Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Presumptuous sins

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 19:1-14


TO CHEW ON: "Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me." Psalm 19:13


"Presumptuous sins"? What is this category of sin?

[Presume, the verb from which the adjective presumptuous derives, means to take for granted, assume to be true, to take upon oneself without warrant or permission, dare, venture, to act or proceed over-confidently.

The Hebrew word zed here translated "presumptuous" means arrogant, proud, insolent, presumptuous]

Barnes' Notes on the Bible gives one explanation of "presumptuous sins" in Psalm 19:
"...the reference is particularly to sins which proceed from self-confidence; from reliance on one's own strength. The word does not mean open sins, or flagrant sins so much as those which spring from self-reliance or pride. The prayer is substantially that he might have proper distrust of himself and might not be left by an improper reliance on his own power to the commission of sin" (emphasis added).
When might we be guilty of presumptuous sins?

Perhaps when we act like the man in Jesus' story who congratulated himself for his full barns and depended on them for the future, never acknowledging God (Luke 12:16-21)?

In our time it is easy to live life this way. We have our paychecks or our pensions and the government will take care of us if we lose them. We have our doctors and hospitals so going to God when we get sick is hardly our first thought. We have our books, the internet and TV so where do we need's God's input when we don't know what to do?

The fact that David prays such sins will not have dominion him over tells us he knows and fears they easily could become his habitual response.

I have a feeling I am more prone to presumptuous sins than I care to admit, and need a new sensitivity to see where I am depending on myself and not Him.

PRAYER: Dear God, please alert me to presumptuous habits and behaviours in my life. Help me to label them sin and to turn from pride and self-reliance to reliance on You. Amen.

MORE: "Give Me Jesus" - Fernando Ortega



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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, September 29, 2014

In a time of trouble

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 12:1-13


TO CHEW ON:"...And there shall be a time of trouble,
Such as never was since there was a nation..." Daniel 12:1

"Times of trouble" run through the Bible. They relate often to the Israelite nation and come as the consequence of abandoning Yahweh for idols. Such trouble in the form of the nation being displaced and distressed was Moses' warning way back in Deuteronomy as a consequence of turning from the worship of God to idols (Deuteronomy 4:30-31).

Jesus referred often to trouble-filled days.
  • He told about the trouble that comes to all of us in the course of life and how the foundation we choose will determine whether our life-house will withstand the storms of circumstances or be battered apart by them (Matthew 7:24-28).
  • In His story about the sower and the seed, tribulation and trouble destroyed the faith of the believer who was only shallowly rooted in the God's word (Matthew 13:20-21).
  • He also talked about end-time tribulation, referring specifically to Daniel's prophecy (Matthew 24:15). He described this trouble as a time of emergency, terror, flight, and life-snuffing ferocity (Matthew 24:15-22).
  • Jesus described these end-time troubles as "birth pains" - Matthew 24:8 NLT. We know how a mother's contractions accelerate as the birth of the baby nears, until the little one is finally delivered. That's how Jesus describes the  troubles on earth as they crescendo until "the end" - Matthew 24:14.

It's easy to feel we're in the middle of those birth pains. As I write, Earth is staggering under numerous political, humanitarian, and health crises. There is war in the Middle East as ISIS terrorists overrun Syria and Iraq, while thousands flee. Rocket fights between Hamas and Israel keep erupting. In African whole classrooms of girls are still being held captive by terrorist groups.  Tensions between Russia and Ukraine mount daily. Thousands in West Africa are dying from the ebola virus. There is unrest in Hong Kong as China restricts their democracy.

Let's take to heart Jesus' words of advice for such trouble-filled times:
  • Don't be deceived - Matthew 24:4
  • "Be ready..." Matthew 24:44.
  • "Endure to the end" - Matthew 24:13.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I don't like to contemplate trouble. But when I view it through the lens of Your word, I see that it shouldn't surprise or confuse me. Help me to live alert and prepared through trouble-filled times. Amen.

MORE: Today is the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels

Michael is the archangel who Daniel describes in our reading as "The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people." Find out more about the archangel Michael here.

The liturgy for the Feast of st. Michael and All Angels begins with this collect:

"Everlasting God, you have ordained and constituted in a wonderful order the ministries of angels and mortals: Mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve and worship you in heaven, so by your appointment they may help and defend us here on earth; 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.



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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Complaining about the food

"And thou shalt smite on the rocks..." 
Lithograph by Marc Chagall

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 78:1-20

TO CHEW ON: "He also brought streams out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers. But they sinned even more against Him by rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness" - Psalm 78:16,17

I identify with Carolyn Arends when she writes in Theology in Aisle Seven:

"I was making my way through Exodus, feeling a little jealous of my spiritual ancestors. It seemed they never had to wonder if God was there. They had only to follow pillars of cloud and fire, gathering up the manna served fresh daily from God's kitchen .... I wondered why the present-day actions of the immutable God sometimes seem so muted in contrast to the God of Moses. I wouldn't mind a pillar of cloud or fire when I need direction, or some manna on my front lawn when I pray for provision" - Carolyn Arends, Theology in Aisle Seven, Kindle Location 507.

But Asaph, the writer of today's psalm, reminds us that despite that luminous GPS, six-day-a-week meal service, and all the other tangible evidences of God's presence, the Israelites still struggled with bad attitudes of discontent, grumbling, and rebellion. Why?

Perhaps verse 18 holds a key to their problem: "They tested God in their heart..."

[Testnasah—means to put to the test, try, prove, tempt. It's the thing that God does to us through life, not we to Him. As the Word Wealth writer of my Bible's notes concludes: "In this reference, the wilderness generation insulted and grieved the Lord by tempting and limiting Him as if to test His patience or His power" - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 747.]

Note the place those discontented complaints and rebellions originated: "their heart." It was an inner thing first before an outer action. Really as simple as choosing to see life's glass half empty instead of half full.

And so you and I too have a choice to make. Do we focus on what's wrong with life, the things we wish were different, what we would like more of, and so in effect test God, telling Him He's not doing a good enough job in our circumstances? Or do we, in our hearts, focus on gratitude, thankfulness, what's right with life? For it's as easy for us to test God as it was for the Israelites—as easy as complaining about the food!


PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to live with gratitude every day, choosing to see life in a positive, not negative light, choosing not to test You in my heart. Amen.

MORE: Ingratitude—the catalyst of all my sins?

"From all our beginnings, we keep reliving the Garden story.

Satan, he wanted more. More power, more glory. Ultimately, in his essence Satan is an ingrate. And he sinks his venom into the heart of Eden. Satan's sin becomes the first sin of all humanity: the sin of ingratitude. Adam and Eve are, simply, painfully, ungrateful for what God gave.

Isn't that the catalyst of all my sins?"


- Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, p. 15.

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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, September 27, 2014

The pastors and the people

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Philippians 2:18-30

TO CHEW ON: "Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness, and hold such men in esteem." Philippians 2:29

How do you view your pastor and other members of your church's ministry team? If you're a pastor, how do you view your congregation? Are you "buddy-buddy"? Or is there a bit of a gulf between the congregation and the leadership? This gulf could be there for a number of legitimate reasons:

- Pastors are also often our counselors. As such they know things about various ones of us they're not free to divulge. Their role demands discretion.

- If they are obedient to sharing God's word with us, it may not always be what we want to hear and, like the Old Testament prophets, our pastors may experience friendship fallout from the unpopularity of their message.

- The very position of leader needs some distance and objectivity. Leaders need to be fair and not seen to be favoring one group or individual over another.

In our reading today, Paul talks to the Philippians about their relationship with him and the members of his team, and vice versa. Some of the interactions he has experienced and hopes for are:

On the part of the pastor toward the congregation:
  • They genuinely care for the state of the people, as Timothy does - Philippians 2:20.
  • They serve Jesus' concerns and interests, not their own - Philippians 2:21,22.
  • They are willing to travel as both Timothy and Epaphroditus are - Philippians 2:23,25.
  • There is a genuine love of the team members for the congregation - Philippians 2:26.
  • They are willing to extend themselves for the gospel and the church, e.g. Epaphroditus - Philippians 2:30.

On the part of the congregation toward the pastors:
  • Paul hopes for openness between congregation and workers so that he can "know your state." He hopes to be encouraged by them - Philippians 2:19.
  • The Philippian church has been concerned about practical things like Epaphriditus's health - Philippians 2:26.
  • Paul asks them to offer joyous hospitality to visiting team members and to hold them in esteem - Philippians 2:29.

What can we learn and apply from the relationship of Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus with the church members at Philippi?

If we're pastors or part of a ministry team, we can ask ourselves, do we genuinely love and care about our congregation? Are we willing to do what it takes of travel and other self-denying acts for their benefit? Or do we whine about their immaturity and other faults when we're with fellow ministers at, say, the local ministerial meeting?

As members of the congregation, are we hospitable toward our pastors? Are we aware that they are vulnerable to health problems like the rest of us? Do we hold them in esteem? Or are we standoffish toward them, with a type of "class" mentality?  Do we respect and honor them when they're not around, or gossip about and criticize them behind their backs?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to relate to my pastor and the ministry team at church in a way that pleases You, encourages then, and helps build up the body of Christ. 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, September 26, 2014

Players in the drama of light

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Philippians 2:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world." Philippians 2: 14-15 (ESV)

The story of light is woven through the Bible.
  • God created light (Isaiah 45:7).
  • He lives in light (1 Timothy 6:16).
  • He is clothed in light (Psalm 104:2).
  • His sight penetrates darkness (Psalm 139:11-12).
  • His light is our life (John 1:4).
  • His word gives light (Psalm 119:130).
  • The Gospel is called light (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
  • God's people are called children of light (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5).
  • A person's way of seeing and interpreting life (the eye) demonstrates whether one is a child of light or darkness (Luke 11:34-35).
  • We are blessed when we walk (live) in the light of His face (Psalm 89:15).
  • Crafty Satan, knowing the power of light, disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14)
  • We battle him wearing the armour of light (Romans 13:12)
  • And we are to be a light to those around us by our good works (Matthew 5:16, Luke 8:15, Ephesians 5:8-9) and by refraining from grumbling and complaining (Philippians 2:14-15).
That last—"refraining from grumbling and complaining"—seems like a paltry item on the grand list of light sightings in the Bible. Who of us hasn't done it—perhaps even today, in our minds if not out loud.

However, going against our natural instincts/tendencies to grumble and complain is the outworking of an attitude that is deep-rooted and affects all of life. It proves that we accept God's sovereignty in little and big circumstances. It demonstrates our trust in Him and His ability to deal well with us. And it is one more bit of evidence that we are players in the eternal story of light.


PRAYER: Dear God, please help me make the connections between my behaviour and living as a child of light. May my thoughts, words and actions today be thoughts, words, and actions of light. Amen.

MORE: A thought

"...we either add to the darkness of indifference...or we light a candle to see by..." Madeline L'Engle (quoted in Patches of Godlight - Jan Karon)

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Scriptures marked ESV are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV® Text Edition: 2011. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.




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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Let your reasoning lead to faith

Religious leaders - Artist unknown
Religious leaders - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 21:18-32

TO CHEW ON:
"And they reasoned among themselves saying, 'If we  say, "From heaven," He will say to us "Why then did you not believe him?" But if we say, "From men," we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.' " Matthew 21:25,26


These chief priests, scribes and elders had the mindset of the conniving politician down pat. Their reasoning showed that they were more concerned with the impression they were making on observers than about searching their own hearts.

Jesus' claims often pulled out of His hearers such a reasoning response. That's what happens when what you see doesn't line up with what you have always thought possible. For example, after He said to the paralytic (whose friends lowered him to Jesus through a roof), "Your sins are forgiven," the scribes "reasoned" in their hearts that He had made a blasphemous statement (Mark 2:6-12).

When He talked about being the bread of life, the Jews "quarreled" with His claim (John 6:52).

Though such back-and-forth conversations in a reasoning, what-might-appear-to-us-as-argumentative style was the manner of Jewish teachers, Jesus never left the discussion on the theoretical plane. He inevitably pushed for a decision and a commitment.

In our reading today, Jesus refused to answer the leaders' insincere question about His authority to do miracles (Matthew 21:23-27). What was the point? It would just have produced more 'reasoning.'

In the story about the paralytic, from Mark, after forgiving the paralytic's sins, Jesus healed him physically, challenging the onlookers' assumptions that He was an ordinary man.

In the John account, after hearing the objections to His claims of being the bread of life, Jesus challenged the Jews to eat His flesh and drink His blood (a metaphorical allusion to the Last Supper and His death) - John 6:53-58.

Another time, when Jesus heard the wise answer of a scribe to His question, "Which is the greatest commandment?" He concluded, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God"  Mark 12:34) (the implication being, 'Why don't you just take that next step and enter it?').

Paul does a good job of summing up the tension between reasoning and going farther.
"Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" - 1 Corinthians 1:20,21 (emphasis added).

It's fine for us to discuss and reason. But at the end of the day we need to take that step of admitting who He really is and, in the perfect reasonableness of believing faith, surrender to Him the lordship of our lives.

PRAYER: Dear God, there is in our age more than ever the tendency to reason away Your claims. Help me to go beyond playing with words and ideas, and to commit myself to You in action-changing belief. Amen.

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



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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Prepare to be surprised

child doing handstand
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 19:16-30

TO CHEW ON: " ' But many who are first will be last, and the last first.' " Matthew 19:30


Again and again Jesus reminds His disciples that the kingdom of heaven is characterized by reversal. That's the word the Thompson Chain Bible uses to head a section that traces the kinds of reversals taught and illustrated in the Bible.

[Reverse: Adjective: having a contrary or opposite direction or character, order etc., turned backward. Noun: that which is directly opposite or contrary; a change to an opposite position, direction, state. Verb: to turn upside down, inside out, to turn in an opposite direction - Funk & Wagnall's Dictionary.]

- God reverses fortunes - Psalm 75:7; 107:41; "…Nothing shall remain the same…" Ezekiel 21:26.

- God hates pride. The proud person is a target for reversal - Psalm 147:6.

- God can remove the life props we make for ourselves - Isaiah 22:25. He can destroy the things we have accomplished and in which we trust: "The lofty city; He lays it low…" - Isaiah 26:5.

- God can bring down rulers - Isaiah 40:23; Luke 1:52. Nebuchadnezzar is an example of this, when he goes from being a proud king to a mentally deranged "beast" - Daniel 4:28-33.

- God sees the poor, neglected by the rich and reverses their state - Luke 6:25; 16:25.

- On the other hand, He also rewards good stewardship with more, that is, gives more to the person who already has while taking away from the one who has little - Matthew 25:29.

- Our expectations will be challenged. Over and over we hear Jesus say: " 'The last shall be first, the first last' " - Matthew 19:30; 20:16; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30.


Some thoughts we can take from this into our day:

1. God hates pride. When we give ourselves credit for what we have and get puffed over what we've done, we set ourselves up for reversal.

2. The material things in which we put our confidence aren't as trustworthy as we think.

3. The world's rulers, those we love or hate, follow or resist, admire or fear, are targets for God's reversal. Let's remember that as we pray for our nation and the world.
 

4. We are responsible to be good stewards of what we have, whether it's much or little.

5. Knowing all the above, we'll probably still be surprised when, someday, we stand before God and see things as they really are.



PRAYER:
Dear God, please help me to live in the upside down, back-to-front paradigm of the kingdom of heaven while I'm here on earth. 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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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When your heart breaks for the world—PRAY

Woman reading a newspaper
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 9:27-38

TO CHEW ON:
"Then He said to His disciples, 'The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.' " Matthew 9:37,38


Gary Wilkerson tells the following story in the book David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade, and the Man Who Believed.

In 1957 David Simmons was pastoring the Brooklyn Presbyterian Church. But the glory days of the beautiful old structure seemed in the past. The neighborhood had become the headquarters for the feared Mau Mau gang and weekly church attendance was below 100.

One morning Simmons saw the police right outside his building, loading two bleeding men onto stretchers after a shootout. The neighborhood violence and bloodshed sickened him and he began coming to the church early in the morning to pray. " ' My prayer,' he says, 'was that God would thrust worthy laborers into the harvest field' " David Wilkerson, Kindle Location 1030.

Meanwhile in a small town in Pennsylvania, young David Wilkerson was restless and dissatisfied with pastoring his predictable, self-absorbed church. He began spending his afternoons in prayer, asking God to show him the more he hankered for. One day when he took a break from praying, he glanced at a Time Magazine that told the story of the Michael Farmer trial. Michael Farmer was a defenseless white kid with polio who had been senselessly murdered by a bunch of teens on a New York street. 

Wilkerson felt anguish: "Anguish over the senseless murder of a defenseless boy. Anguish over the seething hurt and deprivation that had boiled over in the boys who had committed it. And, finally, anguish over their fate, the waste of every life involved" - David Wilkerson, KL 1246.

That day was a turning point in Wilkerson's life. He ended up moving to New York, becoming an evangelist to New York's drug addicts and gang members, and founding Teen Challenge. In other words, he became the answer to a praying pastor's prayers.

I find it interesting that in our reading today, Jesus didn't say to the disciples, "You go and be laborers in God's harvest" but " '…pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers.' "

Sometimes we're not the people for the job on the ground. But we're always the people who need to respond to the burdens of this world, its weary scattered sheep that move our hearts to compassion, with prayer.

PRAYER:
Dear God, I need Your tender compassionate heart that weeps over the world's heartbreaks and finds its most effective release in prayer. Amen. 

MORE: Photos that move to tears

A photo gallery from Boston.com illustrates the current plight of Syrian Kurdish refugees flooding into Turkey.




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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, September 21, 2014

Insulting the guests

Jesus Eats With Publicans and Sinners - by Alexandre Bida

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 21:9-13

TO CHEW ON: "And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, 'Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?' When Jesus heard that, He said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.' " Matthew 9:11,12

Jesus and His disciples were socializing with known sinners. This dinner party was in Matthew's own home (this is clear from the Mark 2:13-17 and Luke 5:27-32 versions of this story, where Matthew is called "Levi").

You've got to admire Matthew's humility when he reports Jesus' defense of why He's associating with, what his critics consider, riffraff.  Jesus says they are sick and need a doctor, sinners who need to repent, unrighteous who need mercy. He's basically describing Matthew and current company. How would you or I feel if a dinner guest said that about us and our guests?

But it seems Matthew had no problem with it. He had faced himself in this way. It had brought him to his moment of decision, led him to leave his job— a life change (Matthew 9:9).  Now he wanted his friends to be exposed to the same ideas and the Person who had helped him see himself.

I would suggest that it is similar for us. It's only when we are honest about our condition and realistic about who and what we are that we get free to leave the old life behind and embark with Jesus on the new.

We have to face that we don't "make mistakes," we sin. Our sinful acts aren't the odd exception, they are symptoms of our chronic condition. We need to repent, turn around, and come to Dr. Jesus for mercy. This is not some self-improvement program for us and our friends, but a spiritual healing, a rebirth.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, in my society where "sin" and "repentance" are words I rarely hear, help me to understand the depth of human separation from You, the need to admit that we're all sinners and must turn around (repent) to re-establish our relationship with God. Amen.

MORE: Feast of St. Matthew Evangelist

Today the church celebrates Jesus' disciple Matthew. The liturgy for today begins with this collect:

We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Savior; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to follow him; through Jesus Christ 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, September 20, 2014

Labor negotiations

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 20:1-16

TO CHEW ON: " ' Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?' " Matthew 20:15

Jesus, master storyteller that He was, created the problem in His parable by structuring it the way He did. The all-day workers would probably not have argued about their pay if they'd been paid first. But, alas, they were paid last after they saw the latecomers get the same amount they had agreed to work for. And so they expected more.

The takeaway from this story comes in the last two verses, where the landowner addresses his discontented servants. He makes several points.

- His money is his to do with as he likes. If we take the landowner to be God, we can see this is an affirmation of His sovereignty. He is sovereign over Earth and what happens on it.

- His generosity (goodness) with his late-coming workers brings out the envy/outrage (evil) in his all-day servants: " ' Is your eye evil because I am good?' "

- The "laws" of the kingdom of heaven (those principles by which it operates) are different than the kingdom of this world: " ' So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.' "

Several points rise out of this for our own self-examination:
  • God's sovereignty is great when we understand it. But like these discontented servants, it's easy to question what He's doing when we don't. We grapple with things as small as perceived unfairnesses to the old question: "Why do bad things happen to good people?" This brings us to our own interchanges with God like Job's:
GOD: " 'Would you indeed annul My judgment? 
Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?' " - Job 40:8.
JOB: 'I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.

You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know
' " - Job 42:2-3
(emphasis added).

  • God's goodness underlies everything He does. When we get that stained deep into the grain of our belief, we'll find fewer occasions to gripe. The fact that we can even expect a reward at all is grace. "The parable affirms that God is absolutely sovereign and gracious in granting rewards. Those who serve Him can trust His grace" - J. Lyle Story, commentary on Matthew, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1327.

  • The kingdom of heaven never ceases to surprise. Let's continue to explore its "laws of gravity" and live according to them, even as we continue to walk this earth.


PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, thank You for Your sovereignty and goodness.  Help me to learn and apply these principles of Your kingdom as I continue to live and work on Earth.

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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, September 19, 2014

Powerful hands

Detail from "Jesus and the Little Child" by James Tissot

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 19:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray … And He laid His hands on them and departed from there." Matthew 19:13,15


I wonder what became of the little children Jesus laid His hands on that day. Was it a memorable day for them? Did their lives change after that?

The laying on of hands is powerful body language throughout the Bible, used to say a variety of things:

"I bless"
  • That's what the patriarchs did to their children and grandchildren - Genesis 48:14-15.
  • That's what the parents wanted Jesus to do to their children in our reading (expressed explicitly in Mark 10:10: "And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them." emphasis added).

"This animal is my substitute"

  • Laying hands on the animal that was to be sacrificed was part of the Old Testament offering ritual - Leviticus 4:4, 15, 29, 33. It was the way the sinner said, "I transfer my sins to this animal. It dies in my stead."

"Receive your healing"
  • In the New Testament, Jesus laid hands on people when He healed them - Mark 6:5; 7:32,33; 8:23. He commissioned His followers to do the same - Mark 16:18.
  • Ananias laid his hands on Saul/Paul and he recovered his sight - Acts 9:17.
  • Later Paul prayed for healing for the father of Publius with the same gesture - Acts 28:8.

"Receive the fullness"

  • On one of his missionary journeys, when Paul met a group of disciples at Ephesus who did not know about the Holy Spirit, he laid hands on them and "… the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied - Acts 19:6. In other words, it opened the floodgates for all God had for them.

"I ordain you"

Laying on hands in ordination happened in both the Old and New Testaments.
  • Moses was to lay hands on the Levites as part of their initiation to priestly work - Numbers 8:10.
  • He also laid his hands on Joshua when he passed on his mantle of leadership - Deuteronomy 34:9.
  • The New Testament has instances where church leaders laid hands on individuals prior to them being sent out to do ministry - Acts 6:6.
  • For Timothy, that experience confirmed a special gift that equipped him - 1 Timothy 4:14.

We can use our warm, personal, unique hands for so many things—both bad and good. Let's use them to do less hitting, dismissing, and cursing; to do more blessing, equipping, commissioning, and healing.

PRAYER: Dear God, I present my hands to You today as part of myself—a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God. (Romans 12:1). 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, September 18, 2014

Day of rest

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 16:17-36


TO CHEW ON: "And the Lord said to Moses .... 'See! For the Lord has given you the Sabbath; therefore He gives you on the sixth day bread for two days. Let every man remain in his place; let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.' So the people rested on the seventh day." Exodus 16:28-30

When God told the people to set aside one day in seven as a rest day He wasn't just making a suggestion. He meant it. Our story today shows that.

God supplied manna, the mysterious sweet wafer-like substance that covered the ground each morning, as food and a test of obedience (yesterday's devo). One rule was to gather the manna each morning and not save any of it overnight. Another was to gather double the usual amount on the morning of the sixth day.

An interesting part of today's story is the rulers coming to Moses on that sixth day morning  to accuse people of doing what they were supposed to. It's as if they hadn't heard that part of Moses' command, or thought that the rule of no-overnight-storage trumped the double-on-the-sixth day one.

This time the people-gatherers were right. For on the morning of the seventh day—surprise! No manna. And the food they had gathered the day before smelled fine and was maggot-free.

And so one day in seven became a rest day for the Hebrews. It is the reason we, in our society with its roots in Judeo-Christian thought, now treat Sundays differently than other weekdays—although more and more we don't. Where I live, stores, restaurants and even some banks are open for business on Sunday. And the temptation is to take advantage of these opportunities to squeeze a little more business into the week.

But a day of rest is one of God's founding principles of life. We keep it, not because we're under the law, but because the One who designed us knows that's what we need to function best. He Himself modeled it when He rested after six days of creation. How can we think we won't do ourselves harm by ignoring this principle in our lives?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to take seriously Your principle of Sabbath — not only as a day of rest but as a day to focus on You. Amen.

MORE: Another reason for sabbath besides rest

Isaiah 58:13-14:
"If you turn away your foot from [traveling unduly on] the Sabbath, from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a [spiritual] delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and honor Him and it, not going your own way or seeking or finding your own pleasure or speaking with your own [idle] words,
   
Then will you delight yourself in the Lord, and I will make you to ride on the high places of the earth, and I will feed you with the heritage [promised for you] of Jacob your father; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it" (Amplified).

Luke 4:16 (talking about Jesus):
"So He came to Nazareth, [that Nazareth] where He had been brought up, and He entered the synagogue, as was His custom on the Sabbath day. And He stood up to read" (Amplified).
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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, September 17, 2014

But it's just a little thing

Art from Iceberg


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 16:1-16

TO CHEW ON: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Behold I will rain bread from heaven for you. And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them whether they will walk in My law or not.'" Exodus 16:4

The Israelites had just experienced the great high of crossing over the Red Sea and watching the Egyptians perish. But from that high they soon plunged to a low when they needed water and the water they eventually found was bitter. Their reaction: they grumbled and complained against Moses.

Would we blame them? Yet Moses' response to their grumbling shows that this was no frivolous thing: "Your complaints are not against us but against the Lord" (Exodus 16:8).

A little while later, remembering their Egyptian diet and comparing it to what they now ate now, "...the whole congregation complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness" (Exodus 16:2). God sent manna to satisfy their hunger. It was food that had an interesting side purpose: "And the people shall go out and gather a certain quota every day, that I may test them whether they will walk in my law or not." The "quota" was enough for each day and double that amount on the day before Sabbath so Sabbath was a day off. How they followed those instructions was God's test.

These are such little things—grumbling and complaining, not following instructions. Haven't we all been guilty of doing something similar?

Jerry Bridges in his book The Pursuit of Holiness says,

"We do not take some sin seriously. We have mentally categorized sins into that which is acceptable and that which may be tolerated a bit .... Andrew Bonar said, 'It is not the importance of the thing, but the majesty of the Lawgiver that is to be the standard of obedience .... Some, indeed, might reckon such minute rules as these trifling. But the principle involved in obedience or disobedience was none other than the same principle which was tried in Eden at the foot of the forbidden tree. It is really this: Is the Lord to be obeyed in all things whatsoever He commands? Is He a holy Lawgiver? Are His creatures bound to give implicit assent to His will?'" - Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness, Kindle Location 110 - Bonar quote from Andrew Bonar, A Commentary on Leviticus, 1846, reprint 1972, p. 218 (emphasis added).

And so when God convicts about some little thing let's not try to wriggle our way out of dealing with it, giving the excuse that it's too insignificant to be concerned about. Rather, let's do the needed thing—make it right and change our ways because of the worth of our holy, majestic Lawgiver.


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for these examples of how you test us in the little things. Help me to live with a sensitive conscience before You today, quick to change my ways where You apply pressure. Amen.


MORE: "The great disposition of sin underneath"

"When I get into the presence of God, I do not realize that I am a sinner in an indefinite sense; I realize the concentration of sin in a particular feature of my life.... The conviction is concentrated on—I am this, or that, or the other. This is always the sign that a man or woman is in the presence of God. There is never any vague sense of sin, but the concentration of sin in some personal particular. God begins by convicting us of one thing fixed on in the mind that is prompted by His Spirit; if we will yield to His conviction on that point, He will lead us down to the great disposition of sin underneath. That is the way God always deals with us when we are consciously in His presence" - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, July 3 reading (emphasis added).

I believe Chambers has put his finger one of the reasons little things aren't really little at all. It is because they are symptoms of our real condition. They are the one tenth of the iceberg jutting above the surface, hiding the nine tenths of that "great disposition of sin" underneath."

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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, September 16, 2014

Unity—the reputation we want

Church unity - cross
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Philippians 1:12-30

TO CHEW ON: "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel." Philippians 1:27

Whenever a prominent Christian makes news for conduct, it reflects on the whole church. As Christians we don't live only to ourselves and this is never more evident than when one of our famous ones stumbles.

"Conduct is a word that usually describes one's life as a citizen," writes Wayne Grudem in his commentary on this passage. "The city of Philippi prized its Roman citizenship, but Paul reminds his readers that the most important conduct is to behave in a manner befitting citizens of the kingdom of God" - Wayne Grudem, Study notes on Romans, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1661.

Paul goes on to tell the Philippians what he'd like to be hearing about them: "… so that… I may hear of your affairs that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel" (emphasis added). In plain words, he wants them to have a reputation for UNITY.

Paul is surely following his leader Jesus in this. Hear Jesus pray in John: "…'that they all may be one as You Father are in Me and I in You, that they also may be one in Us that the world may believe that You sent Me' " - John 17:21.

So let's remember, we don't live only for ourselves, Our conduct reflects on the whole body of Christ. And there's no better "reflection" than to mirror the unity of the Godhead.  Let's work for that within our own congregations and throughout the many communities that make up Christendom. How? Some ways to foster unity that come to mind:

  • Focus on the beliefs we hold in common, versus those on which we disagree.
  • Get to know Christians from other churches in the community. One way to do that is to attend interdenominational events. For example, our community has a joint Good Friday service that involves all evangelical churches that care to participate.
  • View members of other churches as brothers and sisters in the same big family rather than rival families.

PRAYER:
Dear God, may my conduct be a credit to Your kingdom and a force for unity in it. 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, September 14, 2014

Nurture your song-life

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 98:1-9

TO CHEW ON: "Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
For He has done marvelous things" - Psalm 98:1a

Are you a singer? By that I mean, do you find yourself voicing or humming tunes? Do songs play in your mind and overflow from your mouth?

Songs perform many functions in our society. They tell stories, express love, grief, longing, and outrage. They entertain us and with them we entertain ourselves and each other. Unfortunately we often equate singer with star and feel that if we don't sing well we have no business inflicting our sour notes on others.

But the psalmist never mentions accuracy of pitch or quality of tone when he tells us to sing. One gets the sense that instead of technical skill, it's the spiritual life behind the song that matters. It's a life so vigorous it can't help but find expression in "a new song" and a "joyful shout." It spontaneously erupts in songs and praises, taking advantage of every available music-maker; the harp, the trumpet, and the horn for the Psalm writer (the piano, guitar, drum, synthesizer, violin, cello, bass etc. for us)

The second part of our focus verse—"For He has done marvelous things"—gives us the reason for such songs and a clue about how to nurture a robust song-life. It begins when we move our attention from ourselves to God. For He has done and is doing "marvelous things" all around us in creation, in history, and in our own lives.

Let's prepare a path for song as we meditate on God's many "marvelous things." Then let's open our mouths and lend our vocal cords to sing the praise, worship, and thanks that flows from our meditation.

PRAYER: Dear God, may thoughts about You and Your "marvellous things" birth songs in my heart today. When I don't feel like singing, help me to open my mouth in faith that my feelings will follow as I sing anyway. Amen.

MORE: Holy Cross Day
Today the church celebrates Holy Cross Day or Feast of the Cross It is a feast that celebrates the cross as the instrument of salvation. The day's liturgy begins with this Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross that he might draw the whole world to himself: Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption, may have grace to take up our cross and follow him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. 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, September 13, 2014

Our own Egyptian Hallel

"Miracle at the Red Sea" - Artist unknown
"Miracle at the Red Sea" from Artwork from the Bible and Its Story - 2

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 114:1-8

TO CHEW ON: "When Israel went out of Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became His sanctuary,
And Israel His dominion." Psalm 114:2


Psalm 114 is one of the Egyptian Hallel psalms*. It celebrates Israel leaving Egypt—an event that put God's stamp of ownership on them: "Judah became His sanctuary,
And Israel His dominion."


After stating this the psalmist recalls specific incidents that we could say symbolize facets of the relationship between Israel and Yahweh:

God delivered them: "The sea saw it and fled; / Jordan turned back." Twice God turned back water for Israel—once at the Red Sea, taking them forever out of the Egyptians' clutches, and again when they crossed the Jordan River into Canaan (Exodus 14:21; Joshua 3:13-16).

God communicated with them. He told them His will and what pleased and displeased Him when He dictated the law to Moses on Sinai. "The mountains skipped like rams, / The little hills like lambs" refers to the mighty earthquake that rocked the Mount Sinai when God's glory cloud settled there (Exodus 19:18).

God supplied their needs: "Who turned the rock into a pool of water, / The flint into a fountain of waters." Twice during their wilderness wanderings God supplied water from rocks (Exodus 17:6; Numbers 20:11).

There is a wonderful parallel for us in this psalm.
  • For when we leave our Egypt of slavery to sin, we too become "His sanctuary" (1 Corinthians 6:19), under "His dominion" (John 20:27,28).
  • He communicates to us through the Bible (Joshua 1:8), a revelation that may lead to earth-shaking changes in attitudes and lifestyle for us (Hebrews 4:12).
  • We can also trust Him to supply our needs (Matthew 6:31-34).

PRAYER: Dear God, may it truly be said of me, Violet (insert your name here) has become His sanctuary. She is His dominion. Amen. 


*Egyptian Hallel Psalms:
"Hallel means praise. It is the name given to the group of Psalms 113-118, which are preeminently psalms of praise. It is called "The Egyptian Hallel," because it was chanted in the temple whilst the Passover lambs were being slain. It was chanted also on other festival occasions, as at Pentecost, the feast of Tabernacles, and the feast of Dedication. The Levites, standing before the altar, chanted it verse by verse, the people responding by repeating the verses or by intoned hallelujahs. It was also chanted in private families at the feast of Passover. This was probably the hymn which our Saviour and his disciples sung at the conclusion of the Passover supper kept by them in the upper room at Jerusalem (Matt. 26:30; Mark 14:26)" - Easton's Bible Dictionary (accessed through Related Resources to Psalm 114 on biblegateway.com)

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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, September 12, 2014

Hazards of judging

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 14:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." Romans 14:10

The urge within us to judge others is insidious and strong. That tendency may be stronger in some personality types than others. If we're perfectionists and hard on ourselves, we may be hard on others too.

What need does judging others fill? Why does judging make us feel so good?

It does give us a sense of moral superiority: I'm better than you because I don't do this or I do that. In this way it feeds our ego, the human side of us that wants attention and praise—not something God approves of in the first place. And judging has a lot of other hazards too.

To clarify what kind of judging we're talking about, in Romans 14 Paul addresses a specific kind of judging, i.e. Christians judging each other in non-essentials of the faith—food preferences, the behavior of each others servants, which day to observe - Romans 14:1-6. There is a place for Christians to judge the conduct of fellow believers in essentials—albeit very carefully and within guidelines - Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1.

So we're talking about Christians judging each other on non-essentials. When we do that:
  • We're revealing that we may have tendencies to commit the faults we're judging in others. The very fact we're aware of another's faults in a certain area is probably a tip-off that we struggle with the same thing (and probably sometimes fall) - Romans 2:1.
  • We're meddling in things that are none of our business. Like the food or servant issue for the Romans, when we're critical of the way fellow Christians keep their homes, or how they raise their kids, or generally live their lives, we have no idea how they got that way or what life is like for them behind the scenes - Romans 14:1-6.
  • We're setting ourselves up to be similarly judged - Matthew 7:1.
  • Our critical, judgmental attitude toward our Christian brother may keep non-Christians from coming to Christ—especially if our moral superiority extends to us judging them - Romans 14:13.
  • We don't have all the facts. We don't know enough to judge others fairly. We are to leave judging to God - 1 Corinthians 4:5; James 4:12.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to be alert to when I'm being critical and judgmental, even in my thoughts. Please remind me to stop and leave the judging 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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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Trapped!

Egyptian army - Artist unknown
Egyptian army - Artist unknown

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 13:17-14:9

TO CHEW ON: "Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel that they turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea, opposite Baal Sephon; you shall camp before it by the sea.' " Exodus 14:1,2

God's instructions to Moses in the context of what's about to happen sound like a setup. He directs Moses to lead the Israelites into a trap.

When Pharaoh changes his mind about letting the Israelites go, their impending recapture will seem easy. For the mighty multitude is boxed in by mountains and the sea—the only way out would be past Egyptian horses and chariots, or ... a miracle?

Let's remember this story when we feel trapped by circumstances—when there's nothing we can do but pray. For as God had plans to exalt His name and His honor through this event (" '…and I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, that the Egyptians may know that I am the Lord' " Exodus 14:4) He may have similar plans for us in our boxed in place.

And we will be able to sing with David:

"Blessed be the Lord,
Who has not given us as prey to their teeth.
Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers;
The snare is broken, and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord
Who made heaven and earth" - Psalm 124:6-8


PRAYER:  Dear God, when there is no human way out, help me to still have hope in 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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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Celebrate and pass on your spiritual story

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 13:1-16

TO CHEW ON: "And you shall tell your son in that day, saying, 'This is done because of what the Lord did for me when I came up from Egypt.' " Exodus 13:8

The Israelites who experienced the first Passover night may have thought they would never forget that amazing, frightening, wonderful night. But even the most vivid experiences have a way of fading over time to the people who experience them—let alone those who weren't alive at the time and didn't live them firsthand. God knew that and gave the Israelites instructions on how to keep the story of the Passover night fresh. They were to:

Celebrate
They were to celebrate Passover on its anniversary every year (Exodus 13:5).

Refrain from certain food
Leavened food (yeast) had no part in the celebration (Exodus 13:6,7).

Tell the story
They were to tell their children their stories of this day as an explanation of what they were doing (Exodus 13:8).

Sacrifice
They were to sacrifice the firstborn males of the flock and redeem the firstborn sons as per God's instructions as a memorial of what had happened in Egypt on that night (Exodus 13:12-15).

Share symbols
They were to wear things that reminded them of that night: "…a sign to you on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes." Through generations Jews followed these instructions literally. My Bible commentary says, "The later Jewish practice of wearing phylacteries while praying is based on these verses" James Carroll Tollett, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 93.

We can take a page from Israel's book as we live or own ex-Passover-night lives. No, none of us went through the actual Passover night, but if we have accepted Jesus, we have that landmark day of leaving sin's slavery for God's freedom to commemorate.
  • If we know the date we could celebrate our spiritual birthday.
  • We have a special meal—the Lord's Supper. "Participate regularly in the Lord's Supper. Passover points forward to our ultimate deliverance through Jesus our Messiah" - Leslyn Musch, "Truth-In-Action through Exodus," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 130.
  • We can tell the story of our coming to Jesus to our children and grandchildren.
  • We may have symbols we connect with our spiritual history—a golden cross, or prayer shawl perhaps—that remind us of this event. We may also hang significant Bible verses or symbols on our walls (Deuteronomy 6:9).

However we do it, let's remember and pass on our story with God, as the Israelites did.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your amazing plan that threads through history. Thank You for capturing my life in its stitches. Help me to remember my history with You and to pass it on to my children and grandchildren. 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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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

One particular day

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 12:29-50

TO CHEW ON: "And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt." Exodus 12:41

Here was the fulfillment of what God had told Moses would happen (Exodus 3:8,10; 6:6; 7:4). It's comforting to read words like "… at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass." Israel's days of slavery in Egypt had a definite ending, a point in time when they were finished.

The Bible speaks of human activities in time as within God's knowledge and control. A phrase that is sometimes used to describe this is "the fullness of time." That's the title of one of the chains of verses in my Thompson Chain Bible. "The fullness of time" is defined as "God's appointed time when everything is ready" - NKJV Thompson Chain Bible, p. 1771.
Some fullness-of-time verses:

  • There was a definite moment in time when Joshua and the Israelites had followed all God's instructions to conquer Jericho "…and it happened" (Joshua 6:16, 20).
  • John the Baptist preached "The time is fulfilled" (Mark 1:15) just before Jesus arrived on the scene.
  • Paul explained Jesus' life on this earth in those terms: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His son…" Galatians 4:4.
  • He also speaks of Jesus' return still to come "… which He will manifest in His own time" - 1 Timothy 6:15.

God doesn't have a fulness of time for only the big theological events of history, but also for our lives. David talks about this in Psalm 139:
"You comprehend my path and my lying down
And are acquainted with all my ways
You have hedged me behind and before
And laid Your hand on me

And in Your book they all are written.
The days fashioned for me,

When as yet there were none of them" - Psalm 139: 5, 15, 16 (emphasis added).

We can trust God with His "fullness of time" for us. Whatever trial we're in of sickness, difficult circumstances, money troubles, family issues, He knows and will help us through them until we come to the very day our trial will pass.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your knowledge of my times, and how You have brought me through hard stuff in the past. Help me to trust You to bring me through the things I face today. 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, September 08, 2014

FORGIVE: without keeping score; without keeping track


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 18:21-35

TO CHEW ON:
"Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.' " Matthew 18:22

Jesus is talking about forgiveness here—one of the pillars of the kingdom of heaven. He has just been describing the relationship of people united in worship and how God is there with them (Matthew 18:20) when Peter asks the question, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"

[Forgive means to grant pardon for or remission of something; to cease to demand the penalty for; to grant freedom from a penalty; to cease to blame or feel resentment against; to remit a debt.- Funk & Wagnalls College Dictionary]

Jesus answers Peter's question with a story. In Jesus' story, the king forgives his servant a large amount. That servant turns around and tries to extract payment of a small amount owed to him. The king gets angry when he hears of the way the big-debt-ower treats the little-debt-ower. For the principle is: You've been forgiven much, now you give back in kind, even though the amounts are different.

Jesus' story illustrates two principles about forgiveness:

1. We should forgive without keeping score (Matthew 18:22), that is, as often as the person who wrongs us asks for forgiveness—even if it's some ridiculous number of times—70 x 7—we forgive.

2. We should forgive without keeping track (Matthew 18:24-28). Whether the offense is big or small, we forgive.

These principles apply to us. We've been forgiven much—our sins that call for the death penalty. Now we must go and forgive others' debts/sins against us:
  • Because that's what children of God do - Luke 11:4.
  • Whenever these offenses come to mind, especially when our thought of them interposes itself between us and God - Mark 11:25.
  • As one of the ways we guard and grow our fellowship with other believers (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13).

PRAYER:
Dear God, "I forgive you" is easy to say but hard to do. Help me to forgive wrongs so completely that I no longer even remember them. 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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