Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Life gardeners

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Peter 1:13-25


TO CHEW ON: "Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible through the word of God which lives and abides forever." 1 Peter 1:23


It is soon planting time in the part of the world where I live. Gardeners are planning their plots. They are buying seed. They are readying the soil. Though they can't accomplish the mysterious process of germination, they will do all they can to get the soil just right and plant high quality seed so that their garden will be a success.

The Bible talks a lot about our lives in terms of seed, new life, growing a good crop. Our focus verse today tells us that God's word is the guaranteed seed of new life in us. Other places also talk about God's word as being unable to fail (Isaiah 55:10-11). So why does it not always produce a good harvest?

Because in our lives there is another variable — the soil. And that part is up to us. Jesus told a parable about the possible soils of life in Matthew 13:3-9. He talked about wayside soil, shallow soil, weedy soil, and good soil.

Later He explained to His disciples what each soil signified in a person's life (Matthew 13:18-23).

  • We discover that wayside soil where the birds snatch the seed away is the person who doesn't understand God's word. 
  • Stony soil in which the seed germinates but never gets established is the person who doesn't let this new life get rooted in new habits and lifestyle changes. 
  • The weedy, thorny soil is the life that is cluttered with other interests, agendas and goals. If the seed germinates, it is soon crowded out and starved for water by competing weeds. 
  • And then there is the good soil, which is the receptive life where the word germinates and grows to produce an increase of thirty, sixty or one-hundred percent.

If you're a person who is new to these ideas, you may be like the wayside soil — bewildered and confused about what Jesus and His life and death mean to you. You can read Jesus' explanation of new life to someone for whom this was a new idea in John 3:1-16. You can ask God to help you understand.

Even after God's word has germinated into new life in us, we still need to keep an eye on soil conditions. Just like a gardener doesn't forget about a plant once it has poked through the soil but weeds, fertilizes, cultivates and aerates around it, so we need to be vigilant to nurture the new life in us.

If our new life is in danger from shallow roots in stony soil conditions, we can encourage them to grow deeper. Joshua 1:8 has some good advice on how to do that:

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."

If our plot us full of the weeds and cares of everyday life, Jesus tells us how to tackle those things in Matthew 6:25 and 33:

"If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don't fuss about what's on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body....Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met  - MSG paraphrase.

Let's be vigilant to care for and nurture the soil of our lives so that God's word will realize its potential of a good harvest in us.

PRAYER: Dear God, Thank You for the Bible which is the seed of new life. Please show me where the seed of Your word has competition from other things in my life. Help me to care for my life plot with the dedication of a successful gardener. Amen.

MORE: Gardening advice

These articles have practical ideas for your natural garden. As you read them can you find ways that natural gardening parallels establishing and maintaining life's spiritual garden? 


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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 MSG are taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Three thirsty days is a long time

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 15:19-27

TO CHEW ON:
"And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. … And the people complained against Moses, saying, 'What shall we drink?'" Exodus 15:22,24

The Israelites had just experienced their most stunning victory—not through their own skill but through miracles straight from God. Even uptight Moses burst into song and matriarch Miriam led the women in a victory dance. But now, only three days later, there is complaining again.

For us, reading these stories, the Israelites' mood changes seem mercurial. They go from rejoicing to grumbling in four verses! Before we're too hard on them, though let's consider their situation.

They are in unfamiliar territory, walking in desert heat, sleeping in desert cold. And they're rapidly running out of the one essential that will keep them alive—water. Three days is a long time to be thirsty. Then, when they do find water, it's bitter. And so they grumble.

I ask myself, if I were in their shoes, would I act any differently?

The Israelites' desert experience demanded that the people mature in trusting God. It stretched them to look past how things appeared in the moment and see the situation with the eyes of faith. They were constantly challenged to remember how God had helped them in the past. Then they needed to apply that memory to current conditions.

"God knows exactly when to withhold or to grant us any visible sign of encouragement. How wonderful it is when we will trust Him in either case! Yet it is better when all visible evidence that He is remembering us is withheld. He wants us to realize that His word—His promise of remembering us—is more real and dependable than any evidence our sense may reveal. It is good when He sends the visible evidence, but we appreciate it even more after we have trusted Him without it" - Charles Gallaudet Trumbull, quoted in Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman - January 24th reading.

I too can go from high to low in a matter of days—hours! And so I too have lots of room for stretching and growth in the living-by-faith department. What about you?

PRAYER:  Dear God, I see myself reflected in these Israelites. Help me to get my eyes off circumstances and keep them on You and Your history and promises. Amen.

Streams in the Desert - 366 Daily Devotional Readings byCowman

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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, April 28, 2014

Bought

"The songs of Joy" by James Tissot

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 15:1-18


TO CHEW ON: "Fear and dread will fall on them;
By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as stone,
Till Your people pass over, O Lord,
Till the people pass over
Whom You have purchased." Exodus 15:16

Couldn't these ancients compose songs on the spur of the moment! Moses' song in Exodus 15 is full of story, theology, and praise for what has just happened.

I am intrigued by his mention of God purchasing His people and thus able to claim ownership of them in that regard. What purchase was Moses referring to here? Was it the Passover when the blood of the sacrificed lamb painted on the door frame signified God's claim to that household?

God's claims of ownership are found in other places too.
  • The Levites were an Israelite tribe separated to God for the activity of worship - Numbers 8:14.
  • Moses reminds the Israelite nation again of how God owns them because He purchased them in Deuteronomy 32:6.
  • Paul reassures the Roman Christians that God's owns them and will take care of them through life to death - Romans 14:8.
  • He repeats this ownership claim to the church in Corinth, telling them that it must affect how they live their lives - 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

And so the truth of Moses' lyric about God purchasing His people echoes down to us today. Its application in our lives is double-sided.
1]We can take comfort that as God's possession we are in His care through whatever comes along (Romans 14:8; Matthew 6:33).
2] But if He owns us, we no longer own ourselves. This has implications for how we spend our hours, days, months, and years on earth:
"Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own,
    You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body" (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 AMP - emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for buying me with Your blood. As a purchased one, and one of Your possessions, help me to glorify You with my body and life. Amen.

MORE: Our Master takes responsibility

I have always loved Jesus' promise of provision and care in Matthew 6:33: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." However, I never noticed till today how that whole section (Matthew 6:25-34) begins with "Therefore" alerting us to the fact that these promises rest on something.

That something is expressed in verse 24:
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.


"Therefore I say to you do not worry..."

Implicit in Jesus' promise that God will take responsibility for us, it seems, is our decision to choose Him as our master and to be loyal to Him over mammon (money, riches, treasure).

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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." (www.Lockman.org)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dichotomy within the gospel


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 14:10-31

TO CHEW ON: "And the Angel of God who went before the camp of Israel moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. … Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night." Exodus 14:19-20


The Egyptians were in hot pursuit of Israel after their exit from Egypt. But when the Egyptian army was about to pounce, God cut them off. His miraculous cloud served double duty, darkening the night for the Egyptians while it illuminated the journey through the sea for Israel.

This cloud reminds me of the way God's plan works double duty in other parts of the Bible.

The prophets (Isaiah 28:16; Zechariah 10:4), Jesus (Mark 12:10), and the apostles (Ephesians 2:20-22) use imagery of a cornerstone to describe Jesus and His work. But not everyone accepts Him as this. Peter describes how to those who don't believe  in Jesus, He is a "stone of stumbling and rock of offence" (1 Peter 2:8).

Paul talks about the knowledge of Christ as a fragrance. To those being saved it's the fragrance of life but to unbelievers it is the "aroma of death" - 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.

"'Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth,'" Jesus says in another instance. "'I did not come to bring peace but a sword.'" He goes on to say how belief in Him may cause a rift between people in the closest relationships (Matthew 10:34-38).

From earliest installments of the story (like our reading in Exodus) we have seeds of the gospel's potential to divide. So let's not be caught off guard when our faith offends, when our beliefs cause arguments, when even our closest relationships are affected by our loyalty to Jesus and the gospel.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to be uncompromising in my loyalty to You and the gospel, regardless of the reaction of those around me. Amen.

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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, April 26, 2014

Equipped to work

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ephesians 4:1-16

TO CHEW ON: "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." Ephesians 4:11-12

What is your perception of your pastor's purpose? Do you see him as someone whose job it is to entertain, educate and challenge you in his Sunday sermons, to encourage you, to visit you when you're sick and generally cater to you? Or in your mind, does his job description also include getting you ready to do some of those things for others?

Paul talks about the role of leadership in this passage in terms of equipping. Jack Hayford in his notes on Ephesians, comments: "Equipping implies: 1) a recovered wholeness as when a broken limb is set and mended; 2) a discovered function as when a physical member is properly operating" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1650.

Paul's language here is quite clear about the role of church leaders. While one of their jobs is to care for us as in help us recover wholeness, another is to help us to discover our ministry role and equip us to care for others.

What others?

I would suggest all those whose lives touch ours in some way. This would include people we live with (family), the people we live beside, the people we interact with not only face-to-face but virtually through Facebook, and email. Even the writing I'm doing here is the fruit of my pastor's equipping in my life.

I see a couple of implications for everyday living:

1. If we're leaders (one of those apostles,* prophets, evangelists or teachers) one of our goals should be to equip our 'disciples' to do ministry.

2. As disciples / parishioners / church members, we need to realize that our pastor's role is not all about us—how entertaining he is as a speaker, how often he visits us when we're sick, how wise he is as a counselor, etc. Rather, it is to prepare us to take on some of those ministry responsibilities as we share the burden for the well-being of the body of Christ.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to be a giver, not just a taker when it comes to responsibility in the body of Christ. And help my pastor and other church leaders as they work in their many roles. Amen.

MORE: Spiritual leadership

Bob Hamp, in a guest post on Michael Hyatt's blog says, "Not all leaders in religious organizations are spiritual leaders. This is not a criticism as much as a distinction. Distinguishing spiritual leadership from other forms of leadership can free people from unrealistic expectations of some leaders.

At the same time, making this distinction can help identify who the spiritual leaders in your organization are..." 

Hamp's observation alerts us to the possibility that we, as laypeople, can be spiritual leaders. His article goes on to give six characteristics of spiritual leaders:

1. They lead others into their own encounters with God.
2. They lead others to discover their own purpose and identity.
3. They lead others into transformation—not just production.
4. They impact their atmosphere.
5. They help people see old things in new ways.
6. They gain a following because of who they are—not because of a position they hold.

Read all of "6 Characteristics of Spiritual Leaders."

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* Apostles: Are there still apostles today? Many insist that office ended in the New Testament era. Jack Hayford, in his notes on Ephesians says:
"Beyond the distinct role filled by the original founding apostles, the NT mentions enough additional apostles to indicate that this office, with that of prophets, is as continuing a ministry in the church as the more commonly acknowledged offices of evangelist, pastors and teachers" New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1650.

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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, April 25, 2014

Signs will follow

"Carry this Gospel to all the world"
by Harold Copping

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 16:9-20

TO CHEW ON: "'And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.'.... And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs." Mark 16:17-18, 20.

Christianity has divided itself roughly into two camps.
- Those who believe that these signs Jesus spoke of, which were promised to "confirm" the word have ceased (Cessasionists).

- Those who believe that signs legitimately continue till this day (Continuationists).

A footnote on this passage in my Bible defends the Continuationist position:

"The signs accredit the gospel message and cannot be limited to the apostolic age, any more than the Lord's commission to carry the gospel throughout the world. The signs, therefore, confirm the ministries of Christ's ambassadors in every generation" - J. Lyle Story, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1380.

This latter is what I believe (in other words, I am a continuationist). But if this promise applies to us, why don't we see more signs accompanying the preaching of the gospel?

Perhaps one reason is that we don't really desire them and so we don't ask (as the disciples did in Acts 4:29-30). John Piper, in an article on this topic, makes this observation (he is referring specifically to the spiritual gift signs referred to in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10):

"I wonder how many of us have said for years that we are open to God's moving in spiritual gifts, but have been disobedient to this command to earnestly desire them... I would ask all of us: are we so sure of our hermeneutical procedure for diminishing the gifts that we would risk walking in disobedience to a plain command of Scripture? "Earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy."

I have come to the point of seeing that the risk lies in the other direction. It would be a risk not to seek spiritual gifts for myself and my church. It would be a risk not to pray with the early church, "Grant your servants to speak your word with boldness while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through your holy servant Jesus." Disobedience is always a greater risk than obedience" - John Piper "Signs and Wonders: Then and Now."

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for breaking through natural laws with supernatural acts when You were on earth, and since then throughout history. Help me to be more open to You working in and through my life in supernatural ways. Amen.

MORE: Feast of St. Mark

Today the church celebrates the Gospel writer Mark in the Feast of St. Mark. The day's liturgy begins with this collect:

Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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More on the two views mentioned above: 
Continuationism:


Cessationism

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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, April 24, 2014

Spiritual benefits of insomnia

wide awake
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 16:1-11

TO CHEW ON:
"I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons." Psalm 16:7


What do you do when you can't sleep at night? Fret? Toss and turn? Count sheep? Take a pill?

Night wakefulness is referred to quite a few times in the Bible.

  • For Job's friend Elihu it was a time of hearing God's songs (Job 35:10).
  • For the psalmist Korah it was also a time of lingering songs as well as prayer (Psalm 42:8).
  • For Psalm-writer Asaph night songs evoked meditation and spirit searching (Psalm 77:6).
  • When Israel faced the Assyrians, Isaiah prophesied, not nighttime thoughts of dread and foreboding but "a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept" (Isaiah 30:29).
  • Who can forget Paul and Silas, locked in stocks in a jail in Philippi, praying and singing hymns at midnight? We remember the miraculous jail break that followed (Acts 16:25, 26)!
  • And in our psalm today, David testifies of God instructing him in the night seasons.

So next time we're troubled by insomnia, perhaps we should pause our fretting, turn our attention to God, and ask:
~ Do you have a song for me?
 

~ What Bible verses could I meditate on?
 

~ Who or what situation needs prayer?
~ Is there a battle somewhere that could be impacted by my praise and prayer?

PRAYER: Dear God, You know I don't usually think of sleeplessness as a good thing. Please help me to remember that it can be a time of prayer, song, counsel, meditation and spiritual warfare. Amen.

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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, April 23, 2014

"Kept"

Guard
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Peter 1:1-12

TO CHEW ON:
"… who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:5

It's easy to trust in God's keeping power when times are good. But when we get sick, or suffer setbacks in business, or go through heart-breaking times with our kids, or have all we own ripped away from us by fire, tornado or mudslide, or any number of other trials, can we trust that God is still there? Is He still keeping us?

Peter here reminds the "pilgrims of the Dispersion"—mostly Gentile Christians living in various parts of Asia Minor who are experiencing persecution because of their obedience to Christ—that even through their trials they are being "kept."

["Kept—phroureo is "a military term picturing a sentry standing guard as protection against the enemy. We are in spiritual combat but God's power and peace (Philippians 4:7) are our sentinels and protectors" - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1763.]

But we have our part to play in this keeping. For it is "through faith." And this keeping will not necessarily mean a return to how things were before the trial, but in ultimate salvation, completely accomplished and understood "in the last time."

If your faith is old, seasoned and experienced, a wealth of memories reminding you of how God has kept you in the past will buttress your faith now. If you're new to faith, you may want to spend time reading stories of Bible characters and biographies of modern Christ followers. The way God kept them through trials will build faith in God's creativity and faithfulness for your life. 

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for keeping me in the past and continuing to do so. Please help me to grow in faith as I experience your keeping power. Amen.

MORE: Reading list

Some Bible characters to read about:

  • Joseph - Genesis 37, 39-47.
  • Hannah - 1 Samuel 1:1-2:11.
  • Ruth - Bible book of Ruth.
  • Esther - Bible book of Esther.
  • Daniel - Daniel 1-3, 6.
  • Nehemiah - Bible book of Nehemiah.

Some faith-building biographies (links are to my reviews of these books):

  • Kabul 24 - Henry O. Arnold & Ben Pearson

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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, April 22, 2014

The word that cuts


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 2:22-42

TO CHEW ON: "Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?'" Acts 2:37

 Lydia Christensen was a 36-year-old Danish teacher who had it all—a great career, loving family, and a good man who wanted to marry her. But the Christmas of 1926 found her dissatisfied and searching for more.

Back in her apartment after celebrating with her family, she felt like reading and went to her bookshelf:

"I read off the names of the authors: Kierkegaard, Oenslaeger, Ibsen, Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoy, Plato. I had read them, quoted them, lectured about them—but they offered me no answer now. At the extreme right of the top row, my eye rested on a plain volume bound in black. … For a moment I hesitated, then I reached up and pulled it down" - Appointment in Jerusalem, Derek & Lydia Prince, Kindle Location 409.

The book Lydia pulled down was a Bible. She had been required to read it for one of her college courses. Soon she was immersed in the story of Jesus from Matthew and then the Sermon on the Mount.

"At the fourth beatitude I suddenly caught my breath: 'Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). Hunger and thirst … Could this be the very longing that I felt for something I could not express in words? Did I dare to apply these words to myself?" Ibid, KL 419.

Lydia did apply those words to herself and her life was changed that day. Her experience is just another example of the power of God's word which cut to the heart of the listeners in Acts (notice how much of Peter's sermon is Scripture quotes), and continues to impact people around the world.

I ask, am I opening myself to this enlightening (Psalm 119:105), burning, pulverizing (Jeremiah 23:29), growing (Acts 19:20), cutting (Hebrews 4:12) word? Are you?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the power of Your word. Help me to be guided, broken, cut,  moulded, formed, disciplined, fertilized, encouraged, and challenged by it today. Amen.

Quotes taken from Appointment in Jerusalem by Derek & Lydia Prince, Kindle Edition. Read my review of it HERE.




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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, April 21, 2014

Receive the Spirit

"... look at My hands" - Jesus - Artist unknown
"Look at My hands" - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 20:19-31

TO CHEW ON: So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace to You!' As the Father has sent me, I also send you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" John 20:20-21


This quiet scene of Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit into His disciples shortly after His resurrection is quite a contrast to the pandemonium of the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:2-13). An article in my Bible talks about the differences:

"Jesus' words 'Receive the Holy Spirit' help to set in context two different works of the Holy Spirit in a believer's life. First, here on Easter night the disciples do, in fact 'receive the Spirit' as the 'Spirit of life' - Romans 8:2. … Second, however, on Pentecost the work of God's Spirit as the Spirit of power (Isaiah 11:2 "might") is to enable Jesus' disciples for ministry—witness and service—to fulfill their mission to the world" - Scott G. Bauer, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1481.

Just as God the Father breathed the breath of physical life into the nostrils of the first man (Genesis 2:7), here Jesus—God the Son—breathes spiritual life into the disciples (Romans 8:11-17). Then, later, on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit empowers them for this new-life ministry.

Both works of the Spirit are necessary in our lives too—the new birth and the Spirit's empowering for what we are left on earth to do.

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, thank You for giving us new spiritual life through Your Spirit and for also giving us the power for ministry through Him. Amen.

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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, April 20, 2014

Do not fear!


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 28:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "But the angel answered and said to the women, 'Do not be afraid'.... Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid...'" Matthew 28:5,10

So often in the Bible, the first words heaven speaks when it encounters earth is "Do not fear. Do not be afraid."

Why is that? Perhaps because there is within those encounters all the fear-producing elements:

Fear: 1] an agitated feeling aroused by awareness of actual or threatening danger, trouble, etc., 2] An uneasy feeling that something may happen contrary to one's desires. 3] A feeling of deep reverential awe and dread 'the fear of God.' 4] A continuing state or attitude of fright, dread or alarmed concern."

Angel encounters are beyond the ordinary, the explainable, and outside usual human experience. Our sinful state and tendencies anchor in reality the fears that come out in such meetings. It is natural to react like Isaiah did: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" - Isaiah 6:5.

The word 'fear' used by the angels and Jesus here is phobeo, defined as "panic that grips a person causing him to run away, be scared, alarmed, frightened, dismayed, intimidated, anxious and apprehensive (compare 'phobia)"  - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1308.

"Don't do that — run away, be scared, alarmed, frightened," say the angels and Jesus at the unveiling of the resurrection. "For this is good news. Now your most basic fear — the fear of death — is conquered."

Imagine how incredible must have been the realization for Jesus' disciples and friends that He was back. But even greater the joy when it finally sunk in what He had accomplished. That what He had said to Martha just before raising Lazarus ("Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die'" - John 11:25-26) was now a reality for them, indeed for all who believe in Him. For us! We do not need to be afraid of our last great enemy - death.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for conquering death in Your resurrection. May the knowledge of what that means for me sink deep into my psyche, helping me life free-fear. Amen.

MORE: Easter! "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" - Steve Green




The Easter Day liturgy begins with this collect:

O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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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, April 19, 2014

Fighting against God

The sealed tomb - artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 27:57-66

TO CHEW ON: "'Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away and say to the people, "He has risen from the dead."' … So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting the guard."  Matthew 27:64,66

How futile to fight against God this way, we say in hindsight, as we read about the precautions the religious leaders of Jesus' day took to guarantee His influence would come to an end. The days and weeks after Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit have more examples of fighting against God.

After Peter healed the lame man and the city was all a-chatter about that miracle, the rulers made another pronouncement: "But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them that from now on they speak no more in this name." To that Peter and John answered: "… we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" - Acts 4:17,20.

A short while later Peter and John made a miraculous angel-aided break from prison and the leaders found them again teaching in the temple. Again the high priest forbade them to teach in Jesus' name, to which Peter they replied: "We ought to obey God rather than men" - Acts 5:22-29.

Finally, the Pharisee Gamaliel came to this rather profound conclusion: "'… keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of man, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God you cannot overthrow it—lest you be found to be fighting against God'" - Acts 5:38,39.

I sometimes wonder what side some of Christendom's current leaders would have found themselves on if they had lived in Jesus' day. What about us? When God works in ways that are biblical but new to us, what do we do? Are we quick to defend our tradition, labeling what we haven't seen before out-of-line, wrong, even demonic? Or do we take a wait-and-see attitude, careful to avoid being in the dangerous position of fighting against God?

PRAYER:  Dear God, help me to be in tune with You and what You are doing. May neither my human skepticism, the fear of man, nor any other thing take me to a place of fighting against You. Amen.

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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, April 18, 2014

Forsaken

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 27:27-56

TO CHEW ON: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'" - Matthew 27:46

Jesus and God the Father were always incredibly close. Even at twelve years, Jesus wanted to be in his Father's house and seemed surprised that His parents hadn't thought to look there first when He was discovered missing on their journey back to Nazareth.

At Jesus' baptism the Father, in "a voice from heaven" alerted the onlookers to their relationship: "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."

Jesus was always going off somewhere to spend time with His Father. He'd get up early, spend all nightstay behind, go off by Himself  just so He could be with Him.

Again at Jesus' transfiguration, God the Father broke through to the human bystanders in the proud pronouncement: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!"

So when Jesus cried from the cross, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" we know something very serious was up.

And why Had God the Father forsaken His beloved Son? Because that Son had become something the Father could not look at. Jesus became utterly abhorrent to God when He took our sins on Him.

"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Why did Jesus and God allow that to happen? Because:

"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life' - John 3:16

Explained eloquently by J. I. Packer:

"God's love to sinners was expressed by the gift of His Son to be their Saviour. The measure of love is how much it gives and the measure of the love of God is the gift of His only Son to be made man, and to die for sins, and so to become the one mediator who can bring us to God. No wonder Paul speaks of God's love as "great," and passing knowledge (Ephesians 2:4; 3:19). Was there ever such costly munificence?" - Knowing God, p. 138-9.

PRAYER: Dear God, Thank You for sending Jesus. Jesus, thank You for enduring the utter desolation of my sin and death on the cross and so that I can be reconciled to God. Amen.


MORE: Good Friday

Today the church celebrates Jesus' crucifixion. We call it "Good Friday."

The Good Friday liturgy begins with this collect:

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Andrew Peterson's song "The Silence of God" portrays how we  feel when it seems God is giving us the silent treatment. At such times perhaps the best thing for us to do is follow Jesus' example and keep praying.




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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, April 17, 2014

Devilish Judas spirit

Judas before the Sanhedrin - Alexandre Bida
Judas before the Sanhedrin - by Alexandre Bida

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 27:1-26

TO CHEW ON: "Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders."  Matthew 27:3

I have thought a lot about Judas. What drove him to betray Jesus? What inner need was he giving in to?

Our passage today implies (when it says "…seeing He had been condemned, was remorseful…") that he may have thought his actions of betrayal would force Jesus' hand. Perhaps he thought that Jesus would again slip out of the grasp of the scribes and Pharisees as He had at other times. And this time, He would assert Himself as Messiah and show Himself to be the human King of the Jews.

We know that the other disciples had co-ruler ambitions. The mother of James and John asked that her sons have special positions in Jesus' kingdom. How much more Judas, who handled the money and already dipped into their common purse for his own use? In other words. I believe Judas thought his relationship with Jesus was a means to improve his own fortunes.

Are we so different? Don't we also often think of ourselves as the privileged chosen who, because of our relationship with Jesus will escape sickness and money problems, will have good families and successful businesses? What happens when things don't turn out the way we expect? Might we also be tempted to try to manipulate Him to follow our agenda? (You didn't hold up your end of the bargain, so I'll turn my back on You. Pout, pout.)

But Jesus had told them that following Him would include more than blessing and well-being:

"'Assuredly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters of father or mother or wife or children or lands for My sake and the gospel's who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—house and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life'" - Mark 10:29,30 (emphasis added).

Let's be watchful over our own motivations, careful to recognize and deal with any selfish ambition that might, if left to grow, sabotage our loyalty to Him when His plans for us turn out to be entirely different than we had imagined.

(Jesus' description of Judas is strong: "…one of you is a devil" - John 6:70.)

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help me to love and follow You, not for selfish gain but because You are truth and life (John 6:67,68). Amen.

MORE: Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday, the church feast that commemorates the Last Supper Jesus celebrated with His disciples. Here is the Collect that begins the day's liturgy.

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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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, April 16, 2014

Stumbling and remorse

"Peter's Denial" by Otto Dix - 1960

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 26:57-75


TO CHEW ON: "And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times!' So he went out and wept bitterly." Matthew 26:75

Peter wept for good reason. Not only had he let himself down, but he had let Jesus down  and this mere hours after declaring, "even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble" - Matthew 26:33.

His trip-up wasn't just a momentary lapse either. When given a chance to reverse his disloyalty he had nailed it down with an oath, then dusted off his colourful fisherman's vocabulary to dance around it with curses and swearing.

When he heard the rooster crow, he remembered. It's almost as if he was temporarily insane. But that cock crow pulled him back to reality and deep, deep remorse.

His story and other instances of remorse following stumbles in the Bible teach us some valuable lessons:

1. Anyone can fall.
David, who was called a "man after God's own heart," indulged in adultery with Bathsheba and then committed murder to cover it up. He felt similar deep remorse. His feelings are recorded in Psalm 51.

2. It's important to feel remorse in time.
Proverbs 5:7-14 and Ezekiel 7:14-16; 36:31 talk about being remorseful too late, when the situation is lost or when life is all but over.

3. Remorse without repentance is dangerous.
The writer of Hebrews talks about Esau (who was full of regret after trading his birthright for a bowl of stew) as having remorse that didn't fruit into anything good (Hebrews 12:17). Neither did Judas's remorse at betraying Jesus (Mattthew 27:3,5).

Fortunately, Peter's remorse took a different path. He and Jesus were reconciled and he was even able to extract from that experience of stumbling a triumphant theme:
"...you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple... 
'He is the stone that makes people stumble,
      the rock that makes them fall.'

   They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.
 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people..." (NLT from 1 Peter 2:4-10)
I am not immune from stumbles. You probably aren't either. Let's determine, though, to learn from those falls and to return quickly to Jesus with remorse and repentance, knowing that there is for us, like there was for Peter, a place in God's "spiritual temple."

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to live alert to situations that would stumble me. When I fall, help me to get up and return to you not only with remorse, but also with repentance. Amen.

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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.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The stumble trap

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 26:31-56

TO CHEW ON: "Then Jesus said to them, 'All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: "I will strike the Shepherd
And the sheep of the flock will be scattered."'
" - Matthew 26:31


Jesus predicts a sobering thing when He says that the disciples will stumble that night.

The Greek word translated stumble here is scandalizo. It means: 1] To put a stumbling block or impediment in the way to entice to sin; 2] To cause a person to begin to distrust one whom he ought to trust and obey so that he falls away, is offended, judges another unfavourably 3] To feel annoyed, displeased, indignant.

Matthew uses the same word:
  • When he quotes Jesus on plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand that makes us stumble (Matthew 5:29,30; 18:8,9).
  • In the parable of the sower as Jesus describes the shallow-rooted person as one who stumbles as a result of tribulation and persecution (Matthew 13:21).
  • As a description of the scribes and Pharisees' reaction to Jesus' teachings: Disciples: "'Do you know that the Pharisees were offended (scandalizo) when they heard this saying…" (Matthew 15:12; also 13:57).
  • To describe what people do who cause children to sin and lose their faith. Jesus: "… but whoever causes one of these little ones to believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck …'" (Matthew 18:6).

It's easy for us to fault the disciples for stumbling after the years they had spent with Jesus and especially after He told them to be alert to this happening. But we are hardly different.

A few weeks ago I broke my hip in a fall down some stairs. My reaction to this was not happy and faith-filled. In fact, I sensed in me some of the reaction of stumbling of the shallow-rooted person who falls away because of trial.

I see several applications for life here:

1. It is important that we are steeped in the truth about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and what our life on earth is about, so we don't have unrealistic expectations and thus stumble when they're not met—like the disciples did; like we so easily do when things don't go our way.

2. We can stumble others—children, our fellow church members, unbelievers—by our reaction to God's dealings with us and with others.

PRAYER: Dear God, I feel warned about having an attitude that causes me to stumble when you allow less-than-pleasant things in my life. Help me to be alert to times when I could stumble or when my attitude could stumble others. Amen.

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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, April 14, 2014

Table Covenant

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 26:1-30

TO CHEW ON: "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Matthew 26:28

Here we have the story of Jesus starting something new or, better said, revealing the next chapter of God's plan that lay within something old.

He and His disciples were celebrating the Passover meal. This was the symbolic meal the Israelites had celebrated since the night before their exodus from Egypt. It is explained in Exodus 12. There Moses instructed the people how to celebrate it. He also told them to eat it yearly from then on, using the various rituals of preparation and menu items as prompts in retelling the story to their children of how God had spared the life of each family's firstborn child the night the Death Angel visited Egypt.

Jesus and His disciples were eating this Passover meal when Jesus took parts of it—the bread and the wine—and gave them new significance. Of the bread He said, "Take, eat, this is My body." Of the wine, "Drink from it all of you. For this is My blood of the new convenient which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

A sidebar article in my Bible explains the significance of what He was doing:

"Jesus used the occasion of the Passover meal to inaugurate the New Covenant. The symbolism of the Passover meal under the Old Covenant was about to be fully satisfied through Christ's crucifixion. In this historic moment, Jesus transformed the meaning of the elements of the Passover meal into New Covenant thought.


The bread now represented His body, which would be given, and the cup His blood, which would be shed for the forgiveness of sins The holy requirements of God and the Old Covenant were about to be forever satisfied.


A new and living way into the presence and provision of God was being prepared through Christ, the Lamb of God. A new and eternal bond was being established by the blood of Jesus Christ. God was sovereignly inaugurating the new and ultimate covenant" - Charles Simpson - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1339.

Though a covenant between two people or parties is an agreement by both sides, a God-initiated covenant is solely His idea. We have nothing to bring to it—no bargaining power or clout of any kind. This covenant, to give us life when we deserved death because Someone took our place, is entirely His gift to us.

As we approach Easter, the realization, again, of the hugeness of His gift is reason for nothing but thankfulness and worship.

(Read more about covenant at Rebecca Writes - Theological Term of the Week: "covenant")

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this new covenant by which I have life when I deserved death. Help me to respect the Lord's Supper, treating it with the solemnity it has as Your initiative, pledge and seal of undeserved favour. Amen.

MORE: "Come to the Table" by Michael Card


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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, April 13, 2014

Who is this?

Jesus' Triumphal Entry 
by Alexandre Bida

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 21:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying 'Who is this?'" Matthew 21:10

I sometimes wish that I could strip away all familiarity with the Bible stories and read them again for the first time. Wouldn't it be a thrill, here, to see Jesus triumphant at last, and enjoy the exultation of the moment untainted with the knowledge that this incident was just a blip and that a few hours from now, a crowd (maybe some from that crowd( would be shouting something altogether different?

I love the way all Jerusalem reverberates with the question: "Who is this?" So many answers jump off the page:

- This was a Man who had unusual knowledge: "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied and a colt with her..." Jesus tells His disciples (Matthew 21:1-3).


- This was a Man who knew His role in history: "All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet..." (Matthew 21:4-7).

- This was a man who was humble, yet accepted worship (Matthew 21:8-9).

Was this only a man?

J. I. Packer in his book Knowing God says:

"If Jesus had been no more than a very remarkable, godly man, the difficulties in believing what the New Testament tells us about His life and work would be truly mountainous. But if Jesus was the same person as the eternal Word, the Father's agent in creation, 'through whom also He made the worlds' (Hebrews 1:2 RV), it is no wonder if fresh acts of creative power marked His coming into this world and His life in it, and His exit from it. It is not strange that He, the author of life, should rise from the dead.


If He was truly God the Son, it is much more startling that He should die than that He should rise again. 'Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies,' wrote Wesley; but there is no comparable mystery in the Immortal's resurrection.


And if the immortal Son of God did really submit to taste death, it is not strange that such a death should have saving significance for a doomed raced. Once we grant that Jesus was divine, it becomes unreasonable to find difficulty in any of this; it is all of a piece, and hangs together completely. The incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains."
- J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 53-54.

Who is this?

The multitudes answered: "This is Jesus the prophet from Nazareth of Galiliee." To them He was a man with a name, a vocation, and a place of birth on the globe.

We know, though, He was and is much more, and that this triumphant moment was bittersweet because He understood the utter desolation to death that awaited Him. Yet he went through with it. Why? Here is Paul's answer:

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich" 2 Corinthians 8:9.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, God the Son, thank You for coming to earth, taking on the humility of a human body, going through the ups and downs of human experience, then taking the punishment I deserve for my sins, so that my relationship with God can be restored. Amen.

MORE: Palm Sunday

Today the church commemorates the Sunday of the Passion or Palm Sunday. The day's liturgy contains with this collect:

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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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, April 12, 2014

Forgiven and healed

Jesus wearing a crown of thorns
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 52:13-53:12

TO CHEW ON: "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."  Isaiah 53:5

Isaiah 53:5 has to be one of the most moving verses in the Bible. In it we see God's Servant mutilated, stripped of any attractiveness, despised, rejected, and treated with utter revulsion as He bears sin. Not just someone else's sin, but "our sin."

Isaiah uses two words to describe sin: transgressions and iniquities.

["Transgressions - pesha  means rebellion, transgression, trespass. Pesha comes from pasha which means to revolt, rebel, and trespass.  … a trespass has to do with revolting against law, God or government and was a transgressing, that is, going b beyond established limits" - Dick Mills, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1072.]

[Iniquities - avon  means evil, fault, sin, blame, moral crookedness and perversion.]  It's the word that describes the inborn tendency to sin in which we are born: "Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me" - Psalm 51:5. (The April 2nd meditation was about iniquity.)

Here we see My Servant—whom we believe was Jesus—taking the punishment for our rebellion, revolt, trespass, evil, and moral crookedness. He is chastised, beaten, and crucified to buy our peace. He bears our sins and intercedes for us, the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12).

With this act, not only is our penalty paid but we are healed. I believe this healing includes all aspects. Jesus' death purchased our healing from rebellious crookedness along with healing from physical diseases.

May the enormity of what Jesus did never cease to impress us. May we never become casual or blasé about how He took my place and yours as the object of God's wrath against sin and made possible our health and wholeness.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for taking the punishment for my sin, and making it possible for me to be healed. Help me to cooperate with Your Spirit to make possible  healing from my rebellious tendencies. Amen.

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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, April 10, 2014

The right that doesn't change

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 51:1-23

TO CHEW ON:
"Do not fear the reproach of men, nor be afraid of their insults. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool. But My righteousness will be forever, and My salvation from generation to generation." Isaiah 51:7,8


I often listen to Ravi Zacharias's weekday radio broadcast Just Thinking. In the last while he has been talking about moral relativism. He explains how our society no longer acknowledges that there is a code of absolutes. Instead, what's considered right and wrong shifts with public opinion.

He tells of how prominent atheist Richard Dawkins illustrated this. A chef prepared human placenta using garlic, lime juice, shallots and other ingredients to make it into a gourmet pate. When served to a group of people (who didn't know what it was), all exclaimed how good it tasted.

Dawkins concluded, "Eating a placenta is eating a baby's clone. Science can't tell you whether it's right or wrong to do that but it can tell you that that's what you're doing. Then you decide for yourself whether it's right or wrong."

It brings up the question in us, 'Where does it end?' The answer implied here is, 'No where.'

 Zacharias, in his talk, shows the logical fallacy of such thinking when he says, "Would he (Dawkins) believe that, if I decided to carve up one of his children just because I liked it?"

Isaiah here tells us God's righteousness—and that includes the biblical laws that tell us what is right wrong—"will be forever."

In a culture where standards are always changing, upholding those laws may get us into ever more trouble with our fellow citizens. There may well be "reproach" and "insults," even lawsuits and jail.  But as Isaiah reminds us, the purveyors of such relativism are as vulnerable and short-lived as wool in the presence of hungry moths while God's standards "will not be abolished … will be forever … from generation to generation" - Isaiah 51:6,8.  

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to take Your standards as my own and live by them despite the changing standards of the society around me. Amen.

MORE: Listen to the whole talk

You can listen to Ravi Zacharias's entire talk referred to above HERE.



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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, April 09, 2014

It came true

Jesus delivered to soldiers - Alexandre Bida
Jesus delivered to soldiers - Alexandre Bida

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 50:1-11

TO CHEW ON: "I gave my back to those who struck Me and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting."  Isaiah 50:6

This verse is prophetic. Matthew includes the exact details mentioned in it as happening to Jesus during His passion:
"Then they spat in His face and beat him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands. ... Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified. … Then they spat on him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head." Matthew 26:67; 27:26,30.

Because Jesus endured the torture described here and went on to finish what He set out to do (pay the penalty for our sins - John 19:30), we take seriously the invitation at the end of the chapter:

"Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His servant? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon His God" - Isaiah 50:10.

Trust for what:

- That Jesus was (and is) who He said He was
- John 6:28,29.

- That in Jesus we have the resources we need to live the Christian life:
  • The shield of faith to "quench the fiery darts of the wicked one" - Ephesians 6:16.
  • The wherewithal to fight "the good fight of faith" throughout our lifetimes - 1 Timothy 6:12.
  • The argument to counteract the accusations of our consciences that tell us we're not worthy - Hebrews 10:22.
- That God hears and answers our prayers - James 1:5,6.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for enduring such vile treatment from those You came to save. Thank You for finishing what You came to do. I entrust myself to You. Amen.

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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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