Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fulfill YOUR ministry

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Timothy 4:1-8

TO CHEW ON:
“But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5

On a writer blog to which I contribute, a recent topic was “Shining light on important issues.” Thinking about that topic helped me to clarify for myself what my “ministry” is in the area of issues-related writing. I concluded it’s not my main ministry.

At other times when writer friends talk about projects they’re involved in and the thought arises in me: “Why didn’t I know about that; I could have done that!” I hear the Lord whisper: “Did I ask you to do that?”

A friend who is gifted at teaching recently talked about how, early in her Christian life, church friends suggested she was cut out for full-time ministry. However, as a mom of four young boys, that was unrealistic. She reports now, many years later, “… that was not for me. My ministry, where I feel most alive, is as an occasional Bible study teacher.”

Here Paul added to other advice he gave Timothy to “fulfill your ministry.” I think each one of us can take that as a personal challenge. In a Truth-In-Action article at the end of 2 Timothy, Leslyn Musch paraphrases “fulfill your ministry”: “Be tirelessly faithful in those things God has commissioned you to do” (New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1717).

When faced with a bundle of needs and ministry opportunities, we do well to ask ourselves, “What is my assignment, my ministry,  what are the things God has commissioned me to do in relation to this?” And, “Will my taking on something new, something more, enhance or distract from that?”

PRAYER:
Dear Father, in today’s noisy world, it’s easy for me to lose my focus and get caught up and distracted by personal, career, political, societal, even church needs and causes. Help me to hear Your voice and be faithful to do the things You have called me to do. 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, June 27, 2017

Registered in Zion

International flags

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 87:1-7

TO CHEW ON: "And of Zion it will be said,
'This one and that one were born in her; …
The Lord will record,
When He registers the peoples;
This one was born there.'" Psalm 87:5,6



"The most resistant Gentile peoples will find spiritual birth in Zion," is my Bible's footnote explanation of this psalm (K. R. "Dick" Iverson, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 752).

I love how the psalmist names specific nations as representative of its inhabitants: Rahab (symbolic of Egypt - Isaiah 30:7), Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, Ethiopia. These were Israel's neighbours.  Some had been or were enemies. Of individuals from these tribes/nations the writer says, "This one and that one were born in her; … The Lord will record, When He registers the peoples; This one was born there."

"He shall enrigister every individual among the converted nations as a true citizen of Zion, entitled to all covenant privileges" - Pulpit Commentary.

I see a picture of God, constantly scanning the peoples of earth, looking for signs of movement toward Him: "… to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him" - 2 Chronicles 16:9.

I see Him writing the names of these from every nation in His book: "…The Lord will record, /  When He registers the peoples…"  They are holy (separate). They are His - Isaiah 4:3.

Finally, I see this international crowd, before the throne, praising God:

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” - Revelation 7:9-10.

There is no basis to the criticism that Christianity is a European/North American religion foisted on other nations and people groups by the white man. It is, from its inception, truly international. It knows no borders and has no language or race barriers.


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for sending Jesus to die for everyone. Regardless of skin color, language or location, all of us can be born again ("born in her [Zion]").  We thank you for drawing and claiming the most resistant heart. Amen.

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

Monday, June 26, 2017

Magnify God with your gratitude

magnifying glass with pencil TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 69:19-36

TO CHEW ON: "But I am poor and sorrowful;
Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high.
I will praise the name of God with a song,
And will magnify Him with thanksgiving." Psalm 69:29-30


David continues on with his list of negatives.

(Several of them remind us of passages from the gospels and Acts, where the writers quote the very words of this psalm.

  • Psalm 69:6 - John recalls this verse after witnessing Jesus' early cleansing of the temple in John 2:17.
  • Psalm 69:21 - Jesus is offered gall and sour vinegar while on the cross in Matthew 27:34.
  • Psalm 69:25 - Peter refers to this verse in relation to Judas when the apostles discuss finding about a replacement for him in Acts 1:16-20.)

Then notice how he changes course. At the junction of verses 29 and 30 it's as if he says to himself, Enough of this dwelling on the negative! And he begins to give God praise and thanksgiving.

He chooses to praise "with a song" getting his vocal cords involved.

He determines to "magnify Him with thanksgiving." I envision him peering at God and who He is through the magnifying lens of gratitude and appreciation. This makes Him bigger than the bad stuff that's happening to him; it magnifies Him.

Another meaning of magnify is to extol and exalt. We do that too as we direct our attention and fill our thoughts and our mouths with praise of God and thanksgiving to Him.

How can we do that practically?

You know all those blank notebooks people give as gifts? I've labelled the spine of one of them GRATITUDE. I write in it things for which I'm thankful. As I've persisted with this, guess what? A grateful, thankful attitude is becoming my habit!

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for being bigger than all my problems and for loading my life with good things. Help me to look away from my troubles to You and Your good gifts. 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, June 25, 2017

Your sin hurts more than just you

"Deliverance from the flood" - Psalm 69:15
Engraver Melchior Kussell
Artist SL
From the Pitts Theology Library.

Deliverance from the flood - Psalm 69:15 - Engraving by Melchior Kussel - Artist SL
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 69:1-18

TO CHEW ON:
"Let not those who wait for You,
O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me;
Let not those who seek you be confounded because of me,
O God of Israel." Psalm 69:6


What a desperate cry for help David makes in this psalm! In picturesque language he describes the feeling of drowning in trouble and being sucked into the mire of problems (Psalm 69:1-2; 14-15). His enemies seem numberless and his treatment unfair (Psalm 69:4). The message that comes through is, 'None of this is my fault!'

And then we come to verse 5:

"O God you know my foolishness / And my sins are not hidden from you."
Maybe he isn't as blameless as he let on at the beginning.

I really appreciate his thoughts relating to the potential fallout of his actions in verse 6:

"Let not those who wait for You
O Lord of hosts, be ashamed because of me;
Let not those who seek you be confounded because of me,
O God of Israel."

The sad truth is that we are often at least a little to blame for our own problems. And when we sin we hurt those who view us as examples and mentors—our children, young Christians, our friends and colleagues, those who look to us for instruction and inspiration etc. Our broken marriages, involvements in pornography, illegal money schemes, theft, child sexual abuse—whatever—especially if we are leaders, impact much more than just our own lives.

Let's keep that in mind before we yield to temptation. Let's let our love for the body of Christ be another reason not to sin in the first place.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to realize how my sin affects Your body (the church) and resist temptation. Help me, at the same time, to refrain from harsh judgment when my brothers and sisters sin. I want to be a restorer of the broken. Amen.

MORE: Second most-quoted psalm
The NIV Study Bible's introduction to this psalm names it the second most-quoted psalm in the New Testament:

"The authors of the NT viewed this cry of a godly sufferer as foreshadowing the sufferings of Christ; no psalm except Psalm 22 is quoted more frequently in the NT" - NIV Study Bible, p. 855.

Those quotes:

  • Psalm 69:4 - John 15:25
  • Psalm 69:9 - John 2:17; Romans 15:3
  • Psalm 69:21 - Matthew 27:34
  • Psalm 69:25 - Acts 1:20
  • Psalm 69:33 - Luke 4:18 
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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.

Bible Drive-Thru

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Highlight Jesus

Horn or Shofar
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 1:57-80

TO CHEW ON:
“‘Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David” - Luke 1:69-69


To the wonder of all the onlookers, Zacharias not only regained his speech in an instant of time, but immediately delivered an articulate and beautiful prophecy. Author Luke called it Holy Spirit inspired (Luke 1:67).

The IVP New Testament Commentary says about Zacharias’s utterance:
“This hymn offers a divine commentary on God’s plan. John is the prophet of the most high, pointing to Jesus, the bright Morning Star” - IVP Commentary accessed through Biblegateway.com.

Some of the things Zacharias says about Jesus:
  • He calls Him a “horn of salvation” - Luke 1:69.
Horn” refers to the horn of an animal. Metaphorically to the Jewish people it signified strength and a deliverer or Messiah. Here, combined with the reference to the "house of David" it implies a kingly status. Various translations on this: “… a mighty and valiant Savior” - AMP; “He is sending us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David” - TLB.
  • He describes this Savior as powerful and capable, able to keep the covenant made with Abraham and enact what the prophets predicted by delivering Israel from its enemies (Luke 1:70-75).
  • He calls Him the “Dayspring from on high.” The Amplified expresses it: “…the Sunrise (the Messiah) from on high will dawn and visit us” - Luke 1:78 AMP.
  • He will be a light-bringer and thus dispels the shadow of death - Luke 1:79.
  • He will bring peace: He will “…guide our feet into the way of peace” - Luke 1:79.

The IVP commentary concludes: “So Zacharias highlights Jesus just as his son John will” - Ibid.

And so, I suggest, should we. As Jesus Himself said:‘And I, if I am lifted up from the earth will draw all peoples to Myself'’’ - John 12:32.

How “lifted up”?

Attention drawn to His life for sure, but more important, Jesus was, and needs to be lifted up in His death as the substitutionary atonement for our sins. In this He is the only bridge to a renewed relationship, indeed sonship with God and eternal life - John 12:35,36.


PRAYER: Dear Father, I love how Zacharias’s praise focused on Jesus. Help me to highlight Jesus in my life and words today. Amen. 

MORE: Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist

Today the church celebrates the Feast of the birth of John the Baptist. The day's liturgy begins with this prayer: 
 
Almighty God, by whose providence your servant John the Baptist was wonderfully born, and sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior by preaching repentance: Make us so to follow his teaching and holy life, that we may truly repent according to his preaching; and, following his example, constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth's sake; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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

Scriptures marked The Living Bible (or TLB) copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. The Living Bible, TLB, and the The Living Bible logo are registered trademarks of Tyndale House Publishers.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Wineskins of revival

wine barrel
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 9:14-26

TO CHEW ON: " 'Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved.' " Matthew 9:16,17

Do you ever hear people pining for the revivals of the old days as they recall a meeting where God met them? Perhaps it was in a Billy Graham Crusade, or in my case a Janz Crusade and Sutera Twins meetings. It seems that God often moves in waves of revival. If we were caught by such a wave and have had a taste, it's left us with a lingering appetite for more.

David Wilkerson was one of the men God used to propel revival in the 1960s and '70s. His book The Cross and the Switchblade, that tells of how God used him to work in the lives of New York's gang members and addicts, became a bestseller. Soon he was holding crusades in cities all around the U.S.

In his biography David Wilkerson: The Cross, the Switchblade and the Man Who Believed his son Gary tells of the ups and downs of Wilkerson's ministry. For years, thousands found Jesus at the meetings he held. But then invitations to speak began to slow, went to a trickle, stopped altogether as crusades lost their appeal.

At such times it's natural to ask, what changed? The temptation is to try to copy what other popular ministries are doing or duplicate the conditions of fruitful times. Wilkerson's team questioned their boss's refusal to go on TV and lack of new books. We may think, if we sang the same songs, accompanied them with accordions instead of guitars and drums, put up a tent instead of using an auditorium, revival would return.


Though I believe Jesus was referring to the big notion of old and new wine here, i.e. the Old Testament Law era versus the new wine era of salvation by grace through faith, I think we can also apply this old and new wineskin principle to the ways God visits succeeding generations.

Let's keep our hearts and eyes open to the new ways God is growing His kingdom that don't look anything like the city-wide crusades, the week-long conferences, or the deeper life meetings of the past. Let's not allow our hankering after the old wineskins of revival delivery blind us to the new wineskin ways that may even now be poised to engulf our generation with a wave of revival.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be alert to the moving of Your Spirit, from whatever wineskin it pours. 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, June 22, 2017

The human Jeremiah

Jeremiah by Rembrandt
Jeremiah by Rembrandt
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 20:7-18

TO CHEW ON: "Then I said, 'I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name!'
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back
And I could not." Jeremiah 20:9


Poor Jeremiah—he is not a happy prophet. In our reading today we see the human heart of this mouthpiece of God.

Putting his lament in context, the early verses of Jeremiah 20 describe how Pashur the priest and governor reacts to a previous negative prophecy. He puts Jeremiah in stocks in a gate near the temple. It sounds public and humiliating.

Jeremiah is released the next day, unbowed. He prophecies a future of Babylonian captivity on not only the nation but specifically on Pashur and his household. I'm sure that goes over well! And then he comes out with his complaint to God.

"You induced me, and I was persuaded," he says. But the result is that he becomes "A reproach and derision."

He decides to shut up—not speak God's prophecies any more. But they burn inside him; he can't keep silent. So he speaks again, enduring more of the same, feeling egged on and betrayed by "All my acquaintances." Family and friends too? It sounds like it.

The curious part of his monologue is the section where he breaks into sublime praise (Jeremiah 20:11-13). It's almost as if, in the middle of his rant, he gets a glimpse of reality:
"But the Lord is with me as a Mighty Awesome One.
Therefore my persecutors will stumble and not prevail…"

Alas, he doesn't stay there but slips even deeper into depression, wishing he'd never been born (Jeremiah 20:14-18).

Jeremiah's honesty here can instruct us:

- Even great prophets have a human side. Jeremiah longed to be accepted and liked, not unlike most of us. Maybe we need to remind ourselves of him when we're tempted to criticize our teachers, pastors and "prophets."

- Jeremiah didn't keep quenching the Holy Spirit
within him. Under the Spirit's compulsion he kept speaking, despite how his listeners responded or didn't. Let's not let the negative reaction to the gospel in our time silence us either.

- When he looked at the big eternal picture his tune changed to praise
:
"Sing to the Lord! Praise the Lord!
For He has delivered the life of the poor
From the hand of evildoers" - Jeremiah 20:11.
The same can be true for us.

- But he allowed himself to slip back into the dumps. I wish he had kept his focus on God—that he had ended with verse 13 (Jeremiah 20:13) instead of verse 18 (Jeremiah 20:18).

Jeremiah's slip-slide into gloom reminds me of something Joyce Meyer teaches: "We have to purposely choose right thinking. After we have finally decided to be like-minded with God, then we will need to choose and continue to choose right thoughts" - Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, p. 26).

PRAYER:
Dear God, thank You for using flawed human instruments like Jeremiah. Remind me of him and his humanness when I'm tempted to criticize the pastors and prophets in my life. Help me to overcome depressing thoughts with thoughts of the eternal truths of Your word. 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, June 21, 2017

Cost to a "sent out" one

"Take Up His Cross"- Pictures from 
Children's Bible Story Books.

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 10:32-11:1

TO CHEW ON: "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." Matthew 10:39

Matthew 10 is mostly a set of instructions Jesus gave to His twelve disciples before sending them out to their Jewish neighbours. Their mission was to preach and demonstrate the nearness of the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 10:7-8). By Jesus' instructions we can tell that the reaction to their message would be mixed. In other words this would be no sightseeing jaunt or cushy vacation.

In the end, this assignment seemed to be as much about the apprenticeship of the disciples as it was about the delivery of the Kingdom message to their countrymen. A warning that Jesus gave at least three times in this chapter was to expect opposition that would test their loyalties.

1. Their message and commitment to Jesus would get them in trouble with governing authorities to the extent of being forced to defend themselves before councils, governors, and kings. The will even be beaten (Matthew 10:17-20).

2. Their commitment to Jesus would test family ties. Jesus warned of treachery coming from even within their own households (Matthew 10:34-36).

3. Their commitment to Jesus would test their loyalty to themselves (Matthew 10:37-39). Jesus challenged His disciples to love Him more than their own lives. He couched it in the language of death — called it  taking up one's cross. Such a thing probably doesn't ring many alarm bells in our society where crosses aren't used for execution. To get the shock value of His statement let's say it differently. How about: "He who does not take with him his lethal injection and follow Me is not worthy of Me"?

Jesus' warning words are a stark reminder of humanity's default reaction to the gospel. Therefore you and I shouldn't be surprised when people respond to the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven (and all it entails of mankind's sinful state, our need for redemption and the ultimate lordship of Jesus over our life and all of creation) with incredulity, challenge, confrontation, ultimatums, anger... In fact, we're probably naive if we don't expect it.

And personally, am I ready to kill that part of me that wants the world to accept me and like me? On top of that, am I ready to put to death that part of me that wants to do as I please in choice of vocation, relationships, how I spend my time, money etc.? Am I that loyal to Jesus?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, Your description of true discipleship in this chapter is sobering and startling. I don't think I've begun to be a disciple like this. Please show me what it means in daily living. Amen.

MORE: "Jesus I My Cross Have Taken"

This Bob Dylan-esque rendition of this old hymn is from the second Indelible Grace CD, Pilgrim Days. I love it! Many verses that's why it's so long. Read along with the singers by following the link to the lyrics below.



Follow the lyrics as you listen

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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, June 20, 2017

A united heart

heart with crack down the middle
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 86:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name." Psalm 86:11


In the world of words, prevailing wisdom says if you want to make it as a writer, stick to one thing. If you've had success with mysteries, for example, don't suddenly switch to writing historical romances and then over to contemporary suspense and, for a change, science fiction.

Why?  Because it confuses your readers and erodes their trust in you. Fans of your mysteries will be put off when they pick up your newest and find it's not another whodunit but a tale about life on Mars. What they wanted, and thought they were getting, when they saw your name on the cover was a puzzle, not a space fantasy.

David in our reading today asks for God's help with something similar in the realm of his life and affections when he prays: "Unite my heart to fear Your name." My Bible's notes suggest other ways of expressing "Unite my heart": "Give me singleness of heart" and "Do not let the heart have many allegiances or distractions" - Dick Iverson, study notes on Psalms, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 752. 

Why is a divided heart a bad thing? For one, it blunts the impact our lives will have because it confuses those who observe us. But even worse, it confuses us too (James 1:4-8).

It takes only a few minutes to come up with a list of things that could compete for the allegiance of our hearts: money, security, desire to be liked, success, popularity, personal appearance and image, pleasure, leisure…

How do we get to that place of having an undivided, undistracted, unified heart?

"Teach me Your ways," the psalmist begins his request here. Teach (yarah) means to instruct, direct, teach, point, shoot, aim, cast in a straight direction. One Bible word derived from Yarah is Torah which means instruction, teaching, as in the instruction Moses got from God written in the first books of the Bible (from "Word Wealth" by Dick Mills, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 710).

I believe we can make the leap and conclude that spending time in God's word (for us the Old and New Testaments) will also teach us what it means to have an undivided heart.

I love how Leslyn Musch sums up this thought in her Truth-In-Action Through Psalms: "God desires for our hearts to be undivided, fully devoted to Him, daily choosing Him above all else in all decisions of our lives" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 755 (emphasis added)

PRAYER:
Dear God, as I read the Bible, please help me to understand how its teachings apply to me. Help me to choose to put You first in every aspect of my 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.


Monday, June 19, 2017

The symbolic reenactment

This is a photo of my baptism at the age of
14 in the North Saskatchewan River,
near Borden, Sask.

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 6:1-11


TO CHEW ON: "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father even so we also should walk in newness of life." Romans 6:4

We have recently come through a season of celebrating Jesus' death and resurrection. In our passage today Paul explains how that event is reenacted in our lives when we are baptized.

The faith tradition in which I grew up and was baptized (Mennonite Brethren) practices baptism by immersion. This simply means you go to a body of water that's about waist deep and the person who baptizes you tilts you backwards so that you are totally under: "...buried with Him..."

Thankfully we're not there three days but mere seconds. Then the baptizer raises us out of the water. This signifies Christ's resurrection: "That just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

For most people, their baptism as a watershed event, powerful in many ways.

  • The spiritual symbolism of the physical act brings home to the person being baptized in a tactile way what happened when they trusted Jesus for salvation.
  • It's a sign to onlookers of one's allegiance to Jesus. It's a ceremony (or 'ordinance') unusual enough to grab attention and signal that the person being baptized is serious about his or her faith and following Jesus.
  • To the person being baptized (and to onlookers) it marks a moment of fresh resolve "...of being dead indeed to sin but alive to God..." - Romans 6:11.

Have you been baptized on the confession of your faith as a symbolic reenactment of your own death to sin and life to God? If not, consider this ordinance for yourself. It may impact you in ways you hadn't imagined.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for baptism which pictures so beautifully what happens when I trusted you as Saviour and Lord of my 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.


Bible Drive-Thru

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fathers, lead in right paths

 HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!
straight path leading to the sun


TODAY'S SPECIAL:
Proverbs 4:1-13

TO CHEW ON: "I have taught you in the way of wisdom;
I have led you in right paths." Proverbs 4:11



"I have led you in right paths" says the father to his son in our reading today. There is probably no more persuasive teaching than that done by example. What are the "right paths" on which a father could lead his children? Are they still there for us to find today?

Right paths:

1. The wise father seeks out the paths of God
- Psalm 23:3.

2. He goes to the "mountain of the Lord" to get instruction (Isaiah 2:3). For the Old Testament Hebrews this would have been the temple in Jerusalem. In our day instruction can come from many places—church, radio & TV, books and, of course, the greatest book for this is the Bible which we can access in our own homes (no traveling to mountains necessary, although spending time with God in His word is sometimes called a "mountaintop experience").

3. The paths of God are:
- life and joy and pleasure - Psalm 16:11.
- mercy and truth - Psalm 25:10.
- wisdom and justice - Proverbs 2:6-8.
- uprightness - Isaiah 26:7.
- righteousness - Proverbs 8:20; 12:28.
- shining - Proverbs 4:18.

4. He avoids the path to sin. The path specifically referred to here is the path to the  "seductress" i.e. an immoral, extramarital relationship - Proverbs 2:19.

5. If he goes astray he looks for the way back. Jeremiah tells us to find our way back to God via the "old path" (Jeremiah 6:16), and to look for the "signposts" and "landmarks" (Jeremiah 31:21). This picturesque instruction says to me, don't look for a new-fangled way back to God. Come by the way of the book. If you have backslidden, come remembering and revisiting your decisions and experiences from the past.

6. The writer to the Hebrews gives the last bit of path wisdom to fathers and all of us: "…make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed." We need such straight, honest living, not only for our own well-being but for the well-being of those who follow behind, calling us father (and mother).


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for fathers. Thank You for my father who loved Your word and taught it to us in our home. Please give wisdom, grace, and joy to all fathers who read here this Father's Day. 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, June 17, 2017

Trademarked by compassion

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 9:27-38

TO CHEW ON:
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.” Matthew 10:36

Matthew here goes from zoom-in closeups of Jesus responding, questioning, touching, healing, and casting out demons from individuals (Matthew 9:27-34), to the general effect of His presence and ministry (Matthew 9:35-36).

He was everyone’s as He traveled around visiting the synagogues in big places and small. His work was preaching good news and doing good things for everyone—healing “every sickness and every disease” - Matthew 9:35. His trademark was compassion (Matthew 9:36).

We see this side of Jesus at other times too—like when He wept over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-44) and at the grave of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35). A sidebar article in my Bible about Jesus’ compassion suggests facets of it.
It was compassion for hard human hearts and vulnerability to death. “Love sees beyond the immediate and the personal and compassionately relates to the lost, the hurting, the needy, the distressed” - Fuchsia Pickett, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1307 (emphasis added).

That’s my challenge. Perhaps it’s yours too: to see beyond the immediate and the personal, to look past offensive, off-putting behaviours to the very human person behind the actions.

For this we need more than human empathy. To attain real Christlikeness we need the Spirit that lived in Jesus:
“Christlikeness calls us to learn Jesus’ heart of compassion, a depth of sensitivity that can be worked in us through the Holy Spirit, reconditioning our hearts to be able to sense the pain of human bondage (Hebrews 13:1-3) and to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15)” - Fuchsia Pickette, Op. Cit (emphasis added)


PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, please work the compassion of Jesus into my outlook and actions 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.


Friday, June 16, 2017

The birth of Laughter

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 21:1-21

TO CHEW ON:
 "And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him — whom Sarah bore to him — Isaac....And Sarah said, 'God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.'" Genesis 21:3,6
Have you noticed how many times laughter bubbles up in the story of Isaac?

Abraham's reaction to God's reassurance that he would have a child by Sarah — a child that would be the first in a line of descendants that would one day become a nation— was: "Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed..." (Genesis 17:17).

When the angel visitor reiterated that message to Abraham, Sarah, who "...had passed the age of childbearing" overheard their conversation and "...laughed within herself" (Genesis 18:11-12).

After Isaac was born, Sarah said, "God has made me laugh and all who hear with laugh with me" (Genesis 21:6).

Is it any wonder they called the baby Isaac, which means laughter?

My dictionary's first definition of laugh not only describes the physical act of laughing but also names some of the reasons we laugh: "To produce the characteristic explosive or inarticulate sounds, facial expression and other physical manifestations expressive of merriment, elation, derision, discomposure etc."

Robert Hemley on the topic of what makes something laughable says:
"Unpredictability. We laugh at what surprises us...we laugh because we have been shaken out of our normal perceptions" - Robert Hemley in "Relaxing the Rules of Reason" from How to Write Funny, p. 15.

"Shaken out of normal perceptions" — that would describe Abraham and Sarah. Who would blame 100-year-old Abraham or menopausal Sarah for laughing when God told them they would parent a son? However, their initial laughter of skepticism, cynicism, even derision turned to that of sheer joy when this most unlikely thing happened.

Isaac was the beginning of the nation from which Jesus was born--a birth that was also full of unpredictability. That the creator of the universe would shrink Himself to embryo size to be born in a barn?! Our incredulous laughter at the unlikelihood of such a thing turns to the laughter of elation as we ponder why He did it (John 3:16).

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for coming as a baby, born to humble parents, in the lowliest place. Thank You for what Your coming means to me. It is beyond laughing incredible! 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.
 


Bible Drive-Thru

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Morality—taught and caught

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Genesis 20:1-18

TO CHEW ON:
“And Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, ‘What have you done to us? How have I offended you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done deeds to me that ought not to be done.’” Genesis 20:9

What horrible thing had Abraham done to the Philistine King Abimelech?

Lied about the state of Sarah, who was his wife and also his half-sister. He told this half-truth because of Sarah’s beauty and his fear that other men, powerful men, would want her and do away with him to get her for themselves.

He had done this previously as well, in Egypt (Genesis 12:10-20).

There’s a sequel to today’s story in Genesis 26:1-11. There we see Isaac doing the exact same thing as his dad—saying Rebekah was his sister when she was really his wife, again to save his own skin. In Isaac’s case it wasn’t even half true, but a total lie.

I am struck by the generational aspect of this. Did Isaac witness Abraham do it? Probably not because it happened before his time. Perhaps his dad told him the stories of these events, glossing over the evil of them? Or maybe Isaac picked up something in his father’s general moral code that was unspoken permission to act in this way—an attitude and other actions that sacrificed honesty on the altar of expediency?

Whatever it was, I think there’s a lesson for us in this. We don’t only teach morality (what’s right and wrong) to our kids, but they also catch our morality from us. They pick it up from our attitudes and the way we act.
 
PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to live in such a way that I can say to others, don’t just do as I say but also as I do. 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, June 14, 2017

Tempted to linger

Lot and His Family Flee Sodom - Artist Unknown

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Genesis 19:1-22

TO CHEW ON: “And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the LORD being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city.” Genesis 19:16

Lot is an interesting character. If we follow his story, we discover his own father (Haran) died before his grandfather Terah, and that as a family his uncle Abram (& wife Sarai), Uncle Nahor (& wife), Grandfather Terah and Lot moved form Ur to Canaan (Genesis 11:27-31).

When God told Abram to move from Haran (the town) in Canaan to a place He would lead, Lot came along - Genesis 12:4.

When both men prospered so that their herds became to big for the available grassland, Abram offered Lot the choice of where to go. Lot “chose for himself” what looked like the best territory - Genesis 13:10,11.

In our reading today we discover Lot was hospitable and aware of the disturbing social customs of the city’s men, so that he insisted these visitors who came to him from Abram, stay the night with him. In fact, the spiritual climate bothered him (2 Peter 2:7,8). But not enough.

He callously offered his daughters to the lecherous and clamouring men. His sons-in-law didn’t take his warning seriously. And when the angels insisted he come with them, he “lingered” with his family so that the angels had to literally drag them out of the doomed city - Genesis 19:12-16. Lot had become spiritually dull.

Contrast Lot’s behaviour with Abraham’s (name changed by God - Genesis 17:5). He took the angelic messengers so seriously, he risked the LORD’s anger by begging for the preservation of the city and the lives of the righteous with in it (Genesis 18:23-32).

I would submit that the “city” we live in spiritually can also cause us to become spiritually dull or remain sharp and attuned to God. Do we spend time with other believers who help us see life through the lens of faith? Do we regularly read the Bible and meditate on it? Do we listen and watch music, programs, podcasts, and shows that build our faith?  Or do we give all our attention to the natural world around us—the political news, our society’s entertainment and sports, getting and caring for more of this world’s stuff for ourselves?

Let’s do what it takes to stay spiritually sharp—even if that means, like Abraham, we need to live apart from the populated Sodom's and Gomorrah’s of our time.

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to recognize and flee the things of this world that tempt me to linger with them instead of going with You. Amen.

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


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Intercessor

Intercession
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 18:16-33

TO CHEW ON: "Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord." Genesis 18:22

Here we see Abraham, in effect begging for the life of one of his family members and the inhabitants of the whole city. He knew his nephew Lot had settled in Sodom. Now the Lord had said He intended to destroy the city for its wickedness and Abraham was probably thinking,  Surely Lot isn't one of those wicked.

Abraham was such an effective intercessor he got the number of righteous for which God would spare the city from fifty down to ten.

Abraham, in his role, reminds me of another intercessor: Jesus.

His intercession is prophesied in Isaiah - Isaiah 53:12; 59:16.

During His earthly ministry He interceded
  • for weak believers - Luke 22:32
  • for His enemies - Luke 23:34
  • that the Father would send the Holy Spirit - Luke 11:13
  • and for the church - John 17:9.

As our risen Saviour, He continues to intercede before God
  • for our acceptance - Romans 8:34
  • and for our salvation - Hebrews 7:25

As those who have put our faith in Christ, we too have the noble task of interceding for others. Dick Eastman in his book The Hour that Changes the World defines intercession and gives us insights into it. Here are a few of them:

"What is intercession? It is God's method for involving His followers more completely in the totality of His plan .... Basically, intercession is prayer offered in behalf of another .... To intercede is to mediate. It is to stand between a lost being and an almighty God, praying that this person will come to know about God and His salvation .... Intercession is the broadest scope of prayer. There is no other mode of prayer that reaches out to all the world as does intercessory prayer .... Fill your intercession with the four key scriptural claims: Ask God to give more labourers to the harvest, to open doors for these workers, to bless them with fruit as the result of their efforts, and with finances to expand their work" - Dick Eastman, The Hour that Changes the World, pp. 75-85.

Abraham's prayer here is one of the Twelve Great Prayers of the Old Testament. In his book Great Prayers of the Old Testament, Walter Brueggemann says of Abraham and his venture into prayer:
"The exchange exhibits Abraham as a daring man of faith. More importantly, it presents YHWH as a ready and available partner in the free play of prayer in which the destiny of the world hangs in the balance and is under intense negotiation" - Walter Brueggemann, Great Prayers of the Old Testament, p. 8 (Kindle Edition). 

PRAYER:
Dear God, thank You for the example of Abraham's intercession. Help me to be a more effective intercessor for my loved ones as well as for people around the world. Please teach me to intercede. 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.
 

Bible Drive-Thru






Monday, June 12, 2017

When things seem too hard for God

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Genesis 18:1-15

TO CHEW ON: “‘Is anything too hard for the LORD?’” Genesis 18:4

I am right now aware of several circumstances that are difficult, even seem impossible. In the light of our focus verse “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”—a rhetorical question where the implied answer is ‘No, nothing is too hard for God’—I pray that God would intervene in these circumstances. I want Him to heal, restore function, reverse the effects of sickness and things gone wrong.

So far, though, He hasn’t. Does that mean these things are too hard for God, that there actually is something too hard for Him?

My go-to source for theological definitions defines God’s all-powerfulness (omnipotence):
“God’s omnipotence means God is able to all His holy will.” There are some things He will not do, however: lie - Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18; deny Himself - 2 Timothy 2:13; be tempted with evil - James 1:3. - from Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 216.
  • Job confessed God’s omnipotence - Job 42:2.
  • So did the psalmist - Psalm 115:3; 136:6.
  • And Isaiah - Isaiah 43:13.
  • Jesus Himself uttered the words ‘… with men this (a rich man entering the Kingdom of Heaven) is impossible but with God all things are possible’” - Matthew 19:26.
  • However, there was one time when even Jesus’ request was denied. In Gethsemane before His crucifixion, He prayed, ‘Abba Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not what I will, but what You will’” - Mark 14:36.

God the Father didn’t remove “the cup”—suffering, crucifixion, bearing the sins of the world, separation from Himself, death—that Jesus requested. If God’s omnipotence means that He is able to accomplish all His holy will, then this “no” to Jesus was part of His holy will… and His “no” to us when we pray but don’t get the results we want, is also part of His holy will.

With our incomplete sight we keep praying, perhaps even as long as there is life and breath. Jesus did praise the persistent friend and told us to keep asking, seeking, knocking - Luke 11:5-13.

However, whatever the ultimate answer—no, wait, yes—we can have the confidence that all will work out, in time or eternity, for good because of God’s heart of love for us - 1 John 4:16-18, Romans 8:28-30.

PRAYER:
Dear Father, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around You allowing people to go through things that appear to be nothing but evil. This is when I must truly walk by faith, not by sight. 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, June 11, 2017

Worry and Fear

Sanhedrin - Artist unknown
Before the Sanhedrin - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 10:16-31

TO CHEW ON:
" ' And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.' " Matthew 10:28

What a grim result Jesus predicts for His disciples as He sends them out. Two words jump out at me from our reading: WORRY and FEAR.

Jesus says, when, as a result of their message, they are brought before synagogue councils, governors and kings, they are not to WORRY beforehand about how or what to say (Matthew 10:19).

[Worry - merimnao comes from merizo which means to divide into parts. The word suggests distraction, a preoccupation with things causing anxiety, stress, and pressure - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1301.]

They are not to be distracted, preoccupied, stressed and pressured over how to defend themselves because if they are, they'll miss the best defense they could have—the one from the Holy Spirit: " 'For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you' "  Jesus says - Matthew 10:19-20.

You'd think words coming from God Himself would guarantee freedom. But not so. For Jesus goes on to speak of continuing persecution and even death which they are not to FEAR (Matthew 10:26,28).

[Fear - phobeo is a panic that grips a person causing him to run away, be alarmed, scared, frightened, dismayed, fill with dread, intimidated, anxious, apprehensive. (Notice the similarity with our word phobia) - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1308.]

At first this appears puzzling. If the persecutors can do the ultimate—kill one—why would the objects of their persecution not fear?

Because, Jesus implies, killing the body isn't the worst thing that could happen to one. The worst is something only God can do (and reason to fear Him): "destroy both soul and body in hell."

So, Jesus tells His disciples, take the long eternal view. Life doesn't stop here. So don't let your witness be extinguished by worry or fear of the worst that can happen in life. Rather, set your course by how you want to spend eternity.

Jesus' advice about worry and fear is timely for us in our day when expression of our Christian worldview and faith is being met with increasing hostility.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, Your command to not worry or fear goes straight to my heart. Help me to be so controlled by Your Spirit that I will not only stop worrying about how to defend the gospel, but will speak it with Spirit-breathed boldness. Amen.

MORE: Trinity Sunday

I love how a reference to the trinity (God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit) is embedded so subtly in our reading.  Persecution comes because of allegiance to Jesus. The Spirit of the Father gives the persecuted one the words to speak in a good defense (Matthew 10:19,20).

Today the church celebrates Trinity Sunday. The liturgy for the day begins with this prayer:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.






Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Kingdom—already, not yet

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 10:1-15

TO CHEW ON: " ' And as you go, preach saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.' " Matthew 10:7,8

Jesus spoke a lot about a spiritual kingdom (sometimes called the kingdom of heaven, sometimes the kingdom of God).
  • He promised that the poor in spirit and the persecuted would inherit it (Matthew 5:3,10).
  • He taught us to pray for its coming (Matthew 6:10).
  • He told Nicodemus the way to enter it was to be born again (John 3:3).
  • He told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).
  • And yet here, He tells His disciples it is "at hand" ("has drawn near").

It's interesting to notice the details of the job on which Jesus sends the disciples and what they say about the kingdom. I think we can conclude, by Jesus' job description, that some things are incompatible with His kingdom:

- Sickness ("heal the sick").

- Leprosy ("cleanse the lepers"). How was leprosy different from other sickness? For one it was a chronic condition or conditions. Two - it made those infected unclean outcasts. There is no place for such stigma in the kingdom.

- Death ("raise the dead").

- Demons ("cast out demons"). I don't know how much power and influence in this world and our society we credit to the demonic. That its influence is more pervasive than ever I have no doubt, given modern curiosity about and fascination with the paranormal.

Though the kingdom is something we have yet to see in its full flower, we do see glimmerings of it now in the operation of Christ's body on earth—the church. For Jesus said while still on earth, " '… the Kingdom of God is within you' " - Luke 17:21. And He commissioned the disciples (who became the church) to be witnesses to Him and His teachings, which included this message of the kingdom (Acts 1:8).

May the kingdom of heaven find fertile ground in my life and yours!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I long to see and experience kingdom life to the full, as much as it's possible here on earth. May its presence be operating in and through my life. Amen.

MORE: The Kingdom—"already," and "not yet"

Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine quotes George Ladd on this topic. Ladd summarizes five ways the church and the kingdom are related (I'll just quote the points; he elaborates on each point and supports with scriptures):
1. The church is not the kingdom.
2. The kingdom creates the church.
3. The church witnesses to the kingdom.
4. The church is the instrument of the kingdom.
5. The church is the custodian of the kingdom.

Grudem concludes:
 "Therefore we should not identify the kingdom of God and the church, nor should we see the kingdom of God as entirely future. … Rather we should recognize that there is a close connection between the kingdom of God and the church. As the church proclaims the good news of the kingdom, people will come to the church and begin to experience the blessings of God's rule in their lives. The kingdom manifests itself through the church and thereby the future reign of God breaks into the present (it is "already" here - Matthew 12:28; Romans 14:17; and "not yet" here fully - Matthew 25:34; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10)" - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pp. 863, 864 (emphasis added).


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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, June 09, 2017

Hope for quitters

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Acts 15:36-41

TO CHEW ON: “Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work.” Acts 15:37,38

A disagreement over taking John Mark with them (Paul and Barnabas) on Paul’s second trip resulted in a split. Paul went with Silas to Syria and Cilicia while Barnabas and his cousin John Mark sailed to Cyprus.

We might view this as a blot on the church’s history. It’s what so easily happens when leaders have different styles and they clash. Barnabas’s style was encouragement. He had launched Paul himself into ministry. Paul seems to have been more idealistic (You never quit) and practical (We don’t want quitters on this trip!).

But it seems that it all worked out for the good. Though Barnabas is never again mentioned in Acts, Paul’s letters speak of John Mark as a co-worker, testimony to the wisdom of giving him this second chance (Colossians 4:10; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 1:24). In addition, John Mark went on to write the Gospel of Mark (scholars date its writing sometime after the deaths of Peter and Paul—65-70 A.D.).

My Bible’s introductory notes to Mark’s Gospel make this observation about the book:
“Mark’s Gospel teaches that the life of discipleship means following Jesus along the same path of misunderstanding and rejection that He encountered. For followers of Jesus in all ages the warning and promise are sure: ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it’ - Mark 8:34,35)” - J. Lyle Story, Introduction to Mark, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1347 (emphasis added).

Perhaps Mark’s emphasis on Jesus’ self-denial message was birthed by his disappointment in himself when he refused to deny himself and quit. Sometimes our most positive life lessons begin with a negative experience.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for using even the bad things on our resum├ęs by redeeming them for good (Romans 8:28). 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, June 08, 2017

Faith checkup

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 13:1-13

TO CHEW ON: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.” 2 Corinthians 13:5

Paul told the Christians in Corinth to test themselves in the context of them wanting proof that Christ spoke through him (2 Corinthians 13:3). The Message phrases it clearly:
“You who have been demanding proof that Christ speaks through me will get more than you bargained for. You’ll get the full force of Christ, don’t think you won’t … Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups… Test it out” - 2 Corinthians 13 MSG.

How would they, how would we “test ourselves… test it out”?

The Reformation Study Bible* suggests this list. It’s a good start. We might ask ourselves:
  • Have we put our trust in Christ for salvation (Hebrews 3:6)?
  • Are we obedient to God (Matthew 7:21)?
  • Are we growing in holiness (Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 3:3)?
  • Does our life display the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22,23)?
  • Do we have love for other Christians (1 John 3:14)?
  • Do we have the testimony of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Romans 8:15,16)?

What a great set of questions to ask ourselves when we don’t “feel” like a Christian. It might also be good for someone struggling with assurance.


PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You that our faith is not a vague “I hope so” but a change of direction that impacts all of life and is experienced as you alter and transform me in many ways. Amen.

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Reformation Study Bible accessed through www.biblegateway.com

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

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


Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Are there doubters in the house?

Image - Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 28:16-20

TO CHEW ON: “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.” Matthew 28:17

I often wish I’d been with Jesus and had seen Him with my own eyes. Then, I imagine, it would be easy to believe no matter what.

Or, maybe not. Here we have disciples who had been with Jesus for the better part of three years. Yet we read “some doubted.

I wonder what they doubted. That the man who appeared to them as Jesus after the resurrection was actually Jesus? That He had really died and come back to life? That His time on earth had accomplished what He said?

These were not their first moments of doubt. Jesus had often addressed the doubts of those around Him.
  • He talked about trusting God to meet needs of daily living - Matthew 6:30.
  • Doubt caused Peter to sink under the waves after he started out walking on the water - Matthew 14:31.
  • Doubt was at the root of their inability to understand Jesus’ teaching in metaphors and symbols - Matthew 16:8-12.
  • Doubt made the disciples powerless to heal - Matthew 17:17.
  • Doubt had the disciples panicking in a storm - Mark 4:40.
  • Doubt kept the disciples from understanding Jesus’ explanation of how He had fulfilled prophecy - Luke 24:25.
  • Doubt caused Martha to demur when Jesus told them to take away the stone from Lazarus’ grave - John 11:39.
  • Doubt caused Thomas to ask for proof that Jesus was who He said He was - John 20:25.

Jesus’ reaction to the doubt in our passage was to ignore it. Instead of scolding the doubters or launching into an apologetic explanation of how He had fulfilled Scripture, He carried on by giving them their assignment, promising His presence every step of the way - Matthew 8:18-20.

Maybe that’s the antidote to our doubts too—to get busy, exercise some faith, and we’ll find that He does have authority, He continues to attract disciples. He is with us every day.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus it seems to be in my human DNA to doubt. Please help me step out in faith wherever You lead and so prove Your reality. 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, June 06, 2017

Meditate on creativity

A Bible journal meditation on Psalm 104 - V. Nesdoly

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 104:19-35

TO CHEW ON:
"O Lord, how manifold are Your works!In wisdom You have made them all" Psalm 104:24


Do you know what happens in your body when you do something as simple as cut your finger?

The first thing you'd probably notice is that your finger bleeds. In the blood are cells called platelets which begin to stick onto the ragged edges of the skin cut.

The blood plug that fills the cut soon changes from liquid to jelly -- a clot. In the clot another type of blood cell -- fibrinogen -- lets out strings or fibers. They attach to the sides of the cut, holding them together. They also form a net which collects more blood cells needed for healing. As the clot dries it forms a hard crusty covering called a scab.

Under the scab white blood cells attack and engulf any foreign invaders that might have entered via the object that cut you. They also eat the old damaged skin and remove all the garbage through the blood stream.

At the same time skin cells begin to fill the space that the cut made. They slide over each other, soon forming a bridge over the cut. In about a week the scab falls off, revealing a patch of new skin.

Drilling down into even one tiny aspect of how the human body works is enough to fill us with awe. As we explore the vastness of creation, we keep finding design features that boggle the mind (which is one reason I think it takes far more faith to believe that all this came about by chance, than that it was created by a very intelligent creator).

The complexity, intricacy and sheer wisdom of creation is one of the reasons I love studying and writing about it (the above facts, for example, were gleaned for writing a kids' article "As Good As New - How Skin Heals"). If we acknowledge God as our creator, our study of creation will probably do one thing above all others: stimulate us to awe, praise and worship.

Psalm 104 is a list of creative acts and creatures, which the psalmist ends in just such praise:

"I will sing to the Lord as long as I live.
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
May my meditation be sweet to Him.
I will be glad in the Lord."

Next time you have a free hour, why don't you do a little sleuthing around about some natural process or creature that has piqued your curiosity. From finding out about your blood's ability to wage war on disease, to a woodpecker's bony tongue, I guarantee you will be filled with amazement, delight and admiration at such a Creator!

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for creation. May my knowledge of it result in thoughts, words and songs of praise and worship. Amen.

MORE: Reverse side of the tip in above...

Reverse side of the globe tip in, above - V. Nesdoly
 

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


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Monday, June 05, 2017

We're under some pretty special care

Rock hyrax mother and child
Rock hyrax mother and child from Wikipedia
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 104:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "…The stork has her home in the fir trees. The high hills are for the wild goats; The cliffs are a refuge for the rock badgers." Psalm 104:17-18.

The stork is a large bird that makes a huge nest (it can be over 6 ft. in diameter and 10 ft. in depth). It needs a sturdy tree like a cedar to hold that nest (info from  Stork on  Wikipedia).

Goats have a hoof structure that makes it possible for them to climb to places most animals would never go. Thus wild goats can roam the hills for their food (info from Goat-Antelope on Wikipedia)

The rock badger of this psalm is most likely what we call the rock hyrax. These guinea pig-like rodents live in habitats with rock crevices in groups of ten to eighty, forage as a group, and use sentries—one or more animals to take up positions on vantage points—to warn the group when danger is approaching (info from Rock hyrax on Wikipedia).

In drawing our attention to these creatures the psalm writer gives us examples of what we call God's providence. [The dictionary defines providence as "The care exercised by God over the universe.]

Though the word providence isn't found in the Bible, it is the word that is traditionally used to describe God's continuing relationship to His creation. Wayne Grudem defines providence in his Systematic Theology:

"God is continually involved in all created things in such a way that he 1] keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which he created them; 2] cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and 3] directs them to fulfill his purposes" - p. 315"

God's providence doesn't include only to animals but extends to people too. Jesus said: "Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" - Matthew 6:26.

In what ways do we experience God's providence? Consider these (condensed from Grudem, pp. 320-321):

  • In our daily provision - Matthew 6:11; Philippians 4:19.
  • In God's knowledge of and plan for our existence before we ever came into being - Psalm 139:16; Job 14:5; Galatians 1:15.
  • Even our minutest actions are performed under His watchful eye and direction: - Acts 17:28; Jeremiah 10:23; Proverbs 10:24; 16:9.
  • He sends success and failure - Psalm 75:6-7; Luke 1:52.
  • He gives us our talents and abilities - 1 Corinthians 4:7; Psalm 18:34.
  • He influences the decisions of our rulers - Proverbs 21:1; Ezra 6:22.
  • He especially guides the desires and inclinations of believers - Philippians 2:13.

Most of the time I take all this for granted. Perhaps you do too? Today, let's pause, consider God's providence, give thanks, and worship.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the extent and detail of Your care for the universe and that it covers every aspect of my life. You are beyond amazing! Amen.

MORE: Good to be Alive by Jason Gray

 

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

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