Friday, July 31, 2015

"Let Him do to me as seems good to Him."

David flees Jerusalem - Artist unknown
David flees Jerusalem - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Samuel 15:13-37

TO CHEW ON: Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me back and show me both it and His dwelling place.  But if He says thus: ‘I have no delight in you,’ here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him.”

If you follow North American politics, you will recognize the predicament in which David finds himself here. The tide of public opinion has turned against him as a leader and someone else is now on the upswing. In David's case his rival, son Absalom, has been secretly cultivating public approval for a while (2 Samuel 15:5,6).

When David gets word that Absalom is about to make a play for the throne, he seems to accept it without question or resistance.
- He and his supporters leave town  (2 Samuel 13:14).
- He tries to send his mercenary officer Ittai and men to join Absalom (though they don't go - 2 Samuel 13:19-20).
- He sends the priest Zadok and the Levites, who are carrying the ark, back to the city. He doesn't presume that God's favor is with him and it appears he doesn't want to get this religious icon tangled up in an uncertain battle.

But then a little spark of resistance bursts into flame. He asks Zadok and the Levites to be his eyes and ears in the city and send him word about what's happening (2 Samuel 13:27-28). When he  meets his wise counselor Hushai, who has come to join the refugees, more kingly craftiness kicks in (or maybe these are divine "aha" moments). He suggests to Hushai that instead of joining them, he play the part of a turncoat and try to counteract the wisdom of Ahithophel, who is genuinely on Absalom's side (2 Samuel 13: 33-37). Will it work? We'll find out in the next couple of days.

What strikes me about this part of the story is how David expresses complete faith in God. He interprets even Absalom's treachery in terms of God working, showing disapproval or approval of his kingship.  

I think we would do well to view our circumstances more consistently through the lens of God in control of them, like David does here, instead of blaming ourselves, other people, or even chance for what's happening to us.

PRAYER: Dear God, it's hard to tease apart my actions and their consequences from Your will. Help me to consistently view the happenings in my life (whether I feel I or someone else caused them or not) as filtered through Your wisdom about me and Your love for 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.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Three relationship lessons from David and Absalom

Absalom - James Tissot
Absalom - James Tissot
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Samuel 14:25-15:12

TO CHEW ON: And Absalom answered Joab, "Look, I sent to you, saying, 'Come here, so that I may send you to the king, to say, "Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still." ' Now therefore, let me see the king's face; but if there is iniquity in me, let him execute me." 2 Samuel 14:32


Our passage today is full of relationship game-playing.

It starts with David and two of his sons—half brothers Amnon and Absalom. When Amnon rapes Absalom's sister Tamar, David doesn't do anything about it even though there is a specific law against and punishment prescribed for incest (death) (2 Samuel 13:1-22; Leviticus 20:17). So Absalom takes revenge for the sin against his sister, kills Amnon, and flees to Geshur (2 Samuel 13:23-37). David us understandably heartbroken, and upset with Absalom.

Three years pass. When Joab, captain of David's army, sees that David is pining for Absalom, he devises a scheme whereby David's conversation with a wise woman gets him to recall Absalom to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:1-24).

That brings us to our today's reading where, after two years of David and Absalom living in the same town, David still hasn't called Absalom to see him or given him any indication that he's forgiven. When Absalom requests Joab come to him, Joab ignores him too. Absalom, in desperation, lights Joab's field on fire and that finally brings them face to face.

The result is a clear request for a meeting from Absalom to David (via Joab). When they meet, Absalom bows before his father, gets his dad's kiss (forgiveness) and things are good between them again… well, not quite.

For somehow, all this relationship drama has nurtured the thought in Absalom that he is more fit to be king than David is. And so we leave him conspiring to take over the throne.

I see in this story some relationship mistakes. They show us some things we can learn and apply as we interact within our families and communities:

1. David is lax in the way he handles Amnon's incest. This causes Absalom to distrust his father, who no longer appears to be acting righteously and justly.

David's failure here underlines the need for justice and integrity in us as parents and leaders—in front of our children and everyone who watches us.

2. Joab and David send mixed messages to Absalom. David calls him back to Jerusalem but then they never get together. Joab is instrumental in getting Absalom to return but then he ignores Absalom's request for an audience. Absalom is justifiably confused. Why has he been recalled? Has David forgiven him, or is he planning to kill him in revenge for Amnon's death?

We too need to give clear messages with our words and actions: " 'Let your yes be yes and your no, no' " Jesus says in Matthew 5:37.

3. Finally, Absalom lets his hurt and confusion fester into a plan to hurt his father back. If David is remiss in delaying his expression of forgiveness, Absalom is wrong in cultivating bitterness toward his dad.

When we've been wronged, we too need to forgive—completely and without secret plans to retaliate.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to live out these relationship qualities of justice transparency and forgiveness. 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.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The bread of God

"I am the bread of life"
TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 6:22-35

TO CHEW ON:
" ' For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' … and Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.' " John 6:33,35

The crowd is determined to not let this wonder-working rabbi get away—this man who can turn a meager five loaves and two fish into a meal for five thousand. The following morning when His boat is empty, they hunt him down eventually finding Him across the lake near Capernaum.

A discussion follows about how God sent daily manna to their forefathers, and how can they do the work of God? Jesus answers that they do the work of God by believing in Him.

When they further press Him to name a work He will do to impress them even more, He makes the startling claim: " 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst' " - John 6:35. He is pretty much saying, I am that miracle, that greater work. Come to Me, believe in Me and you'll experience something that's even better than wilderness manna.

How was Jesus the bread of life for them? How is He this for us? He explains it in the rest of John 6:
  • He is the source and means of our eternal life, accomplished through His death:
" ' And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life' " - John 6:33.

and

" 'I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever, and the bread that I shall give is My flesh which I shall give for the world' " - John 6:51.
  • This is a spiritual eating and drinking, enabled and available by the Holy Spirit even after Jesus returns bodily to heaven:
" ' What then if you should see the son of Man ascend where He was before?
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words I speak to you are spirit and they are life'
" - John 6:62-63.


How do we eat this bead in our daily lives? A sidebar article in my Bible states:

"Feed on Jesus the Bread of Life. Do this practically through regularly celebrating communion and reading the Word of God" - Leslyn Musch, Truth-In-Action-Through John - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1483 (emphasis added).

As we do these things—regularly read the Bible and remember Jesus' death as we eat the bread and drink the wine of the Lord's Supper—we will discover that like the physical manna, this spiritual food:

- Is there for us as we make room in our lives to gather it.

- Still needs to be gathered regularly. Just like we don't do well if we eat irregularly, so we don't flourish spiritually with hit-and-miss feedings.


PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, please sharpen my appetite for You, the bread of God. 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.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Food from God's kitchen

Gathering Manna - Artist unknown
Gathering Manna - Artist unknown

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 16:17-36

TO CHEW ON: "So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over and he who gathered little had no lack." Exodus 16:18

Manna was the daily food for the Israelites that came straight from God's kitchen. It was first delivered one morning a month and a half after they left Egypt and continued for 40 years until they were on the doorstep of Canaan (Exodus 16:1, 35).

In today's reading we're given some lovely details about this food:
- It was on the ground every morning (except for the Sabbath day).
- It was small, round, as fine as frost (Exodus 16:14).
- It tasted like coriander and honey (Exodus 16:31).
- It melted in the heat (Exodus 16:21).
- It could be prepared in various ways. Our passage mentions baking and boiling (Exodus 16:23).
- It was called "manna" (literally "what?" Exodus 16:31) , referred to as "bread (Exodus 16:15, 22, 29), and compared to "wafers (Exodus 16:31).
- There was always enough for everyone.
- It normally spoiled overnight, smelled bad, and bred worms if saved (Exodus 16:20).
- But the manna gathered on the sixth day for use on the Sabbath kept just fine (Exodus 16:23-24).
- Even more strange, the omer of manna collected as a memorial lasted for years (Exodus 16:33-34).
- Moses and God took obedience to the details of its gathering and use on the Sabbath very seriously (Exodus 16:19-20; 28-29).

Manna is often viewed by scholars and Bible teachers as a symbol of the way God provides for us. My Bible's study notes refer to it this way:
"The food supply comes morning by morning in God's time, according to God's plan. The supply cannot be stored up for future use, except for the Sabbath. It is to be used only as God has specified (vs. 20) a miraculous demonstration of His provision to meet the needs of His people" J. C. Tollett,  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 98.

It's a great metaphor for God's  provision in so many ways.
  • Like manna, God's provision for us so often comes at the time we need it. (Jesus prayed: "… give us this day our daily bread" - Matthew 6:11).
  • His provision is also often just enough for our need. I've heard many stories of people getting money in the mail or as a gift in the precise amount needed.
  • But it is also under His command. Like the manna didn't keep the rules of spoilage on the sixth day, God can override the laws of time and space when He wants to, stretching oil and meal (1 Kings 17:8-16), multiplying loaves and fishes (John 6:5-13), adapting the manna He sends to our specific need.
  • How we handle God's provision for us may also be a test—as we've seen several times this month. Just to review Moses' explanation of this to the Israelites: "And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not" - Deuteronomy 8:2.

- But perhaps the most beautiful comparison of manna as provision comes as we reflect on Jesus and how He is spiritual manna (bread) to us.
  •  He is the bread of life (John 6:35,48). He enacted  this when He broke bread with the disciples, telling them:
"Take, eat this is My body" - Mark 14:22.  
He explained what this meant: "I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world”  John 6:48-51.
  • There's even a memorial component. As the manna was kept in remembrance, we too remember and celebrate Jesus, the bread of life, every time we take part in the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:24).


PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your manna provision for me, materially and spiritually. 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.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Testing, testing...

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

In today's reading we see that the very mundane instructions for the gathering and handling of manna were were not options or suggestions but a God-designed test. What God was testing here was whether the people took Him and His instructions seriously.

[Test - nasah  means to put to the test, prove, tempt. The basic idea is to put someone to the test to see how he will respond - Dick Mills, "Word Wealth" New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 747.]


Other places this word us used shows various ways God may test us.

"Nasah" is the word used of what God did to Abraham when He asked Him to sacrifice Isaac - Genesis 22:1.

God sent a nasah-test in the form of the ten commandments followed by fearful trumpet sounds and an electrical storm. This was to impress the people with how seriously they should take these commands and Moses' instructions about staying off Mount Sinai - Exodus 20:18-20.

Nasah is also the word used to describe what Moses accused the Israelites of doing to God at Rephidim when they demanded water as a proof of His presence - Exodus 17:1-7. Later, in his final instructions, Moses told them testing God was something they should not do - Deuteronomy 6:16.

Again in his Deuteronomy sermon, Moses reiterated how the desert wanderings were a test: "And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not" - Deuteronomy 8:2 (emphasis added).

Which brings me to the question, what things in our lives may be God's tests?

It could be an Abraham-sized test like an accident or tragedy happening to a loved one or to us as a test of whether our faith is in God or someone or something else. Or perhaps it's a little manna-sized test—an item on the grocery cart missed by the checkout lady to test honesty; a string of rainy days to test contentment; someone cutting us off in traffic to test love ("...love suffers long ... does not behave rudely ... is not provoked" - 1 Corinthians 13:4,5).

Rich Warren defines life: "The Bible offers three metaphors that teach us God's view of life: Life is a test, life is a trust, and life is a temporary assignment."

Of the test part he says:
"Character is both developed and revealed by tests, and all of life is a test. You are always being tested. God constantly watches your response to people, problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment, and even the weather! He even watches the simplest actions such as when you open a door for others, when you pick up a piece of trash, or when you're polite toward a clerk or waitress" - Rick Warren - The Purpose Drive Life, p. 42, 43.   

PRAYER: Dear God, it sure changes the complexion of life when I view the details of my day as tests. Help me to pass today's tests. Amen.

MORE: More about life's tests
"When you understand that life is a test, you realize that nothing is insignificant in your life. Even the smallest incident has significance for your character development. Every day is an important day, and every second is a growth opportunity to deepen your character, to demonstrate love, or to depend on God. Some tests seem overwhelming, while others you don't even notice. But all of them have eternal implications" - Rick Warren, Op. cit., p. 43.

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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, July 26, 2015

Jesus' descent

Golgotha - from The Children's Friend - Part 5

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ephesians 4:1-16

TO CHEW ON: "He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all heavens, that He might fill all things." Ephesians 4:10

Where was Jesus in the hours between His death and resurrection?

Paul suggests one possibility here as he explains a quote from Psalm 68:28, applying it to the ascended Christ:  "Now this, 'He ascended'—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? ..."(verse 9).

What that descent meant has been a source of discussion. Peter, preaching in Acts 2 from the text of Psalm 16:8-11 says:
"…he (David, the writer of the psalm) foreseeing this (the resurrection) spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption" (Acts 2:31)
Isn't Peter implying that Christ visited Hades? Was that what we call hell? It was some aspect of the underworld in any case.  Peter refers to this again in 1 Peter 3:19-20.

Another view is that Jesus' descent refers to His coming to earth from heaven. Paul describes the extent of that lowering beautifully in Philippians 2:5-11:
"… Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross..." - Philippians 2:5-8.

Still another view is that Jesus suffered in hell. Of that view the writer of my Bible's notes on Ephesians says, "… there is no biblical support for the notion that Jesus suffered in hell, only that He descended to hell to release the righteous dead into eternal glory, proclaiming the adequacy of the Atonement and validating the testimony of the prophets" - Jack W. Hayford, notes on Ephesians,  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1650.

Surely He was enjoying Paradise, for at least part of the time. After all, He said to the believing thief on the cross, "Today you will be with Me in Paradise" - Luke 23:43.

Whatever, wherever, it was enough! No part of earth or hell has been unaffected by His death and resurrection. As Paul says it in our focus verse:
"He who descended is the [very] same as He who also has ascended high above all the heavens, that He [His presence] might fill all things—the whole universe, from the lowest to the highest" - Ephesians 3:10 (Amplified Bible).

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Jesus and Your plan for my atonement, which was enough. Amen.

MORE: It Is Finished - Gaither Vocal Band

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

Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation - Used with permission.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Rulers serve

spaghetti served with tongs
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 10:35-45

TO CHEW ON: "… whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all." Mark 10:43,44

James and John's idea of ruling was to sit in a high place next to Jesus and share the glory of His position.

Jesus looked at the job of a ruler quite differently. To Him it was drinking the cup—of betrayal, mocking, beating, nailing—and experiencing the baptism of death to resurrection. Being a ruler or leader was all summed up in the word 'servant.'

[What is a servant? My dictionary defines it as "A person hired to assist in domestic matters, sometimes living within the employer's house." The Greek word used here is diakonos  that means servant, servant of a king, waiter, deacon. Other places it occurs it is translated deacon, servant, minister.]

What do servants do?
  • A household servant does all kinds of jobs from washing toilets to driving the boss to the embassy.
  • If a servant lives in-house, he is accessible at all hours. He may have his defined workday but if there's an emergency, the master will get him up.
  • A good servant works with the right attitude: willing, eager, enthusiastic, always doing the job to the best of his or her ability, not only when the master is watching.
Keri Wyatt Kent in her book about New Testament words says in her "Serve/Service" entry:
"For the Christian, service is not an occasional activity, somehow separate from the rest of our lives. As Bob Dylan famously sang, 'You gotta serve somebody.' Whether we're aware of it or not, each of us has decided to orient our life around someone or something. That decision colors all our other choices" - Keri Wyatt Kent, Deeper Into the Word - New Testament, p. 188 (emphasis added).

We do well to ask, who am I serving—Jesus or someone else? Maybe it's myself. If we settle in our hearts that we're serving Jesus, we might ask, what sort of servant am I?
  • Am I available for any job—high or low?
  • Am I always available?
  • Do I serve with the right attitude?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your example of extreme servanthood. I want to be Your good servant. Help me to grow in this. Amen.

MORE: Bob Dylan singing "Gotta Serve Somebody"

Lyrics to "Gotta Serve Somebody"

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

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Would we pass this test?

Jesus the disciples & the crowd - Artist unknown
Jesus & the Multitude - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 6:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "Then Jesus lifted up His eyes and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, 'Where shall we buy bread that these may eat?' "
But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do." John 6:5,6


Jesus, seeing the crowds approaching, asks Philip, How are we going to feed these people? What a curious little aside John mentions here—cluing us in to Jesus' motives. For Jesus asks, not to get ideas or information. This is not a problem-solving brainstorm but a probe of Philip's own heart. It's a test.

[Tested - peirazo  "means to explore, test, try, assay, examine, prove, attempt, tempt. The word describes the testing of the believer's loyalty, strength, opinions, disposition, condition, faith, patience or character. Peirazo determines which way one is going and what one is made of" - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1820.]

Philip answers, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them that every one of them may have a little."  I wonder how Jesus feels about that response.

It is realistic and practical. It focuses on the big need and the expense they will incur to fill it. But I can't help but think Jesus is disappointed in it. For there is not a whiff of faith here. Nothing to suggest that Philip has been impacted by Jesus' presence, that his faith has grown as a result of witnessing the healings and other miraculous signs Jesus has performed.

(In my Bible's Harmony of the Gospels, Jesus does many miracles between His selection of the twelve apostles and this feeding of the 5,000 event. Philip has probably witnessed these: the centurion's servant healed - Luke 7:1-10; widow's son raised from the dead - Luke 7:11-17; sea calmed - Matthew 8:23-27; Gadarene demoniac healed - Luke 8:25-39; the twelve sent out to heal and preach - Luke 9:1-6).

Somehow Philip's first response despite all he has seen and heard, is still to look at the big problem and cast about for a common sense, material solution.

Aren't we also a lot like that? We view difficult people, accidents, challenges to our resources, illnesses etc. as things that shouldn't be happening to us. They're from the devil, we say. And in a way every problem and brokenness does have its roots in the falleness of us and our world.

But here we see they may also be God-designed tests—the things that show God and us—mostly us—what we really lean on and trust in, where our confidence is. They demonstrate the focus, size and quality of our faith.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, when I'm challenged by life and circumstances, help me to perceive Your view of what this really is. I want to begin to pass these tests. Amen.

MORE: How could Philip have passed this test?

  • What answer from Philip do you think would have pleased Jesus (or maybe you think Philip's answer did please him)?
  • What might a test-answering response to the challenges of life be for us?

"Comments" would love to record your answers.

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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.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Are you a fool?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 14:1-7

TO CHEW ON: "The fool has said in is heart, 'There is no God.'
They are corrupt,
They have done abominable works,
There is none who does good." Psalm 14:1


Why would someone deny the existence of God?

I can think of several reasons:
  • He is invisible. He appears and feels absent because we can't apprehend Him with our senses. Even believers sometimes grapple with this (Job 13:24; Psalm 89:46).
  • The way He is defined and the way the world runs appear to conflict. A big objection I  encounter for the existence of God is "How can an all-loving, all-powerful God permit evil?"
  • We don't want anyone, not even God, to tell us how to live. We want to be god unto ourselves, to live like we please. My Bible's footnotes allude to this reason in its explanation of Psam 14:1:
"The fool is not someone of diminished intellectual capacity nor a court jester, but one who makes an intellectual decision to choose moral perversion as a lifestyle" - K.R. "Dick" Iverson (in the study notes on Psalms) New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 694.

How does David expand on his psalm's opening statement?

The rest of the psalm seems to be his attempt to explain the behavior and outlook of the people around him. Why do they act the way they do? Because they don't believe God will ever hold them accountable. But, David reassures himself, time will change all this. When the fortunes of the poor man who has stayed true to God turn around, when God shows Himself true to His word by restoring His people (the Jews), then 'we'll see who's laughing.'

In many ways our situation is like David's. In our society the majority of people either deny the existence of God outright or have redefined Him. Very few are open to being convinced of His existence. When it comes right down to it, the reason for that is because of the lifestyle implications ("If He really exists, then the way I live my life will have to change—and I'm not ready for that!").

Of course God has His ways of intervening in lives to convince people of His reality. That is, in the end, a job the Holy Spirit does, not you and me with our apologetics and arguments (though those things may help).

The caution for me in this verse is the possibility that I might say I believe God exists, but then live as if He didn't. Fools may come in more than one guise.

PRAYER: Dear God, I believe You exist and have revealed Yourself through Jesus and the Bible. Please help me to live my life consistent with what I say I believe. Amen.
 

MORE: An argument from logic

In his article "The Presumptuousness of Atheism" Paul Copan makes the following four points to counter atheist Antony Flew's statement that the "onus of proof (for God's existence) must lie with the theist," and  Michael Scriven's assertion that "The lack of evidence for God's existence and the lack of evidence for Santa Claus are on the same level":

1. First, even if the theist could not muster good arguments for God’s existence, atheism still would not be shown to be true....

2. Second, the "presumption of atheism" demonstrates a rigging of the rules of philosophical debate in order to play into the hands of the atheist, who himself makes a truth claim.... The atheist assumes that if one has no evidence for God’s existence, then one is obligated to believe that God does not exist—whether or not one has evidence against God’s existence...

3. Third, in the absence of evidence for God’s existence, agnosticism, not atheism, is the logical presumption...

4. Fourth, to place belief in Santa Claus or mermaids and belief in God on the same level is mistaken...

Read all of  "The Presumptuousness of Atheism."

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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, July 22, 2015

Do we hear but not hear?

Pisidian Antioch - Illustration from Thomas Lewin's Life of Paul
Pisidian Antioch - Illustrations from Thomas Lewin's Life of Paul

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 13:13-35

TO CHEW ON: "'For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him'" - Acts 13:27

Here Paul is preaching in the Antioch synagogue. In his talk he tells the story of his people and God's dealings with them. He mentions their enslavement in Egypt, their wilderness wanderings, their conquest of Canaan, their rule by judges, their first kings Saul and David. That latter was to be father of Messiah. Then Paul identifies Him—Messiah—as Jesus and describes how their own rulers put Him to death.

What's chilling in the way he tells it is that these leaders should have known better. Because of their exposure to the Prophets "which are read every Sabbath" they should have recognized how Jesus fulfilled prophecies spoken in Isaiah 7:14, 11:1; Micah 5:2; Daniel 9:25; Zechariah 9:9 and elsewhere. But they didn't. What an irony when they ended up fulfilling more of those very prophecies as they condemned Jesus to death: Psalm 69:21; Isaiah 53:1-9.

We too can hear and not hear. Jesus describes such deaf hearing in His parable of the sower. He diagnoses it three ways:
  • People hear but the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts - Luke 8:12.
  • People hear and respond but the response is superficial. Temptation pulls up their shallow-rooted new life - Luke 8:13.
  • People hear but immediately crowd out any chance that the word will germinate with other things: cares, riches, and pleasures - Luke 8:14 (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, the news, TV?).

Perhaps their closed-ear reaction is one reason Paul says one verse earlier: "Men and brethren, sons of the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of salvation has been sent" - Acts 13:26 (emphasis added)

We too can prove that this "word of salvation" has been sent to us by fearing God and really hearing and taking His word—about us, our sinful state, how we need a Savior, and how our life will change as we become His disciples—seriously.

PRAYER: Dear God, I don't want to be one of the people exposed to truth but unresponsive to it. Please help me to listen, hear, and 'fear.' Amen.

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

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A parent's prayers

David prays for his child - Artist unknown
David prays for his child - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Samuel 12:15b-25

TO CHEW ON: "David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground." 2 Samuel 12:16

Though Nathan told David the child he had with Bathsheba would die, yet David continued to intercede, fast, and plead for the baby's life until it actually died.

I get that. I'm sure you do too. As parents, we are the ones most invested in the lives brought into the world through us. No one else cares for our kids and grand-kids like we do. Seeing them grow and develop is like opening a package—so this is what God has gifted us with.

Sometimes, along with the pleasant surprises, come some not so pleasant. This child has a physical challenge, that one a learning disability, another has trouble keeping friends. Whatever the issue, we're the constant in their lives—their cheering section, helping them cope, loving them through it all, and praying for them every step of the way.

We're in good company here, joining the ranks of David in our today's reading, and:
  • of Abraham and Job who prayed for the spiritual well-being of their children - Genesis 17:18 and Job 1:5.
  • of the father who pleaded for his epileptic son - Matthew 17:15.
  • of the Greek mother whose persistent requests for her daughter with an unclean spirit moved Jesus to heal her - Mark 7:25-28.

PRAYER:
Dear God, please help us to have the faith of these Bible parents to persistently bring my children's and grand-children's illnesses, troubles, challenges, and spiritual well-being 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.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Do our lives cast a shadow on God's name?

"You are the man" - Artist unknown
"You are the man" - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Samuel 12:1-15a

TO CHEW ON: " … by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme…" 2 Samuel 12:14

David's outrage at the unfairness of the rich man stealing the poor man's sheep in Nathan's story, and his moralistic prescription, show how callous and blind to his own sin his heart had become.

Nathan's response to him: "You are the man!" must have felt like a plunge into cold water for David - Oh, oh! Busted!

It was during the time that David was cleaning this up and getting back into a good relationship with God that he wrote Psalm 51. It shows the depth of his regret and the extent of his repentance.

However, life events can't be undone no matter how sincere the "sorry" is. There are consequences. For David they were serious:
  • Killing and death would characterize his family (2 Samuel 12:10).
  • He would be humiliated by someone ("from your own house… your neighbour") having his way with David's own harem (2 Samuel 12:11,12.
  •  Because his actions brought disgrace on all God's followers and gave reason "to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme," the child Bathsheba had conceived with him would die (2 Samuel 12:14).

Thinking especially of the last one, these many years later it's not unusual for the sin of prominent Christians to cause God's enemies to continue that blasphemy. Just a few weeks ago another example of such a case came to light in Canada when a senator—a married family man and pastor of a church—was outed as having had an affair with a 16-year-old girl. All of Christendom gets a black eye from these cases.

However, before we get too self-righteous about this, we do well to examine our own lives for habits, reactions, and incidents that have contributed to bringing disgrace on God and His people. Things like lashing out in anger, spreading gossip, telling questionable jokes, small cheats in business or relationships are just a few examples of things that can be just as damaging to God's holy name as outright adultery (Romans 2:21-24).

If we have such things hiding in our lives, instead of waiting for a Nathan to come along and expose us, let's ask God to show us where we're kidding ourselves that everything is just fine. And then let's make it right—apologize, repay what isn't rightfully ours, clean up our mouths, end the questionable relationship—do all we can to thwart the enemy's opportunities to blaspheme because of us.

PRAYER: Dear God, please open my eyes to the sins in my own life that could cause Christians and non-Christians to disrespect You. Help me to deal with my own sins instead of judging 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.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

A slide into sin

David gives the letter to Uriah - Giovanni Barbieri - 17th Century




TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Samuel 11:14-27

TO CHEW ON: "In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah." 2 Samuel 11:14

In the saddest of ironies, loyal and principled Uriah is returned to the battlefield carrying his own death sentence. David, in our reading today, acts more like a mafia boss than a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

This is the same David who wrote;

"Offer the sacrifices of righteousness…" - Psalm 4:5

"You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,
Nor shall evil dwell with You" - Psalm 5:4.
"You have tested my heart;
You have visited me in the night,
You have tried me and found nothing.
I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress" - Psalm 17:3


etc.

How does he find himself here? It doesn't happen overnight but is a slide
- from duty avoidance, idleness, boredom  (2 Samuel 11:1)
- to letting his eyes linger on what is not his (2 Samuel 11:2)
- to fantasy followed by adultery (2 Samuel 11:3-4)
- to an attempt to cover up the pregnancy that results by bringing Uriah,  Bathsheba's husband, home from the battlefield, urging him to sleep with her, even getting him drunk, and when that doesn't work out (2 Samuel 11:6-12)
- to murder (2 Samuel 11:15).

If esteemed David can fall like this, how vulnerable are we? Apostle Paul warns New Testament Christians in 1 Corinthians 10 of exactly this descent into sin (1 Corinthians 10:6-11). Let's let his warning and advice to the Corinthians ring in our ears:

"Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it - 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to recognize my first wandering steps from You as the beginning of the slide that they are. Help me to find a way out of temptation at its earliest stages. Amen.

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


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Self-indulgent and bored

David Sees Bathsheba Bathing - James Tissot
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Samuel 11:1-13

TO CHEW ON: "In the spring when kings go off to war, David sent Joab .... One evening, David got up from his couch and was pacing back and forth on the roof of the palace ..." 2 Samuel 11:1,2

The two opening verses of this incident speak eloquently of why David was vulnerable to temptation:

1. He was taking a break from his normal routine. It was spring and he was usually off fighting. But not this year.

2. He was bored. What was he doing on his couch so late in the day (without any TV too) so that it was evening when he "got up from his couch" and was "pacing back and forth on the roof of the palace"?

Ripe for some excitement, for a little spice in his humdrum existence, the sight of Bathsheba bathing on a rooftop was just the ticket.

It's a cautionary tale for us during this holiday time of year. Vacations and holidays—a break from the work routine—are part of the yearly cycle for many of us. But when our attitude becomes too self-indulgent we may be opening ourselves up to temptation. The old saying "The devil finds work for idle hands to do" is another way of expressing the danger of boredom.

This summer let's be on guard against self-indulgence and boredom. As our pastor admonished us in a last Sunday sermon before summer: "Read your Bible in the extra time you have during the holidays. Pray with your spouse and children. Play praise music and sing along as you travel..."

PRAYER: Dear God, I never want to take a vacation from You. Help me to get to know You better during the holidays instead of drifting into danger. 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, July 17, 2015

Petrified hearts

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 6:45-56

TO CHEW ON: "Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marvelled. For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened." Mark 6:51-52

We expect to see the masses with "hardened hearts" but the disciples?

[Hardened - poroo means to petrify, form a callous, make hard. the word is used metaphorically of spiritual deafness and blindness" - Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1364.]

In what ways were the disciples' hearts hard? They were not Jesus's enemies, resisting and arguing with his teachings like the scribes and Pharisees, were they?

Mark tells us their shock at seeing Jesus walk on the water and then calm the storm was proof of their hard hearts. It showed they hadn't understood the loaves and fishes miracle and let it change them in a fundamental way.

 So what was there to understand about it?

Perhaps foremost that Jesus had power over nature and natural processes? Their minds were so set on the natural interpretation of life that even seeing and eating Jesus' miracle meal made no lasting impression

Could we be guilty of the same thing? We're in need, we pray, we get answers to prayer. But somehow, the next time a storm comes along we find we haven't let those answers change our outlook. We demonstrate by our fearful and jumpy reaction to trouble that our hearts are the same. We're still expecting to do life on our own and at some deep level believe that things can't possibly turn out well because the situation looks so bad.

May the fact of God's omnipotent all-sufficiency penetrate and soften our stony hearts so they beat with a lively, vibrant faith in Him in all situations.

PRAYER: Dear God, I confess I have been guilty of this kind of hard heart that hasn't learned to trust You through Your past interventions. Please soften my hard heart. 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, July 16, 2015

An interrupted vacation

"Miracle of the Loves and Fishes" by James Tissot
"Miracle of the Loves and Fishes" by James Tissot

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 6:30-44

TO CHEW ON:
"And He said to them, 'Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.' For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. .. But the multitudes saw them departing and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him." Mark 6:31,33

Visualize the scene. Jesus' twelve disciples have just returned from a mission trip of their own. On it they healed the sick, cast out evil spirits, lived on the hospitality of strangers, and experienced not only popularity but also rejection (Mark 6:7-13). They're back and exhausted but the crowds don't let up, in fact, the needs are so urgent and persistent Jesus and his disciples don't even have time to eat (Mark 6:31).

" 'Come aside… and rest…' "
Jesus urges them. So they board a boat for some deserted beach, looking forward to a bit of R&R.

Imagine their surprise, then, when they get to land and another crowd is waiting for them. Some observant Israelites know Jesus' favourite "deserted" places and have led the crowd straight to this one. Instead of a break, Jesus & company face more work and eventually the need to feed 5,000+.

We're in the middle of holiday season ourselves. Maybe you're on vacation as you read this. You need the break too, have anticipated it, planned for it, set up your out-of-office message, cancelled the mail, done everything you can to guarantee your holiday is truly a break. And then something comes up and you have to put on your uniform and get back into the battle.

I admire the disciples here. There's not a whisper of complaint or self-pity. The only impatience I pick up is when they make the practical suggestion that Jesus send the crowd away to get food at the end of the "far spent" day. But when He requests, they ask around for food and come up with the meager five-loaf, two-fish ration.

Ah, but then comes the miracle when everyone gets to eat! And I wouldn't be surprised if the disciples aren't more energized by their participation in this amazing scene than if they'd been lying around all day.

Some lessons we can learn from this incident.

1. When our plans conflict with what God is allowing to come across our path, it's good to be as flexible as the disciples are here.

2. When we fit in with God's plans, we put ourselves in a place where surprises and even miracles are possible.

3. God has unique and wonderful ways of renewing us—and it's not always with a vacation - Isaiah 40:30; Ephesians 3:16-19; Colossians 1:9-11.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to put myself at Your disposal and to fit in with Your plans all the time, even when I'm on vacation. 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.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Does God really keep His promises?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 89:38-52

TO CHEW ON: "Nevertheless My lovingkindnesses I will not utterly take from him
Nor allow My faithfulnesses to fail ...

But you have cast off and abhorred.
You have been furious with Your anointed.
You have renounced the covenant of Your servant
You have profaned his crown by casting it to the ground." Psalm 89:34, 38-39.

Ethan the Ezrahite closes his meditation on God's promises to David by expressing something that's really bothering him: the fact that God's promises and what's happening don't seem to agree.

The promise was: "His seed shall endure forever, his throne as the sun... established forever like the moon" Psalm 89:36,37.

But David's kingly line runs into problems. Ethan (a Levite, worship leader, and contemporary of Solomon - 1 Kings 4:30-31) sees that, and in this psalm brings to God's attention the way He is seemingly going back on His promise to David. Whether Ethan knew the extent of the demise of David's kingly line is unclear. But what he saw concerned him.

Did God lie to David? Or is there another fulfillment that Ethan couldn't see?

I believe there is. A footnote in my Bible draws our attention to it:
"This is a messianic psalm reaffirming the Davidic covenant in which his Seed shall reign. It shows that God is able to rescue His promise from the depths of the grave, if necessary, to fulfill it" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 755.
Though our Bible commenter makes it sound as if God was taken off-guard here, forced to do an emergency "rescue," I don't believe He was stymied for a minute by the fall of the David's royal family. He knew, from before creation, what would happen and executed His plan of establishing David's line through Jesus with the cool precision of foreknowledge.

This psalm underlines the fact that we can trust God's promises even when it appears He has gone back on them. To doubt God's faithfulness on the basis of what we see with our limited vision and understanding reminds me of another truth about God's ways:

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts" − Isaiah 55:8,9

When we're tempted to doubt God, let's review His promised faithfulness (e.g. 1 Kings 8:56; Romans 4:21; 2 Corinthians 1:20). Then, no matter what it looks like, let's carry on trusting in what God has said and praising the Lord, as Ethan does, even when we don't see:

"Blessed be the Lord forevermore!
Amen and Amen" - Psalm 89:52.

PRAYER: Dear God, even as I trust Your promise of salvation and eternal life, help me to depend on all Your other promises. Amen.

MORE: The importance of God's unchangeableness
"...if we stop for a moment to imagine what it would be like of God could change, the importance of this doctrine becomes more clear. For example, if God could change (in his being, perfections, purposes, or promises), then any change would be either for the better or for the worse.


But if God changed for the better, then he was not the best possible being when we first trusted him. And how could we be sure that he is the best possible being now?


But if God could change for the worse (in his very being), then what kind of God might he become? Might he become, for instance, a little bit evil rather than wholly good? And if he could become a little bit evil, then how do we know he could not change to become largely evil—or wholly evil?


...if God could change in regard to his promises, then how could we trust him completely for eternal life? Or for anything else the Bible says? ...


A little reflection like this shows how absolutely important the doctrine of God's unchangeableness is. If God is not unchanging, then the whole basis of our faith begins to fall apart, and our understanding of the universe begins to unravel. This is because our faith and hope and knowledge all ultimately depend on a person who is infinitely worthy of trust—because he is absolutely and eternally unchanging in his being, perfections, purposes, and promises" - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 168 (paragraphing added to make it easier to read; emphasis as in the original text).
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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, July 14, 2015

Let God father you

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 89:19-37

TO CHEW ON: "He shall cry to me, 'You are my Father,
My God and the rock of my salvation." Psalm 89:26

Dr. David Popenoe, a sociologist who researches fathers and fatherhood talks, without equivocation, about the importance of fathers: "'Fathers are far more than just "second adults" in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.'" The article from which this quote was taken (to child protection workers in the U.S.) goes on to discuss how children with involved, caring fathers have better education outcomes, are more emotionally secure, and feel safer than children who grow up in homes without a father present.

In our reading today Ethan the Ezrahite draws our attention to the son-father relationship that David had with God (Psalm 89:26). Jesus often talked about and referred to God as His Father too (e.g. Mark 11:27).

["The word 'father' is ab. It is one of the first words a baby can speak. The Aramaic form of 'ab' is 'abba' which has become common in Hebrew as the word Israelite children use for 'daddy.' Jesus applied this toddler's word to His divine Father in Mark 14:36" - Dick Mills, "Word Wealth", New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 736.]

We too are God's children. He is our Father (2 Corinthians 6:18), a fact we accept by faith (Galatians 3:26). How does God father us?
  • He forms us - Isaiah 64:8.
  • He adopts us - Romans 8:15.
  • He guides us - Jeremiah 3:4
  • We talk to Him in prayer - Matthew 6:6.
  • He promises to give us good things - Matthew 7:11.
  • He gives us a heritage - Jeremiah 3:19.
  • He will judge our performance fairly - 1 Peter 1:17.
  • We have the promise that we will be like Him someday - 1 John 3:2.

Transferring the feelings that we have for our earthly fathers to our heavenly Father is always tricky—even if our earthly father was a good one. It is even more difficult if our earthly father was absent, abusive, or a negative influence. However, even in this God fathers us. For convincing us of the fact that we are God's children and what that means is one of the jobs of God the Holy Spirit:

"And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba Father'"- Galatians 4:6.

and
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" - Romans 8:16.
Let's let God father us today.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for being my Father. Help me to learn more and more what this means in my everyday life. Amen.

MORE: "Father Me" by Brian Doerksen

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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, July 13, 2015

Count a different kind of blessing

"Songs of Faith"  hymnbook
Photo courtesy RGBStock.com
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 89:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!
They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance." Psalm 89:15


When we feel discouraged or stressed or sorry for ourselves, we're often encouraged to count our blessings. Our list usually includes blessings of the physical life—food, shelter, clothes, family, friends, etc. But do we ever go beyond to also count our spiritual blessings?

Ethan, the Ezrahite, writer of Psalm 89, sets a good example for us in Psalm 89:15-18. Some blessings he names:

1. Familiar with the sound of worship: "Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound." For the Israelites that would have been singing, shouting, and instruments like the harp, the trumpet, and the horn (Psalm 98:4-6).

2. Life directions: "They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance."

3. An association with a God of great reputation: "In Your name they rejoice all day long."

4. Worshiping a God who is righteous: "And in Your righteousness they are exalted."

5. The ability to glorify God through successes: "For You are the glory of their strength."

6. Divine favor: "In Your favor our horn is exalted."

7. Divine protection: "For our shield belongs to the Lord."

We could add these blessings to our count. Pause, sometime, to listen to the sweet sound of worship coming from the sanctuary of your church during a morning service. The music of our contemporaries worshiping and adoring God is a beautiful thing!

Similarly we can thank God for all the other blessings Ethan names—the insight we get  from the Bible on how to live, that our God is strong, righteous, gives favor, protection, and enables us to live for His glory. In fact, without these blessings as the foundation of our lives, I would suggest that the other blessings we so easily list would be mere shells of themselves.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the spiritual blessings that are the foundation of, and give significance to, all my other blessings. May I never take them for granted. 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.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hospitable Machir

Mephibosheth & Machir - Artist unknown
Mephibosheth & Machir - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Samuel 9:1-13

TO CHEW ON: "Then king David sent and brought him out of the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo Debar." - 2 Samuel 9:5

David, wanting to be sure he kept his word to his old friend Jonathan, set about looking for any descendants of Saul to whom he could show kindness. He discovered Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan.

We see an earlier installment of Mephibosheth's life in 2 Samuel where immediately after Saul and Jonathan's deaths, their families fled for their lives. During that flight the nanny dropped five-year-old Mephibosheth. The drop injured his feet so that all his life he was lame (2 Samuel 4:4).

Now David found out about his existence. He was living at the home of Machir in Lo Debar. My footnotes describe Machir as "a wealthy man who took the young orphan into his house after Jonathan's death" - Jerry Cook, writer of 2 Samuel notes, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 413.

Machir is mentioned as well in 2 Samuel 17. It's the story of the time when Absalom declared himself king causing David and his loyalists to flee from Jerusalem. Stuck in the desert—and a long way from Safeway or Costco—who should come laden with "...beds and basins, earthen vessels and wheat, barley, flour, parched grain and beans, lentils and parched seeds, honey and curds, sheep and cheese of the herd..." but Mahanaim, Barzillai and Machir from Lo Debar, musing "the people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness" - 2 Samuel 17:27-29.

This Machir is only mentioned in the Bible these two times (as far as I can tell) and in both it is for generous hospitality. What a great Old Testament example of someone living out the New Testament spiritual gift of mercy through hospitality (Romans 12:8). It's a lifestyle we should still emulate:

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels" - Hebrews 43:2.
"Be hospitable to one another without grumbling" - 1 Peter 4:9

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, the hospitality of Bible characters like Machir is only a reflection of Your hospitable, welcoming attitude toward me. Help me to be so secure in Your love that a generous, hospitable spirit becomes second-nature to me. Amen.

MORE: A Hospitality Prayer

"Lord,
Thank You for having given Yourself in intimate inexplicable hospitality.
You have been the Host to all creation...

Without a table You have banqueted us,
inviting us, yea, to be married unto You.
Over our heads flies the banner of Your love.
We are entertained with the mysteries of faith,
the songs of the Spirit, holy laughter
You have garmented us in festal righteousness.

As we wandered in wastelands,
You sought us before we called.
You extended eager welcome
though we had scarcely knocked.
You embraced us when we were filthy
and oppressed and undeserving...

Through eternity You have been and will be utterly hospitable.
Help me,
poor, faltering, unfeeling me,
to be like You,
with breath-beat and soul-heart
poured out
emptied
opened.
Help me
to be given to hospitality."

- Excerpts from "A Prayer,"  by Karen Burton Mains from the book Open Heart, Open Home: How to find joy through sharing your home with others, pp. 197-199 (1976 edition).


The book Open Heart, Open Home gives a wonderful rationale for Christian hospitality. My old copy is copyrighted 1976 (I bought it from a church library discards table), but it was re-released in 2002.

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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, July 11, 2015

My plans or God's?

Nathan and David - Artist unknown
Nathan and David - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Samuel 7:1-17

TO CHEW ON: " ' Wherever I have moved about with all the children of Israel, have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel saying, "Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?" ' " 2 Samuel 7:17


When David had the idea to build God a permanent house to replace the tent tabernacle, the prophet Nathan was quick to endorse it. But that night God told Nathan what He thought about David's plan. It wasn't what Nathan had said. The answer to the rhetorical question God wanted Nathan to put to David ("… have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel whom I commanded to shepherd My people saying, 'Why have you not built me a house of cedar?' ") was NO. God had not asked for this before. Neither was He asking for it now.

My Bible's study notes on this verse explain: "God reminds David of His original intent in calling him to shepherd My people Israel, not to build Him a house" Sam Middlebrook, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 410.

In this situation we have an example of David making his own plans and asking God to bless them. This fall I took a DVD course (Discerning the Voice of God) by Priscilla Shirer. In the workbook that accompanies the lectures, she talks about our tendency to make plans and then ask God to bless them (instead of waiting for God to point us in the direction He wants us to go). Here are some bits I've underlined in my workbook:

"We have to decide to spend our time either discerning and aligning ourselves with the purposes of God or doing what we want while asking God to bless it" - Priscilla Shirer, Discerning the Voice of God (Workbook),  p. 85.

"We have invited ourselves to do things God isn't doing" - Op. cit., p. 91.

"When seeking God's guidance, always take into account the activity He is allowing in your life at that time" - Op. cit., p. 89.

"We often find God's will when we do what's next and obediently respond to the normal duties of life" - Op. cit.,  p. 90.

"If you feel an overwhelming urge to act spontaneously, pull in the reins" - p. 93.

"Wait for the Father to lead you. If you do not feel an assurance in a decision, then wait. You will be glad you did" - Op. cit., p. 94.
However, let's not get the idea that God didn't appreciate David's heart.  He actually turned David's desire around by promising David his own house—not one of cedar and stone, but of an everlasting dynasty (2 Samuel 7:16). We know that Jesus came from David's line and take this as a prophecy of His forever Kingdom.

God also assured David that a son of his would be the one to build that house of cedar. It happened when Solomon built the temple.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be sensitive to what You're doing in my life and around me, and to get on-board with Your activity instead of cooking up plans of my own. 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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