Monday, October 31, 2016

Celebrating darkness

Halloween jack-o-lanterns (pixabay.com)
TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 8:31-47

TO CHEW ON: ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’” John 8:32

Today is Halloween. Tonight children dressed up in all kinds of costumes, cute to ghoulish, will knock on doors and expect us to toss candy into their plastic jack-o-lanterns or pillow cases. It’s a lot of fun for the kids. Many consider it the highlight celebration of the year.

Halloween’s roots are not quit as innocent. The Samhain holiday observed by the Celts on this day was a time that spirits of those who had died in the last year were believed to roam. People offered food and drink to ward off these spirits.

When the Romans conquered Britain, the holiday morphed into a harvest celebration honouring the fruit tree goddess Pamona. During the Middle Ages, the day—though officially abandoned—took on religious overtones linked to the Christian belief in evil spirits (info from The Christian Almanac by George Grant & Gregory Wilbur, p. 639).

The modern celebration seems to get bigger each year with store displays for Halloween set up earlier and targeting a wider age range. Though it is mostly lighthearted and fun for the children, the creatures associated with it—skeletons, witches, ghosts, vampires, werewolves etc.—honor death, fear, the occult, the paranormal.

Because of the above, I have always felt uneasy about celebrating Halloween. It seemed contradictory to me to honor forces and beings of darkness when I claimed to belong to the creator and bringer of light. A friend of mine who works in the deliverance ministry recently asked for more prayer covering because she deals with a lot of deep and real darkness rooted in occult involvement.

And so this Halloween day, let’s focus on Jesus who said earlier in John 8: "'I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life'" - John 8:12,   'I am the way, the truth and the life'” - John 14:6 and 'You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.'” - John 8:32.


PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for defeating all the power of the evil one. Your shed blood on the doorposts of my life means he can’t touch me. I pray protection on families, homes and communities tonight when darkness is celebrated as innocent fun. Amen.

MORE: The Vigil for All Saints Day
Some churches celebrate a Vigil for All Saints Day. An article on the Share Faith site describes the vigil and what it means in different denominations:

"All Saints Day begins with a vigil, the observance of which originated with the Antioch Church. The night time hours of All Saints are devoted to prayer and fasting. The Catholic ceremony for the day is a solemn one, and includes the observance of Mass, followed by prayers offered to the Virgin Mary and all the saints. Lutherans and Episcopalians remember the day by giving thanks to God for all saints, living and dead. The Orthodox Churches continue to honor all Christian martyrs on the first Sunday after Pentecost." Read the entire article...
*************
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 30, 2016

The river of God

Bridal Falls - BC, Canada
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 46:1-11

TO CHEW ON:
"There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God,
The holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High." Psalm 46:4.


Though there was no actual river flowing through Jerusalem, it seems the city had a subterranean water supply that was the source of various fountains and pools throughout the city (K. R. Dick Iverson - study notes on Psalms, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 723).

That unseen river makes a wonderful symbol of the hidden life of God for believers then and still today. All three members of the Godhead have a part in that flow.

God the Father: He begs the wayward to come back to Him as their life-giver - "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.

God the Son:
After a chapter in which the prophet Zechariah foresees Jesus' death (specifically Zechariah 12:10) he says: "In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness" - Zechariah 13:1.

God the Holy Spirit:
Jesus' offer of life-giving water to the Samaritan woman:
"'…but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life'" - John 14:4,

This is elaborated on later as the fountain of the Holy Spirit:
 "'He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.' But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified" - John 7;38,39.

What a picture of God's refreshing supply of life for us.
1. We leave our own stale cisterns of self-help and self-determination and turn to God.

2. We are cleansed from sin in the fountain of Jesus' blood:
"There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Immanuel's veins
and sinners plunged beneath that flood
lose all their guilty stains" - from the hymn by William Cowper.

3. We now live this new life by the power of the Holy Spirit. Its evidence is joy (Acts 13:52; 1 Thessalonians 1:6).

I ask you, have we taken advantage of this cleansing river? Is it refreshing and renewing us? Is living water flowing from our lives?

PRAYER:
Thank You for this beautiful picture of life in and with You. May streams of living water flow from my life today. Amen. 

MORE: "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood"

 
***********

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

Bible Drive-Thru

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Active Worship

Girl worshiping, arms raised.
Image: Pixabay.com
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 145:1-21

TO CHEW ON: “Every day I will bless You
And I will praise Your name forever and ever.” Psalm 145:2

“We can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting. Worship is an act that develops feelings for God not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship” - Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, 54.

I was reminded of the  above Peterson quote when I read David-authored Psalm 145 this morning. During an earlier reading I had circled the verbs, so they are what jumped out at me. What an illustration of the act / actions of worship!

According to David, actions of worship include:
Extol (“You, my God, O King”).
Bless ("Every day”)
Praise
(“Your name forever and ever”).
Declare (“Your mighty acts”).
Meditate (“on the glorious splendor of Your majesty”).
Speak (“of the Your mighty awesome acts… of the glory of Your kingdom”).
Utter (“the memory of Your great goodness”).
Sing (“of Your righteousness”).
Talk (“of Your power”).
Make known (“His mighty acts”).
Call ("upon Him”).
Cry
Love (“Him”).


(Of course, these are the verbs as listed in the NKVJ Bible. If you consult another version, the list will be a little different. Doing that might be an interesting exercise.)

This is active worship. Let’s engage our thoughts and mouths in such worship today—and even if our emotions are unresponsive at first, they will warm up to the activity.

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for this beautiful example of active worship. Help me to pattern my worship on David’s especially when I don’t feel like worshiping. 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 28, 2016

Love—antibiotic for a toxic church

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jude 1:1-25

TO CHEW ON: "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Jude 1:21


The first part of Jude's letter is a warning about "certain men" who have "crept in" to the church. Jude exposes their behaviors and teachings which include immoral and sensual lifestyles, a denial of Jesus, slandering authority, made-up teachings, greed which shows itself in an over-concern about profit, grumbling, complaining, flattering people in order to take advantage of them, mocking, dividing the congregation and all this obviously without the Holy Spirit. If there ever was a toxic church, this sounds like one!

In the face of this mess, Jude gives two instructions:
- Build yourselves up in your faith.
and
- Keep yourselves in the love of God.

I've written about building ourselves up in the faith in other devos about this passage, so today I'm drilling down a bit into what it means to keep oneself in the love of God. Though we can't know for certain what this meant to the people in the church to which Jude was writing, we'll make some assumptions. And because we're still part of imperfect churches and living in a hostile world, this focus on love remains as relevant for us today as it ever was.

I can see keeping oneself in the love of God as having three parts.

First, we remind ourselves of the quality and extent of God's love for us. This helps to counteract the twisted doctrine that interlopers are so eager to dispense.
"The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you" - Jeremiah 31:3.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" - John 3:16.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" - Romans 5:8.

Second, we put muscle into loving God back. This sets us on the path of the morally straight and narrow, to live a lifestyle that  pleases God, who loved us so much.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength" - Deuteronomy 6:5.

"Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!
For the Lord preserves the faithful,
And fully repays the proud person" - Psalm 31:23.

"Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ" - 2 Thessalonians 3:5.

Third, we express the love God has showered on us and which we reciprocate to Him, to others in the church and in the world around us. This sets a guard in our lives against ways we would sin against others.
" Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

"And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma" - Ephesians 5:2.

"But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection" - Colossians 3:14.

Love—it's a simple yet powerful antibiotic against moral bacteria of every strain.


PRAYER: Dear God, when I'm troubled by the evil in the church and life in this world, help me remember this simple instruction about keeping myself in love. Amen. 

MORE: Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude

Today the church celebrates the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude. (Simon and Jude, the writer of our reading today, were brothers of Jesus - Mark 6:3). The day's liturgy begins with this prayer:

"O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. 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 27, 2016

Endure

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure." 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4

Paul had himself recently experienced the "persecutions and tribulations" he talks about. He and his companion Silas had found an active synagogue in Thessalonica. For three sabbaths Paul "reasoned with them from the Scriptures," trying to persuade the Jews that Jesus was indeed Messiah.

Some Jews believed, along with Greeks and prominent women. But the ones who didn't gathered a mob and attacked the house of Jason where they thought Paul and Silas were staying. The mob never found them, but later that night, the believers sneaked them out of the city. It's all in Acts 17:1-10.

So, in this letter, probably only weeks to months later, Paul is encouraging those believers, telling them that the patience and faith they are exhibiting is cause for him to boast about them in other churches he visits.

"That's fine for you," I can just hear the Thessalonian Christians say, as they read Paul's letter. "You could just leave. But we have to stay here and live with this."

God could, of course, have caused that persecution to stop. But here, throughout church history, and still around the world today the need for endurance in persecution, in sickness, and in personal trials, continues. What is the purpose of it?

Paul mentions three pluses of of toughing out persecution in these verses:
1. It grows faith.

2. It cements love (note also 1 Corinthians 13:7)

3. It is a source of inspiration for others (note also 2 Timothy 2:10).

Other Bible passages show us still more advantages of having to endure.


4. It proves we are God's sons and daughters when He deals with us like a parent does with a child (Hebrews 12:7).

5. It toughens us as Christians, giving us focus and developing strength (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

6. Paul implies that it might be the new normal and what one should expect when involved in ministry (2 Timothy 4:5).

7. Enduring puts us in the select company. Abraham (Hebrews 6:15), Jesus (Hebrews 12:3), and Paul (1 Corinthians 4:10-13; 2 Timothy 1:8) are all characterized for their endurance.

8. Endurance assures our salvation (Matthew 10:22). Only the ones who endure will receive the crown of life (James 1:12).

Are you living in endurance-challenging territory right now? Be encouraged. You are not unique or alone.

For us whose lives are going along relatively smoothly, let's pray for people who need endurance while we keep our expectations realistic. The need for endurance will come. Let's be ready!

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to endure the small trials and tribulations that come my way. Please make me aware of people whose endurance is being challenged, so I can pray for them. Amen.


Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What are you doing with your mina?

Servants appear before the king - Luke 19
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 19:11-27

TO CHEW ON: "'For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.'" Luke 19:26


In this favourite story of mine Jesus tells of a hated king who, before he leaves on a journey to establish another kingdom, gathers ten servants and entrusts to each a mina (50 shekels, worth about three months' wages). While he is on his business, the servants are on theirs. What they have done with their mina becomes clear when the king returns.

The first has invested his wisely and has ten minas to show for his work. The master rewards him with responsibility for ten cities.

The second has also worked hard and seen an increase of five minas. He gets responsibility for five cities.

A third servant has only the original mina to return to the king.

The monarch is furious. He scolds the servant for his inaction, takes the amount from him and gives it to the servant who made ten. When those watching object: "But he already has ten minas," the king replies: "'Risk your life and get more than you dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag'" - Luke 19:26 (Message).

Here are some things that I believe this story teaches in the area of stewarding what we have been given of natural abilities and opportunities:

1. Fear can easily get in the way of wise stewardship—fear of making a fool of oneself, fear of hard work, fear of doing it wrong, fear of failure.

2. What we say reveals what's in our thoughts and can become prophetic of our destiny
("'Out of your own mouth I will judge you'" - Luke 19:22).

3. Success and good results don't lead to time off but to more responsibility. I love how writer Mike Duran expressed this idea, in terms of the work of writing, on literary agent Rachelle Gardner's blog:
“How does God reward the person who has been faithful with their talent? He does not relieve them of their duties and send them on an all-expenses paid holiday. Instead, He gives them more responsibilities.

So you’ve signed your first book contract. Amen and hallelujah. Most likely, receiving that contract is validation that you’ve done something right, you’ve been “faithful” with your talent. This is worth celebrating. But this is only one stop in a long journey. Next up – more responsibility, more demands, more deadlines, more pressure, more items to juggle, and more things you will be held accountable for” - Mike Duran (read all of "After the Contract… or Is That Another Mountain?").

This Luke 19 passage was instrumental in launching and keeping me in the business of writing. But I believe it is applicable to whatever one's talent and opportunity.

What is your mina? How are you investing it?


PRAYER: Dear Jesus help me to use the abilities and seize the opportunities you give me to advance Your kingdom. I want You to be proud of me when You return. Amen. 


***********

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

Bible Drive-Thru

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Would you exclude someone from Jesus?

Zacchaeus and Jesus - Luke 19:1-10
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 19:1-10

TO CHEW ON: "But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, 'He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.'" Luke 19:7

Zacchaeus did not have the crowd on his side. Who were these citizens that surrounded Jesus and complained (murmured, grumbled, muttered) about Him inviting Himself to Zacchaeus's house for a meal?

"This very inclusive statement 'they all' shows the general intensely Jewish spirit of the age, narrow and sectarian. The people could not imagine goodness, or earnestness, or generosity in one who served the hateful Roman power. Probably in priestly Jericho this stern exclusive spirit was especially dominant" - Pulpit Commentary.

We think bad things of the crowd who would deny someone access to Jesus. But are we so different?

How do we feel, in our heart of hearts, when someone living in sin, or rich, or on the wrong side of our theological fence gets an obvious dose of God's grace? Perhaps they get an answer to prayer (even though they pray the wrong way), or more blessing (when they are already too blessed, in our estimation), or they talk about interacting with God (even though they're living in sin).

Don't we have some of the same murmuring thoughts as this crowd: "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner"? Don 't we too want God to abide by our miserly sense of the way His economy should work, and demand a down payment of repentance and change before He extends His grace?

Meanwhile, we forget that He gave us grace while we were still in our Prodigal Son pigpen clothes. And we have no clue what big changes are happening even now with these "sinners" and Jesus behind closed doors.

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, thank You for demonstrating Your extravagant love for sinners by how You treated Zacchaeus. Help me to have a spirit of generous grace to everyone. Amen.

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

Bible Drive-Thru

Monday, October 24, 2016

Specific prayers

 "Healing of Bartimaeus" by Alexandre Bida
(Though the blind man isn't named in Luke's telling, 
he is named in Mark's - Mark 10:46-52)

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 18:31-43

TO CHEW ON: “So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, that I may receive my sight.’” Luke 18:40

Surely Jesus knew the man was blind and that he wanted to see. Yet He asked the blind man to say it, to pinpoint exactly what he wanted Jesus to do for him.

This incident says something to us about prayer (talking to God—that’s what the blind man was doing):

1. It seems our prayers are the catalyst that moves God’s hand.
Though God knows everything—knows our needs better than we do, He has invented prayer for us to tell Him what we need and want. I’m reminded of a scene in C.S. Lewis’s The Magicians Nephew. At one point the children, Digory and Polly, are hungry but all there is to eat is grass—good for Fledge the horse but not them. (Remembering that Aslan the Lion is the Christ figure):

“‘Well, I do think someone might have arranged about our meals,’ said Digory.

‘I’m sure Aslan would have, if you’d asked him,’ said Fledge.

‘Wouldn’t he know without asking?’ said Polly.

‘I’ve no doubt he would,’ said the Horse (still with his mouth full). ‘But I’ve a sort of idea he likes to be asked.’”
 
- C. S Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, Kindle Location 1898 (emphasis added).

2. What we ask for is linked to our faith.
Jesus replied to the blind man’s ask: ‘Your faith has made you well.’ And then He healed him on the spot.

This incident encourages us to pray, and when we do, put into words what we specifically want Jesus to do for us. We are invited to pray ("'What do you want Me to do for you?'"), not in vague generalities (“Bless my family”) but specifics (“Please help my grandson with his math test”).

Do we have the faith for such praying?


PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, praying in specifics is a little scary because it reveals the state of my faith and makes prayer’s answers so measurable. Help me to trust the wisdom and love of all your answers, whether they’re “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait.” 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 23, 2016

Jesus and children

Children in church
Children in church - Image: Pixabay.com
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 18:9-30

TO CHEW ON: “But Jesus called them to Him, and said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.’ “ Luke 18:16

I spent  a recent weekend at an event called Poetry Camp—a gathering of children’s poets (poets who are adults but write poetry for children). It was a good place to be—with people who hold children in high regard, who are in touch with their own childlikeness, and who have a lot of empathy for kids.

Luke 18:15-17 of our passage alerts us to several aspects of how children, us adults, and the kingdom of God are related.

1. Children don’t come to Jesus on their own; they must be brought.
 

2. Jesus’ touch on a child’s life is something to be desired.
 

3. Adults can hinder children coming to Jesus.
 

4. Adults can learn a lesson about receiving God’s kingdom from children.
(My Bible’s notes on parallel passage Mark 10:15: “The kingdom of God is only for those who come to Jesus in the humble dependence and trust of little children. The kingdom of God belongs to them, not because of merit, but because God wills to give it to the humble and the apparently insignificant or unimportant” - J. Lyle Story, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1368,9.)

The church I attend has a special emphasis on the 4-14 window (providing attention, ministry and programs to kids between the ages of 4 and 14). This is because statistics show that almost three quarters (71%) of adult Christians have had an encounter with Jesus during that period of their childhood.

In regard to children coming to Jesus, we can ask ourselves, are our churches welcoming and attractive to youngsters and their parents? How do those of us without youngsters react when a crying baby or lively toddler makes him- or herself heard in our sedate atmosphere? Are we helpful and understanding? Or do we stare resentful looks at the parents?

Do we encourage  the utter trust and faith of children when them come to Jesus? Or do we take it on ourselves to caution them not to take these things too seriously?

May we retain our own childlike faith in Jesus and bring them with us to Him.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I love how welcoming and gentle You were with children. Help me to have Your attitude toward them and their attitude toward You. 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 22, 2016

Pour it out, pour it out, pour it out!

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Joel 2:18-32

TO CHEW ON: "And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams
Your young men shall see visions
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days." Joel 2:28-29

"And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing, mighty wind and it filled the whole house where they were sitting,"  writes Luke in Acts 2."Then there appeared to them divided tongues as of fire and one sat upon each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" Acts 2:2-4.

Confusion, amazement, perplexity, marvelling, cynicism. These were some of the reactions of the onlooking crowd when they saw that first general outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Peter, though, knew exactly what was happening. He explained: "This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel." And then he quoted the prophecy in our focus verse today (Acts 2:17-21).

Joel's prophecy takes an abrupt positive turn in Joel 2:18. After repentance "THEN..." God pities, returns the land to productivity, changes the nation's reputation, "restores the years that the locust has eaten" and promises to "afterward" pour out His spirit in a lavish way.

In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came on only certain individuals to enable them to do the job God had for them to do. But Joel speaks of a new time when God says, "I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh..."

My Bible's footnotes on Joel point us to some of the significances of this event:

"Pour out" signifies great abundance, like deluges of rain on a parched land.

"All flesh" means every human category: gender, age, class. "Whatever Spirit-anointed ministry is available to sons is equally available to daughters" - Jerry Cook, notes on Joel, New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1166.

"Menservants and maidservants" are slaves. "This was absolutely unprecedented. In the Old Testament there is not even one instance of a slave functioning as a prophet" New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1166.

This lavish Holy Spirit outpouring wasn't a one-time Pentecost event. Peter tells his listeners, "For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call" Acts 2:39.

"I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten," prophesies Joel. "I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh...whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved..." What welcome words to the beleaguered Hebrews in Joel's time.

And they still have relevance to us today. Whether our locust years are a time of actual physical desolation or prodigal wandering, God can restore those stolen years and then make every day fresh and abundant with the Holy Spirit's presence.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to live in the extravagance of  Your Spirit's fullness. Amen.

MORE: "Holy Visitation" by Charlie Hall, sung by Rita Springer

Charlie Hall has put the words of Joel 2 to music in the powerful song "Holy Visitation." Sung here by Rita Springer, it invokes the Spirit's coming... "Pour it out, pour it out, pour it out / Over Your sons and Your daughters..."





Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Maintaining the highways to Zion

Difficulty Hill - illustration from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
Illustration from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 84:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "Blessed—happy, fortunate, to be envied—is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion." Psalm 84:5 AMP

The writer of this psalm draws our attention to the delights of the House of God. For him it's a literal place, a building, the temple in Jerusalem.

He speaks in picturesque language of his envy of the sparrows that nest near the altar. He glosses over the difficulties of the journey to Jerusalem, telling how even the Valley of Baca* becomes a place of springs because of anticipation. He would be willing, he says, to do the lowliest job at the temple—be a mere doorkeeper—rather than live separated from God in the "tents of wickedness."

I doubt that these days we feel the attachment he felt to a church building or the place we meet for worship. In many cases the venue in which we gather isn't even used solely for church but might, for the rest of the week, serve as a home, classroom, theatre, hotel meeting room etc.

Which is why I love how the Amplified translation shifts our attention from the place we're going to how we set out to get there: "Blessed—happy, fortunate, to be envied is the man … in whose heart are the highways to Zion." For no matter where we worship, our meeting with God begins with an attitude and journey of the heart.

How can we make our hearts  "highways to Zion," not only as we prepare to meet together on Sunday, but every day? Embedded in this psalm are some of the practices of these pilgrims that we could perhaps adopt ourselves.

1. We can remember former meetings with God and dwell on their delights. The psalmist says, "My soul yearns, yes, even pines and is homesick for the courts of the Lord" − Psalm 84:1 AMP.

2. Singing is mentioned several times (Psalm 84:2,4): "Blessed … are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence; they will be singing Your praises all day long" - Psalm 84:4 AMP.

3. We can focus on our blessings, even in the midst of difficulties - Psalm 84:6.

4. We can trust. The Amplified Bible expands: "... blessed ... is the man who trusts in You, leaning on and believing in You, committing all and confidently looking to You and that without fear or misgiving" - Psalm 84:12 AMP.

We don't have to wait for a special day to go to a special place and experience the joy of God's presence. We can keep our heart highways to Zion maintained every day of the week!


PRAYER: Dear God, the psalmist's delight in experiencing Your presence here is contagious. Help me to feel the same pull to spend time with You. Amen.

*Baca is a type of balsam plant that can survive in dry conditions. So perhaps this valley is known as a particularly desolate, dry spot. The Amplified translates it: "Passing through the valley of weeping…"
***********

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, October 20, 2016

Thanks for abundance

Thanksgiving cornucopia
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



What a perfect psalm to read and meditate on during this month of thanksgiving (well, at least in Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving in October). This psalm is like a list poem that names things for which the writer David appreciated God. These are things for which we too can be thankful:

1. God hears our prayers (Psalm 65:2).

2. He provided an atonement for our sins (Psalm 65:3). In the Old Testament the people sacrificed animals. David would have been referring to that kind of atonement. Then God sent Jesus, the Lamb of God, who became the atoning sacrifice for anyone and everyone in the world who believes (1 John 4:10).

3. God draws us to Himself (Psalm 65:4).

4. He satisfies our spiritual hunger in His house (worship and community) (Psalm 65:4).

5. He performs amazing feats all over the world (Psalm 65:5).

6. He created majestic mountains, a reminder of His power ((Psalm 65:6).

7. He stills sea storms, a reminder that He can also still the tumult of national war and strife (Psalm 65:7).

8. The natural world He created awes people all over the world (Psalm 65:8).

9. He made the glory of sunrise and sunset (Psalm 65:8). What a fine description:

"You made the outgoings of the morning and evening rejoice."

10. He sends rain and other precipitation so that the land is productive (Psalm 65:9-10).

11. His generosity makes possible the climax of the year, when the fields and hills sing with ripeness and abundance (Psalm 65:11-13). Here we have abundance in shops, supermarkets, and malls all year long!

What five personal items would you add to this thanksgiving list?

12. ____
13. ____
14. ____
15. ____
16. ____

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for all You are and give! I am so blessed by Your rich generosity. Amen.

***********

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

Bible Drive-Thru

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Is trouble our fault?

Image: Pixabay.com
TODAY’S  SPECIAL: Jeremiah 14:1-22

TO CHEW ON: “Thus says the LORD to this people;
‘They have loved to wander;
They have not restrained their feet.
Therefore the LORD does not accept them;
He will remember their iniquity now,
And punish their sins’ “ Jeremiah 14:10.


There is probably nothing that draws our attention toward or away from God like tragedy. Whether it’s the personal tragedy of sickness, death, or accident or mass disasters like flood, earthquake, fire, or war, when such things touch our lives we feel compelled to ask life's hard questions.

In our reading today Jeremiah describes horrendous drought conditions. There is no water anywhere. Man and beast alike languish (Jeremiah 14:1-6).

He links these physical conditions to the spiritual state of the land’s inhabitants - Jeremiah 14:10 (our focus verse).

As if that isn’t bad enough, God goes on to command Jeremiah not to pray for these people because even if they perform outward signs of repentance (fast, bring offerings) God knows that their repentance isn’t genuine (Jeremiah 14:11,12).

God is especially hard on the religious leaders—false prophets—who claim to speak for God but don’t (Jeremiah 14:13-15).

Back to us, we hesitate—maybe too much—to link difficult circumstances and tragedies to our spiritual condition. Maybe there’s a stronger connection than we acknowledge. For starters, we live in a fallen world where things devolve into chaos rather than evolve into order. Additionally, as citizens of nations that have, in effect, turned their backs on God, Christians are not immune from feeling the effects of God’s punishment on the countries in which we live.

Maybe the consequences resulting from spiritual hardness of sword, famine, and pestilence is one that should not surprise us, both personally and nationally (Leviticus 26:25,26).

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to search my own heart and keep clear accounts with You in good times and in bad. 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.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The altar call of written words

Simone Martini (Italian (Sienese), about 1284 - 1344)
St. Luke, 1330s, Tempera and gold leaf on panel
Panel: 67.5 x 48.3 x 3.8 cm (26 9/16 x 19 x 1 1/2 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles 
 

(Image used with permission of the Getty Open Content Program)

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 1:1-4

TO CHEW ON: “… it seemed good to me, also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus.” Luke 1:3

Today the church celebrates the Feast of St. Luke. Our short reading of the four-verse introduction to the Gospel of Luke communicates a surprising amount about this Bible-time physician and gospel author.

1. He hung out with and heard the stories of eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus (“… those things which have been fulfilled among us…”) - Luke 1:1,2.

2. He felt that he understood what had happened - Luke 1:3.

3. His goal was to write an “orderly account” - Luke 1:3.

4. He cared for the spiritual well-being of Theophilus to the extent he was willing to write a book for him (a lot harder in his day than simply hauling out a laptop and banging away).

5. He had confidence in the written word—the story—to help birth and nurture faith in his reader - Luke 1:4.

It’s that last that resonates with me. I have probably come to more spiritual forks in the road, wept more tears, made more decisions as the result of something I’ve read than I have as the result of any altar call. Books have been my altar call!

And so as someone who loves to read (and write) these early verses of Luke are a reminder of one of the ways God brings people to Himself, and an affirmation of writing as a tool of the soul-winner. If you’re a writer, don’t underplay the importance of your calling!

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for inspiring Luke to write the stories of Jesus for his friend. Help me—help all kingdom writers—to stay true to our calling and put down words with faith that You will use them in some way. Amen.
 
MORE: Feast of St. Luke
Today the church celebrates the Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist. The liturgy of the day begins with this prayer:

"Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; 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."

 *********
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 17, 2016

Poured out life

David pours out water - Caspar Luiken
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Timothy 4:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand." 2 Timothy 4:6

Paul uses the image of a drink offering to speak of his own impending death.

These liquid offerings were part of Old Testament worship.

  • Jacob worshiped God that way when he returned to Bethel, the place God had first met him on his flight from home (Genesis 35:14-15).
  •  A drink offering was part of the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29:40), the Feast of Firstfruits (Leviticus 23:13), and the Feast of Weeks (Leviticus 23:18).

We can't help but think of other pourings.

  • David poured out the precious gift of Bethlehem water—his way of acknowledging God was worthy of the best and most desirable (2 Samuel 23:15-17).
  • Mary poured out precious perfume, the most valuable thing she had, on Jesus' feet (John 12:1-8).
  • Paul's picture of his life as a libation here implies that he may expect to be martyred (as in poured out blood).
  •  He uses the drink offering image in another place as well. In Philippians 2:17 the picture is of his drink-offering-life poured over their sacrifice and service. It's as if his life and theirs work together to complete the sacrificea "living sacrifice" he calls it in Romans 12:1.

Can we live drink offering lives? They will seem wasted, perhaps, as David's poured out Bethlehem water and Mary's perfume seemed a waste. But in the apparent waste is new and surprising life. Read words of Jesus:

"Most assuredly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life." John 12:24,25.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to live my life like a drink offering—poured out for You. Amen.

MORE: Pour My Love on You (by Phillips, Craig and Dean)



*************
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


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Are you glad to go to church?

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 121:1-122:9

TO CHEW ON: “I was glad when they said to me,
Let us go into the house of the LORD.” Psalm 122:1


Today is Sunday, the day many of us have a habit of attending church. Can you, can I honestly say we're glad to go—that we can’t wait to get there? That’s the question that came to me this morning as I read Psalm 122:1.

Whenever the assigned Bible reading is one of the Songs of Ascent from the Psalms (and Psalms 121 and 122 are such songs), I find myself reaching for Eugene Peterson’s excellent A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. It’s a book that richly elaborates on these songs and psalms that were part of the Israelites’ pilgrimages to Jerusalem to commemorate the feasts.

Peterson says some profound things about worship in the chapter on Psalm 122. He explains worship as one activity Christians do that is voluntary: “… worship is not forced. Everyone who worships does so because he wants to” - Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience, p. 50.

Peterson points out three items in Psalm 122 that worship does for us.

1. “Worship gives us a workable structure for life” - p. 51 (Psalm 122:3,4).
For the Israelites keeping Sabbath and celebrating the feasts became the bones of the year. Other activities, even work, were subservient to these observances. I wonder, do we allow worship to help us set priorities?

2. “Worship nurtures our need to be in relationship with God” - p. 53 (Psalm 122:4).
God is with us through trouble and good times, when we mess up and when we do good. Times of worship give us space to express our thanks. “A Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot” - Augustine (quoted p. 53).

3. In worship “…our attention is centered on the decisions of God” - p. 54
(Psalm 122:5).
“Every time we worship our minds are informed, our memories refreshed with the judgments of God, we are familiarized with what God says, what he has decided is the way he is working out our salvation” - p. 55.

This psalm and Mr. Peterson’s thoughts on worship have prompted me to list some of the reasons I gladly go into the “house of the Lord":

* I get encouraged by the numbers of people—and their variety—who are my brothers and sisters in the faith.

* The songs and message of a church service often provide a course correction for what’s happening in my life, for the decisions I’m considering, the attitudes I’m nurturing.

* The songs, scriptures and talks remind me of aspects of God that I may have forgotten about.

* Body life—visiting with friends and being on the prayer team—helps me feel connected to what God is doing as I hear about His work in others lives and agree in faith for His help for needs.

Are you glad to go to church? Why or why not?


PRAYER: Dear Father, voluntary worship—that’s what I want mind to be. Help me to deal with life clutter that gets in the way of my sincere, all-in worship. Amen.

MORE: More Peterson wisdom:
“… we can act ourselves into a new way of feeling much quicker than we can feel ourselves into a new way of acting. Worship is an act that develops feelings for God, not a feeling for God that is expressed in an act of worship” - Eugene Peterson, Op. Cit., p. 54.

 *********
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 15, 2016

Persistent pray-ers

stones with words PRAY, FAITH, GOD printed on them
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 18:1-8

TO CHEW ON: "'Nevertheless when the Son of Man comes will He really find faith on the earth?'" Luke 18:8 NKJV

"'However, when the Son of man comes will He find (persistence in) the faith on the earth?'" Luke 18:8 AMP


This little story Jesus tells teaches us, using contrast, a bit about God and our prayers.

God's counterpart in this parable is a rogue judge who doesn't respect God or people. A woman keeps pestering him about getting justice for her situation until, in exasperation, he gives in, judging in her favor not because of the injustice but to get a little peace and quiet for himself.

Jesus' point: If this self-centred judge does the right thing (even if for the wrong reason), how much more will God, who is just and perfect, do the right thing for those who cry out to Him?

But:
  • It may not happen fast enough for us. There seem to be two perceptions of time here. "'Will He defer them and delay help on their behalf?'" Jesus poses this question and answers, "'I tell you, He will defend and protect and answer them speedily'" - Luke 18:7-9 AMP. But to the pray-er who continues to "'cry out day and night'" it seems to be taking a long time.
  • God values our persistence. Jesus again: "'However, when the son of man comes will He find (persistence in) the faith on earth?'" (Luke 18:8 AMP). The question implies that that's what He is looking for.
"George Mueller prayed fifty-two years for an unsaved loved one, but it wasn't until some time after he died that his loved one came to know Jesus Christ as Saviour. I believe our prayers go right on living and working even after we die" - Hope Macdonald.
"According to Jesus, by far the most important thing about praying is to keep at it" - Frederick Buechner.
"Many a man asks in April a gift of divine fruit that will be ripe only in June" - Anonymous.

(All quotes taken from Prayer Powerpoints, p. 166.)

PRAYER:
Dear God, may I be an answer to Your search for persistent pray-ers. Amen. 


*********** 

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

Bible Drive-Thru

Friday, October 14, 2016

The kingdom within


"Christ Enthroned" - Master of the Ingeborg Psalter
(France, 1195-1210) from the Getty Trust. 
Used with Permission.


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 17:20-37

TO CHEW ON:
Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, 'The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, "See here!" or "See there!" For indeed the kingdom of God is within you.'"  Luke 20:20,21NKJV

"'For behold, the kingdom of God is within you (in your hearts) and among you (surrounding you).'" Luke 20:21 Amplified


The Pharisees are expecting and looking for an external, visible, physical kingdom. But Jesus tells them that the kingdom of God is not that at all. Rather it's "within you" and "among you."

One of the ways we understand the "among you" part is that Jesus Himself brings that kingdom. Note how, early in His ministry, He claims Himself the kingdom-bringer when He reads from the Isaiah scroll in His hometown synagogue. After reading these words:  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me / Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor… etc." (Luke 4:18,19), He says, "'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.'" His hearers understand these Isaiah prophecies to refer to Messiah and His reign.

Clues to how the kingdom of God is "within" us are scattered throughout the New Testament.
  • Jesus tells Nicodemus he can't enter the kingdom without being born again - John 3:3.
  • Jesus says of the "poor in spirit" and the "persecuted" that "theirs is the kingdom of heaven" - Matthew 5:3,10.
  • Persecution and suffering are also linked with the kingdom of God in Acts 14:22 and 2 Thessalonians 1:5.
  • Those who have looked after the needy and homeless "inherit" the kingdom - Matthew 25:34,35.
  • Perseverance proves us fit for the kingdom - Luke 9:62.

Jack Hayford in an article commenting on this passage explains how Jesus' kingdom anointing becomes ours:

"Jesus has sent the Holy Spirit to cause the anointing of His messiahship to be transmitted to us (Isaiah 61:1-3; Luke 4:18; John 1:16; 1 John 2:20,27; 4:17). So it is, and on these terms only, that a human being can say 'The kingdom of God is within me'" - Jack Hayford, "The Kingdom Within You," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1423 (emphasis added).

I ask myself, is my heart the kingdom of God, and not of me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)? Are there evidences of the kingdom of God in my life—the humility, the willingness to be persecuted and suffer,  the concern for the down-and-out, the perseverance, to name a few? Can Jesus' words, "'The kingdom of God is within you'" truly be said of me? Of you?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I want Your kingdom to have full sway in my life. Please show me where I have left myself on my life's throne. Help me dethrone self and put You there. Amen.

***********

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

Bible Drive-Thru

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Last days religion

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Timothy 3:1-17

TO CHEW ON: “Having a form of godliness but dying its power. And from such people turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:5.


I have been following with interest the story of Greta Vosper, the atheist pastor of a United Church in Toronto. That there should even be a debate over whether she keeps her job seems to me the big story here. Of course Ms. Vosper is free to believe what she likes. But to call herself a minister and leader of a faith in which belief in God and the Bible are the foundation while she has bluntly stated she “… does not believe in God or the Bible” shows how far down the path we as a society have wandered toward the last days scenario of “having a form of godliness, but denying its power.”

It’s interesting too, that such a theological symptom is part of a quite horrendous list of self-absorbed behaviours:
“Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control, brutal, despairs of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” - 2 Timothy 3:2-4. 

(Had Paul been watching, in prophetic foresight, one of our newscasts?)

A little further along in the passage, Paul gives more insight into “last days” religion: “… always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” - 2 Timothy 3:7.

This reminds me of the description of a modern stream of the Protestant church called "Emergent" found in the book Why We’re Not Emergent:
“Certainty for the emergent church is the same as pinning down Jesus and summing up God, while uncertainty is a breath of fresh air.”
 The authors quote Brian McLaren (a man prominent in the Emergent church movement): 
“‘ Drop any affair you may have with certainty, proof, argument—and replace it with dialogue, conversation, intrigue and search … since reality is seldom clear but usually fuzzy and mysterious, not black-and-white but in living colour’” - Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be, Kindle Location 522, Brian McLaren quote source: Adventures in Missing the Point, by McLaren & Campolo, 84.

What does Paul advise Timothy to do in the face of such beliefs and behaviours? He says simply: “And from such people turn away.”

[“Turn away” - apotrepo - means to turn oneself away from, shun, avoid.]

It might be tempting to get a little involved in the self-first behaviours that are so common today (often whipped up and spurred on by social media). Doubt is cool. It’s sophisticated to keep one’s belief options open to any and every belief system. But, Paul tells Timothy and us, that isn’t the path of the Jesus follower who lives by the certainty of God’s word - 2 Timothy 3:16,17.

PRAYER: Dear Father help me to detect any side trips I may be tempted to take into the realm of self first and denying of the truth and power of Your word. 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.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Turn back

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Lamentations 5:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "Turn us back to You, O Lord, and we will be restored; Renew our days as of old." Lamentations 5:21

The bleak book of Lamentations ends on a bright note—the possibility of returning to God.

Stories of repentance (turning back to God) run through the Bible.
  • David repented after committing adultery and murder (Psalm 51:1-19).
  • Josiah repented when the priests found and read the books of the law (2 Kings 22:11,19).
  • The pagan Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah (Jonah 3:6-9).
  • Even evil King Ahab repented after hearing about God's coming judgment from Elijah (1 Kings 21:27).

I love the story of the Prodigal Son and the wording Luke uses to describe his return: "But when he came to himself he said...I will arise and go to my father and will say to him, 'Father, I have sinned...'" (Luke 15:17-18).

I'm sure you can remember your own coming to yourself, that moment when you 'repented' (turned, changed direction) from unbelief to faith, self-direction to God-direction. I know I can. I tell my story here (end of "My Rambling Story").

Of course following that one moment of big repentance when life takes a whole different direction, there are hundreds of smaller repentances. Each time we find ourselves again taking control of our lives and letting our old carnal self have the upper hand we can repent, turn back and be restored and renewed.

Jack Hayford says about repentance:

"The implications of biblical repentance are threefold:
1. Renunciation and reversal.
2. Submission and teachability.
3. Continued shapeability.


There is no birth into the kingdom without hearing the call to salvation, renouncing one's sin and turning from sin toward Christ the Saviour (Acts 3:19)" - Jack Hayford, "Repentance," New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1293.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for drawing me back go Yourself. I pray for the prodigals in my life, that You will bring them home in the same way. Amen.

MORE: Praise is Rising by Brenton Brown and Paul Baloche
"Hear the sound of hearts returning to You
We turn to You
In Your kingdom broken lives are renewed;
You make us new..."




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.

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sin's misery

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Lamentations 4:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "Now their appearance is blacker than soot;
They go unrecognized in the streets;
Their skin clings to their bones
It has become as dry as wood." Lamentations 4:8


What a catalogue of catastrophe is Lamentations 4.
1. The temple is desecrated (Lamentations 4:1).
2. Leaders and the nobility are no longer privileged or respected (Lamentations 4:2, 5, 7-8, 16).
3. People abandon their responsibilities (Lamentations 4:3).
4. Even the mothers' natural instincts disappear (Lamentations 4:3-4, 10).
5. People long for a quick death (versus this slow death by starvation) (Lamentations 4:9).
6. The nation is humiliated (Lamentations 4:12-15).
7. God no longer seems to be on their side (Lamentations 4:11, 16).
8. They feel besieged and pursued by neighbour nations (Lamentations 4:18-20).

Jeremiah sees all this, not as something that happened by chance but as a direct consequence of the peoples' sins (Jeremiah 32:22-23).

Though we, in our time, hesitate to make such direct connections between sin and calamity, Bible writers made it repeatedly (Romans 1:28-32; 2:2). Without Jesus' intervention on our behalf we would all be destined to drink the full cup to its bitter end (Romans 3:10-18). We know too, that sin is deceptive in its attractiveness. Being aware of its end helps us avoid getting snared by it.

"There is a way that seems right to a man,
       but in the end it leads to death." NIV - Proverbs 14:12.

PRAYER: Dear God, please grow in me an abhorrence of sin. Help me not to be deceived or taken in by its apparent harmlessness. Amen.

MORE: Judge yourself
"Keep yourself steadily faced by the judgment seat of Christ; walk now in the light of the holiest you know. A wrong temper of mind about another soul will end in the spirit of the devil, no matter how saintly you are. One carnal judgment and the end of it is hell in you. Drag it to the light at once and say — 'My God, I have been guilty there.' If you don't, hardness will come all through. The penalty of sin is confirmation in sin. It is not only God who punishes for sin; sin confirms itself in the sinner and gives back full pay.


"No struggling nor praying will enable you to stop doing some things, and the penalty of sin is that gradually you get used to it and do not know that it is sin. No power save the incoming of the Holy Ghost can alter the inherent consequences of sin." Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, March 16th reading (emphasis added).

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

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A nation under God?

Today is Thanksgiving Day in Canada. 
Happy Thanksgiving!
May gratitude to God for all His blessings fill your day.

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 67:1-7


TO CHEW ON: "God be merciful to us and bless us,

And cause His face to shine upon us, Selah." Psalm 67:1


In the book The Armageddon Factor author Marci McDonald theorizes that there is a conspiracy of the Christian right in Canada to take over the reins of government, enforce righteous standards, and thus hasten what they believe will be the end of the world, signaled by the Battle of Armageddon. As you can imagine, this book is not sympathetic to Christians.

Among other things, it has unmasked to me the fear and loathing secular society feels at the idea of God's rule. Trouble is, that resistance to Christ's lordship isn't only present in secular society. I have seen evidences of it in my own heart. Do you find it in yours? This psalm reassures us we have nothing to fear. Here are some of the positives the psalmist sees for an individual and nation living in the smile of God's approval.

1. His "way" becomes known, His salvation is broadcast at home and internationally (Psalm 67:2).
[Way - derek means way, journey, direction, manner, habit, course of life (figurative), moral character (figurative).]
What is His way? It is the humble, gentle, free-from-guile lifestyle of Matthew 5, 6 & 7.
What is His salvation? It is Jesus, come to pay the penalty for our sin so we can be reconciled to God - John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.

2. He is a righteous judge for individuals and nations (Psalm 67:4).
Who of us hasn't been troubled by the apparent unfairness of human legal systems, how slowly their wheels turn, and how they appear to be in the control of those who have the most to gain from things being drawn out? What security to have a judge who sees and knows everything and has the power to administer it fairly - Hebrews 4:13.

3. Under His righteous rule, even the earth—nature, soil, plants—prospers (Psalm 67:6).
The promise of a flourishing natural world where God is honored and obeyed is repeated many times in the Bible: Leviticus 26:1-4, Psalm 85:8-12, Ezekiel 34:26-27, Zechariah 8:12.

So let's not be afraid. Let's put Jesus alone on the throne of our hearts and pray that in our nation He becomes Lord, not through laws that dictate it must be so but because individuals have willingly yielded to Him.

PRAYER: Dear God, I recognize the rebellion and independence of my own heart. Help me to put and keep You on the throne of my life. Amen.

MORE: A mixed bag

The Armageddon Factor has shown me that Christian culture in Canada is a mixed bag. The book is a worthwhile read if you want to:

- Find out about the beginnings and history of many of the faith-motivated organizations and movements active in Canada today. (McDonald delves into the EFC, the National House of Prayer, the Manning Centre to barely begin the naming.)

- Pray intelligently for those in the forefront of political power.

- Understand secular society's opposition to people of faith and their presence in Canada's political arena.

****************
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


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...