Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Six words we should stop saying

"Christ Feeding the Multitude" by Gustave Doré
"Christ Feeding the Multitude" by Gustave Doré

TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 6:1-15

 TO CHEW ON: “‘There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?’” John 6;9

Philip added to his answer about how much food they had, his opinion of their supply: “What are they among so many?” This is not an unfamiliar sentiment to us when we compare what we have with the need. So it’s reassuring to remind ourselves that Jesus’ feeding of the crowd here is not the only time in the Bible God came to the aid of the desperately needy.
  • The psalmist claims God’s help for mental need: “The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low and the HE saved me” - Psalm 116:6.
  • Jesus healed a recalcitrant medical condition where a woman, after 12 years of hemorrhaging, had exhausted medical help - Mark 5:25-29.
  • Those in storms received God’s help. Jesus came to the disciples when He saw them “straining at rowing for the wind was against them” - Mark 6:48. And a whole boatload was saved through the prayers of Paul - Acts 27:14-42.
  • Jesus came to the aid of a desperate father by casting out a spirit that had oppressed his son since birth - Mark 9:17-29.
  • An angel came to the aid of Peter shackled in prison - Acts 12:5-10.

Let these stories remind us that God is never limited by our lack. So whatever our need and however puny the resources at hand, let’s forever stop the faith-destroying words “What are they among so many?” from crossing our lips.

PRAYER:
Dear Father, thank You that You are never limited by my meager resources. Help me to look to You, not myself and what’s around me, when I’m in need. 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, November 29, 2016

The Spirit we want

Tree of Jesse - Artist unknown
Tree of Jesse - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 11:1-10

TO CHEW ON:
"The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord." Isaiah 11:2



The rich Spirit of the Lord—that Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge "and of the reverential and obedient fear of the Lord" (AMP) rests on the Jesse branch (Isaiah 11:1). That would be a descendant of David, who was a son of Jesse. We understand this prophecy to be of Jesus.

As we read this list, His early wisdom comes to mind:
"And the Child grew and become strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him" - Luke 2:40.

When His ministry commenced, we recall the visible descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at His baptism - Matthew 3:16.

Throughout Jesus' life, Godly qualities were lived out in Him. My Thompson Chain Bible has a longer (than the Isaiah 11) list of qualities that typified the Spirit of Christ:
  • Divine - Isaiah 11:2
  • Wise - Isaiah 11:2
  • Just and Fearless - Isaiah 11:4.
  • Faithful - Isaiah 11:5.
  • Tender - Isaiah 40:11
  • Quiet - Isaiah 42:2
  • Gentle - Isaiah 42:3
  • Persevering - Isaiah 42:4
  • Liberating - Isaiah 61:1
  • Saving - Isaiah 63:1
  • Compassionate - Matthew 9:36
  • Meek and lowly - Matthew 11:29
  • Longsuffering - Luke 9:55-56
  • Forgiving - Luke 23:34
  • Zealous - Acts 10:38
  • Loving - Ephesians 5:2

The exciting thing is that when we become His children, He gives us the same Spirit: "The Spirit of truth … He dwells with you and will be in you" - John 14:7.

His Spirit is life-giving - Romans 8:11.

He guides and leads us - Romans 8:14.

He opens up truth to us and gives insights into the future - John 16:13.

His Spirit gives wisdom (what is needed to enact all the other qualities) that is not only theoretical but also practical. I love how my Bible's notes on wisdom includes this sum-up:
"Biblical wisdom unites God, the Source of all understanding, with daily life, where the principles of right living are put into practice" - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 888.

And so we are brought back to earth with convicting passages like this one from James that describes what Jesus' heavenly wisdom does not and does look like:
"But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above but is earthly, sensual, demonic …. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" - see all of James 3:13-18.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to recognize worldly versus the heavenly wisdom of the Spirit of Jesus. Quicken my will toward instant obedience of Your Spirit's voice. 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)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Making plans

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 15:1-33

TO CHEW ON: "...and having a great desire these many years to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain I shall come to you." Romans 15:23,24


When Paul wrote Romans he had not yet met the Christians there. In his letter he introduces himself to them in anticipation of seeing them — and it sounds like he hopes it is soon.

Our reading today is full of his plans. He wants to go eventually to Spain and his visit of Rome will be on the way. Presently he is anticipating a trip to Jerusalem (from Corinth where scholars believe Romans was written). In the meantime, he asks them to help Phoebe a businesswomen from Cenchrea, and to give his greetings to fellow tentmakers Priscilla and Aquila.

It is a normal and good thing for us to make plans. They help us look toward to the future with expectation and optimism, and to tailor the present with realism. For example, our plan to buy a car next year will give us the discipline to live frugally this year so that we can save the needed money for our purchase.

Did Paul eventually get to Rome? Yes he did, but hardly in the way he anticipated. For his trip to Jerusalem ended in arrest and imprisonment. And though God affirmed to Paul in a dream that he would someday realize his goal of visiting Rome (Acts 23:11) it wasn't for a while.

To prevent the Jews from lynching him, his Roman captors soon transferred him to Caesarea. There he was held in prison for two years and when it looked like Felix's successor was going to hand him over to the Jews again — which would mean certain death — Paul appealed to Caesar (Acts 23-25). This meant traveling to Rome.

However, even the last leg of his journey wasn't straightforward. On his voyage from Caesarea to Rome, his ship met with a deadly storm at sea that saw him and his shipmates washed up on the island of Malta for the winter. Only in spring could they continue toward their destination.

So Paul eventually got to Rome, only several years later as a prisoner. And though the Acts history ends with him still in Rome, tradition would support a later trip to Spain before he was martyred by Nero in 67 A.D.

So though it may be normal, and healthy to make plans (and in fact for the Christian these plans may be divinely inspired and initiated — as it seems Paul's desire to visit Rome was) let's not be surprised when God modifies them, adding all manner of twists, turns, and adventures.

Two Bible passages come to mind.

"We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps" - Proverbs 16:9, NLT.
"Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.”  How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” - James 4:13-15, NLT

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your plan for my life. Help me to live in sync with your purposes, to catch Your vision, and to make plans according to Your promptings. Then help me to hang onto them loosely, allowing You to craft my circumstances in their fulfillment. 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.

Scriptures marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Watch! Be ready

volcanic steam and ash
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 24:29-44

TO CHEW ON: " 'For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.' " Matthew 24:38-39


Our reading gives us more natural signs to add to the list of things that herald the near return of Christ:
" '…the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken' " - Matthew 24:29.

What causes this unnatural darkening? Volcanic matter in earth's atmosphere?

What are those falling stars? Meteors and comets plowing into us?

I can just imagine how such natural disasters will be reported in the news. Scientific experts will analyze and prescribe. They will be the fault of fracking, or fossil fuel use, or CO2, or disturbed ecosystems, or weakened magnetism at the poles, or pollution, or… We will be told, if we only do more of this, less of that, the balance will right itself.

Meanwhile wherever it can, life will go on as usual - Matthew 24:37-38, 40-41.

I describe this scenario because even for those of us who have read these Bible passages and have been forewarned, it's easy to get lulled into complacency by the naturalistic explanations of scientists and those who supposedly understand earth's mechanisms (or at least have lots of theories).

Believers expressing their take on events are / will be mocked no less than Noah was. They're even viewed as dangerous because of their convictions that supernatural forces are at work here and thus they don't buy into scientific prescriptions of how to save the earth.

The billboard sign I take from this passage for myself—for all of us who believe these prophecies—is BE ALERT! Be watchful for Jesus' second coming.

" ' … when you see these things, know that it is near' " - Matthew 24:33. 
" 'But watch therefore…' " Matthew 24:42. 
" 'Therefore you also, be ready' " - Matthew 24:44.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to see Your hand at work in earth's natural events and disasters. Help me to live alert to signs of Your return, not dulled by the spirit of my time. Amen. 

MORE:
Today is the first Sunday of Advent (another period of watchful waiting). The liturgy for today begins with this prayer:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Who will you put on today?

T-shirt with stencil "Jesus Lives Here"
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 13:1-14

TO CHEW ON: "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts." Romans 13:14.

Here Paul sums up for readers two simple (and vast) instructions about living a Christian lifestyle. They are as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago.

1. "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ…"
The image is of clothing oneself. Clothes serve many purposes. They protect us from the elements. They cover our intimate parts, providing modesty and dignity. They also define us by the styles and fabrics we choose to wear. Paul tells these Roman Christians to dress in Jesus.

  • Way back in the Old Testament, Job makes this statement that underlines clothing's protective and defining aspects: "I put on righteousness and it clothed me; My justice was like a robe and a turban" - Job 29:14.
  • Paul speaks of the rite of baptism as something that initiates that putting on and declares it to the world - Galatians 3:27.
  • A mind renewal is also involved. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, describes how they must "…put off … the old man … and be renewed in the spirit of your mind that you put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness" - Ephesians 4:17-24. Colossians 3:9 also talks about this renewal.

2. "…make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts."


[Provision - pronoia is forethought, planning, making preparation for, providing for.]

In other words, Paul tells these Christians and us, not to make plans to sin.

  • Just don't do it says Peter - 1 Peter 2:11.
  • "Walk in the Spirit (another way of describing Step 1 above) and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" - Galatians 5:16.

Two steps that are so simple and yet they involve a lifetime of practice, of putting off and putting on.

Who are you, who am I wearing today? If it's Jesus, let's not be sullying those clothes with plans to sneak into our day some old-clothes thought or habit.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help me to put on You and to be aware of my sneaky side that still wants to make provision for sinful thoughts and actions. 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, November 25, 2016

Different routes to the same destination

Jesus calls Philip & Nathaneal - William Hole
Jesus calls Philip & Nathaneal - William Hole
TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 1:43-51


TO CHEW ON: "The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, 'Follow me.'" John 1:43

It's interesting to note how Jesus picked and called His disciples.

Andrew and another unnamed disciple (perhaps John, the writer) were attracted to Him by the testimony of their original rabbi, John the Baptist (John 1:35-37). When they asked Jesus where He was staying, His "Come and see" was invitation enough for them to leave John and follow Jesus.

The following day Jesus went in search of Philip.

Philip recruited his friend Nathaneal (also called Bartholomew) to be Jesus' follower.

It seems the four fishermen (Andrew, Simon [Peter], James and John) may have made their decision to become serious followers in stages, for we see them back fishing. Then one morning after a fruitless night on Galilee followed by a Jesus instigated miraculous catch, they finally "forsook all to follow Jesus" (Luke 5:1-11).

After that Jesus saw Matthew (Levi) at his tax-collecting station. When Jesus invited him to be a disciple, Matthew immediately left all to follow Jesus (Luke 5:27,28).

Still today Jesus finds and calls us in a variety of ways. Some encounter Him through the words of a teacher or preacher. Others are introduced to Him seemingly without human intervention through visions, dreams, and the Bible. Some come through the testimony of friends. Many make the decision to follow Him in stages and over a period of time. Still others decide in an instant.

Let's remember and be encouraged by this variety as we continue to pray for our unsaved family members and friends. Just because they aren't coming to God in the way we did or in the way we expect them to doesn't mean that God isn't involved in their lives, busy drawing them to Himself in ways tailored just to them.

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, thank You that Your call to discipleship is unique and personal. I believe You are at work in the lives of those I love who have yet to respond to 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.



Thursday, November 24, 2016

What's the name of your god?

Micah Foretells Christ -   JOLLAIN, Gérard
Micah Foretells Christ - Gerard Jollain
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Micah 4:1-5:1

TO CHEW ON: "For all people walk each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever." Micah 4:5

Micah's thoughtful little statement in our focus verse is as true now as it was in 700 B.C. In our culture we don't worship idol statues, but we do each have a god and we demonstrate who it is  by our lives (or as Micah says it, "we will walk each in the name of his god").

Wealth, power, attention (how many followers we have on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, etc.), praise, a gorgeous home, a well-toned body, career, recreation — all these and more can be gods (one of the definitions of god: any person or thing made the chief object of one's love, interest or aspiration").

A little overview of some Bible references to false gods helps us understand them, and the process and folly of worshiping them.

1. They are impotent (Jeremiah 10:5) and inferior to the God who can create (1 Chronicles 16:26).  Though they may appear attractive and powerful, someday their fate will be that of the Philistine god Dagon in the presence of the ark  — broken and in pieces on the floor (1 Samuel 5:4).

2. The work of one's own hands can be a false god (Isaiah 2:8). Though Isaiah was referring to worshiping idol statues that people had carved, we readily, and I think correctly, identify such worship with putting supreme value on ourselves and our own achievements (Secular Humanism), a prevalent value in our society today.

3. False worship may draw us into some strange activities (Ezekiel 21:21).

4. Who/what we worship is a choice we make. We make that choice by who or what we serve. We can't have two masters at once (Matthew 6:24). We choose to worship something or someone other than God when we ignore His commands (1 Kings 18:18). It is also possible to turn from God, back to the things we served before (Galatians 4:8-10).

5. Refusing to bow down to the gods of our culture may make us stand out and could even prove dangerous (Daniel 3:12-18).

6. But we can decide for God. Let's affirm, with Paul, "yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live." (1 Corinthians 8:6).

Or, as Micah says it:

"We will walk in the name of the Lord our God."

PRAYER: Dear God, in the crush of life, when my mind is so easily taken up with all that I need to do,  help me not to make a false god out of anything, even ministry and Christian service.  Amen. 

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

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pictures of peace

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 2:1-5

TO CHEW ON: “He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah 2:4


The picture of peace Isaiah paints here, of weapons being softened and hammered into tools for farming, expresses the longing in many a human heart. I can only imagine how the citizens of Aleppo and Mosul would welcome such a thing.

The theme of a coming time of peace runs through the prophets’ writings. I’m quoting the passages today, so this post is a bit long, but I think you'll be thrilled at the beautiful pictures of peace here.

There are prophecies of peace coming as a consequence of fearing and honoring God:

  • Psalm 46:9,10:
'He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
 He burns the chariot in the fire. 
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!'

  • Psalm 72:5-7 - a psalm-prayer of Solomon:
"They shall fear You
As long as the sun and moon endure,
Throughout all generations. 
"He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
Like showers that water the earth. 
In His days the righteous shall flourish,
And abundance of peace,
Until the moon is no more."
  • Psalm 85:9,10
"Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
That glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met together;
 Righteousness and peace have kissed."
  • Psalm 147:11,14:
"The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
In those who hope in His mercy…

"He makes peace in your borders,
And fills you with the finest wheat."

There are prophecies of the possibility of peace associated with the kingdom of the Child:
  • Isaiah 9:6,7:
"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end
."
  • Isaiah 11:1,6-9 (the pictures of peace here also resemble the distant, end-time peace of Isaiah 65 below):
"There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots…

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them
"The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 
"The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den
"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea."
  • Isaiah 33:17,20
"Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will see the land that is very far off…

"Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts;
Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet home..."
  • Zechariah 9:9,10:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey. 
"I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
And the horse from Jerusalem;
The battle bow shall be cut off.
He shall speak peace to the nations;
His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.’"


And there are prophecies that look forward to a  seemingly distant, end-time period of peace.

  • Isaiah 2:1-5 - Our reading of Isaiah 2:1-5, which begins: "Now it shall come to pass in the latter days..." would be in that category.
  • Isaiah 65:11,25:
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind….

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,”
Says the Lord."
  • Micah 4:1,4
"Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it….

"But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree,
And no one shall make them afraid;

For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken."

But is there any hope for peace now? Well, yes. Paul gives Timothy some down-to-earth advice about peace in the present in 2 Timothy 2:1,2:
"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men
"for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence."

PRAYER: Dear Father, our beleaguered world longs for the pictures of peace painted by Bible writers, to become reality. Help me to do all I can now to bring peace to my little corner of time and space. 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, November 22, 2016

Working for the real boss

"Best Boss Ever" on mug
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ephesians 6:5-24

TO CHEW ON: "Obey them (earthly masters) not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart." Ephesians 6:6


Though Paul's instructions are addressed to slaves, I believe they are applicable to workers of any kind—those of us who work as employees, as freelancers, and as volunteers.

The qualities of God-pleasing workers that Paul lists are obedience, respect / fear, sincerity, integrity (working hard even when supervisors aren't watching), and wholeheartedness. They were to exercise all of these as if God were one's actual boss (because He is; He is the one who doles out the ultimate and eternal wages).

I find this straightforward and practical teaching for us. Personally, it means I should put as much effort into these blog devotions that I write for free as I put into an article I hope to publish for pay. I need to give myself as wholeheartedly to my housework as I do to a volunteer job I do at church.

Living as if God were our real boss in every endeavor helps us view all work, even lowly jobs like cleaning a toilet, in a whole new light.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me internalize the reality of You as my real boss in each job of my life's work. 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, November 21, 2016

Harmonious family relationships

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 5:21-6:4

TO CHEW ON: “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22


In marital relationships the fashion has changed. Nowadays if you say the word “submit” when you’re talking about how a wife should relate to her husband, some would have you wash your mouth out with soap. A wife submitting to her husband is considered so yesterday—no, not even yesterday, so archaic!

[The word translated “submit” comes from the Greek hypotasso. It means “to arrange under, subordinate, subject, put in subjection, subject oneself, obey, submit to one’s control; yield to one’s admonition or advice.”] Nothing ambivalent about that!

In fact Paul has something (controversial to modern ears) to say to every member of the family:

Wife: Submit to your husband as to the Lord. Be subject to (same “submit” word)  your own husband in the same way the church is subject to Christ, deferring to him as your head* like the church defers to Christ as its  head (Ephesians 5:22-24).

[*Head: kephale: literal head, where the loss of the head destroys life; metaphorical - anything supreme, chief; of persons: master, lord; of husband in relation to his wife; of Christ, the Lord of the husband and of the church.]

Husband: love your wife like Christ loved the church in a selfless, giving way, to the same extent that you love and care for yourself, working for her well-being, beauty, and purity (Ephesians 5:25-29).

As a couple: leave your parents’ home and become joined and intimate as a new entity - Ephesians 5:31.

 Children: Obey your parents, honor them (which comes with a promise of well-being and longevity) - Ephesians  6:1-3.

Fathers: Don’t provoke [parorigizo - rouse to wrath, provoke, exasperate, anger] your children. Bring them up, and train them to know and obey the the Lord - Ephesians 6:4.

As old-fashioned as this advice may sound, can you imagine our society if everyone lived by it? God’s design for marriage and the family is to reflect His sacrificial love to us and our submission to Him. It might be out of modern favor but I don’t know of any modern model for the family that sounds more harmonious and functional (but difficult to live out in one's own strength).


PRAYER: Dear Father, I need  faith that You know best and Your power to live these things in my imperfect, everyday life. 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, November 20, 2016

Live alert for THE DAY

earthquake-shaken house
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 21: 25-38

TO CHEW ON:
"'But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and the Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.'" Luke 21:34,35

I live on the earthquake-prone west coast of Canada where we haven't had a significant quake since 1700. Thus it's easy for us to get complacent about earthquake preparedness. But the BIG ONE is on its way, assure the experts. It's just a matter of time.

Jesus, here, is using a similar warning tone as He talks about the signs of the times, the end of the age and the big one—the event for which they should be expectant.  The big one is THE DAY. He describes it earlier—the climax of all manner of social, political, and natural upheaval:
"'And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great transcendent and overwhelming power and all His  kingly glory, majesty, and splendor'" - Matthew 21:27 AMP.

Stay alert in expectation of THE DAY, Jesus tells His followers. Don't get caught in the snare of its unexpectedness. He lists ways they and we can be distracted ("overburdened and depressed—weighed down" - Amp):

1] With "carousing":  we'd call it partying and having a good time ("… the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence…" vs. 34 - AMP).

2] With "drunkenness": when we get drunk we dull our senses with mind-numbing, mood-altering alcohol. Could we also include in this category other activities designed to take the edge off life's harsh realities—things like compulsive shopping, overeating, spending endless hours online?

3] With the "cares of this life": That would be the concerns of everyday living: "… worldly worries and cares pertaining to the business of this life" - AMP.

To prepare for the BIG ONE in the earthquake department we are reminded often to have kit of emergency food, water, medical supplies and batteries ready, and a plan for how we will link up with family members should it happen when we're in different places.

Jesus tells us how to prepare for THE DAY:
"'Keep awake then, and watch at all times, that is be discreet, attentive, and ready, praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things … and to stand in the presence of the Son of man'" - Luke 21:36 AMP.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me not to be distracted from watching world events in the context of Your predictions. Help me to stay spiritually alert and be in communication with You often about these things and my role in them.  Amen.

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

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Beloved Son

Image: pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 20:9-26

TO CHEW ON: ‘Then the owner of the vineyard said,”What shall I do? I will send my beloved son…”’” Luke 20:13

In the parable of the Wicked Vinedressers (Luke 20:9-16)—which the chief priests and scribes recognized as a parable against them—Jesus called the son that the king finally sent, in the king's words my beloved son.”

If we are at all familiar with the Bible, flags will go up at that expression. We’ve heard it before.

  • The prediction that God would send a Son occurs as early as Psalm 2:7:
“I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
The Messiah that Isaiah predicted was described in offspring terms:
“And now the Lord says,
Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,
To bring Jacob back to Him,
So that Israel is gathered to Him-  Isaiah 49:5.
"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand - Isaiah 53:10.

  • When Jesus arrived, God the Father said it publicly at His baptism:
“And suddenly a voice came from heaven saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” - Matthew 3:17 (also Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).
He said it again on the Mount of Transfiguration:
“‘This is My beloved Son. Hear Him’” - Luke 9:35 (and Peter recalled the experience in 2 Peter 1:17-18).
  • In confronting the Jewish religious leaders, who were so offended by His claims they sought to kill Him (as in our reading as well) Jesus said it plainly to them: 
‘For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself does’” - John 5:20.

As we approach the Advent season when we focus on the expectation and fulfillment of God sending His Son, I am particularly moved by the adjective “beloved.” This was no robotic, mechanical gift from cold, distant God but a tearing apart of His very self as He entrusted His Beloved Son to Earth’s murderous gardeners; entrusted Him to what He knew would happen, indeed what had to happen in order to restore sinful man back to relationship with Him.

It's a gift that makes it possible for us to say with Paul:
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” - Colossians 1:13.

Hallelujah!

PRAYER: Dear Father, as a parent I understand how beloved a child is. That You would send Your Son Jesus to be treated as He was and sacrificed for me is hard to comprehend, but wonderful. Thank You! Amen.

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


Friday, November 18, 2016

Under whose authority do we live?

 Jesus' authority extended over nature. 
(Image from Standard Bible Story Readers Book 2 
Used with permission)

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 20:1-8

TO CHEW ON: “Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and scribes together with the elders confronted Him and spoke to Him saying, ‘Tell us by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is it who gave You this authority?’” Luke 20:1,2

The religious leaders were justified, in their own minds, to challenge Jesus’ authority. As this IVP New Testament Commentary article points out:

“He has had no official training. He comes from Galilee, an area not known for its religious instruction or anything else of stature (John 7:52). He has never sat under a rabbi. Where does his authority come from? How can he justify the things he has been doing? This is really a fundamental question for the entire gospel (Luke 4:32,36; 5:24; 9:1; 10:19)” - IVP Commentary accessed through BibleGateway.com.

Jesus’ answer with another question was right in line with the back-and-forth discussion style of the day. (“This style of disputation was popular in the ancient world. It was designed to show who could ask the wiser question and expose the weaknesses in the opponent” - IVP Commentary).

His question (’The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?’) accomplished several things:
- It equated the authority of His ministry with the authority of John the Baptist’s.
- It revealed the religious leaders as unwilling to believe that either John or Jesus came from God.
- It put them in a dilemma (Luke 20:5,6)
- It silenced them for now (but they would be back - Luke 20:19-22).

The claims of Jesus’ authority are still an issue today, to unbelievers and believers alike.

To unbelievers, His words, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:7) are an affront to the human spirit, which is quite happy with its state.

To believers, His words: ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it ‘“  (Luke 9:23,24) show how demanding living under His authority will be.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, when Your authority challenges my self-will, help me not to play mind games but to be honest with myself and deal with heart issues. Amen.

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


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The smells God loves

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 5:1-20

TO CHEW ON:
“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

Paul's description of Christ’s sacrifice as a “sweet smelling aroma” only makes sense when we put it into the context of the Old Testament.

The first instance we have of the connection between God and the smell of a sacrifice is when Noah left the ark and made a burnt offering. Then “… the LORD smelled a soothing aroma…” and determined to never again curse the ground or wipe out humanity - Genesis 8:20,21.

The Old Testament sacrifice system was full of smells;
  • The aroma of sacrificed (burning) animals, animal parts (like fat), and grain (Leviticus 1:9, 8:21).
  • The aroma of a specially concocted anointing oil to be used exclusively for setting  aside people and things as holy (it contained the fragrances of myrrh, cinnamon, sweet-smelling cane, and cassia) - Exodus 30:22-33.
  • The aroma of incense, burned on a special altar—the Altar of Incense in the Tabernacle and in censers which only authorized people were to offer in the prescribed way (Leviticus 10:1,2).

Here, in Ephesians, when Paul speaks of Christ in His death as being a “sweet-smelling aroma,”  keeping all the above in mind, we get it.  Jesus’ death was the appeasing smell of sacrifice to God like the smell of the OT animal, grain, and incense offerings had been. (Of course we realize this is metaphorical because Jesus wasn’t burned; there was no literal smell of smoke involved in His death.)

  • Paul also speaks of aroma as it applies to our witness in 2 Corinthians 2:15,16.
  • In Hebrews 13:15, 16 the writer speaks of us bringing a “sacrifice of praise” (though no smell is actually mentioned).
  • And in Revelation 5:8, the prayers of the saints are described as “golden bowls full of incense.”

What strikes me about the connection of fragrance with worship is what it signifies of being set apart (in the case of the anointing oil) and destruction (sacrifice, burning) of the thing being sacrificed (animals, grain, incense).

Romans 12:1 comes to mind:

“I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

I ask myself, I ask you: are we that “sweet-smelling aroma” to God in death to self, holiness, witness, worship, and prayer?

PRAYER:
Dear Father, I pray that my life will be a “sweet-smelling aroma” to You 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.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Revealing speech

Image: Pixabay.com
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 4:17-32

TO CHEW ON: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Paul sets out a high standard for how a Christian should act in everyday life in Ephesians 4. In verse 29 he talks particularly about speech. There are three parts to his advice:

1. What speech should not be: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth…”

[
“Corrupt” (sapros) means rotten, putrefied, of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless.]

The Amplified Bible spells out quite clearly what such corrupt speech sounds like: “Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word, nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth…” - Ephesians 4:29 AMP.

This says to me that certain words, some humor, and certainly unkindness and viciousness toward others (gossip, slander) are inappropriate.

2. What speech should be:
“…good for necessary edification…”

“… but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others as is fitting to the need and the occasion…” (AMP).

This says to me that helpful speech comes out of knowing the need of the person you’re talking to, out of empathy, and out of an awareness of the spiritual dimension of the situation. Good speech builds up rather than discourages.

3. What speech should accomplish: “… impart grace to the hearers.”  
“… that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it” AMP.

[“Grace” (charis) is that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, grace of speech, good will, loving-kindness, favor.]

Of course behind all speech is the mind/heart of the speaker. Jesus’ words (“‘…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’” - Luke 6:45) remind us that at its root, speech is a heart issue.

If we’re finding the above speech standards difficult or impossible to uphold, maybe our energy would be best spent looking at and dealing with what’s in our hearts.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help me to see speech problems as symptoms of a heart that needs Your touch. 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)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Our lives—a witness to the heavens

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 3:1-21

TO CHEW ON: “To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:10

Paul describes God’s wisdom in three ways. He calls it “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” “the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God,” and “the manifold wisdom of God” - Ephesians 3:8-10.

Focusing on the last one, manifold (polypoikilos) means much, varied, many-coloured. “The word pictures God’s wisdom as much varied, with many shades, tints, hues, and colourful expression” - Dick Mills, “Word Wealth,” New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1649.
I take this wisdom to include:
- God's wisdom on display in the amazing complexity of creation and the natural world.
- God’s intervention to save humankind from sin by sending Jesus to die and be resurrected. This includes all of redemptive history from the Old Testament to the modern-day church.
- God’s working in the large and small details of our lives. Who of us hasn’t experienced or heard stories of amazing coincidences and situations fitting together in ways that shout: “There’s a wise planner behind this!”?

What I find curious about the sharing of this wisdom by the church is who the target is—the “principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”

Why do they need to hear this?

The Zondervan Study Bible says of these powers:
“Can refer to good or evil spiritual powers. Beholding God’s wisdom as displayed through the church leads good angels to glorify God since they ‘long to look’ into God’s redemptive plan (1 Peter 1:12). Evil powers, on the other hand, are reminded that God’s plan of uniting all things under Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10) has decisively begun and that their defeat is imminent (1 Corinthians 15:24)” - Zondervan Study Bible, Kindle Location 273,978 (emphasis added).

What excites my imagination in this is the largeness of God’s plan. It’s bigger than we know or imagine. And you and I are part of it. Something as simple as being obedient to pray for someone has the potential to ricochet throughout the universe!

PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to understand better the “unsearchable riches of Christ,” the “mystery hidden in God” and your “manifold (many-sided, colourful) wisdom” and to live a life in sync with these things. Amen.

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


Monday, November 14, 2016

Life "presenced with Divinity"

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 2:1-10

TO CHEW ON: “But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” Ephesians 2:4,5


Today’s reading in Ephesians reminds me of a book I’m reading. Biblical Ethics / The Moral Foundations of Life / The Philosophy of Sin by Oswald Chambers is a collection of talks, addresses, and lectures Chambers gave at various times and places from 1909 to 1917.

I find his words a wonderful elaboration on the themes touched on by Paul here: the need for us to die to the old self and to live the new Holy Spirit-dependant “alive together with Christ” life God has “prepared beforehand for us” (Ephesians 2:5,10).

  • Christians are unhappy if “They are not at one with the principle that unites them”; if they are not “Christians at heart.” Chambers describes halfhearted Christians as carrying their beliefs like a headache and because they can’t chop off their heads they can’t get rid of the headache -  Kindle Location 514.
  • When dealing with sinful tendencies, we starve those things in ourselves: “It is absurd to say, pray about them; when once a thing is seen to be wrong, don’t pray about it, it fixes the mind on it; never for a second brood on it; destroy it by neglect - KL 731 (emphasis added).
  • But we’re only human. How can the ideal that Paul describes be true of us?  Chambers takes this realistic approach: “No one is constituted to live a pure, divine life on earth; we are constituted to live human lives on earth, presenced with Divinity” - KL 798 (emphasis added).
  • I love that—“presenced with divinity.” Chambers talks more about realizing that state: “Am I willing that the old disposition should be crucified with Christ? If I am, Jesus Christ will take possession of me and will baptize me into His life until I bear a strong family likeness to Him. It is a lonely path, a path of death, but it means ultimately being presenced with Divinity” - KL 1241 (emphasis added).
  • We can all probably relate to the tug-of-war between the self-directed and Spirit-directed life implied in how Chambers describes God handling the backtracking we easily revert to: “As soon as you begin to forecast and plan for yourself, God will break up your program—He delights to do it—until we learn to live like children based on the knowledge that God is ruling and reigning …” - KL 1342 (emphasis added).
  • Such surrender doesn’t happen without a struggle.When the Holy Spirit emancipates my personality, no attention is paid to my individuality, to my temperament or to my prejudices; He brings me into oneness with God entirely when I am willing to waive my right to myself and let Him have His way. No individual gets there without a crisis, a crisis of a terrific nature in which he or she goes to the death of something” - KL 1350 (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear Father, may these be more than words and ideas on the page. Please help me to realize in practical, everyday experience the “alive together with Christ” life—a life "presenced with Divinity." 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, November 13, 2016

A Divine Lawyer

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 21:1-19

TO CHEW ON: “‘Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.’” Luke 21:14,15

Here Jesus gives advice to the disciples on how to prepare themselves for being arrested and interrogated for their faith in Him. This bit snags my attention: '… settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer.’

Jesus’ advice goes against every instinct I have. If I was arrested and anticipating being questioned about my faith, my tendency would be to review my doctrine and apologetics textbooks, have my Romans Road scriptures at my fingertips, refresh my mind on how to make a logical and convincing argument, etc.

But the compelling defence Jesus describes (‘… all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist…’) comes a different way than through memory, intellect, or reasoning power. Our reading in Luke doesn’t name the source of this wisdom but in another place Jesus refers to it (Him) specifically.

‘Now when they bring you to the synagogue and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what to say.’” Luke 12:11,12.

Jesus speaks more about this divine ‘Lawyer’ in John 14-16.

‘But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all things that I said to you’” - John 14:26.

‘If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you’” - John 15:7.

‘… And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment’” - John 16:8.

Two further thoughts:

1. Maybe a greater dependence on the Holy Spirit is also a wiser, more effective way of sharing the gospel with friends and family than some of the rote methods we’ve been taught.

2. Waiting for the Holy Spirit to supply our words, takes work too—the work of refusing to worry and substituting worry with dependence on and obedience to the Holy Spirit at all times and in all situations.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Holy Spirit, Your wisdom and words, that are appropriate and come with convicting power, available to me. Amen.

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


Saturday, November 12, 2016

Four reasons to stay the course

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Malachi 3:13-4:6

TO CHEW ON: "'Your words have been harsh against Me,' says the Lord,
'Yet you say, "What have we spoken against You?"
You have said, "It is useless to serve God;
What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance
And that we have walked as mourners,
Before the Lord of Hosts?"'" Malachi 3:13-14



Have you ever thought - what's the point of living for God? Does God even know that I alter my lifestyle to please Him? Does He care? That seems to have been the thinking of Israel, especially of the faithful few that resisted the nation's general backsliding during Malachi's time.

We don't have to understand all the prophetic details in God's reply to catch the gist of encouragement to His disheartened followers. Let's listen in and get hope for our lives from the four reasons He gives them to stay the course.

1. You are remembered.
"So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who feared the Lord
And who meditate on His name." Malachi 3:16

How comforting to know that God writes about us in His book. One can't help but think of other references to such books — the book of our days from Psalm 139, or the Book of Life with our names written in it, mentioned in Revelation.

2. You are His treasure.
"They shall be Mine," says the Lord of hosts
On that day when I make them my jewels." Malachi 3:17

Treasure (segullah) means personal property, special treasure. My Bible explains: "Malachi 3:17 speaks of the people God will regard as His 'jewels.' Man's treasure is material objects, but consistently in Scripture, God's treasure is human beings" ("Word Wealth" - New Spirit Filled Bible [NSFLB], p. 262).

3. You will get justice.
"Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him." 3:18

This is a reassurance to those of us tempted to question God's fairness while unbelieving friends and neighbours prosper even as they flaunt behaviours that our consciences won't allow. "Sometimes believers tend to be spiritually nearsighted. We face the same temptation today as did God's people in Malachi's day; the temptation to look at ungodly circumstances around us and question God's integrity and character. We must not mistake God's patience for apathy" ("Truth-In-Action Through Malachi - NSFLB, p. 1274).

4. You will be healed.
"But to you who fear my name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
with healing in His wings." Malachi 4:2

Healing (marpe) means restoration of health, remedy, cure, medicine, tranquility, deliverance, refreshing. "Salvation is God's rescue of the entire person, and healing is His complete repair of that person" - NSFLB p. 1273.

God's eternal vision sees eternal outcomes. So let's stay the course of loyalty to Him, knowing that the outworking of all that comes our way is good.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for these assurances for those who are Yours. Help me to live my life with this eternal perspective in mind. Amen.

MORE: "When He Cometh"

The song "When He Cometh" is based on Malachi 3:17. William O. Cushing wrote it in 1856 and George F. Root wrote the music in 1866. Cyberhymnal tells an interesting story about it with a Canadian connection.

Hear it sung at a Gaither gathering with Joni Erickson Tada in this YouTube rendition.



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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, November 11, 2016

Tithing: a practice that's blessed

Give in the old way or in the new!



TODAY'S SPECIAL: Malachi 3:1-15


TO CHEW ON:"'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,'
Says the Lord of hosts,
'If I will not open for you
the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.'" - Malachi 3:10


Do you tithe? By tithe I mean give 10% of your income to God.

I know some people argue against tithing, saying that it is a form of legalism hearkening back to Old Testament times. However, I believe that it is a practice that carries on for us today (supported by Jesus in Matthew 23:23), and that when we give in such an accurate and consistent way, we benefit.

Three blessings of tithing are mentioned in today's Malachi reading:

1. Tithing supports the church (Malachi 3:10). Malachi phrases it "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse / That there may be food in my house..." Our tithes brought to the churches where we worship and are spiritually fed (the 'storehouse') means that they will flourish as headquarters for spreading the Gospel in our communities.


2. Tithing is grounds for God's blessing (Malachi 3:10). What sweet words from Him! Who of us wouldn't welcome an open heaven, and so much blessing we couldn't contain it?


3. Tithing frustrates Satan (Malachi 3:11). God says through Malachi, "I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes." For Judah He would do it in a very practical way by blessing crops and causing a bountiful harvest to the extent that she would gain an international reputation as "blessed" and known to be a "delightful land" (Malachi 3:12). Rebuking the devourer for us could be God's blessing and protection in a myriad ways from preserving our property, to keeping our machines from breaking down, to prospering us at work, to keeping our clothes from wearing out (the way God blessed the Israelites when they trekked through the desert during the exodus - Deuteronomy 8:4; 29:5; Nehemiah 9:21).

Of course our primary motive in tithing shouldn't be to get a blessing. As a sidebar article in my Bible explains:
"Nothing will keep a wise believer from tithing and giving, but he or she will never be found to tithe or give offerings just to get something in return. ... Do not be afraid to prove God with your giving; He is God and He will stand the test every time" - Oral Roberts in "God's Giving Plan Begins With Tithing," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1272.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this clear teaching about accurate, systematic giving. Help me to understand how this is a spiritual as much as a monetary matter. Amen.

MORE: Is tithing needful for salvation?
If you are looking for arguments against tithing, you’ll find lots online. There are a multitude of books and articles that insist on things like tithing was only for the support of the priests (descendants of the tribe of Levi who had no land) and the poor, that it was only given as agricultural produce (never money), that Jesus’ mention of it (Luke 18:12) means nothing for us because He was speaking in a time before His death when the law was still in effect, and more.

My position is:
  • Tithing is not required. It is not necessary for salvation. We are under grace.
  • Tithing is a good place to start when figuring out what part of my income/substance I should give. When I tithe, I am reminded that all I have really belongs to God. Some challenge tithing of other things as well, like one’s time.
“The old covenant required 10 percent. The new covenant does not specify a percentage, nor do we. However, the new covenant admonishes people to give what they can, and tithing still provides an instructive point of comparison” - read all of “Is Tithing Required in the New Covenant?”
  • Paul talks about how ministers of the gospel deserve to be supported by those who benefit from their ministry (1 Timothy 5:18). In the Old Testament that support came from the tithe. Tithing seems like a good practical solution to support the “house” but, again, it is not a law or requirement.
  • Because the New Covenant is so much better than the old one, why limit oneself to giving only one tenth? That’s the point John Piper makes on this 7-minute audio file where he answers: “Is Tithing Commanded for Christians?


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

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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Till Alzheimer's do us part?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Malachi 2:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "Did he not make them one with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth." Malachi 2:15


Pat Robertson's answer to the question of what to do when a spouse has Alzheimer's sent shock waves through the audience of the 700 Club show. "He should divorce her and start all over again," he said. "Since Alzheimer's is a kind of living death," he went on, "divorce and remarriage wouldn't be violating the marriage vows of being faithful 'till death do us part.'"

Dr. Robert McQuilkin did the opposite. When this theologian's wife took ill, he stayed faithfully at the side of his wife of 40 years to the extent of quitting his job so he could provide around-the-clock care. He cared for her until she died--a total of 25 years.

Sickness is one of many reasons we could find, if we're looking, to rationalize breaking our marriage vows. But the Bible is clear that marital separation should be a rare thing. Here are some things the Bible says about the marriage bond:

  • Husbands are to love their wives as themselves and as sacrificially as Christ loved the church, while wives are to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:25,28, 33; Colossians 3:19).
  • Wives of unbelieving husbands should stay with them, hopefully winning them to belief by their outer and inner beauty (1 Peter 3:1-4).
  • Our prayers may be hindered by marital strife (1 Peter 3:7).
...and there's no expiry date on any of these.

PRAYER: Dear God, my heart goes out to people whose spouses are ill with dementia or any debilitating condition. Help me to find no crack in my resolve to be true to my husband, no matter what. Amen.


MORE: This story in more depth

ABC News story "Pat Robertson Says Alzheimer's Makes Divorce OK"

"Living By Vows" by Dr. Robert McQuilkin (download pdf of the article)

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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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