Saturday, October 31, 2015

Not ashamed of the WORD

Bible - open at Romans
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 1:1-17

TO CHEW ON:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." Romans 1:16

You have probably memorized this flag-plant statement of Paul's—a manifesto well worth committing to memory because of its many goodies. Today let's delve into a couple.

Far from being intimidated, Paul states he is unashamed of the GOSPEL.

[Gospel - euangelion  in Ancient Greek was the reward for bringing good news. It later came to mean the good news itself. The New Testament meaning encompasses the promise of salvation and its fulfillment by the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus - Dick Mills (Word Wealth) - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1349]

Why is Paul not ashamed? Because the gospel is the POWER of God to salvation for everyone

[Power - dunamis  means energy, power, might, great force, great ability, strength. It is sometimes used to describe the powers of the world to come at work upon the Earth and divine power overcoming all resistance … The dunamis in Jesus resulted in dramatic transformations. This is the norm for the Spirit-led church - Dick Mills (Word Wealth) - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1498.]

Bible writers describe this power of the Word (Gospel) in vivid ways:
  • God promised to make His word fire in Jeremiah's mouth to devour the wood of the people that heard it - Jeremiah 5:14.
  • In another place Jeremiah compares God's word to a hammer that breaks rocks in pieces - Jeremiah 23:29.
  • In Ezekiel the prophesied word is a uniting force bringing bones together in preparation for the life-giving breath of the Spirit - Ezekiel 37:7,14.
  • Luke describes the increase / growth of God's word: "So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed" - Acts 19:20.
  • Paul, the author of Hebrews, and John describe the word as a sword - Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 19:15.

A modern testimony of the power of God's word is Rosaria Butterfield's ("My Train Wreck Conversion" in Christianity Today). This former lesbian university professor came to faith in Christ primarily through reading the Bible (as she stayed in touch with a pastor who answered her questions and a Presbyterian congregation who loved her without conditions).

Let's engrave Romans 1:16 into our memories and hearts afresh. God's word is powerful. We have every reason to be bold, courageous, and unashamed to anchor our lives on it and claim and proclaim it for and over the circumstances of life and the people we love.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the power of the gospel. 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.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Are you worth imitating?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 3 John 1-14

TO CHEW ON: "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God."  3 John 11


John mentions three men in this letter: Gaius, Diotrephes, and Demetrius.

Gaius is the man to whom John writes. John loves him, calls him "Beloved" three times after describing him "the beloved Gaius" in his greeting (3 John 1, 2, 5,11). John feels his "soul prospers" (though we're not as sure about his physical health - 3 John 2). John commends him for walking in truth. He is faithful in ministry especially hospitality, both to those he knows and strangers. He may have been young and impressionable for John tells him not to be influenced and copy Diotrephes.

Diotrephes is apparently a church leader who feels John and Co. threaten his leadership (his "preeminence among them"). He refuses to take these apostles in and spreads malicious stories about them. As if his cold shoulder isn't enough, he also forbids others to receive them (3 John 9-11).

Demetrius, on the other hand "has a good testimony from all and from the truth itself" (3 John 12).

We humans, being the social creatures we are, influence and imitate each other. We can choose good or bad people to copy. And others watch us. What if one of our church leaders wrote about us. Would he or she call us "beloved," commend us for walking in truth and being faithful in ministry, and recommend us as someone to imitate? Or would that letter contain a warning about us because we are rebellious, self-serving, undisciplined in speech and divisive?

PRAYER:
Dear God, I often minimize and even forget about the impact that my life has on others. Help me to be a person of truth and genuine good deeds that flow out of love for You. Please forgive me for times that I have undermined leadership. Help me to remember that I am always on display—before others, but especially before You. Amen.

MORE: Spiritual reputation
Over our lifetime with the Lord and in church, you and I build a spiritual reputation.

  • Demetrius had a "good testimony from all."
  • The early church had "favor with all people" - Acts 2:47.
  • Joses had the reputation of being an encourager to the extent that the apostles nicknamed him Barnabas (Son of Encouragement) - Acts 4:36.
  • Stephen had a reputation of being full of faith and power - Acts 6:8.
  • Hebrews 11 is full of examples of people whose lives were characterized by faith.

I ask myself: What is my spiritual reputation? What is yours?  

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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, October 29, 2015

Loving God, loving each other

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 John 1-13

TO CHEW ON:
"And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning: that we love one another." 2 John 5


When I first posted this devo three years ago (it is a re-post) we were in the middle of our annual church conference. One night visiting speaker Joel A'Bell (Hillsongs Church, Australia) talked about loving each other. He said something like, "We want deep teaching, to know what the colors of the priest's robes mean. But we don't obey Jesus' most basic commands to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbour as ourselves - Mark 12:29-31."

"Have you ever thought about what it means to love God this way?" he asked. He went on to explain how we love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. Here are some of his thoughts (via my scribbled notes):

- Loving God with all my heart means having a heart to let go.
"We struggle when there's more in our heart than Jesus."

- Loving God with all my soul means to go slow.
"We're speedy; make decisions quickly, we're too fast on the inside, don't take time to think, meditate, pray."

- Loving God with all my mind is having a mind to change (i.e. repent).
"Maturity is evidenced by the decreasing time gap between the challenge to change and the actual obedience."

- Loving God with all my strength is endurance.
An example he gave of this is our tendency to become familiar with the things of God so they no longer move us. The person that loves with strength pulls his/her mind back to focus on the truths of God's word, the lyrics of the familiar worship song etc. and does "not give in to the weakness of familiarity."

Loving God this way will make us ever more convinced and sure and secure in God's love for us. The natural outflow of such love is for us to love others. I like how Leslynn Musch puts it in her Truth-In-Action in 2 John article: "If we are truly loved, then that love should affect the way we love others. Love others as Jesus has loved you" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1795.

PRAYER: Dear God, I know I often fall short of loving You with my heart, soul, mind, and strength and so it is no wonder my relationships with others are tainted by insecurity, fear, comparison, and competition etc. Please help me to bask in Your love, love You back, and from that loop, to love my Christian family and the world. 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, October 27, 2015

Power of blood

Red Christ by Lovis Corinth
"Red Christ" by Lovis Corinth
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hebrews 9:11-28

TO CHEW ON: "Almost everything is cleansed by blood, according to the Law's regulations, and there is no forgiveness without blood being shed." Hebrews 9:22 (Common English Bible)

Two facts about physical blood help us relate what the writer says here to our spiritual state.

1. Blood is a cleanser. Not the kind of cleanser that you pre-soak clothes in—do that with blood and you'll get a worse stain. But it is a cleanser within our bodies loading up with proteins, minerals, hormones, carbon dioxide, and toxins, which it then pumps to the transfer depots, the lungs to be exhaled or through the liver to be cleansed.

2. Blood is essential to life. When people lose all blood they die because blood delivers to the cells its fuel of oxygen and nutrients.

God's design for our salvation includes these two aspects of blood. The sentence in our focus verse: "There is no forgiveness without blood being shed" is another way of saying, 'there is no forgiveness without the payment of a life.' And that's what Jesus did for us when He paid the penalty of our sin with His life so God could forgive us without violating His holy, just character.

His blood also cleanses us, first in that we are clean before God, and, second, by flowing within our spirits in a metaphorical way, producing the desire to please Him resulting in repentance and surrender (exhaling the bad stuff, so to speak, and allow Him to purify us).

As I'm writing this, an old hymn is playing background music in my mind. It expresses these spiritual truths about Jesus' blood so well:

    1. What can wash away my sin?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
2. For my cleansing this I see—

Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

For my pardon this my plea—

Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

3. Nothing can my sin erase

Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

Naught of works, 'tis all of grace—

Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

4. This is all my hope and peace—

Nothing but the blood of Jesus!

This is all my righteousness—

Nothing but the blood of Jesus!
Lyrics by Robert Lowry, from Hymnal.net

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the way You have designed spiritual truth to reflect physical phenomena (or is it the other way around?). Thank You for my blood, working tirelessly to keep me alive and healthy. And thank You for Jesus' blood, poured out so I could have forgiveness and spiritual life and health. 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, October 26, 2015

Three prayer principles

Man praying in church
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 42:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "And the Lord restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before." Job 42:10

We see some principles of prayer at play here in the happy ending to Job's story.

1. Prayer operates as a go-between.
Here it's Job's prayers that God wants to use to reconcile Job's friends to Himself. What Job does here reminds us of Jesus. When God told Job's friends that Job would offer a sacrifice and pray for them (Job 42:8), he (Job) was foreshadowing what Jesus did for us when He sacrificed His life and prayed for us from the cross.

2. Prayer operates beyond the boundaries of the natural.
Job was to pray for these friends who had insulted him and made him feel even worse than he did. We are reminded of Jesus' words: " 'But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you' " Matthew 5:44. The result for Job was a doubled restoring of his fortunes. How did that work?!

3. Prayer may require forgiveness on the part of the pray-er.
Job's friends had, in effect, called him a windbag (Job 8:2), empty-headed (Job 11:3), and wicked (Job 22:5). He was distressed and hurt by them (Job: "Miserable comforters are you all!" - Job 16:2 and "How long will you torment my soul and break me in pieces with words?" - Job 19:2).

Now he was to pray for them. Surely that required some attitude adjustments on his part—as in a complete relinquishment of bad feelings and grudge-holding against Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. We call that forgiveness. We are reminded of Jesus' words from the cross: "'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…'" and Stephen's when he was being stoned: "Lay not this sin to their charge" (Luke 23:34 and Acts 7:60).

Let's keep these thoughts about prayer in mind as we pray.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to acknowledge the importance and power of prayer by actually spending more time praying, especially for those who have hurt, offended or troubled 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.


Sunday, October 25, 2015

Beastly king of the proud

Destruction of Leviathan by Gustave Dore
Destruction of Leviathan by Gustave Dore

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 41:12-34

TO CHEW ON: "He beholds every high thing;
He is king over all the children of pride." Job 41:34



If you read these details, what creature would you think I was describing?

He has "mighty power," "terrible teeth all around," "rows of scales," his armor is impervious to spear, dart, javelin, or arrow. Light flashes when he sneezes, sparks shoot of his mouth, smoke billows from his nostrils, his breath is so hot it starts a fire. He moves about with "crashings," churns up the sea to a muddy slurry, and makes pointy footprints on the beach.

It sounds a lot like a dinosaur or a medieval dragon, doesn't it?

The description is for the most part non-judgmental, though we sense from the beast's actions that he is not good, kind or safe. However, in the last verse of Job 41, the writer shows his hand when he says of this creature: "He is king over all the children of pride."

This powerful "king over all the children of pride" beast of Job 41 reminds me of Satan. Satan's identification with pride is seen from his first appearance on the cosmic scene:

"For you (Lucifer—Satan's name when he was an angel) have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; … I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High" - Isaiah 14:12-14.

Let's remember the context here. In Job 41 God is questioning Job. The description of this beast is part of his query from the beginning of the chapter: Can you draw out, snare etc. this beast? The implied answer is, No, Job, you can't, but I (God) can.

The reference to pride also draws us back to Job 40:10,11, when God asks Job if he has the smarts and power to make moral judgements: "Would you indeed annul My judgment … Then … look on everyone who is proud and humble him. Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low" - Job 40:8,11,12.

In these chapters of Job then (Job 40,41), I think we can conclude that God is not so much impressing Job with His power over these creatures as natural monsters but is using them as images of evil. He is impressing on Job that even the most ferocious evil is still in His power. And that's still true today!


PRAYER: Dear God, whatever the beast Satan throws at the world or at me of fright, upheaval, chaos, and destruction, I take comfort in the fact that You are not intimidated or confused. You can draw him out with a hook, snare him, fill his scales with harpoons and finally overcome him. Amen.

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


Saturday, October 24, 2015

You don't know what you don't know

Behemoth - Job 40:15-24
Leviathan - Job 41:1-34

Behemoth and Leviathan - Wm. Blake
Behemoth & Leviathan - Wm. Blake
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 40:7-41:11

TO CHEW ON:
"'Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.'" Job 40:7



Have you heard the saying, "You don't know what you don't know"? I've heard it quoted to writers who think their work is perfect just the way it is and needs no editing. But this little truism could also apply to life in general. It reminds us that there are a multitude of things about which we don't have a clue.

This is, in effect, what God says to Job in our reading today, along with "You can't do what you can't do." I love how Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message:

6-7 God addressed Job next from the eye of the storm, and this is what he said:
“I have some more questions for you,
    and I want straight answers.
8-14 “Do you presume to tell me what I’m doing wrong?
    Are you calling me a sinner so you can be a saint?
Do you have an arm like my arm?
    Can you shout in thunder the way I can?
Go ahead, show your stuff.
    Let’s see what you’re made of, what you can do.
Unleash your outrage.
    Target the arrogant and lay them flat.
Target the arrogant and bring them to their knees.
    Stop the wicked in their tracks—make mincemeat of them!
Dig a mass grave and dump them in it—
    faceless corpses in an unmarked grave.
I’ll gladly step aside and hand things over to you—
    you can surely save yourself with no help from me! - Job 40:6-14 MSG

I need—we all need to remind ourselves of God's comeback to Job here when we hear people criticizing Him for His mishandling of the earth and the people on it—indeed, when we ourselves question His goodness, His wisdom, His justice, His power… For we see only part of the picture. We have only limited information. And we're impotent to do much about what we do think we know and understand.

So what is our realistic stance here?
  • Humility in admitting our limitations - Ecclesiastes 8:7; 9:12; 11:5.
  • Repentance for our arrogance - Job 42:5,6.
  • Prayer for God's help to be able to live wisely during the time and in the place God has set us - James 1:5-8


PRAYER:
Dear God, please help me to face life realistically. I don't think You want me to throw up my hands in despair that I'm powerless. At the same time, You don't need my help and advice on how to run the world. Please help me to fulfill the destiny You have for me in humility and obedience as I trust You with the big picture. Amen.

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

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

Friday, October 23, 2015

Seeing God

God questions Job - Artist unknown
God questions Job - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 39:19-40:6


TO CHEW ON: "Then Job answered the Lord and said, 'Behold I am vile; What shall I answer You? I lay my hand over my mouth.'" Job 40:3-4

Here we see a Job quite unlike the cocky self-assured man who said, "I would declare to Him the number of my steps; Like a prince I would approach Him" - Job 31:37. What made the difference? Hearing God speak and being in His presence.

This reaction of Job's made me curious about how God's presence affected others. Here is a quick survey of how God's presence affected some people in the Bible:

  • For Hagar, fleeing from abusive Sarai after conceiving Ishmael by Abraham the "Angel of the Lord" was comfort and hope - Genesis 16:13.
  • For Jacob, after wrestling all night with a mysterious "Man" it was a physical disability and a blessing - Genesis 32:30.
  • For Aaron and Miriam it was a humbling rebuke at challenging the leadership of their brother Moses, who was intimate with God - Numbers 12:8.
  • For Israel it was the reputation of God living among them, striking terror in the soldiers of the surrounding nations - Numbers 14:14. (David calls the sight of God His refuge Psalm 141:8.)
  • For the elders of Israel and David it was an inexpressibly beautiful place and experience - Exodus 24:10; Psalm 27:4.
  • For Manoah and his wife it was the announcement of a baby and a new responsibility of raising Israel's leader Samson - Judges 13:1-23.
  • For Isaiah and Job it was a sense of unworthy sinfulness and self-loathing - Isaiah 6:5; Job 42:5 (along with our focus verses today).

Can we hope to see God face to face? Jesus said "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God" - Matthew 5:8. One day in discussion with Jesus, Philip said, "'Lord, show us the Father and it is sufficient for us.'" Jesus replied: "'He who has seen Me has seen the Father'" - John 14:9.

What does this say to us? My sense is that, like the earlier Job, we often don't have a clue about what an awesome, fearful, holy place God's presence really is judging by how blasé and casual we are about invoking and entering it. At the same time we have a clue in that we have Jesus. We can view His life in the Bible record and see the Father. And through His gift of salvation, we can be pure in heart.

PRAYER: Dear God, I struggle to put my mind around what I read about Your encounters with us humans in the Bible. Please give me a realistic, experiential understanding and awe about who You are and what it means to be in Your presence.  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, October 22, 2015

Do you know?

Mountain goat kid
Mountain goat kid - Photo from Pixabay.com
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 39:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "Do you know…?" Job 39:1

In this continuation of His reply to Job, God draws Job's attention to several animals that humans only observe from afar. They have little or no use to mankind and we often don't understand their mysterious ways.

The wild mountain goats go through their cycles of bearing young without any help or attention from people. They even seem heartless in the way they abandon them - Job 39:1-4.

The wild donkeys shun the city and are useless as beasts of burden that would obey and help people - Job 39:5-8.

The wild ox, though strong, is not an animal people would entrust with their precious harvest - Job 39:9-12.

The ostrich is without wisdom. She challenges the horse for speed but doesn't even have the good sense to incubate her eggs in a safe place - Job 39:13-18.

I'm sure we could all come up with similar lists of things about creation that we don't understand. Much of it may be of little use to us and even seem frivolous. For example, what's the point of high alpine meadows filled with summer flowers when there's no one there to see? Why did God create the vast expanse of stars and galaxies or the mysterious creatures of the ocean depths?

However, there is also much we do understand. Modern microscopes, telescopes, and nature cameras have revealed things to us that the people of Job's day had no idea about.  

The wonderful thing is that the more closely we look and drill down, the more (not less) awed we become at our creator God's wisdom, foresight, creativity, and design smarts. It brings us to the place of admitting that there's enough we do understand to be confident of the intelligence and intention of the One behind all the things about creation and life that we don't know.


PRAYER: Dear God, I am amazed at the intricacy and intelligence that's obvious in creation. Thank You for the beauty, variety, and attention to detail that You gave to created things. I worship 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.


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Beloved Son

manger and cross
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 12:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "'Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them at last, saying, 'They will respect my son.'"  Mark 12:6


It's hard not to feel a pang when we read this story.

The phrase "beloved son" snags my attention. Who of us who have children can't relate to the word beloved describing our offspring? We make great sacrifices to ensure their well-being. We go great distances to help them when they're in trouble. We do everything in our power to defend them and fight for them. When they're sick or in trouble we hurt for them...

God, who knew the whole story, knew that when He would send Jesus, this story would have a middle chapter of unbelievable agony and then death for His beloved Son, summed up in Mark 12:7-8:

"But those vinedressers said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours.'

So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard.'"

But God also knew that tough middle was worth the glorious end:

"But God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through might be saved'" John 3:16-17.

As we meditate on the incarnation and all it signifies, let's not forget to thank God for sending and then sacrificing His beloved Son for you and me!

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for sending Jesus, Your beloved Son, with the purpose of having Him die in my stead. Help me to never take this lightly. 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, October 20, 2015

Jesus asks you ...

Healing Blind Bartimaeus by Harold Copping
Healing Blind Bartimaeus - Harold Copping
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 10:46-52

TO CHEW ON: "So Jesus answered and said to him, 'What do you want Me to do for you?' The blind man said to Him, 'Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.'" - Mark 10:51

Why did Jesus ask blind Bartimaeus what he wanted? Couldn't He see that the man was blind? Couldn't He have assumed that a cure for blindness was what Bartimaeus wanted?

It's interesting that here and in other places, Jesus asked questions that required a personal response from those He was talking to.

Sometimes it was a question about faith. When two blind men followed Jesus crying out, "'Son of David, have mercy on us!'" Jesus asked, "'Do you believe that I am able to do this?'" They said "'Yes,'" and Jesus touched their eyes with "'According to your faith let it be to you'" - Mark 9:28-30. Professions of faith were also asked of Peter (Matthew 16:15), the woman with the hemorrhage (Luke 8:45), and Martha (John 11:26).

Sometimes Jesus asked those near to tell Him what was on their minds. One time the disciples  were too embarrassed to answer (Mark 9:33). Another time, the resurrected Jesus asked that question of two grief-absorbed disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:17).

When Jesus and the disciples were confronted with 5,000 hungry people, Jesus asked Philip for his suggestion on how to fill that need. John tells us later that it was a test question. Do you think Philip passed the test? (John 6:5-7).

Later in John 6 after Jesus said some controversial things about eating His body and drinking His blood, many followers left Him. He asked the twelve about their loyalty in John 6:67.

Then there is that poignant conversation between Jesus and the beaten Peter, when Jesus asked him three times, "'Do you love me?'" (John 21:15-17).

And in John 5:6 as well as in today's reading we have Jesus addressing sick men. He asks the man at the Bethesda pool, sick for 38 years, "'Do you want to be made well?'" And to blind Bartimaeus "What do you want me to do for you?'"

Suppose Jesus came to you and me today? What would He ask us? There is something powerful about thinking through and framing a reply. So, what will we answer to:
- Do you have faith in Me?
- What are you thinking about?
- Do you think I can fill your need?
- Will you stick with Me?
- Do you love Me?
- What do you want me to do for you?


PRAYER:
  Dear Jesus, thank You for understanding our human hearts and the value of us expressing what's in them. Help me to make a habit of being frank and honest with 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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Monday, October 19, 2015

The Christian's job description

Index finger on "Job" button
Image from Pixabay.com
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Timothy 4:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching." 2 Timothy 4:2


"Preach the word [as an official messenger]; be ready when the time is right and even when it is not [keep your sense of urgency, whether the opportunity seems favorable or unfavorable, whether convenient or inconvenient, whether welcome or unwelcome]; correct [those who err in doctrine or behavior], warn [those who sin], exhort and encourage [those who are growing toward spiritual maturity], with inexhaustible patience and [faithful] teaching" - 2 Timothy 4:2 AMP


The job description Paul gives Timothy here is one we can all adopt. It addresses  three W questions and one H.

WHY?
When we look at the context we see the reason why the job Paul is about to describe is important. It's because someday he (Timothy) and all of us will appear before our King and Judge Jesus (2 Timothy 4:1).


WHAT?

  • "Preach the word!"
The "word" here is logos the same word used in John 1:1, 14 etc. It's the message of Jesus and His incarnation as God's communication to us. It's the message of our sin penalty paid and our relationship with God renewed. It's the word that Jesus equates with truth in John 8:31,32.

"It's not their own notions and fancies that they are to preach, but the pure plain word of God" - Matthew Henry's Commentary.

It's the word that's becoming increasingly unpopular in our culture. Beth Moore, in her September 2015 simulcast, speaking of living as an audacious Christian acknowledged this:
"We need the audacity to live the tension that comes with loving in truth … I want to love like Jesus, but Jesus never loved but with truth. We are going to do the greatest disservice to our culture if we deny the truth. If we think we're better for the world without the word, we'll end up looking just like the world" - Beth Moore, from my notes.

  • "Preach the word"
Preach (kerysso) means to proclaim publicly.

  • "Convince..."
Convince (elencho) is to convict, confute, find fault with and correct by word or deed.

  • "...rebuke ..."
Rebuke (epitimao) means to tax with a fault, chide, rebuke, reprove, censure severely.
"He must tell people their faults" - Matthew Henry's Commentary.

  • "...exhort..."
Exhort (parakaleo) means to call to, call upon with entreaty, comfort, instruct, encourage. 
"He must direct, encourage, and quicken those who began well" - Matthew Henry's Commentary.

WHEN?
  • "Be ready in season and out of season." The way the Amplified puts it is better than any commentary: "… be ready when the time is right and even when it is not [keep your sense of urgency, whether the opportunity seems favorable or unfavorable, whether convenient or inconvenient, whether welcome or unwelcome]…"

HOW?

  • "…with all long-suffering and teaching"
That is with patience (makrothymia) - endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, slowness in avenging wrongs.

and

teaching (didache) - doctrine.
"He must do it rationally, not with passion but with doctrine" - Matthew Henry's Commentary.

I ask myself does the way I live my life fulfill this assignment? What about you?



PRAYER: Dear God, if anything, this job is more challenging than ever. Help me to know how to carry it out in the moments of this day. Amen.

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

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

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Genius design

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 38:22-41

TO CHEW ON:
"Have you entered the treasury of snow? ....
Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water
Or a path for the thunderbolt?...
Can you send out lightnings that they may go
And say to you 'Here we are'?" Job 38:22, 25, 35


A few years ago I received a fascinating book to review. Nature Never Stops Talking by Samuel J. Alibrando is a collection of short essays on the wonders of nature. Alibrando comments in the Introduction: "Personally, I see hard evidence of intelligence in every tree, every flower, every star, and every single natural thing in the universe" - S. J. Alibrando, Nature Never Stops Talking, p. 13.

Reading Job 38 this morning reminds me of Alibrando's book. Let me share two bits from his essays on snow and lightning.

Snow:
"My fascination with snowflakes was renewed when I recently read that they are not white. In fact, they are ice crystals formed from water vapour. The crystalline shape is a product of the below-freezing temperatures that converts the moisture. Once formed, each crystal attracts a microscopic dust or salt particle as its own core. As its descent continues toward earth, it continues attracting more particles enlarging its size and uniqueness ....

"Each one contains millions of tiny, clear, light-reactive prisms. Imagine millions of prisms. What a sight to consider. While these prisms break up the light that strikes them into all the colors of the rainbow our own eyes receive a sensory overload; it is too many colors, we are unable to perceive the dazzling display, so our eyes see "white" instead. With all the mystery of such splendour as snowflakes, I learned that we don't see the half of it. The Millions of prisms creating millions of colors in each snowflake are too beautiful to even perceive"
- Alibrando, pp. 17,18.


Lightning:
"Clouds build up positive and negative charges like on a battery. Why they separate is unknown....

"Typically within the cloud, the charge (negative) moves downward about 165 feet in microseconds. This aimed collective movement is called a 'stepped leader.' When the stepped leader reaches 330 feet ANOTHER stepped leader from the ground (positive) moves UP. This especially happens on protruding objects such as trees or buildings. The swift climb of the positive stepped leader meets the descending stepped leader and BAM! The brilliant light we call 'lightning.'

"Several subsequent strokes can follow the same channel in less than a second, until the negative charge centre in the cloud is eliminated....

"Lightning is huge. It is powerful. It is constant. We don't know much about what would happen to our world if lightning stopped but it is here with all of its properties with millions impressed by its dramatic power"
- Alibrando pp. 21,22.

We love it when people appreciate and enjoy the things we create (actually we don't create at all, but assemble and re-assemble). But do we ever pause to consider what God has made—truly created—out of nothing? Job 38 is an invitation to us to ponder the wonder and variety in God's creation. Let's spend some time today appreciating His creation all around us.


PRAYER:
Dear God, Your creative ability, imagination and ingenuity boggles my mind. Thank You for Earth, the miracle of a liveable climate, and my body with its millions of cells that work together as a unit. You are amazing! Amen.

MORE: A few more Job-like questions

In an article about Earth and the solar system, Alibrando describes earth's size in relation to the planets and the sun:
Uranus's diameter = 32,500 miles (compared to Earth's 8,000-mile diameter).
Neptune = 72 times larger than Earth.
Jupiter = so big, 1400 Earths would fit inside it.
The sun (only a medium-sized star) = 1.3 million times larger than earth with a surface temperature of 9300 F but an inner temperature of 29,000,000 F.

Alibrando then asks:

"So, what percent of all this space does man think he has mastered? Does he understand what he sees? Does he understand what keeps the planets spinning? Does he know why the planets orbit counter-clockwise instead of clockwise? Does he know why some moons go in opposite directions on other planets? Does he know why the sun itself revolves every 27 days? Can we make our own miniature solar system that is more accurate than any clock? Can we then make that man-made miniature solar system float in the air, orbit around a centre ball with mini-orbits of moons and satellites around the orbiting planets?

.... What percentage of all knowledge does man really have, 50%, 10%, 1% or some tiny fraction of one percent? We don't even know.

Yet we still have the gall to shake our fist at the very notion of any greater intelligence than ourselves.

Amazing!"
- Alibrando, pp. 24, 25.

Nature Never Stops Talking on Amazon.ca

*******
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.

Bible Drive-Thru






Saturday, October 17, 2015

Lessons from the sea

Ferries on the Pacific Ocean between mainland BC 
and Vancouver Island (Photo © 2012 by V. Nesdoly)

Ferries on the Pacific Ocean between mainland BC and Vancouver Island

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 38:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "Or who shut in the sea with doors,
When it burst forth and issued from the womb ....
When I fixed My limit for it,
And set bars and doors;
When I said,
"This far you may come, but no farther,
And here your proud waves must stop!" - Job 38:8,10-11


At last God 'shows up' out of the whirlwind. In a series of rhetorical questions He speaks to  Job about His creative power and wisdom. Some facts about nature that he draws to Job's attention:
- Job and his friends weren't present at creation.
- Only God can enforce the boundary between sea and land.
- He is the author of the predictable daily changes in the sky that come with morning and night.
- He even understands the mystery of death.

Though we humans have figured out the physics of why many of these things happen, we are still as ignorant of their beginning moments as Job and his friends were. We find ourselves believing either human-generated guesses and theories, or that God created it all, as we're told in Genesis.

The fact of God's control over nature is echoed in other Bible passages. Look, for example, at His control of the sea:

  • God changed the border of the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross - Exodus 14:21; Psalm 106:9.
  • He also controlled the waters of the Jordan River so they could cross into Canaan - Joshua 3:16.
  • The psalmist speaks often of God's sea-controlling power - Psalm 33:7; 77:16; 93:4; 104:9.
  • God declares His power over the sea through Isaiah - Isaiah 50:2.
  • And who can forget the story of Jesus, calming the storm at sea - Luke 8:24?

If God has such power over the literal sea, how can we not trust him with our seas, both literal and metaphorical?  
>Will changes in earth's temperature lead to higher sea levels and destroy life on earth as we know it? 
>Will God abandon us to life's storms of problems and difficulties?

Let's let the words of God through Jeremiah and Isaiah be our answer:

"Do you not fear Me?" says the Lord. "Will you not tremble at My presence, who have placed the sand as the bound of the sea, by a perpetual decree that it cannot pass beyond it? And though its waves toss to and fro, yet they cannot prevail. Though they roar, yet they cannot pass over it" - Jeremiah 5:22
and
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you" - Isaiah 43:2.

PRAYER: Dear God, I acknowledge Your power over nature as its creator. Help me to trust You in the storms of my life. Amen.  

MORE: Sea Facts

  • There are 328,000,000 cubic miles of seawater on earth, covering approximately 71 percent of earth's surface.
  • By volume, the ocean makes up 99 percent of the planet's living space- the largest space in our universe known to be inhabited by living organisms.
  • About 97 percent of all water on earth is in our oceans, 2 percent is frozen in our ice caps and glaciers, less than 0.3 percent is carried in the atmosphere in the form of clouds, rain, and snow. All of our inland seas, lakes and channels combined add up to only 0.02 percent of earth's water.
  • Earth's largest continuous mountain chain is the Mid-Ocean Ridge, stretching for 40,000 miles, rising above the surface of the water in a few places, such as Iceland. It is four times longer than the Andes, Rocky Mountains, and Himalayas combined.
  • Canada has the longest coastline of any country, at 56,453 miles or around 15 percent of the world's 372,384 miles of coastlines.
  • The highest tides in the world are at the Bay of Fundy, which separates New Brunswick from Nova Scotia. At some times of the year the difference between high and low tide is 53 feet 6 inches, the equivalent of a five-story building.

From Ocean Facts (See the Sea.org)

***********
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.

Bible Drive-Thru






Friday, October 16, 2015

Pay attention to what happens between your ears

Image of brain
Brain image from Pixabay.com
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hebrews 8:7-9:10

TO CHEW ON: "… I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts ..." Hebrews 8:10


Here in our reading in Hebrews, the writer explains about the new covenant that resulted from Jesus' death and resurrection. He recalls the prophecy Jeremiah made about a time when obedience to God would no longer be a matter of just outward observance but of deep inner change and compliance as well.

"I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their heart" - Hebrews 8:10 quoting Jeremiah 31:33.

How beautiful and desirable! And this is the new mind and heart covenant under which we live. This thought got me searching for other passages that speak of the spiritual mind (that is "spiritual" as in aligned with the principles of the Bible):

One of the first questions we might ask is, How do we get this mind?
  • Paul answers that in 1 Corinthians where he tells us how the Holy Spirit knows and reveals the mind of Christ, we have received that Spirit (at salvation), and can now claim "We have the mind of Christ" - 1 Corinthians 2:19,12,16. See also Philippians 2:5.

Possessing the "mind of Christ" has great benefits:
  • It is the basis for deep-rooted peace because we live life in the posture of trust - Isaiah 26:3; Philippians 4:6,7.
  • Its end is life (not death) - Romans 8:6.

However, having and maintaining the mind of Christ also involves effort on our part. We don't get saved and find ourselves in the next moment with a mind transplant.
  • Peter tells us to "gird up the loins of your mind." In our day we'd say, buckle your belt, or roll up your sleeves. In other words, get your mind dressed and ready for action - 1 Peter 1:13.
  • "Set your mind on things above, not on the earth," Paul tells the Colossians - Colossians 3:2.
  • "Let us be of the same mind," he encourages the Christians in Philippi in a plea for church unity - Philippians 3:16.
  • We need to resign our minds to the fact that suffering is inevitable—and good, in that it purifies, says Peter in 1 Peter 4:1.
  • Paul alerts us to the reality that there will be times our minds are downright busy as we "...cast down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ' - 2 Corinthians 10:5.

The battle for our thoughts and the minds that generate them hasn't changed in the 2000+ years since Bible writers penned these words. We still need to give what happens between our two ears our first attention because, as Bible teacher Joyce Meyer reminds us, the rest of our lives proceed from what we think:

"The mind is the leader or forerunner of all actions … Our actions are a direct result of our thoughts" - Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, p. 3.


PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me have the mind of Christ today. 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.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

No more daily sacrifices needed

Jesus Lamb of God - Artist unknown
Jesus Lamb of God - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hebrews 7:15-8:16

TO CHEW ON: "For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's , for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself." Hebrews 7:26,27.

Our reading yesterday left us in the middle of a discussion. The writer of Hebrews was addressing Jews who had lived all their lives observing the law of Moses with its rituals, sacrifices, and feasts in order to be accepted by God. He was showing them that now Jesus had superseded that system as a way to God.

In his argument he used the Old Testament character Melchizedek. He was the priest of Salem to whom Abraham gave tithes and who blessed Abraham. David, speaking of Messiah, spoke of Him being in the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4). The author of Hebrews equated Jesus with Melchizedek (yesterday's devo).

In today's reading, he continues his argument by comparing the Levitical priesthood with Jesus's:

  • The Levitical priests came under the authority of a "fleshly commandment" versus Jesus who came "according to the power of an endless life" - Hebrews 7:16,17.
  • The Levitical priests, even with all their obedience to the law, made no difference to man's basic inability to keep God's law, versus Jesus who made it possible for people to draw near to God - Hebrews 7:19.
  • The Levitical priests did not have the oath of God (the "better covenant") behind them as Jesus did - Hebrews 7:20-22.
  • The Levitical priests kept dying and having to be replaced versus Jesus who "continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood" - Hebrews 7:23-24.

 Finally, in the climax of his argument, the Hebrews author tells the readers of his day and us today what we have in and through Jesus:

"Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost—completely, perfectly, finally and for all time and eternity—those who come to God through Him, since He is always living to make petition to God and intercede with Him and intervene for them" - Hebrews 7:25 AMP.

Jesus was able to complete what the Levitical priesthood only symbolized.

This was so because unlike the Levitical priests Jesus was "holy, blameless, unstained by sin, separated from sinners and exalted higher than the heavens," a priest who didn't have to offer sacrifices for His own sin—because He had never committed any. " … He [met all the requirements] once for all when He brought Himself [as a sacrifice] which He offered up" - Hebrews 7:26,27 AMP.

We who have never been part of the Levitical system can appreciate only with our imaginations what a change this was for devout Jewish believers. But when we're tempted to minimize what Jesus' life, death, and resurrection meant in God's big scheme of things, we have only to look at the system He superseded to be eternally grateful.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for making Your "once and for all" offering for my sins and for now interceding and intervening with God the Father on my behalf. Amen.

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

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


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jesus revealed as King and Priest

The Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hebrews 6:13-7:14

TO CHEW ON: "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law." Hebrews 7:12


Have you ever read the Old Testament laws and sacrifices and imagined living under that system? It was a system that was detailed, complicated, and time-consuming for both the priests who carried out the sacrifices and rituals, and the people who brought the animals, grain, meal, oil and commemorated the feasts etc.

In our reading in Hebrews the writer is building a case to prove that that system has been changed by Christ. He uses the mysterious Old Testament character Melchizedek in his proof.

Melchizedek lived during Abraham's time. When Abraham met him he called him "priest of God most high." Melchizedek blessed Abraham and Abraham gave him a tithe of his possessions (Genesis 14:18-20).

Melchizedek appears again in Psalm 110 where David, addressing Messiah, said,  
"You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek" - Psalm 110:4.


Here in Hebrews 7, the writer draws our attention to many facts about Melchizedek. Those of us familiar with Jesus and what the Bible says about Him recognize Jesus in these details:
* He was a king as well as a priest - Hebrews 7:1.
* His name meant "king of righteousness" - Hebrews 7:2.
* He appeared without ancestors or descendants - Hebrews 7:3.
* He resembled the Son of God - Hebrews 7:3.
* He was superior to Abraham in that he blessed Abraham and Abraham gave tithes to him (Hebrews 7:7,9).
*He lives on—doesn't die like mortal men - Hebrews 7:8.
* Levi, the father of the tribe of priests, acknowledged Melchizedek as his superior through Abraham (in that Levi "was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him") - Hebrews 7:10.
* This new priest was from the tribe of Judah, not a member of the priestly tribe of Levi at all - Hebrews 7:14.

The writer of today's portion promises that this new new priestly order (Melchizedek / Christ) will impact the system of laws and sacrifices that God dictated to Moses (Hebrews 7:12, our focus verse). Tomorrow we'll see how.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for pictures of Jesus woven through the Old and New Testaments.

 *********
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, October 13, 2015

What kind of a plant are you?

A cluster of green and red grapes
Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hebrews 5:11-6:12

TO CHEW ON: "For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it is bears thorns and briers it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned." - Hebrews 6:7,8


The Bible has many references to the life of a plant as a metaphor for the spiritual life of a person or nation.
  • Isaiah pictures God caring for His nation Israel as a gardener cares for his vineyard. He expects a healthy batch of wine, but the vines disappoint with their wild grapes. So He withdraws his protective care - Isaiah 5:2,6,7.
  • John the Baptist picks up this warning about the judgment on unfruitfulness in his sermon on the banks of the Jordan, where he warns that unfruitful trees will be chopped off at the root - Matthew 5:10-12.
  • Jesus talks about the unfruitful life in his Parable of the Sower. He blames the thorns of worldliness—"the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches"—for a lack of spiritual fruit - Matthew 13:22.
  • In another parable, we see that fruitfulness is expected in trees that are part of God's orchard - Luke 13:6-9.
  • Jesus describes His relationship with the plants in His garden in His True Vine talk (John 15). He shows God the gardener removing the branches that don't grow fruit and pruning the ones that do so they'll produce an even bigger crop (John 15:2). The secret of fruit-bearing, He says, is to stay attached to the vine. That attachment results in answered prayers and God being glorified - John 15:5-8.
  • What a contrast this is to our passage from Hebrews which talks about the backslider—the once-fruitful person who has turned his or her back on the things of God. The writer says if this one who has "tasted the good word of God and the power of the age to come" falls away, it is almost impossible for them to return. He warns of a fate that is likely to be the same as a patch of thorns and briers "whose end is to be burned" - Hebrews 6:8.

We can apply these pictures to our lives as plants in God's garden.


* We realize that life's circumstances—both good and bad (His walls around us, His pruning of us)—are His way of ensuring and increasing our fruitfulness.

*We are aware of the part that our focus and priorities play on our fruitfulness (and guard against worldliness).

* We know that to stay fruitful we need to stay connected to Him.

* We are also aware of the fate of the once-fruitful person who has turned away from following Him and…  well, we don't want to go there!

PRAYER:
Dear God, please help me to be a healthy, fruit-producing plant in Your garden. Amen.

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


Monday, October 12, 2015

Thanks to God for what is and what is not yet

Grape vines loaded with purple grapes
"Then the earth shall yield her increase" - Psalm 67:6

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 67:1-7

TO CHEW ON: "Let the peoples praise You, O God;
Let all the peoples praise You." Psalm 67:3,5



This is Thanksgiving Monday in Canada. We are admonished by many voices to have a thankful attitude. But there is a curious lack in speaking of who to thank.

I suppose that's not surprising. In a society that has largely abandoned a belief in God, or at least in a God who is involved and interested in our personal lives, who or what is there to thank? Our lucky stars, a rabbit foot, the feng shui of our house?

The praise in this psalm is not a peon to capricious good luck, however, but to God—the God of creation, of covenant with forefathers, of story and history, of redemption, salvation, reclamation, and righteous endings. This is the God I too praise and thank.

As I read and re-read Psalm 67 I sense inner affirmation but also tension. Two of the things the psalmist names I can say a big "Yes" to:
- Thanks for salvation (Psalm 67:1,2).
- Thanks for the abundance that fills my life (Psalm 67:5-7).

But the middle item:
"O let the nations be glad and sing for joy!
For You shall judge the people righteously,
And govern the nations on earth."
raises objections. So many nations are not glad or singing for joy. Where is God, the righteous judge, in those places?  What if I lived in one of them? How would I testify to the truth of this?

I suppose we need to focus on the little word "shall" here ("For you shall judge the people righteously…"). It tells us this is something that hasn't happened yet but is still in the future. And so our thanksgiving becomes a matter of praising God not only for what we have, but for what we still look for Him, in faith, to be and do.

PRAYER: Dear God, we thank You that Your actions in the past have given us confidence to put our faith in You for the present and future. 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.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Thank-You List

 "The valleys also are covered with grain..." Psalm 65:13 
Round bales near Chetwynd B.C. - Photo by V. Nesdoly

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 65:1-13

TO CHEW ON:
"You crown the year with Your goodness,
And your paths drip with abundance." Psalm 65:11


On this Thanksgiving Sunday (in Canada), Psalm 65 reminds us of how wide-ranging and robust God's goodness to us is.

He has made a way for us to approach Him (Psalm 65:1-4):
  • He hears our prayers.
  • He provides atonement for our transgressions (sins—the times we miss the mark). [Atonemebt = kaphar, which means to cover over, atone for sin, make atonement]
  • He chooses and draws us to Himself (Psalm 65:4 compare to John 6:37).
  • Our worship spot—for David a temple, for most of us a church—has its own set of benefits and goodnesses.

He is responsive to us (Psalm 65:5-8):

  • He answers our prayers in righteous and awesome ways.
  • The storms of nature and human conflict which mystify and frighten us—He has power to still them.
  • Nature's beauty, as in each sunrise and sunset, is a joyful reminder of Him.

He provides for us (Psalm 65:9-13):
  • He sends rain. This summer even our normally rainy corner of B.C. was dry, dry, dry. In late August on the first day of rain in weeks and weeks, I'm sure I heard the ground and plants sigh with relief. This year I particularly thank God for rain.
  • There is abundance—green sprouting in the desert, hills bursting into bloom, sheep dotting the landscape, fields of ripening grain. We might add orchards dropping fruit, vines heavy with reddening tomatoes or sweetening grapes, grocery store shelves so bountifully stocked we have a hard time choosing.

Let's pause with David on this weekend set aside for gratitude, to sincerely thank God for His gifts to us in every department of life!

PRAYER:
Dear God, please forgive me for my often ungrateful and entitled attitude. Thank You for salvation. Thank You for my relationship with You. Thank You for more than enough for my physical well-being and enjoyment. Many, many thanks! 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, October 10, 2015

When Love says what we don't want to hear

Jesus and the rich young man - Artist unknown
Jesus and the rich young man - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 10:17-34

TO CHEW ON: "Then Jesus, looking at him loved him, and said to him, 'One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross and follow Me.' " Mark 10:21


I wonder what this young man was expecting from Jesus. A compliment, perhaps? Surely reassurance that he was in good shape to "inherit eternal life."

Yet here, just after we read that Jesus looked on him with love, He made a statement that probably didn't sound loving at all—that may have haunted this young man for the rest of his life.

Jesus, whose very life was God's "I love you" to the world, had a habit of doing that—telling the truth, no matter how unloving it sounded at the time.

  • He refused to fudge the history of the woman at the Sychar well, restating her, "'I have no husband,'" truthfully with: " ' … for you have had five husbands and the one whom you now have is not your husband' " John 4:18.
  • He called sin, sin.
* He exposed it as the root of other problems, like the physical paralysis of the man whose friends lowered him through the roof to Jesus - Mark 2:3-12.

* He socialized with those He called " 'sick' " and " 'sinners' " in order to call them to repent - Mark 2:15-1.
* He demonstrated that we are all sinners by defusing the situation between the adulterous woman and her would-be stone throwers - John 8:7,11.
  • He rebuked fear and worry in His disciples during the storm, calling it faithlessness - Mark 4:37-40.
  • He exposed what was satanic in even His closest follower. When Peter contradicted Him about His coming death, He said to Peter, " 'Get behind me Satan. For you are not mindful of the things of God, but of man' " Mark 8:33.
  • He pointed out the danger of the disciples' sloth: " 'Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.' " Mark 14:37-38.

I could go on but I'm sure we get the idea.

Jesus still confronts us with hard but loving truths about ourselves and our situations. What is He saying to us today? 
  • That our priorities are wrong and we're too attached to earthly things?
  • That the things we euphemize or call mistakes, faults, or weaknesses are really sin and need to be repented of?
  • That our fear and worry are really an inexcusable lack of faith?
  • That Satan has crept into our viewpoint?
  • That our laziness and sloth are weakening us for temptation?
  • Or …?


PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help me to hear Your hard but loving words of truth to me in my situation, and then to make the appropriate changes in my thoughts, attitudes and actions. 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.


Friday, October 09, 2015

Do you eat every day?

Sandwiches with pickles and fruit

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 23:1-17

TO CHEW ON:
"I have treasured the words of His mouth
More than my necessary food." - Job 23:12



Because of this blog's foody title and the way daily Bible reading, meditation, and prayer have always seemed like needed spiritual rations to me, it's no wonder that Job's mention of God's word as food caught my attention.

  • Job pictures God's word as treasured and essential food—more important than physical food.

Here are some other benefits of "eating" God's word:
  • It keeps us spiritually alive.
"… man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord" - Deuteronomy 8:3, also Matthew 4:4.

  • It satisfies our desire for what is truly sweet:
"How sweet are Your words to my taste
Also sweeter than honey to my mouth" - Psalm 119:103; Psalm 19:10.


  • It leaves us feeling joyful:
"Your words were found, and I ate them;
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart" - Jeremiah 15:16.

  • It delivers essentials for ministry (a spiritual vitamin pill, if you will):
"Moreover He said to me, 'Son of man, eat what you find, eat this scroll and go, speak to the house of Israel" - Ezekiel 3:1.

  • Drinking and eating it helps us grow:
"As newborn babes desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby" - 1 Peter 2:2; Acts 20:32; Hebrews 5:13.

  • Through ingesting it we remain doctrinally healthy:
"… nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed" - 1 Timothy 4:6.

  • Biting off and chewing its more complex and difficult portions matures us and sharpens our palette to discern good and evil:
"But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" - Hebrews 5:14.

I don't know what form those "words of His mouth" came to Job. An audible voice? A deep heart conviction? Words written on a clay tablet or scroll? However, for us there is no question about this. For us who have the Bible translated in our language and available in dozens of versions, God's word is as available and handy as the pantry or fridge in our house—a banquet book that never runs out. Let's eat it regularly!

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the Bible. Help me to read it, understand it, and obey 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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