life' " - John 6:41.
  • We think of the Lord's Supper:
"And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body'" - Matthew 26:26.
  • We remember another scene where two disciples traveled to Emmaus and along the way encountered an interesting stranger. When they begged Him to stop with them, He blessed their evening bread, broke and gave it to them, and they recognized—Jesus (Luke 24:29-31)!

The words "given thanks" in our focus verse are a translation of the Greek word eucharisteo.

[Eucharisteo  is made up of eu = well and charizomai = to give freely. It means to be grateful, to express gratitude, to be thankful. Eleven of the 39 appearances of the word in the NT refer to partaking of the Lord's Supper, while 28 occurrences describe the praise words given to the Godhead. During the second century, Eucharist became the generic term for the Lord's Supper" - Dick Mills,  Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1453.]

I never hear eucharisteo now but I think of Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. In it she tells the story of a friend challenging her, in a time when she was searching for a greater sense of God's reality in her life, to make a list of ordinary things (like bread and fish) for which she could give thanks. Could she get to 1000?

This challenge became a practice for her. It put her on the road to a whole new understanding of God's activity in her life and gratitude for it—eucharisteo. She, in turn, challenged others so that the naming of life's ordinary gifts has become a movement of sorts.

And so I am challenged today by Jesus' example and Ann's exploration, to express my gratitude for life's ordinary gifts—like coffee, and my trusty Bic pen—and extraordinary gifts—Him, His body and blood, our mysterious union as I partake of the Eucharist, His life in me as I eat His word ... it goes on and on.

Dear Jesus, I love the scene of you giving thanks for food before distributing it. It reminds me to reflect on the source of every good gift and to return my thanks to You—instead of mindlessly grabbing blessings as my right. Help me to live gratefully today. Amen.

MORE: Ann Voskamp writes about eucharisteo

"In the original language, 'he gave thanks' reads 'eucharisteo.'

I underline it on the page. Can it lay a sure foundation under a life? Offer the fullest life?

The root word of
eucharisteo is charis, meaning 'grace.' Jesus took the bread and saw it as grace and gave thanks. He took the bread and knew it to be gift and gave thanks.

But there is more, and I read it.
Eucharisteo, thanksgiving, envelopes the Greek word for grace, charis. But it also holds its derivative, the Greek word chara, meaning "joy." Joy. Ah ... yes. I might be needing me some of that. That might be what the quest for more is all about—that which Augustine claimed, 'Without exception ... all try their hardest to reach the same goal, that is joy'" -Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, page 32.

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.

Friday, November 28, 2014


security guard
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 13:24-37

TO CHEW ON: "And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!" - Mark 13:37

When a word occurs multiple times in a bit of scripture, we'd better pay attention. In Mark 13:32-37 Jesus tells us four times to WATCH.

"Watch and pray," He says (Mark 13:34), "for you do not know when the time is." The time He is referring to is the time of Jesus' return (Mark 13:26). [The Greek word for watch here (agrepneo) means to be sleepless, to keep awake.]

He repeats the command: "It is like a man going to a far country who ... commanded the doorkeeper to watch.... Watch therefore .... Watch!" (Mark 13:34, 35, 37). [The Greek word for watch in these three instances is gregoreuo. As well as meaning alert and wakeful, it also signifies mental alertness and caution.]

The disciples are to be as alert as doorkeepers, guarding the house from thieves. They are to stay awake through all four watches of the night. They will find themselves in big trouble if the master finds them asleep. The picture is of the captain of the temple making his rounds. "The guards had to rise at his approach and salute him in a particular manner. Any guard found asleep on duty was beaten or his garments set on fire" - Vincent's Word Studies. Oh my!

The command to watch continues for us today. Though we are not to speculate about the date when Jesus will return (Mark 3:32 tells us it's pointless because only God the Father knows) we are to continue in this state of readiness and alertness.

Of course Jesus may come to some of us through death before He physically returns to earth. Here too we need to be watchful. As Matthew Henry puts it:

"We know not whether our Master will come in the days of youth, or middle age, or old age; but, as soon as we are born, we begin to die, and therefore we must expect death. Our great care must be, that, whenever our Lord comes, he may not find us secure, indulging in ease and sloth, mindless of our work and duty..." Matthew Henry's Commentary.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to be more mindful of Your anticipated return, and to live life alert to the possibility of You bursting on the scene at any moment. Of course I could meet You through death in the same sudden, unexpected way. Teach me to live a watchful lifestyle. Amen.

MORE: Watchful praying

From a 1982 sermon preaching from the text Colossians 4:2-4 John Piper makes these observations about watchful prayer.

“Be watchful in your prayers.” This means, be alert! Be mentally awake! Paul probably learned this from the story of what happened in Gethsemane. Jesus asked the disciples to pray, but found them sleeping. So he said to Peter, “Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, that you may not enter into temptation” (Mark 14:37f). We must be on the watch as we pray—on the watch against a wandering mind, against vain repetitions, against trite and meaningless expressions, against limited, selfish desires. And we should also watch for what is good. We should especially be alert to God’s guidance of our prayers in Scripture. It is God who works in us to will our prayers but we always experience this divine enablement as our own resolve and decision..." Read all of "Persevere in Prayer" by John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: (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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Discipleship's costs

Jesus heals the demoniacs - Artist unknown
Jesus heals the demoniacs - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 8:18-34

TO CHEW ON: "Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, 'Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.' And Jesus said to him, 'Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.' " Matthew 8:20

Yesterday we saw Jesus the mentor/rabbi pouring Himself into crowds and individuals, Jews and Gentiles, strangers and friends, untouchables and undiagnosables. I'm sure His disciples were getting the idea—this teacher is a challenge to emulate!

In our reading today He outright says some things about the cost of discipleship that probably left no doubt in His disciples' minds that they had embarked on a humanly impossible life.

Translated into today-speak for us:

1. Discipleship may cost some of the things to which we think we're entitled
—like a home address (Matthew 8:19-20).

2. Discipleship will impinge on relationships and obligations
—like family responsibilities (Matthew 8:21-22).

3. Discipleship may thrust us into situations that feel dangerous and where our faith will be stretched.
In our reading the disciples drift right into a storm. In the tempest-tossed boat, Jesus says to them, " 'Why are you fearful, O you of little faith,' " before He takes care of the storm (Matthew 8:23-26).

4. Discipleship can be thankless.
The people of the Gergesene-area city near where Jesus cast demons from two men have no compassion for the men or gratitude that they've been set free. Rather, they are upset because of the drowned hogs and beg Jesus to leave (Matthew 8:28-34).

I ask myself am I realistic about discipleship's costs? Are you? Or are we caught off-guard when life's hand is out, demanding such payments from us?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to count the cost of discipleship and choose day by day to continue as Your disciple. 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.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Don't worry

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 6:22-34

TO CHEW ON: " 'Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?' " Matthew 6:25

The last part of our reading today gives three reasons why we shouldn't worry:

1. Worry is unnecessary (Matthew 6:26, 28-30):
Why? Because we're in the hands of the same creator God Who sees that the birds get fed and the flowers and grass get clothed. Jesus asks, rhetorically, of His human audience, " 'Are you not of more value than they?....will He not much more clothe you?' "

2. Worry is ineffective (Matthew 6:27):
Worrying about a "one cubit" height increase could also stand in for other things we're born with—physical features, genetic tendencies or traits, a certain IQ. We don't have control over these things so we waste our effort and energy worrying about them.

3. Worry is unbecoming  (Matthew 6:31-32):
Worrying makes us like the "Gentiles"—those who have no faith in anything or anyone but themselves. In fact, an endnote about this passage advises: 

 "Acknowledge worry as sin. Discipline yourself to turn from any anxiety and choose to trust the Lord" -Leslyn Musch,  "Truth-In-Action through the Synoptics, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1440.
"Rather than being preoccupied with material things, our ambition should be to seek first God's kingdom and righteousness, knowing that as we do so, He has pledged Himself with covenant faithfulness to respond — all these things shall be added to you"  J. Lyle Story, study notes, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1301.

Matthew 6:33 is in my repertoire of memorized verses. I don't know how many times I have pulled it out of memory and recited it to myself. It is one of those settle-me-down verses that calm anxious thoughts and reinforce thoughts of trust and faith in God. If you haven't done so already, you might want to memorize it too.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to discipline myself away from thoughts of anxiety to thoughts of trust, especially in the area of everyday living. Amen.

MORE: How to seek God's kingdom first

How do you "seek God's kingdom first"? Rev. John Piper gives some good practical advice in a 1984 sermon "Do Not Be Anxious About Your Life":

"...instead of being anxious, "Seek first God's kingdom." In other words when you think about your life or your food or your clothes or your spouse or your job or your mission, don't fret about them. Instead make God the king in that affair and in that moment hand over the situation to his kingly power and do his righteous will with the confidence that he will work for you and meet all your needs. To seek the kingship of God first in every affair and every moment of life is a thrilling way to live. It's full of freedom and peace and joy and adventure—and hardship; and it's worth it all. If you believe in the kingship of your heavenly Father, you do not need to be anxious about anything."
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: - Read entire ...
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.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Authentic living

gold bars
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 100:1 - 101:6

TO CHEW ON: "I will behave wisely in a perfect (blameless) way …
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart." - Psalm 101:2

The word that comes to mind when I read David's resolve to live well in private ("within my house") as well as in public is authentic.

[Authentic: 1. Entitled to belief, trustworthy, reliable. 2. Of undisputed origin, genuine -  Funk and Wagnall's Dictionary.]

It 's all too easy and common for us, however, to live one way outwardly, doing things that will impress or not offend onlookers. But when we get home and kick off our shoes, how readily those niceties come off with them and we're unkind, rude, ornery, critical, careless about what we say and how we say it.

My Thompson Chain Bible lists the characteristics of the Christian's walk:
  • It is a new life, a spiritual walk that is not "according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" - Romans 8:1,4; Galatians 5:16.
  • It is a faith walk - 2 Corinthians 5:7.
  • It is a walk of love - Ephesians 5:2.
  • It is a circumspect walk - Ephesians 5:15. The Amplified Bible enlarges on circumspect: "Live purposefully and worthily and accurately…"
  • It is a walk that is lived with an awareness of life's brevity - Ephesians 5:16.
  • It is a joyful, thankful, singing walk expressed in songs, hymns and spiritual songs - Ephesians 5:19.
  • It is a walk in the light, as opposed to being sneaky and underhanded- Ephesians 5:8; 1 John 1:7.
  • It is a Christ-like walk - 1 John 2:6.

Let's make it the walk of our entire lives—at home and away, in church and in the car, shopping and watching the game, eating out and relaxing at Grandma's…

PRAYER: Dear God, please show me where I live one way to impress or not to offend others, and another way at home. Help me to "walk within my house with a perfect (blameless) heart." 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 AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Should we "fear" God?

Child looking up, holding parent's hand
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 128:1-6

"Behold, thus shall the man be blessed
Who fears the Lord." Psalm 128:5

What a picture of domestic bliss Psalm 128 paints;
- A man whose honest work supports his life.
- A good marriage, the husband like a gardener nourishing and doting on the beautiful and fruitful vine—his wife—who lives in the "heart" of his home.
- A family of children—"olive plants"—that staple tree of Israel that provided oil, olives shade, the very symbol of blessing and plenty.
- A family that carries on into generations with their patriarch living long enough to see his grandchildren.

All this on one condition: "Blessed is every one who fears the Lord …. Behold thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord" Psalm 128:1,5.

What does it mean to "fear" the Lord?

[Fears - yare  means to fear, be afraid of, stand in awe of, reverence, honour, respect.]

What does this fear/reverence/respect for God look like?

In a way it looks a lot like a child's good relationship with parents. When I was little, I knew I could only push it so far before the "rod" would come out. I respected my parent's orders because I knew that they would be enforced and that was an occasion to fear!

But the relationship was different than master / slave because my parents loved me and I loved them. Thus I wanted to please them too. I yearned for their "You did a great job," and hated to hear, "I'm disappointed in you." One sure way to evoke the latter was to ignore or violate the life principles by which they had raised me.

Our fear of God is similar.

  • We obey, knowing there will be consequences if we don't.
  • But we also love Him and yearn to hear his "Well done." To achieve that we value the same things God values and translate our mental assent into living out those things in what we allow ourselves to think about, love, say, how we relate to our family, church family, neighbours, enemies, what we do with our possessions etc.

But how do we know the things that God values?

They're scattered throughout the Bible and distilled in passages like 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Galatians 5:16-20; Philippians 4:6-8.

This living in the fear of God—it's a project that takes a lifetime!

Dear God please help me to relate to You in a realistic way that includes fear, respect, and awe. Help me to study and understand what pleases You so I will live it out and someday hear your "Well done." 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.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Looking for mercy

TODAY' SPECIAL: Psalm 122:1-123:4

TO CHEW ON: "Behold as the eyes of servants look to the hands of their masters,
As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
So our eyes look to the Lord our God,
Until He has mercy on us." Psalm 123:2

I've always liked this picturesque little verse, reading it as servants keeping an eye on the master for the next command. But on a close look today, I see that that's not what the servant is waiting for at all. Rather, he or she is waiting, looking up, hoping for mercy

[Mercy (chanan) means to be gracious, show pity, favour.
In English mercy is defined as kind or compassionate treatment of an offender, adversary, prisoner etc. in one's power; compassion where severity is expected or deserved.]

This request for mercy from the lips of man to God—from our own lips—reminds us of who God is and who we are. Eugene Peterson comments on this psalm and the stance of the person praying:

"The person of faith looks up to God, not at him or down on him. The servant assumes a certain posture, a stance. If he or she fails to take that posture, attentive responsiveness to the master's commands will be hard" - Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p. 61.

The definition of mercy reminds us of why it is only realistic to take that low, looking-up posture: because we are people who deserve and, except for Jesus and His substitutionary death for us, expect severity.

It's easy to get in the 'ordering God around' mode in our prayers. This little psalm reminds us of who we are and what our realistic posture before God is. And yet, because He is good, this grovelling for mercy is not fear-filled but optimistic. Peterson again:

"In obedience we pray 'Mercy!' instead of 'Give us what we want. We prayer 'Mercy!' and not 'Reward us for our goodness so our neighbors will acknowledge our superiority." We pray "Mercy!" and not "Punish us for our badness so we will feel better.' We pray 'Mercy!' and not 'Be nice to us because we have been such good people.'

We live under the mercy. God does not treat us as alien others, lining us up so that he can evaluate our competence or our usefulness or our worth. He rules, guides, commands, loves us as children whose destinies he carries in his heart" - Peterson, Ibid., p. 64.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this reminder of my realistic position before You. Thank You for Your mercy that looks on me with soft, compassionate eyes, instead of with the condemnation I deserve. Help me to extend Your mercy to others. Amen.

MORE: Kyrie Eleison (As We Come Before You) by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty

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.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

The most dreaded words

Ten Virgins - Matthew 25:1-13
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 25:1-13

TO CHEW ON: " 'But he answered and said, 'Assuredly I say to you, I do not know you." ' " Matthew 25:12

In this parable Jesus draws lessons abut the Kingdom of Heaven from a traditional Jewish wedding procession. The main characters in the story are the bridesmaids. They were waiting to be part of the procession leading the bride and bridegroom from the bride's to the groom's home.

These processions, that usually happened at night, were accompanied by singing and dancing. The lamps needed to light the parade were more like torches than our oil-filled lamps. Some suggest that an oil-rag-wrapped torch could only burn for 15 minutes before it needed refreshing, thus the need for extra oil. Delays were common due to the bride's relatives haggling over the bride's great quality versus the amount and value of the groom's gifts.

It was an honor to be part of a wedding procession and a matter of esteem on the bride and groom's part that it should go well. This, the IVP Commentary on this passage suggests, is why the wise virgins in the story didn't share their extra oil with the foolish. For if they had, none of the lamps would have had enough oil to light the whole journey and the bride and groom would have been insulted and embarrassed. (Information on the cultural background from the IVP Commentary, accessed through

This parable is commonly interpreted to be about Jesus' return to earth—the promise of the angels when He ascended into heaven (Acts 1:11). Some of the things it teaches us about His second coming are:

It may be delayed and take what, to those watching for it, feels like a long time.
This is not the only place in the Bible we're told that Jesus' coming may be delayed. See also Matthew 25:19, Luke 1:38, and 2 Peter 3:3-9.

It needs our watchful readiness. The fault of the foolish virgins was that they hadn't thought ahead to prepare for what was surely to be expected—the bridegroom's delay. How do we stay ready for Jesus, our bridegroom's, coming? Some ways:
  • We watch for it - Matthew 24:42, Mark 13:32-37, Revelation 16:15.
  • We serve faithfully - Matthew 24:45-51.
  • We live soberly - 1 Thessalonians 5:4-8.

It ends the era of grace and ushers in the era of "too late." The foolish virgins arrived after the door was closed and heard the dreadful words: "I do not know you." What do we need to do so that we never hear those fateful words spoken to us?
  • We accept God's way of salvation through faith in Jesus - 1 Thessalonians 5:9,10. 
  • Jesus called it being " 'born again' " - John 3:3-8.

Dear Jesus, though Your return has been delayed these 2000+ years, I believe Your promise that you will return. Help me to life in faithful, sober watchfulness. 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, November 07, 2014

Is praise your default setting?

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 63:1-11

Woman in a wheelchair
TO CHEW ON: “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life my lips shall praise You.” Psalm 63:3

Lisa Coriale, a friend of my daughter’s, has cerebral palsy. This lovely young woman lives in a body that is stiff and twisted. She has a hard time making herself understood when she talks. But she has amazing pluck and determination, has earned a university degree, and is trained as a social worker. She also has amazing faith – evidenced in a book of poems she published a few years ago. Though lines like these don’t surprise me:

“Spinning out of control
Grasping onto whatever I can
An item shatters on the floor
Higher waters overwhelm me” – from “Rant,” p. 27

…what I do find surprising is the note of triumphant praise that ends almost every piece:

“Remember to thank Him for everything” – from “Open Doors” p. 26
“He will set you free” – from “Freedom” p. 29
“The hand of God will create the ultimate / masterpiece for our lives” – from “The Hand of God” p. 32.

(All quotes from Transparent a book of poems by Lisa Coriale)

Psalm 63 was also written from a hard place. When we realize David was hiding from Saul in the wilderness of Judah at the time he wrote it, words like, “Because Your lovingkiness is better than life, My lips shall praise You” could easily puzzle us.

For what was he praising God? Perhaps he was praising because God had given Gad the prophet the message for him to flee, and so for the moment he was eluding jealous King Saul. Or perhaps his praise was sparked by the fact that he had just found water, or that he and his men were able to survive at all. Or maybe he praised God just because God is worthy of praise no matter what is or isn’t happening for us. “Thus I will praise you while I live…”

What is your situation today? Are you praising God in it? I find that even when things are good my attitude doesn’t naturally tend toward praise. I need to work on making praise my default setting no matter what my circumstances. And so I say with David: “My lips shall praise you… I will bless You while I live…I will lift up my hands… My soul shall be satisfied… my mouth shall praise you… I meditate on You… I will rejoice.”

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me train my attitude toward praise so that it is my first reaction in every situation. 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.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Uncleanness—are you savvy?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 3:6-4:8

"For God didn't call us to uncleanness but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 4:7,8

"For God has not called us to impurity, but to consecration [to dedicate ourselves to the most thorough purity]. Therefore whoever disregards—sets aside and rejects—this disregards not man but God, Whose [very] Spirit [Whom] He gives to you [is] holy—chaste, pure." 1 Thessalonians 4:7,8 AMP.

After specifically naming sexual immorality as a sin to avoid, Paul warns the Thessalonians about general "uncleanness."

[The word uncleanness (akathars) is translated "impurity" (NASB, AMP), "impure" (NIV, NLT) and "immorality" (GNT). In the Greek akathars—uncleanness— refers to physical uncleanness as well as uncleanness in a moral sense: "The impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living."]

Paul suggests that people who resist his call to pure living aren't only rejecting him, but God whose Spirit in the believer is holy—"His Holy Spirit."

As believers all these many years later we too get the gift of the Holy Spirit when we put our faith in Jesus for salvation. He makes good and sure that we know we're on dangerous ground when we're around uncleanness.

Have you ever been in the middle of a novel and realized—this book is not good for me? Or walked out of a movie that exalted immorality? Or turned off a comedy routine on TV because it was rife with dirty humor? Or purposefully avoided the astrology section of the paper? The Holy Spirit in you is behind those feelings of offense, outrage, and wanting to get and stay away from certain things.

I am currently taking Priscilla Shirer's course Discerning the Voice of God. In the workbook that goes along with the DVD lectures, Shirer gives lots of good teaching about how we can sharpen our spiritual ears to hear the Holy Spirit speak ever more clearly. Here are some bits I've underlined:

"If we want to hear God's voice clearly, we need to immerse ourselves in the Word of God" - Priscilla Schirer, Discerning the Voice of God, p. 40.

"God is doing everything to reveal His will and cause us to go after it! Through the Holy Spirit, 'He writes His laws on our hearts and on our minds, and we love them and are drawn by our affections and judgment, not driven, to our obedience' " Ibid. p. 42, Shirer quotes Hannah Whitall Smith, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life, p. 76.

"As I seek Him, stay in His Word, and continue to keep an intimate relationship with Him by confessing my sin, He transforms my mind and emotions to align with His plans" - Ibid.

"When you delight yourself in Him, you can relax in knowing that He will speak clearly to you, order your steps, and cause you to desire what brings Him pleasure"  Ibid. p. 43.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the Holy Spirit who lives in me and alerts me to thoughts, influences, reading material, and media (TV, movies, the internet, music) that will plant seeds of uncleanness in my heart. Help me to practice obedience in getting and staying away from these things. 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 AMP 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, November 03, 2014

A leader's influence

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Joshua 24:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

When Joshua called for all the elders, judges, and officers of Israel to meet at Shechem, they probably knew it was a significant event. For they had been at Shechem before.

Shechem (in the valley between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim) was where, years earlier, Joshua had reread all the law and renewed the covenant with God after the second Battle of Ai (Joshua 8:30-35).

This time he reviewed the history of how God had worked in the nation from Abraham to the present. His message seems like a simple rousing pep talk until we read in verse 14: "Now... put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!"
Oh oh. It sounds like some of them were worshiping idols.

Joshua did a wise thing when he gave them a choice (Joshua 24:15).  As Matthew Henry says in his commentary:
"It is essential that the service of God's people be performed with a willing mind. For LOVE is the only genuine principle whence all acceptable service of God can spring. The Father seeks only such to worship him, as worship him in spirit and in truth" (Read all of Matthew Henry's commentary and more here.)
Joshua was clear about his own decision. As far as he was concerned he and his family would serve the Lord.

The people seemed moved by his resolve, for they answered: "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord...etc. etc."- Joshua 24:16-18.

By Joshua's response it seems he detected a note of glibness in their words. For he made it harder: "You cannot serve the Lord for He is a holy God...."(Joshua 24:19-20).  In other words, You can't keep doing what you're doing (worshiping idols and God too) and think it's okay. God's holiness and jealousy demand your utmost separation to Him.

The people replied, perhaps more knowingly this time, "No, but we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:21).

I love how the resolve of this leader was contagious. Joshua can be our model in this. Though we are not leaders of a nation like he was, each of us is a leader to someone—our kids, our friends, our Bible study class, our garden club... Let's reaffirm our personal uncompromising loyalty to God, make it public, and live it out. We never know who will be influenced by our stand.

Dear God, help me to recognize and get rid of any idols that would compete with my loyalty to You. No matter what others do, I want to make Joshua's declaration my own: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Amen.

MORE: "Leadership Versus Control"

Joshua is a good example of someone who influenced his people by his own example. Michael Hyatt writes:

"I often hear leaders, particularly younger ones, complaining about their lack of control in various situations. 'If only the sales department reported to me, I could consistently hit my budget,' they lament. Or, 'If the production department reported to me, I would not have run out of inventory!'

What they are really saying is, 'If I could control these people, I could guarantee the results.' The truth is that control is an illusion. You can’t control anyone, even the people that report to you.

However, while you can’t control anyone (except perhaps yourself), you can influence nearly everyone. This is the essence of true leadership. By this definition, Jesus, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King were great leaders. They had control of virtually no one, yet their influence changed the course of history..." Read all of "Leadership Versus Control."

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, November 01, 2014

Coming out of tribulation

Multitude worshiping - Artist unknown
Multitude worshiping - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Revelation 7:1-17

TO CHEW ON: " ' These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.' " Revelation 7:14

News, lately, of Christian churches burned, hundreds of school girls from African Christian schools kidnapped, and Christians of all ages beheaded for their faith makes one ask, how much worse can the "great tribulation" be than this?

My Bible's study notes on verse 14 say "This is not a post-consummation picture. Therefore tribulation is to some degree taking place throughout the entire church age" - Earl Wesley Morey, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1827.

Where I live, Christians don't suffer the persecution of outright violence but rather social exclusion, isolation, being left out, ignored, not heard. The leader of one of Canada's political parties announced a few months ago that under him, no candidate with pro-life (anti-abortion) views need apply. Trinity Western University (a local Christian university), seeking to start its own law school has come against opposition from the law societies of several provinces because of the university's charter which sets a biblical moral standard for student life. (The irony is that women on secular campuses feel in danger because of a rash of sexual assaults—but better that, I guess, than a code of conduct!)

Persecution of any kind feels bad. When I read about the "great persecution" ("The great persecution describes the acceleration and intensification of troublesome times as this Age comes to an end climaxing with the Rapture and Second Coming" - Ibid), I don't jump up and down exclaiming "I can hardly wait!" Instead I pray for peace, harmony, and favor for Christians in my land and all over the earth.

But God's plan will unfold, and here we get a glimpse behind the curtain of such ostracisms,  burnings, beheadings, and tortures. It's a picture of joy, victory, praise, worship, and thanksgiving:

"… 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.

So let's keep this triumphant scene in mind as we pray for those being persecuted and face our society's increasing animosity for holding onto Bible-based convictions.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for this scene of victory and overcoming. Help me to remember this final triumph when I feel discouraged about the world's rejection of You and Your church. Amen.

MORE: All Saints Day

Today the church celebrates All Saints Day. The day's liturgy begins with this prayer:

"Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. 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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