Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Gentled by love

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Philemon 1-25

TO CHEW ON:
"It's as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains." Philemon 9,10.

There is something in Paul's voice that is sweet and appealing. Perhaps it's his reference to himself as old. Or maybe it's the helplessness he implies with the use of the words "prisoner" and "chains."

The tone with which he requests mercy for Onesimus could have been far bolder, he reminds Philemon: "... although in Christ I could ... order you to do what you ought to do..." Paul softens his request. It's tempered with love: "Yet I appeal to you on the basis of love" - Philemon 1:9.

I'm thinking that our relationships, within our human families and the church family would run more smoothly, and that there would be a greater will to comply with each others wishes if we communicated with the same gentleness. May God fill our hearts with the oil of love to lubricate our relationships and our speech.

PRAYER:
Dear Father, I need Your love to pervade and gentle my interactions with others. Amen.

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Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures quoted in this meditation are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Spiritual stumblung

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 7:18-35

TO CHEW ON:
"'Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of Me.'" Luke 7:23

When John asked his disciples to get reassurances from Jesus that He was indeed "the One who is to come," it seems like he was really asking, 'Have I given my life to the right cause or person?'

Jesus' answer back, that His questioners tell John of all the miracles He was doing—was, I imagine, both reassuring to John and not. I wonder if, when John was reminded of Jesus' power, he didn't ask, at least inwardly, Couldn't you then do a miracle for me—get me out of Herod's prison?

Perhaps that's what Jesus was referring to—His inscrutable ways—when He concluded, " 'Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of Me.'"

We too try to understand Jesus' continuing works on earth through the Holy Spirit. But there's still no predicting or controlling Him. We fast and pray for situations, the sick, the unsaved. Sometimes we see results, sometimes not. I believe Jesus' words are as relevant to us as they were to John: "'Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of Me.'"

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, help me to continue to trust You even when I don't understand what You are or are not doing. Amen.

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Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures quoted in this meditation are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Humility

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 14:1-14

TO CHEW ON: "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14:11

Humility — why do we find it so hard to live this most attractive of character traits? Perhaps because it is so counter-intuitive? How unnatural does it feel to keep quiet about a triumph, a win or achievement, a raise, a compliment? Yet even people who don't acknowledge any spiritual motivation for their actions realize the value of humility and feel disappointment at their own lack of it. Poet and teacher Mary Kinzie, speaking of the trend in the literary world to promote oneself writes:
“This was a world in which there was a constant encouragement to promote oneself, to mention every little mention of oneself. To be your own entrepreneur. Deadly to art. I tried not to play, but did just a little – enough so that I neither made a good showing among them nor kept my heart pure.” (Mary Kinzie, quoted in an article that is no longer on line)

Jesus, on the other hand, was a great fan of humility. He implied that humility would eventually be the lot of everyone by one means or another, and the person who sought to avoid humility by exalting himself would be forcibly humbled.

I can think of several reasons why living a life of humility is the better option:

1. It ensures that we do things with the right motives — not for self-glory but for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

2. It ensures that jobs or roles that have no glory attached to them get done or filled (1 Corinthians 12:20-25).

3. Living by the humble ideal helps us set our sites on long-range and lasting heavenly rewards versus immediate and fleeting praise (Matthew 6:1-4).

But I find that knowing these things doesn't make it any easier to be humble.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to cultivate true humility. Amen.

MORE: Traits of the self-life

I have taped in one of my Bibles a small but very convicting tract called "Traits of the Self-Life." It consists of a list of those things that characterize our carnal selves. As I read through the items, I am struck by how many involve pride (the opposite of humility). I will quote the first few paragraphs:

"The following are some of the features and manifestations of the self-life. The Spirit alone can interpret and apply this to your individual case. As you read, examine yourself as if in the immediate presence of God.

Are you ever conscious of:

A secret spirit of pride — an exalted feeling, in view of your success or position; because of your good training and appearance; because of your natural gifts and abilities. An important independent spirit. Stiffness and preciseness?

Love of human praise; a secret fondness to be noticed; love of supremacy, drawing attention to self in conversation; a swelling out of self when you have had a free time in speaking or praying?

The stirrings of anger or impatience, which worst of all, you call nervousness or holy indignation; a touchy, sensitive spirit; a disposition to resent and retaliate when disapproved of or contradicted; a desire to throw sharp, heated flings at another?

Self-will; a stubborn unteachable spirit; an arguing, talkative spirit; harsh, sarcastic expressions; an unyielding, headstrong disposition; a driving commanding spirit; a disposition to criticize and pick flaws when set aside and unnoticed; a peevish, fretful spirit; a disposition that loves to be coaxed and humored?...
[...]These are some of the traits which generally indicate a carnal heart. By prayer, hold your heart open to the searchlight of God, until you see the groundwork thereof. The Holy Ghost will enable you, by confession and faith, to bring your "self-life" to the death. Do not patch over but go to the bottom. It will pay." (Published by Western Tract Mission.


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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cisterns or fountains?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 2:1-13

TO CHEW ON: "For my people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters and hewn themselves cisterns — broken cisterns that can hold no water." Jeremiah 2:13

This passage speaks of where we find our satisfaction. Actually it's more than satisfaction because it speaks of finding water. That's something we not only like to drink but we must have for life. While a human body can survive up to five weeks without food, it can only survive days (three to four) without water.

Given a choice, wouldn't we rather drink water from a sparkling fountain that flows fresh and in an endless supply than from a cistern? Such man-made water storage systems contain water that is stagnant. Over time the water is used up and needs to be replenished.

Here Jeremiah contrasts the two water sources as a way to describe where the people are getting their spiritual needs met. His word picture prompts me to ask, where do I go to get my spiritual needs met? To cisterns of my own making?

Is my work a cistern? Is my family? Are my friendships?

Perhaps one way to find out is by taking all the stuff that fills us up—the ability to work and find pleasure in it, our enjoyment of relationships, the pleasures of the sensory world—and imagining them absent. Would we still have something?

And how do we keep the good, legitimate things in life from becoming cisterns?  Perhaps one way is to drink long and deep from the living water at the beginning of each day. Then with our bellies full we won't be craving the other kind.

PRAYER: Dear God, I think of all the things I enjoy -- potential cisterns. Help me to make them secondary to finding my most vital satisfaction in You. May my satisfaction from the living fountain make the enjoyment of everyday things keener. 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, August 26, 2016

A harvest of words

Image: pixabay
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hebrews 13:15-25

TO CHEW ON: "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name." Hebrews 13:15


Fruit is not the first step of the growing cycle. It's closer to the last. We need seeds, germination, nurturing, growth, ripening before we get fruit.

If what comes out of our mouths is "fruit," it is the result of what's gone on before. That happens mostly in our minds.

What seeds are we planting—or allowing to be planted? Are they thought seeds that will lead to the fruit of praise? What thoughts are we allowing to germinate, watering with our attention and concentration, ripening as self-talk until they spill out as the "fruit of lips"?

The writer of Hebrews reminds us that it's "Through Jesus..." that whatever our situation, it is or can be reworked into something praiseworthy. This "praise" is not a false optimism, though it may not always be what comes naturally but rather a "sacrifice."

Let's listen to the fruit of our lips. If we discover a harvest of fear, complaining, negativity, criticism, discontent etc., let's look into the earlier part, the thought part, of the "fruit of lips" process.

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, help me to keep the soil of my mind full of Your truth. Amen. 


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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.



Thursday, August 25, 2016

Practice contentment

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hebrews 13:1-14
TO CHEW ON: "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you." Hebrews 13:5-6

Covetousness, it seems to me, is one of the big engines that drives our capitalist system. For example, new versions of electronics come out several times a year. So why would we want to hang onto our old smartphone, computer, or tablet when there's a new one that does more things faster? New styles in clothes and house decorating have us refreshing our wardrobes every season, redecorating the house every few years.

The system needs us to spend money in this way to keep going and growing. Manufacturers, investors and advertisers are masters at exploiting our natural tendency to want what the next person has, or the newest and best. Their goal: make sure we're never content.

These verses in Hebrews tell us to act, indeed to be, the exact opposite. The various translations add shades of meaning to the simple words of the NKJV.

"Let your conduct..." is rendered "Let your character and moral disposition..." (AMP), "Don't love..." (NLT), "Keep your lives free..." NIV, "Don't be obsessed with..." (MSG).

"Covetousness" is called "...love of money [including greed, avarice, lust, craving for earthly possessions] and be satisfied with your present [circumstances and with what you have]" AMP (I'd say that covers about everything!). "Don't be obsessed with getting more material things" says the Message.

Instead we are to be content. This because God has promised to be with us always. Even if we lose everything, no one can take away our relationship with Him and our hope of a future with Him.

I ask myself, is that enough for me not to need that new car, updated dining room furniture, Caribbean cruise that my friends rave about?
PRAYER: Dear God, please press home to me the importance of contentment. Help me to make choices that foster it. Amen.

MORE: Angles on contentment

- Our relationship with God enhances it (Proverbs 15:16).
- It can be nourished in any circumstance (Philippians 4:11).
- It makes possible the novel state of being content with one's wages (Luke 3:14).
- With it we can learn to enjoy and appreciate the simplest things in life (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

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

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

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
 

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



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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Steward

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 4:1-15

TO CHEW ON:"Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful." 1 Corinthians 4:2

In Paul's day a steward was an important part of wealthy households. It was the steward's job to oversee particularly the feeding of the household. He was in full charge and accountable only to the owner.

A steward in our time has no less responsibilities. He is, by my dictionary:
1) One entrusted with the management of property, finances, or other affairs not his own — an administrator.

2) One in charge of buying provisions, managing servants etc.

3) One with a unique role in various settings:
  • on a ship, in charge of food and the guests' comforts.
  • on an airplane or bus, one who waits on the passengers.
  • in a union, a shop steward is the intermediary between the workers and the union leadership.

When Paul was calling himself a steward he was identifying himself as a person who dedicated himself to the spiritual nourishment needs of others. Whatever his role (and he had many: explainer of God's word, teacher, preacher, church planter, mentor) he lived it under the overarching principles of being a "servant of Christ" which included being "a steward of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1).

Though we may not have an official position of leadership, all of us have those in our lives to whom we can be spiritual stewards. Whether those who look to us are our children, or friends, or members of our Bible study class, or whole churches, let's take personally Paul's challenge to be faithful stewards of the things God has entrusted to us:
  • God's word - the Bible, in our country freely available in multi-translations with an accompanying embarrassment of riches in the Bible helps and commentaries department.
  • Time, talents and opportunities (from internet access to an opening in conversation with our local barista).

We could make the faithful steward in the story Jesus told, our model (Luke 12:42-43).

PRAYER: Dear God, what a privilege to be a steward of the eternal truths of the Bible. Help me to be faithful. Amen.

MORE: "Servants think like stewards, not owners

"Servants remember that God owns it all. In the Bible, a steward was a servant entrusted to manage an estate. Joseph was this kind of servant as a prisoner in Egypt. Potiphar entrusted Joseph with his home. Then the jailor entrusted Joseph with his jail. Eventually Pharaoh entrusted the entire nation to him. Servanthood and stewardship go together, since God expects us to be trustworthy in both. The Bible says, 'the one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful to their master.' How are you handling the resources God has entrusted to you?" - Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life, p. 266-267.

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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, August 23, 2016

How do you handle "evil tidings"?

"The Messengers tell Job of his Misfortunes"
by William Blake - 1805-6


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 112:1-10

TO CHEW ON: "He will not be afraid of evil tidings; His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." Psalm 112:7

 Ann Voskamp's heart seized up in fear the morning her son mangled his hand in a farm accident. Though she knew, in her head, that God was in control, the death of her baby sister when Ann herself was only four had coloured her heart-perception of God and His sometimes inscrutable ways.

 Jerry Bridges has written an entire book that grapples with this issue. In the introduction to Trusting God Even When It Hurts, he says:

"God's plan and His ways of working out His plan are frequently beyond our ability to fathom and understand. We must learn to trust when we don't understand. In order to trust God we must know Him in an intimate personal way. David said in Psalm 9:10, 'Those who know Your name will trust in You for You Lord have never forsaken those who seek you.' To know God's name is to know Him in an intimate personal way. It is more than just knowing facts about God. It is coming into a deep personal relationship with Him as a result of seeking Him in the midst of our personal pain and discovering Him to be trustworthy" - Jerry Bridges, Trusting God Even When It Hurts, Kindle location 142.

Seeking God in the midst of pain can take various forms. Ann Voskamp came to know and trust Him by practicing gratitude. For over a year she kept a list of God's good gifts to her and wrote about it in the book One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Life Fully Right Where You Are).

Another way might be to study what the Bible says about God's sovereignty and love. That's how Jerry Bridges came to write his book.

If we don't have the inclination to do that, we can always benefit from the insights of others. Bridges' book, or others, like J. I. Packer's Knowing God are excellent ways of familiarizing ourselves with God as He is portrayed in the Bible.

Still another way is to memorize, meditate on, and pray scripture passages that assure us of God's sovereignty and love.

Whatever way you and I choose, let's spend time getting to know God today, so that it can be said of us: "He/She will not be afraid of evil tidings."

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to know You so well, to trust You so completely that "evil tidings' will not rock my faith in You. Amen.

MORE: The urgency of sorting out your theology

Rebecca Stark writes:

"In what I believe was God’s providential preparation, in the years right before my husband’s cancer diagnosis, we came to a much fuller understanding of some things about God: that he is working his plan in every bit of the universe all the time; that he has righteous reasons for everything he does, even though we might not—and probably won’t—understand them; and that suffering and death, when they occur, are God’s chosen means to accomplish good things"

She goes on to make the case for sorting out one's view of God (one's theology) before trouble ever strikes by giving examples of how tragedy rocked the faith of some who didn't do that. She concludes:

"If you’ve already come to love a God who you understand to be purposefully working in all things—even the terribly tragic ones—for his good purposes, then you keep on loving and trusting him when real tragedy strikes you. And more than that: You cling to him as the only sort of God who could be a rock for you in difficult times. That you weren’t spared suffering doesn’t throw you for a loop, because you expected that somewhere, sometime, you would have your share of it as God conforms you to the likeness of his son.


You still suffer, of course, but you suffer knowing that there is meaning in your suffering, something that cannot be there if God is simply creation’s uninterested or unknowing overseer. You still suffer, but you suffer with God as a firm comfort and a source of steadfast hope, for you know that your tragedy, in his hands, is working good things."

Read the whole article (and follow the links).

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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, August 21, 2016

Helpless

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 13:10-21

TO CHEW ON: "And behold there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen year and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up," Luke 13:11


There is something imagination-capturing about this woman, so bound by a "spirit of infirmity" that she was physically bent over. In a way, her physical state pictures the helplessness of each one of us.

Though we like to think we are in control of it, the course of our lives is largely out of our hands (Jeremiah 10:23). We even need God to draw us to Himself (John 6:44) like He did this unfortunate woman.

Watch the scene. Jesus noticed this helpless, stooped woman, called her and she shuffled over. Then He touched her and said, "Woman you are loosed from your infirmity." At His touch, "immediately she was made straight." Incredible! She could stretch to her full height again after 18 long years!

Do we realize how helpless we are at any and all stages of our lives? Jesus died so that we can be free from the body casts, the handcuffs of spiritual bondage in which we are bound from birth (Romans 5:6). But even after we come to Him, we are helpless to live in ways that are blameless (Romans 7:18). We need to stay attached to Him to live lives that will accomplish anything eternally significant (John 15:5). 

The sad part is, most of the time I live entirely unaware of how helpless I am without Him, how unable to raise myself up. How about you?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to live with the consciousness of how much I need You at every moment and stage of my life.
MORE: Kingdom pictures

At the end of today's reading, Jesus gives His listeners more word-pictures about the Kingdom of God. There's a wonderful song written by Allan Levi that illustrates the way Jesus lived this kingdom while on earth. "The Land Where the People Walk Backward."


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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Necessary discipline

man pruning a plant
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hebrews 12:5-29

TO CHEW ON: "Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11

Do you have regrets about the way you have or are raising your children? In a novel I'm reading, the main character reviews how she and her husband brought up their son, now gone from home. She remembers her husband's impatience when he tried to teach his son the trumpet, her swooping in to help him out when he was in trouble, their visible coldness toward him when he flubbed a music recital. Her descriptions brought back scenes from the days when our children were young—along with some regrets of my own.

Discipline—doling it out, getting it—is never easy, or at least it isn't for me. We can tend to discipline our youngsters when we're in the throes of emotion and be over-harsh and irrational. Or perhaps we hate confrontation and avoid disciplining, only to later reap the fruit of an out-of-control child.

In our Hebrews reading the writer talks about the ways God disciplines us. Several words illustrate the range His discipline takes.
  • He chastens (paideia) us  as in the rearing and training of a child (vs. 5, 7, 8, 11).
  • He rebukes (elencho ) as in giving us verbal reproof (vs. 5).
  • He corrects (paideutes) us as a teacher disciplines (vs. 9).
  • He trains, instructs and punishes us (paideuo) (vs. 7).
  • And He scourges (mastigos) us—disciplining us physically (vs. 6).

Just like children left on their own can yield a harvest of bad fruit, so will we if left untrained and undisciplined.  So let's learn to recognize and welcome God's discipline of us, and model it as we train our children, both natural and spiritual.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to recognize and welcome Your discipline. May I be a teachable child. 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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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Fasting that pleases God

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 58:1-14

TO CHEW ON: "If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul,
Then…" - Isaiah 58:10.


What activities give you a sense of relief that you've done your "duty" to God? Regular church attendance? Going to the weekly prayer meeting? Reading your Bible every morning?

In our reading today Isaiah points out two religious activities the Israelites practice: fasting and Sabbath-keeping. But God is unimpressed. For while the people are doing these things, they are simultaneously violating what matters most to God.

In the area of fasting, it's not abstaining from food that pleases God when the people are living for themselves in other areas. Isaiah highlights their mistreatment of the poor living among them. They've oppressed some and ignored others. What "fast" would please God?
"Is not this the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness …
To share your bread with the hungry
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out…
When you see the naked, that you cover him… If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul…" - Isaiah 58:6,7,10 (emphases added).

This passage shows me up. We have the homeless living right among us setting up tents in the city parks and sleeping in doorways. We give to charities that support them by offering meals and beds for the night. But am I willing to bring to my house the poor who are cast out and extend my soul to the hungry? This sounds like a personal physical and emotional involvement.

The rewards of honouring God in both these areas are attractive (Isaiah 58:8-12, 14). In fact, I've taken Isaiah 58:11 as a verse to memorize and claim for my life. You may have done the same.
"The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail" - Isaiah 58:11.

But it has a context. I ask, do I, do we have any right to claim the blessings of the verdant fruitfulness of Isaiah 58:11 over our lives if we've ignored the conditions of Isaiah 58:6,7,10?

PRAYER:
Dear Father, please help me to see practical ways I can express Your heart of love toward everyone, especially the homeless that live on my streets. 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, August 16, 2016

Insecurity of compromise

slippery floor warning sign
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 23:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "'Therefore their ways shall be to them
Like slippery ways;
In the darkness they shall be driven on
And fall in them;
For I will bring disaster on them,
The year of their punishment' says the Lord."  Jeremiah 23:12


The prophet Jeremiah spends a fair bit of time condemning false prophets. He describes them as shepherds who "destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture." He calls them "adulterers," and "profane." He calls their lifestyle "slippery ways,"  walking in lies, and their legacy as an affirmation of evil ("They also strengthen the hands of evildoers" - Jeremiah 23:14).

They remind me of the permutations of doctrine that are widespread these days. The temptation of our leaders to reshape the teachings of the Bible to fit with society's changing standards are immense. Whereas Christians used to find themselves pretty well in sync with surrounding society (at least in Canada), that's not the case any more.

For example, within the last few years the doctrine of hell has come under attack, marriage defined as a union between a man and a woman is passé, and even within the church what is deemed acceptable sexual behaviour has, in many cases, been bent to society's patterns.

Here and in other places in the Bible, the result of such compromise is spoken of in terms of insecurity. Note some of the images Bible writers use when they speak of teaching that doesn't conform to God's standard of righteousness and what will happen to the people who follow such aberrations.

  • The ungodly are as unsubstantial as wind-driven chaff - Psalm 1:4; Isaiah 40:24.
  • The path they take is called "slippery" - Jeremiah 23:12; Psalm 73:18.
  • Such a person "lies down" (to relax, to sleep) in odd, dangerous places: the middle of the sea or on top of a mast (Proverbs 23:34).
  • Their sin is compared to a "bulge in a high wall" and their confidence is placed in a wall built with "untempered mortar" - Isaiah 30:13; Ezekiel 13:10,11.
  • Their path is shrouded in darkness - Jeremiah 13:16.
  • Their house is built on sand - Matthew 7:27.
  • Their end is as sudden and as inevitable as labor pains to a pregnant woman - 1 Thessalonians 5:3.

Let's recall these Bible pictures when we're tempted to "go with the flow" and tinker with the Bible's unpopular teachings to make them fit in with society around us.


PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to line up my life with Your word. May I resist compromise and uphold Bible standards even in the face of my society's pressures to change and compromise in how I live and what I say. 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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Monday, August 15, 2016

Prophetic echoes

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 1:46-56

TO CHEW ON: "And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.' " Luke 1:46,47.


Today is the celebration of the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin—commemorating Mary, the mother of Jesus. It tells some of the story of the visit she made to her elderly cousin Elizabeth, who was herself miraculously with child.

At the sound of Mary's voice on arrival, Elizabeth reported that her baby "leaped in the womb"—a sign to her that someone very special had just arrived. Elizabeth's greeting was a prophecy which began with a quote from another prophetic song. "Blessed are you among women" (Judges 5:24), is what prophet and judge Deborah sang about Jael—the woman who craftily killed Israel's enemy Sisera (Judges 4:17-23).

Mary answered with her own prophetic "song" (Luke 1:46-55) which roughly echoes Hannah's song (1 Samuel 2:1-10).

Three months later when John the Baptist was born, his father Zacharias broke his silence with his own prophetic outburst (Luke 1:67-79). It too is full of Old Testament references.
  • “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel," from Luke 1:68 recalls "Blessed be the LORD God of Israel" from 1 Kings 1:48  
  • and "He has visited His people" (same verse) the words  “I have surely visited you" from Exodus 3:16. 
  • The words  "And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David" (Luke 1:69) reflects the thinking of Psalm 132:17. And there are more.

Still later after the birth of Jesus, old Simeon came to Joseph, Mary and the baby in the temple during Jesus' presentation and blessed the child with another prophetic message (Luke 2:29-32). His blessing also contains allusions to Old Testament scripture (for example his words: "For my eyes have seen Your salvation" (Luke 2:30) remind us of  "And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God" from Isaiah 52:10.

An endnote in my Bible says, "Note… how the new era is signaled by the renewal of the gift of prophecy, which has been dormant. The various prophecies and songs of these two chapters reflect the best of Old Testament piety and prophecy" - J. Lyle Story,  New Spirit Filled Life Bible p. 1386

What impresses me about these prophecies is how loaded they are with scripture. The speakers, from teenaged Mary to elderly Simeon, had obviously saturated themselves with the psalms and prophets. Which brings me to ask myself -- how familiar am I with scripture? Do I know it well enough for the Holy Spirit to bring it to mind during prayer or in a time when I need to encourage myself or others (in prophecy)?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to intentionally fill my mind with the stuff of Your word. Amen.

MORE: Scripture Memorization
  • What scriptures do you know "cold"? For me this would include verses like John 3:16; Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23, Isaiah 53:6, Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 23; the Lord's Prayer.
  • What scriptures would you like to know?
  • Do a scripture memory project:
1. List the scripture verses or passages you'd like to know.
2. Choose one and write the words of that verse or passage on a file card.
3. Spend 10 minutes a day (use a kitchen timer) memorizing them.
4. Over time, commit all your favourite passages to memory this way.

What methods of memorizing Bible passages have you found useful?

Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin:

The liturgy for today's comemoration of Mary, Jesus' mother begins with this collect:

O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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



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Sunday, August 14, 2016

What kind of a steward are you?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 12:41-59

TO CHEW ON: "And the Lord said, 'Who then is that faithful and wise steward whom his master will make ruler over his household to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.'" Luke 12:42-44

Stewardship, accountability and reward are three things that Jesus talks about more than once.  His story in Luke 12:42-48 includes all three. In this parable a steward is responsible for giving the people under him regular portions of food. It has a choose-your-own-ending.

Ending 1: The master finds his steward doing his job faithfully so the master rewards him with greater responsibility.

Ending 2: The steward (thinking that his master sure is taking a long time to return; maybe he never will) abuses and neglects his underlings. On his return, the master punishes him—and even more severely then he would punish someone who had done the same things but didn't have the same knowledge, position and responsibility.

Does this story apply to us? I think it does. For if we know and believe the Gospel, each of us is a spiritual steward to someone.

Who are the people of your "household"?
The members of the class that you teach. Your exercise buddies. Your kids, or grandkids.

What has the Master given you to steward?
The Gospel. The things you have learned from the Bible. The experiences that have made you the person you are today. What you're passionate about.

In what ways could you steward these things?
Give your testimony. Write a book. Start a Bible study group in your neighbourhood. Help out in Sunday School or VBS. (My conviction that I wasn't being a good steward is one of the reasons I write these daily devotions and post them on a blog. Maybe that's what you could do too.)

Let God search you about your stewardship. Then be faithful and choose ending number one for your life's story. For as surely as you will stand before your Master one day, you will be held accountable for the kind of steward you were.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be faithful and responsible in stewarding the Gospel by using the abilities and opportunities You have provided for me. Amen.

MORE: "Make My Life a Prayer to You" - Keith Green

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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, August 13, 2016

Unfruitful, or fruitful?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 5:1-7


TO CHEW ON: "He dug it up and cleared out its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst,
And also made a winepress in it;
So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,
But it brought forth wild grapes." - Isaiah 5:2

The disappointment in Isaiah's voice as he tells this parable is impossible to miss. The plea in the voice of the vineyard's owner (God) as He addresses the people directly sounds like someone at wit's end:
"What more could have been done to my vineyard
That I have not done in it?"
Of course we know Isaiah is not talking about a literal vineyard but about the nation of Israel (Isaiah 5:7) and her moral failures. The "good grapes" God is hoping for are a people of holiness. Instead, he gets "wild grapes"—a people characterized by injustice and unrighteousness.

Unfruitfulness is a sobering Bible theme.
  • Jesus identifies two of its causes as worldliness (Matthew 13:22) and a failure to invest life's resources (Luke 19:20).
  • It results in the Master's disappointment (Luke 13:6), judgment (Matthew 3:10), and rejection (Hebrews 6:8).
I ask, what kind of vineyard song would God sing over us? Over me? Let's take John 15:1-8 as our vineyard prayer and challenge to fruitfulness:
"Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me .... If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, so you will be My disciples (John 15:4, 7-8).

PRAYER: Dear God, like literal vines, I have only a season—a short lifespan—to bear fruit. I don't want to be a disappointment to You. Help me to abide in You and bear much fruit. Amen.

MORE: What fruit?
"What is fruit-bearing? What is the fruit you are called to bear—indeed must bear? I think fruit in this chapter (John 15:1-16) is a broad term and embraces two things: love for people and the conversion of sinners. If you bear fruit, you love people and win people to Christ" - John Piper (from "I Choose You to Bear Fruit"  © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org).
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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, August 12, 2016

What sort of a judge are you?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 82:1-8

TO CHEW ON: "How long will you judge unjustly
And show partiality to the wicked?' - Psalm 82:2


Frustration with the justice system is nothing new. Here psalm writer Asaph pours out to God his feelings about corrupt judges.

Now I know that not many of us are actual judges but nevertheless we do make judgments of people and situations and then base our actions on those judgments.

Two words that come up often in Bible references about judging are 'partial' and 'partiality.'

Partial (adj.) means 1] only a part; 2] favouring one side; prejudiced, biased; 3] having a special liking.
Partiality (n.) is the state of being partial, unfair, having a particular fondness for.


In references to us judging each other, more than one Bible writer puts his finger on the types of situations that tempt us to partiality. We are tempted to be partial:
  • when we have dealings with the less powerful (such as the weak, alien, employee/slave, poor, orphan, and widow). In these situations the Bible tells us we are not to take advantage of our power - Deuteronomy 24:17/ Ezekiel 47:22; Proverbs 31:4,5; Colossians 4:1; Ephesians 6:9.
  • when offered a bribe to judge in someone's favour. Don't take that bribe, Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 16:19.
  • when our government demands our respect, honour and especially our taxes. Pay up Paul tells us in  Romans 13:7.
  • when faced with differences of race, position and appearance:
- In regard to race, we are all the same in God's eyes. God accepts Jews and Gentiles, Peter discovered (Acts 10:34, 35). We are all the same in God's eye - Romans 10:2.
- When it comes to rulers and people in authority, even though we are to respect and obey them, we need to remember that they too are just people in God's eyes - Job 34:18,19.
- The wicked, though powerful are not to get our special favour - Psalm 82:2; Galatians 2:6.
- When we're with other Christians  we're to guard against judging by appearance and giving special treatment to those who look like they have wealth or status - James 2:1-9
Whatever our judgmental weaknesses, our model and goal is clear: "…there is no partiality with God (Romans 2:11) and there should be none with us.

PRAYER: Dear God, please reveal to me my partiality tendencies. Help me to be unbiased and fair in my dealings with everyone. 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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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Divine rehabilitation

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 80:1-19

TO CHEW ON:"...Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.
Restore us, O Lord God of hosts,
Cause Your face to shine
And we shall be saved." Psalm 80:18b,19


The psalm writer Asaph here expresses the misery of Israel away from God.
  • They feel that God has abandoned them (Psalm 80:2).
  • He seems angry and indifferent (Psalm 80:4).
  • There is lots of crying (Psalm 80:5).
  • They are the butt of their neighbours' and enemies' jokes (Psalm 80:6).
Then Asaph uses vine imagery. He describes how the hedges protecting the vine (Israel) are broken down so that passersby can help themselves to her. Wild animals trample, root out and devour her. She is eventually cut down and burned (Psalm 80: 12-13,16).

Does your heart resonate with Asaph's description of Israel's misery?
  • Does God seem absent ("Come and save us...")?
  • Angry ("How long will You be angry / against the prayer of Your people?")?
  • Are you grief-filled ("You have fed them with the bread of tears, / And given them tears to drink in great measure")?
  • Do you feel vulnerable ("You have broken down her hedges...")?
Such low times come to us for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we're in a Job-like spot—suffering for reasons only God knows. At others we're to blame. Like the prodigal son, we're experiencing the consequences of our own folly.

Whatever the reason we're in this spot, we can continue to pray along with Asaph to the climax of his prayer. We can present ourselves to God in repentance and submission as we petition Him to do His part in our rehabilitation, in whatever way we need it: physically, mentally, emotionally, and especially spiritually: "Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand .... Revive us .... Restore us..."


PRAYER: Dear God, when I am in distress because of something I have done, help me to find my way back to you. When I am in distress for reasons I don't understand, help me to trust Your wisdom. I can come back to You but I can't revive myself. I need You to revive and restore me. Amen

MORE: Heart plague

This psalm is cross-referenced in my Bible's footnotes to King Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8). There he petitions that his subjects will find God's help as they pray from that place—the temple— at various times:

- "When anyone sins against his neighbour..." (1 Kings 8:31).

- "When Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy..." (1 Kings 8:33).

- "When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain..." (1 Kings 8:35).

- "When there is famine in the land, pestilence or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers..." (1 Kings 8:37).

And then he slips in this little prayer so applicable to us today:
"When each one knows the plague of his own heart and spreads out his hands toward this temple, then hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, and forgive and act, and give to everyone according to all his ways whose heart you know (for You alone know the hearts of all the sons of men)" - 1 Kings 8:38-39.

Let's pray that God will lay the groundwork of revival and restoration in us by helping us recognize the plagues within our own hearts.

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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, August 09, 2016

Chameleon faith

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hebrews 11:32-12:4

TO CHEW ON: "... through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." Hebrews 11:33-34

There is a group of lizards—chameleons— who change color with the changing temperature of their surroundings and their emotions. Paul's description of faith here reminds me of chameleons in the way its outworking changes with the situation. It's another way of looking at the various outworkings of faith we talked about yesterday...

For Jacob faith meant blessing Joseph's sons (and in an unconventional way, trusting that He was hearing from God in this).

For Joseph it meant instructing his descendants to carry his bones back to Canaan. It was faith that God would bring the family back to the promised land.

For Jochebed it meant keeping her boy baby Moses alive, hiding him and, when he could no longer stay hidden, abandoning him to God by setting him adrift in a little pitch-covered boat.

For that same Moses, faith meant aligning himself with his fellow Israelites, though he had been brought up on Pharaoh's palace. It also meant obeying God's instructions to carry out the first Passover, and leading the Israelites through the Red Sea even as the Egyptians were in hot pursuit.

And so we could go on, tracing the changing color of faith on display through the entire chapter of Hebrews 11.

I have often asked myself when I hear missionary stories or stories of people persecuted in places where belief in Christ is forbidden, Would I be as strong as they are? If I were in their situation, would I have their faith? The truth of the matter, though, is that's not the faith that God is requiring of me at the moment. A better question to ask would be, Do I exhibit faith in the situation in which God has me right now?

I reflect on the color that faith takes in my life. It's faith to finish a writing project, trusting that God has a purpose for it. It's faith to keep praying for the family members and friends in my little circle of acquaintance and responsibility who have yet to come to Jesus or who are ill or needy in some way. It's faith that God is leading me in and out of commitments. No, it's not the big stuff of Hebrews 11, though it often feels big to me!

What color is faith in your life?


PRAYER: Dear God, thank you for this inspiring people-of-faith list and the examples of how faith was lived out in their lives. Help me to live with faith today. Amen.

MORE: Chameleons

For interesting information about chameleons and why they change color check out this article on the Reptile Knowledge website.

"Fooled by Nature: Chameleon Colors" is a video on howstuffworks.com that shows chameleons changing colors in different situations.

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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, August 08, 2016

By faith

Israel marches around Jericho - Artist unknown
Israel marches around Jericho - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hebrews 11:17-31

TO CHEW ON:
"By faith…"- Hebrews 11:17,20,21,22,23,24,27,28,29,39,31


I love how various aspects of faith are illustrated in today's segment of Hebrews 11—the Bible's famous Faith Chapter. Through these examples we discover that faith has many facets. Let's identify some of them.

Abraham's faith involved obedience and overcoming rationalism as he compared God's mysterious instructions to sacrifice Isaac with His prior promise to provide a nation through this son - Hebrews 11:17-20.

Isaac and Jacob's faith in blessing their sons, and Joseph's faith in the request that he be burred in the promised land consisted of hope for the future and prophetic foresight - Hebrews 11:20-22.

Moses' parents hiding their baby boy showed the risk that faith sometimes involves, as well as hope for the future of their "no ordinary child" - Hebrews 11:23.

Moses' faith, demonstrated when he broke with his Egyptian upbringing, was anchored in spiritual belief about who the real God was - Hebrews 11:24-27. His instituting of the Passover demonstrated that too, along with the faith of obedience - Hebrews 11:28.

The Israelites passing through the Red Sea showed trust in God's power to accomplish the supernatural - Hebrews 11:29.

The Israelites march around Jericho showed the obedience and overcoming rationalism facets of faith - Hebrews 11:30.

Rahab's faith was an example of spiritual belief and obedience - Hebrews 11:31.

We could go on to parse the faith examples that continue, but you get the idea. For me, this realization of the many aspects of faith is helpful in that it's true for us too. The faith that's required when we pray for the future of our children and grandchildren, for example, is somewhat different from the faith we need when we pray for healing, or change our daily routine to do God's assignments. God sees, recognizes and blesses all the various shades of faith we need to exercise in our life with Him. 

For what do you and I need faith today? Are we exercising that particular faith muscle?

PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to live by faith in big and little things today. Amen.

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


Sunday, August 07, 2016

Do not worry about your life

The bashed-in bumper
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 12:22-40

TO CHEW ON:
" 'Be dressed, ready for service, and keep your lamps burning.' " Luke 12:35.

I'm writing this while we're on vacation. For the most part we're having a wonderful time. But there have been a couple of glitches. For one, I lost the key to the motel room on our first night. It was on my key ring but when I went to take it off at checkout time, it was gone, disappeared, nowhere to be found.

Then three days later someone hit and bashed in the back bumper of our car in a parking lot. Fortunately the woman owned up. But our (new) car now has this ugly blemish, and we have the hassle of dealing with a couple of insurance companies, a body shop etc. to look forward to.

In the scheme of things, these are very little things I know, but still have the power to overshadow our vacation and put me in a space of low-grade angst. What will happen next?

Anxious is how I was feeling when I opened my tablet to this morning's reading and read the words that began today's passage: "'Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body what you will wear…'" (Lord, I see You've been reading my mind!)

In our discussions about how we handled our interaction with the woman who caused the accident, both hubby and I were disappointed in ourselves.  "I could have been so much nicer," hubby said.

Jesus addresses this aspect of life too, further down in the reading: " 'Be dressed, ready for service and keep your lamps burning.' " I believe the two ideas are connected. Our carefree attitude can liberate us to be ready for kingdom service in situations where, in the natural we would be stressed out and controlled by anxiety.

May it be so in my life—even during the rest of this vacation!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help me to trust You so completely that I'm available for service and can be a light shining onto every situation. 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, August 06, 2016

Seeing beyond sight

"The Transfiguration" Artist unknown

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Peter 1:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'" 2 Peter 1:16,17.


Do you think first-person accounts of people seeing visions of heaven and Jesus are believable? Or hoax? Or maybe you view them as sacrilege? In the last few years many such modern stories have surfaced. Several—Heaven is for Real and Miracles from Heaven—have even been made into movies.

I wonder if Peter's account of Jesus' transfiguration, which he refers to here (and is told in full in Luke 9:28-36) met with the same mixed response. There was no doubt in Peter's mind, though, as to the reality of what he had seen and heard. He used this vision as grounds for his authority (2 Peter 1:18-21). Indeed, most if not all of the prophetic writings in the Bible derive from God's communicating with people in ways we would call extrasensory or supernatural.

Most of us humans, though, live in a state of limited reception, especially to the spiritual realm. So when someone claims to have a vision, even Christians, especially us 21st century ones, influenced by the prove-it-in-the-lab-or-I-won't-believe-it mentality of humanistic naturalism, are skeptical.

I know there is room for caution when we hear stories of people experiencing the supernatural. Still, I hope that I am not so cautious as to disqualify myself from hearing from God in any way He should want to speak to me.

In this regard, let me leave you with some quotes from a book by author Mike Mason. The e-book Adventures in Heaven is the story Mason tells of his friend who claimed to have many supernatural and heavenly experiences. Mike himself saw Jesus only once. Here is some of his account:

"No sooner had he said these words than I found myself looking at Jesus! He was right there in front of me, larger than life. … The first thing that struck me was His joy. He was positively beaming like ten thousand suns. … And that face—how full of character! … And what is revealed in the face of Jesus is all love, all beauty, all wisdom, all goodness…." Kindle Location 3399.

This is how that vision affected him:

"Seeing Jesus, it turned out, far from leaving me with my head stuck in the clouds, was absolutely the best thing that could have happened. I didn't tell anyone else my experience. I didn't have to. I'd been filled with the joy and the love of God, and so all my contacts with people over the next few days took on a wholly different quality" - Kindle Location 3433.

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, I'm glad that You are not bound by the limitations I feel within my human tent. Help me to perceive You in whatever way You choose to reveal Yourself to me. Amen.
 


MORE: The Feast of the Transfiguration

Today the church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration. The liturgy for this day begins with this prayer:

The Collect

O God, who on the holy mount revealed to chosen witnesses your well-beloved Son, wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening: Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may by faith behold the King in his beauty; who with you, O Father, and you, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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


Friday, August 05, 2016

It's not if you live by faith, but faith in what

Image: pixabay.com
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Hebrews 11:1-16

TO CHEW ON:
"Now faith is the assurance (the confirmation, the title-deed) of the things [we] hope for, being the proof of things [we] do not see and the conviction of their reality—faith perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses." Hebrews 11:1 AMP

The last bit of Hebrews 11:1 from the Amplified Bible is as good a definition of faith as any: "Perceiving as real fact what is not revealed to the senses."

It's interesting to go through our faith chapter reading today and pick out the verbs / actions associated with faith shown by these heroes of the Christian faith. As we do that, let's apply these actions to our own lives of faith.

* "For by it (faith) the elders obtained a good testimony" - Hebrews 11:2.
or, as the Amplified puts it: "For by [faith]… the men of old had divine testimony borne to them" - Hebrews 11:2 AMP.
Interesting, especially the "had divine testimony borne to them." I apply this as us acknowledging that God is involved with life and our world. When looking at life through that lens, God Himself gives us understanding of its purpose. It also applies to us having faith in the "testimony" (the scriptures) that was "borne" (revealed) to those "elders."

* "By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God" - Hebrews 11:3.
We take the narrative of beginnings that accepts God as the creator by faith.

* "By faith Abel offered… a sacrifice" - Hebrews 11:4.
We worship God and perform any acts of a religious or spiritual nature by faith.

* "By faith Enoch was taken away" - Hebrews 11:5.
We accept God's sovereignty in setting the boundaries of our lives—their beginnings and endings, by faith. (This is so relevant to current life in Canada, where doctor assisted suicide has just been made legal.)

* "By faith Noah … prepared an ark" - Hebrews 11:7.
We build stuff by faith.

* "By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out…" Hebrews 11:8.
We obey by faith, to the extent of moving when we're not even sure where we'll end up (at least that was Abraham's experience).

* "By faith he (Abraham) dwelt …" Hebrews 11:9.
We stay where we are by faith.

* "By faith he (Abraham) … waited" Hebrews 11:10.
We wait by faith.

"By faith Sarah … received strength to conceive" Hebrews 11:11.
We have families, passing on the gift of life, by faith. For women that can mean a nine-month program of working on faith fitness!

By our definition of faith ("perceiving as real fact what is not perceived by the senses"), so much of every life is faith. No matter what our belief system, we'll be putting our faith in something: ourselves, our government, the social safety net, science, medicine, God. So it's not if we live by faith, but faith in what?
I have chosen to put my faith in God. What about you?

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to live all of life with the awareness of Your presence in it. Amen.

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

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)

Thursday, August 04, 2016

A deal in our favor

raw wiik
Image: pixabay.com
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 1:18-31

TO CHEW ON:
"'Come now, let us reason together,'
Says the Lord,
'Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.'" Isaiah 1:18


In the middle of this prophecy, which is mostly a blistering scold of Judah for her rebellious ways, comes this short and dispassionate invitation: "'Come now let us reason together.'"

[Reason - yakach isn't transliterated reason very often. In other places it is rendered to decide, judge, show to be right, prove, reprove, chide, correct, rebuke. That, then, is the shade of reason here—a deal proposed by the One with the power, wisdom, and right to judge, to the one without.]

The deal the LORD sets out is simple. For willingness and obedience they will get supernatural cleansing (from sin). But refusal and rebellion will lead to death.

When we consider the price God demanded as payment for cleansing from sin—the life of a perfect lamb in the Old Testament, culminating in the life of the Lamb of God in the New, this "deal" seems highly weighted in favor of Judah, and us humans. But it does have two sides to it.

Still today the opportunity to be cleansed stands:
  • "…the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all " Isaiah 53:6.
  • "… while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" Romans 5:8
  • " For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works…" Ephesians 2:8,9
  • "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God…"1 Peter 3:18.

When we accept it, it means new life for us.
  • " I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you … Ezekiel 36:25-27.
  • "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" 2 Corinthians 5:14-17.

But we also have a part to play in this agreement.

  • "…present your bodies a living sacrifice…" Romans 12:1.
  • "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only…" James 1:22-25.
  • "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me…" John 14:21.

However, even in this, God is at work to enable us.
  • "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord" 2 Corinthians 3:18 (emphasis added).

Through the centuries it's a deal that remains weighted in our favour.

PRAYER:
Dear Father, thank You for making a way out of the stench and stain of sin to purity. Even though sacrificing You our whole selves in love and obedience is no little thing, in reality, it's all You, and a very beneficial deal for us! 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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