Saturday, October 21, 2017

Would you say "Imitate me"?

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

TO CHEW ON: “And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy in the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 1:6,7

A few weeks ago in a church Bible study I’m part of, the topic of mentorship came up. Paul’s description here sounds a lot like that: “And you became followers of us” - 1 Thessalonians 1:6.


[Mentor:  (Noun) 1] A wise and trusted counselor; 2] an influential sponsor or supporter. (Verb) To advise or train.

"Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person. The mentor may be older or younger than the person being mentored, but he or she must have a certain area of expertise" - from Wikipedia]

This business of mentorship (though that specific word is never used) is mentioned in more places in the New Testament:
  • Paul to the church in Corinth: “Imitate me” and listen to Timothy who “will remind you of my ways” - 1 Corinthians 4:16.
  • Paul to the church in Philippi: Copy everything about me: “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do” - Philippians 4:9.
  • Paul in a later letter to the Church in Thessalonica: Imitate me in the way you work for a living - 2 Thessalonians 3:9.
  • The writer of Hebrews also encourages his readers to be enterprising and diligent - Hebrews 6:12.
  • Hebrews urges, as well, that readers imitate and submit to leaders - Hebrews 13:7,17.

 But mentorship is not meant to be a dead end that stops with the person being mentored. I love how Paul proposes it continue. “And you became followers of us and the Lord…so that you became examples to all…” 1 Thessalonians 1:6,7 - emphasis added.
The goal of mentorship is to produce more mentors. There’s a place for everyone.

Are we  being mentored—by a person or by books (in a class discussion answering the question, “Who have been your mentors?” a large number of us named books and their authors as significant mentors)? Are we, in turn, becoming mentors, to our children and those newer in the faith?

Let’s keep the mentor chain growing!

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for the life of Jesus in the Bible, and for flesh-and-blood and book teachers and mentors to learn from and imitate. Help me to live in such a way that I could say to anyone, “Imitate 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.


Friday, October 20, 2017

All knees will bow

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 45:14-25

TO CHEW ON: "I have sworn to Myself;
The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness,
And shall not return,
That to Me every knee shall bow,
Every tongue shall take an oath." Isaiah 45:23

Our reading today is a continuation of Isaiah's prophecy to Cyrus—a Persian king who would not be born for about another 100 years. The way Isaiah addresses him by name (Isaiah 45:1) has caused some scholars to question whether Isaiah really wrote this prophecy. Of course, people who believe in the supernatural character of prophecy and the divine inspiration of Scripture have no trouble trusting that God can make such predictions.

Today we read how Cyrus will dominate Egypt and Arabia (the Sabeans) (Isaiah 45:14). But he will prove to be God's instrument of freedom for the exiled Jews in Babylon (Isaiah 45:17).

This prophecy was fulfilled. In 539 B.C. Cyrus came to power. First he returned the temple valuables to the Jews (the Babylonians had taken them, along with the people, when they looted Jerusalem) and let some exiles return to rebuild the temple. Eventually he let them all return to their land. The book of Ezra is the story of that return. (Read Cyrus's decree in Ezra 1:1-5.)

From predicting the specifics of using Cyrus for His purposes, God declares (through Isaiah) His dominion over all the earth.
- He is the only God - Isaiah 45:21.
- He is the only Saviour - Isaiah 45:22
- It is only to Him that every knee will bow and tongue take an oath (of allegiance) (Isaiah 45:23, see also Philippians 2:9-11).

As a citizen of a nation that prides itself on tolerance, openness to, and acceptance of any and all religious creeds as equally true, I find myself, despite knowing better, cringing at such bold pronouncements. The way I have been influenced by my prevailing culture demonstrates how I need as much faith to believe this as the Israelites did at the time it was spoken. 

The Hebrews of the exodus needed faith that God had sent Moses and that he would indeed lead them out of Egypt, slavery and eventually to the Promised Land.

The Jews of the Babylonian exile needed faith that Yahweh was God over the idols of their captors.

We in our time need faith that the God of the Bible is who He says He is and will show Himself the only God, in the face of our culture's intolerance toward claims of objective truth.


PRAYER: Dear God, I believe You when You say that every knee will someday bow to You and every tongue confess that You are Lord. Help me to work out what this means in regard to how I interact with people all around me who don't believe. 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, October 19, 2017

God casts the deciding vote

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 45:1-13

TO CHEW ON: “For the sake of Jacob my Servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me.

I am the LORD, there is no other, apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you do not acknowledge me.” Isaiah 45:4,5

In these days of various factions wringing their hands when the person they consider the enemy, the mistake, the illegitimate one gets into power, this chapter that describes how God plans to use unbelieving King Cyrus to perform His will is a good passage to remember. For in the end, it’s God who has the last word in installing leaders.

He can subdue nations before, open doors for, level mountains, cut through metal bars, give treasure, summon by name, bestow honor and a title, and strengthen even the godless person or leader to accomplish what He has in mind to accomplish.

Do you find yourself thinking or feeling—If only the people in power were God-fearing, believers, all our social and economic problems would be on the road to being solved? Well, here we see that God doesn’t need that. He can use anyone, even an atheistic (or probably in Cyrus’ case idol-worshiping) king to achieve His will.

All this underlines the necessity for us to respect our leaders, whatever their stripe, to be subject to them, and to pray for them. Some scriptures for us to keep in mind: *

  • 1 Timothy 2:1-2: I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
  • 1 Peter 2:17- Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
  • Romans 13:1 - Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God (emphasis added).
  • Jeremiah 29:7 - Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
  • 2 Chronicles 7:14 -  if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

*This collection of verses taken from the website Crosswalk.com - “10 Scriptures to Pray for Our Nation and Leaders,” which continues with Bible verses to pray for our leaders.


PRAYER: Dear Father, I am so glad that you are not stopped from working and achieving Your will by any individual. I pray for the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau and all his cabinet, that You give them wisdom to govern Canada well. 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.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Back to God's perfect default

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 35:1-10

TO CHEW ON: “A highway shall be there and a road,
And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness
The unclean shall not pass over it,
But it shall be for other…
But the redeemed shall walk there.” Isaiah 35:8,9



Glorious Chapter 35 of Isaiah falls at the end of Part One of Isaiah—a section titled in my Bible “Prophecy of Denunciation and Invitation.” It is definitely an invitation—a chapter of “Joy and Blessing to God’s People” - New Spirit Filled Life Bible - Introduction to Isaiah.


In it, nature has a party. The desert and the wilderness bloom. They take on the characteristics of the area’s beauty spots of Lebanon, Carmel and Sharon (Isaiah 35:1,2). It’s a time doctors are no longer needed, for the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the mute talk (Isaiah 35:5,6). Everything that is desolate comes alive (Isaiah 35:7). And there is a broad way back to God (Isaiah 35:8-10).

What stands out for me is a snippet from verse 9. After listing who will not walk on that highway (nothing unclean, no hungry wild beasts) is a statement of who will “But the redeemed shall walk there.” I like how the NIV shades it: “But only the redeemed walk there.”

[Redeemed - gawal: Ransom, redeem, repurchase, to set free by avenging or repaying. Refers to the custom of buying back something a person has lost through helplessness, poverty or violence… The biblical view of redemption is extremely wide for God has pledged to redeem the whole creation, which currently groans in bondage” - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 935.]

That’s what I see here—a redeemed creation (humans included) bought back and reset to the default of God’s original creation perfection.

This passage is for me an expression of longing and faith, the “already / not yet” that we live in, knowing Christ has already redeemed all by His death, but not yet seeing the completion of that redemption in real time. May it be soon!

PRAYER: Dear Father, I long for the day when these things come to pass. May it be soon. Until then, help me to be Your faithful servant in this fallen world, helping others find their way to You. Amen.
 
MORE: Feast of St. Luke

Today the church celebrates the Feast of St. Luke the physician and gospel writer. The day’s liturgy begins with this Collect prayer:

Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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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, October 17, 2017

Must-haves

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Timothy 4:9-18

TO CHEW ON: “Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.” 2 Timothy 4:13

As I prepared for a recent flight, I packed with the carry-on luggage restrictions always in mind. What should I take? What could I leave? What would I absolutely miss if I didn’t have?

Three things I definitely left room for were my journal, a Bible study workbook I’m currently working through, and my iPad (which has e-versions of the Bible). But they were a very small percentage of my entire pack.

Here we see Paul (in a time when travel was slow, requests took a long time to be fulfilled and everything was transported by foot or beast) sending a list of stuff he felt he desperately needed to Timothy. Only one thing on the list was for his physical well-being (that cloak - 2 Timothy 4:13). The rest was all stuff to feed his spirit and use in ministry—the books, parchments, and, of course, the human company and help of Timothy and Mark (2 Timothy 4:11).

My Bible’s notes elaborate on what those books and parchments might have been:
“The books or papyrus rolls, may have been portions of the OT. The leather parchments could have been unused material, which Paul wanted for planned writing endeavors, more probably, however, they were sections of the OT, prized highly by Paul, or perhaps even copies of the Lord’s words and early narratives of His life” - James Lea Beall, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1715.

This passage gives me cause to pause and consider—what is really essential for my life? For my five days away, I packed way more stuff for my physical self than my spirit. Does that say something about my priorities?

What would be on your list for must-have items?

PRAYER:
Dear Father, thank You for the plenty I have to sustain my life physically. Help me to value and prioritize the resources for spiritual life that I also have in abundance, and to use them well and often. 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, October 16, 2017

Intimate

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 33:12-23

TO CHEW ON: "So the Lord said to Moses, 'I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in my sight, and I know you by name.'" Exodus 33:17

Moses was close to God. God was close to Moses. Our reading today shows how intimate they were. Let's take a look at their relationship to discover some of its secrets.


Respectful
God and Moses had conversations. In this one (Exodus 33:1-3, 5), God gave Moses a hard message for the Israelites. Moses' respect for God meant that he didn't try to defend or justify the sins of the people he led. Instead, he relayed all God's hard words and for once the people were grieved and repented.


Intentional
Moses made his own little tent "tabernacle" before the elaborate one that God designed ever existed. It was "outside the camp," away from the hustle and bustle, the commerce and labor, the interruptions and emergencies of everyday life. There God met him in a visible way (Exodus 33:9-10) and "...spoke to Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend" (Exodus 33:11).


Transparent
Moses felt weighed own by the burden of leadership and asked God to send someone to work alongside him. I wonder if he was surprised by God's answer to his request: "My Presence will go with you and I will give you rest."

Expressive
In response to God's promise of Presence, Moses pledged to keep God's people separate—a people to Him alone (Exodus 33:16). God replied by reassuring Moses of their special relationship: "I know you by name."


Intimate
Finally Moses asked for God for an actual sensory experience of Him: "Please show me Your glory" (Exodus 33:18). God gave him a visual glimpse of His receding presence (Exodus 33:20-23).

Do we want to be intimate with God like that? If we do, let's examine our lives for the characteristics of intimate relationships found in Moses' friendship with God.
  • Are we respectful of what He says, or do we argue and justify ourselves to Him?
  • Are we intentional about setting aside a time and meeting Him there?
  • When we meet, are we transparent? Do we bare our hearts? Are we honest about our fears and insecurities? Do we listen for God's (sometimes surprising) answers?
  • Are we expressive? Do we tell God how much we love Him? Do we pray, praise, and worship using our voices (not saying the words only in our heads)?
  • Do we want more intimacy? Do we keep pressing in?

PRAYER: Dear God, I love this description of Your relationship with Moses. Please show me where I can improve my relationship with You. I want to you say of me, "I know you by name." Amen.

MORE: Intimate with Jesus
"When once we get intimate with Jesus we are never lonely, we never need sympathy, we can pour out all the time without being pathetic The saint who is intimate with Jesus will never leave impressions of himself, but only the impression that Jesus is having unhindered way, because the last abyss of his nature has been satisfied by Jesus. The only impression left by such a life is that of the strong calm sanity that Our Lord gives to those who are intimate with Him" - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, January 7 reading.
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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Wedding clothes

girl wearing white clothes
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 22:1-14

TO CHEW ON: " 'But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man who there who did not have on a wedding garment.' "  Matthew 22:11.

Like so many of Jesus' parables, this one is full of eternal truth goodies. In a way it's like the gospel in 12 verses. Here's how I understand it:

The King's son's arranged marriage is God's relationship with His chosen people Israel.

The king's servants are the prophets who invited Israel's citizens over and over to join the wedding celebration, i.e. live in obedience to God's laws and with a right heart attitude.

The people who were invited in the story treated the king's invitation as casually as Israel did the prophets' repeated calls to repentance and revival. Just as the people in the story ended up killing the king's messengers, so too Israel mocked, tortured, and even murdered some of its prophets.

The people of the highways and " all who they found both bad and good" are the individuals from all over the earth who are not Jews—us Gentiles from "all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues" (Revelation 7:9)—who now have an invitation to God's party.

It was a free invitation for the people in the parable, but apparently a special wedding garment was given to each guest before entry into the banquet hall. What is  the meaning of that garment?
  • Paul talks about our earthly bodies clothed in life—the clothes of immortality—life forever (2 Corinthians 5:3).
  • He also talks about putting on the new man—clothes of "true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).
  • The clothes of the "new man" are not only for after this life but for now. They come in styles of "…tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, long-suffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another…" (Colossians 3:10,12).
  • In Revelation John sees these clothes as white and with this outfit comes a new name (Revelation 3:4).
  • This garment needs to be worn at all times so the guests are prepared when the master drops in (Revelation 16:15).
  • God's subjects will wear this outfit in heaven, the "fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." And guess what the heavenly occasion is? The Marriage Supper of the Lamb, coming full-circle, right back to our parable (Revelation 19:8,9)!

The sobering ending to Jesus' story—the guest with no wedding garment being "cast into outdoor darkness" —tells us that God's invitation has one simple condition: the need to exchange our rags (Isaiah 64:6) for the garment of salvation that God gives: "For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness" - Isaiah 61:10. It too is free to us. But we must put it on.

PRAYER:
Dear God, I thank you for an invitation to Your party, and the clothes of salvation that You provide. Amen.

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






Saturday, October 14, 2017

The death of death

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 25:1-9

TO CHEW ON: “He will swallow up death forever. And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces. The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. Isaiah 25:8

Death is a subject that brings up a variety of responses in people.

  • As much as possible we avoid thinking or talking about it:
“Death is a distant rumor to the young.” ~ Andy Rooney

“We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance.” ~Marcel Proust
  • We try to take the sting out of it by making it poetic:
“Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.” ~Albert Einstein
  • We call it by other names:
“After all, to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure.” ~J.K. Rowling
“Death is a delightful hiding place for weary men.” ~Herodotus
  • We make fun of it:
“Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time.” ~Attributed to George Carlin
  • But its reality sinks in when someone we love dies:
“We understand death for the first time when he puts his hand upon one whom we love.” ~Madame de Stael
  • Its inevitability is one of life’s truisms…
“No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.” ~Euripides
“Death is the surest calculation that can be made.” ~Ludwig B├╝chner, Force and Matter
“You can be a king or a street sweeper,
but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper.” ~Robert Alton Harris

OR IS IT SO INEVITABLE?

Isaiah, in our reading today, predicts a time when death will no longer exist. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is beginning of that coming true for all of us.

H. C. Thiessen in his Systematic Theology's discussion of the importance of Christ’s resurrection says, “It is important as a polemic for miracles….in attempting to prove the miracles of the Bible, we should not begin with Balaam’s ass or Jonah and the big fish but with Christ’s resurrection.” H. C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology p. 332.

This is what we celebrate at Easter–Jesus alive again after He was dead, a miracle! When everything else – all the laws of nature and our experience say that death is inevitable for everyone who lives, Jesus broke those laws when He came to life again.

The results of the resurrection are many:*

 
1. It proves that Christ is really God - Romans 1:3-4.
2. Through Jesus' death we are saved; through His risen life we are reconciled to God - Romans 5:9-10.
3. God demonstrated his power through the resurrection and made Christ the head of the church - Romans 8:34
4.The resurrected Jesus prays and intercedes for us - 1 Timothy 2:5; Romans 8:34.
4. Because He rose and ascended into heaven we have the Holy Spirit - Acts 2:33
5. Because He rose, we have power for life and service - Ephesians 1:18-20.
6. And His resurrection is a guarantee that we will live again as well. That's why we can say goodbye to our loved ones who know the Lord with hope. That's why we can die (because we still do die) without fear - 1 Corinthians 15:20-23.

No wonder we will gladly relinquish all our earthly sadnesses when He wipes the tears from our eyes.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, Thank You for the hope that Your resurrection gives me. Please give me boldness to share it with a skeptical world. Amen.


*These points also taken from my trusty old Systematic Theology book – which has it way more together than I do!

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Phinehas: a leader to follow

"Moab Leads Israel Into Sin"
1728 engraving 
by Gerard Hoet & Pieter Sluiter

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 106:24-48


TO CHEW ON: "Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
And the plague was stopped.
And that was accounted to him for righteousness
To all generations forevermore." - Psalm 106:30-31

Phinehas is a minor Old Testament character to whom our psalm writer pays a major tribute. Let's delve into his life a bit.

This Phinehas (there is another in the Bible—the son of Eli, who was evil) was the noble grandson of Aaron (Exodus 6:25).

The deed that he did and which was "accounted to him for righteousness" was—well, grisly. The people of Israel, camping near the Midianites during the exodus, had fallen prey to their idol worship. It happened through Israelite-Midianite coupling. God spoke to Moses about rooting out this evil and Moses gathered the leaders and people in front of the tabernacle. Even as the assembled people were weeping there, an Israeli man (the son of a leader) traipsed past the crowd with a Midianite woman (the daughter of a Midianite chieftain) on his arm. It seems he may have even taken her into the tabernacle.

Phinehas saw it, took Moses' message to heart, and went into action (Numbers 25:7-8; read the whole story: Numbers 25:1-17). That act of zealousness for God's holiness stopped the plague of punishment from advancing and earned him the tribute ("accounted to him for righteousness") which only one other Bible character received. The same thing is said of only Abraham (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:1-3, 9-19, 19-24, Galatians 3:5-7).

Phinehas was born into a family of leaders. But he proved to be a true leader by doing the difficult job of standing up for God's holiness and actually rooting out that evil. As such he became a stander-in-the-breach between God and the people—a type of Christ.

Leadership remains a difficult job. It is definitely not a place for people-pleasers. If we are leaders, we can learn a lot from the principled and fearless leadership of Phinehas.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me, wherever I lead, to seek Your approval and not the approval of people. Amen.

MORE: More about Phinehas
  • After the above event, Phinehas led the people into battle against the Midianites with unusual weapons: "...the holy articles and the signal trumpets in his hand" - Numbers 31:6. How telling: spiritual weapons for a spiritual battle.
  • Later, his leadership in breaching a potential rift between Reuben, Gad, Manassah and the rest of the Israelites averted a potential civil war. Read that story in Joshua 22:1-34.
  • It was he who inquired and heard from the Lord as to whether to continue the war against the treacherous tribe of Benjamin. Read that story in Judges 20:1-48.
  • He was a direct descendant of Levi, the son of Israel - 1 Chronicles 6:1-4.
  • He was from a family of singers and worshipers whose descendants were still serving in that way at the time of David - 1 Chronicles 6:1-4, 31-33.
  • He was also in charge of the gatekeepers of the tabernacle. In that capacity the Bible says of him "...the Lord was with him" - 1 Chronicles 9:19-20.
  • Ezra was his descendant - Ezra 7:5.
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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, October 12, 2017

Do we insist too much?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 106:1-23


TO CHEW ON: "They soon forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel,
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,
And tested God in the desert.
And He gave them their request,
But sent leanness into their soul." Psalm 106:13-15


One wonderful day Michael got the invitation to join. Becoming a partner in a large prestigious firm was the dream of every young accountant, and Michael was ecstatic. But when he got home and told his wife, she didn't share his enthusiasm.

"Are you sure this is the right direction for our lives?" she asked. "Let's pray about it."

Michael was annoyed. Why was she intent on bursting his bubble? Didn't she appreciate how rare such invitations were? Surely this was God's direction. After all, didn't He promise to give us the desires of our hearts?

Still, Michael agreed to delay making the decision for some time. And then this five-year-old Christian read his Bible with antennae up.

One day he came across 2 Corinthians 6:14-15—the place where Paul warns Christians about yoking themselves unequally with non-believers. Surely that was just meant for marriage. It didn't apply to his potential partnership, did it? Yet he couldn't shake the feeling that that verse applied to his situation too.

A big reason for joining was increased earnings. "But think of how much money I'll have to give to Your work," he reminded God. God showed him Psalm 106:14-15.

On the other hand, he noticed verse after verse that promised good things to those who took God's counsel seriously: Proverbs 16:7, 2 Chronicles 26:5, Psalm 1:1-6, Psalm 119:65, Psalm 37:23, Ephesians 1:3.

Finally at a special gathering of the partners, to which perspective new members and their wives were also invited, Michael and his wife came face to face with a concerning issue. That night, Michael decided to turn down the invitation to join the firm.

He subsequently set up his own accounting firm and tells how difficult and yet splendid those early years were. Though the couple at first struggled financially, Michael had many opportunities to share his faith. He was never sorry that he turned his back on that coveted partnership. Today, retired from accounting he is a leader in his local church.

Which brings me to the probing question: Am I insisting on certain things I want that, if I persist, God will give me, along with spiritual leanness? Or do I listen and walk with God, trusting His love and wisdom in everything through which He takes me?

PRAYER: Dear God, I want to be a person who remembers Your actions in my life and who takes Your counsel, no matter how it goes against popular wisdom. Amen.

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

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A sword separating families

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 32:19-35

TO CHEW ON: "And he said to them, 'Thus says the Lord God of Israel, "Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from the entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbour."'
 

So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day." Exodus 32:27-28


We are all no doubt familiar with the imagery of God's Word as a sword. Hebrews 4:12 tells how it cuts into and exposes us to ourselves:
"For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature] exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart" - Amplified

God's words also cut in other ways. In our story today, God commanded the loyal Levites to kill their idol-worshiping family members, neighbours, and friends. What a gruesome, wrenching, horrible day that must have been—humanly speaking at least.

The power of faith to divide families should not surprise us. We have all heard of belief traditions in which, if one defects to another faith, that one is no longer considered a family member but an outcast. And such cutting apart will be characteristic of the end times. Jesus prophesied that children would betray parents and parents children because of faith in Him (Matthew 10:21-22, Mark 13:12-13).

If faith in Jesus has cut your family apart, know that it's not an unusual thing—though no less painful because it's common. A comfort for people of faith in such families is 1 Corinthians 7:14 which speaks of an unbelieving spouse being sanctified by the believer.

[Sanctified - hagliazo  - means: 1) To render or acknowledge or to be venerable or hallow; 2) To separate from profane things and dedicate to God a.) consecrate things to God, b.) consecrate people to God; 3) To purify.]

Can we claim this promise for other family members as well? I think so. I don't believe "sanctified" means they have salvation per se. Whether or not to believe in Jesus is a decision each person makes for him- or herself. But I do believe it means that they are marked as God's own, and consecrated or set apart for Him. We continue to pray and believe that in due course, He will draw them to Himself.

PRAYER: Dear God, it is painful to think that members of my family could be eternally separated from You. Please draw them to 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.

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)

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Second-chance Aaron

Worshiping the Golden Calf - Artist unknown
Worshiping the Golden Calf - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 32:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool and made a moulded calf. Then they said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt.' " Exodus 32:4


The difference between the brothers Moses and Aaron shows up in stark contrast in the incidents of the exodus. While Moses repeatedly stood firm against the multitude, his older brother Aaron was more of a people pleaser.

In our story today, he offered not a whisper of resistance to the people's demand for a new god. In fact, the calf statue seems to have been his idea. (The irony is that even as this was playing out, God was dictating to Moses the details of Aaron's priestly uniform - Exodus 28:1-12.)

Another time when Aaron and Miriam insisted that they were God's mouthpieces as much as Moses was, God struck Miriam with leprosy but spared Aaron. Some commenters suggest this was because she was the instigator and Aaron the influenced.

Still, God never put Aaron aside but continued to use him despite his character flaws and failures. When the Levite Korah questioned Aaron's high priestly position, God confirmed His choice of Aaron with censer fire that did not kill and a budding rod (Numbers 16 & 17).

We can take encouragement from Aaron's life. Even if, like him, we've blown it, with God there are second chances—though there may also be consequences to pay (in the Golden Calf incident, thousands died - Exodus 32:28; Miriam and Aaron's rebellion led to Miriam getting leprosy - Numbers 12:10-16).

Asaph's psalm does a good job of describing our God of second, third, and fourth chances:
"But He, being full of compassion,
forgave their iniquity,
And did not destroy them.
Yes, many a time He turned His anger away,
And did not stir up all His wrath;
For He remembered that they were but flesh,
A breath that passes away and does not come again." - Psalm 78:38,39.

PRAYER:
Dear God, thank You for mercy toward my weaknesses and grace in forgiving sins and giving me more than one chance. 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, October 09, 2017

Mind fitness

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! 

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Philippians 4:2-23

TO CHEW ON:
 “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on those things.” Philippians 4:8

Thoughts. We all have them. Every waking hour our brains are busy with them. In thinking about thoughts, I find three over-arching principles:

1. Thoughts are powerful. Though the self-betterment movement might give them too much power, there is a lot of truth in sayings like: "If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right."- Henry Ford

2. Thoughts are private. How often don’t we hear neighbors, friends, even family members of a just-outed criminal expressing shock that such an ordinary-appearing, nice person had it in them to commit a crime.

3. Thoughts have a way of eventually coming out. “As he thinks in his heart, so is he,” says the proverb (Proverbs 23:6,7).

Today’s verse is a list of things we do well to think about. Let’s take a quick look at the word origins and facets of these thought directions Paul recommends.

We should think about things that are:

true (alethes): the genuine, real, manifest, unconcealed, actual, opposite of falsehood, concealment, human inconsistency

noble (semnos): dignified, honorable, decent, august, worthy of respect.

just (dikaios): correct, righteous.

pure (hagnos): (from the same root as ‘Holy’), clean, modest, pure, undefiled, morally faultless and without blemish.

lovely (prosphiles): pleasing, agreeable.

of good report (euphemos): a good saying; speech that is gracious, auspicious. Includes avoidance of words of ill omen.

virtue (arete): of intrinsic value, moral excellence, goodness.

praiseworthy (epainos): approbation, approval, praise.

We are tomeditate on" these things (NKJV), let your mind dwell on (or ponder) them (NASB),” “… think on and weigh and take account of these things – fix your minds on them” (AMP). Notice the verbs. This is no come-see come-saw wool-gathering, but rather an intentional directing of the thought life by the will.

How fit is your thought life? Do you control your thoughts, or do they control you? As someone who belongs to Christ, you also have the Holy Spirit who can help you set your mind on the right things - Romans 8:5-11.

Those of us who are Canadian and celebrating Thanksgiving today can employ our thoughts toward all that we have to be thankful for. Yes, there might be lots wrong with life, but compared to much of the world, we are blessed! Let's corral our thoughts toward gratitude today.


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for such specific direction for my thought life. Please help me to take my thoughts in hand and conform them to Your standard. 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)

Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Sunday, October 08, 2017

A kingdom where nationality means nothing

Passport to Heaven
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 21:33-46

TO CHEW ON: " 'Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.' " Matthew 21:43

In this parable, Jesus hearkens back to the Vineyard Song of Isaiah (Isaiah 5:1-7). I can just see the chief priests and elders—Jesus' audience—hanging on every word, growing more outraged with every unfairness of those wicked vinedressers. They are so into it, when Jesus asks," '…when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to these vinedressers?' " they jump right in with " 'He will destroy those wicked men miserably and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.' " Matthew 21:40,41.

Snap! Caught in the trap of Jesus' illustration, they utter their own fate. For now Jesus makes it clear: " ' The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.' "

He is saying their birth advantage as Jews has been squandered by rejecting Him as the cornerstone of God's plan to save all people. Now that privilege will be given to another "nation"
"…a term signifying a new people (Jew and Gentile) who will render to God the appropriate fruit" - J. Lyle Story, commentary on Matthew, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1330.

Paul reiterates this when he confronts the envious Jews in Antioch: " ' It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, beheld, we turn to the Gentiles' " Acts 13:46.

There is a warning for us in this. We may be a part of a believing family as far back as we can see on the family tree. But that legacy doesn't guarantee us citizenship in the "nation" of believers any more than being Jewish guaranteed it for the people of Jesus' day. Only one thing does: a personal decision to put our faith in Jesus for salvation.

"For as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name." - John 1:12


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for including all nations in the Kingdom of God. Help me to do my part to spread the word that all are welcome in it. Amen.

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

Saturday, October 07, 2017

God's face shining on us

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 80:1-19

TO CHEW ON: “Restore us O LORD God of hosts
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved! - Psalm 80:19


The other day I watched a month-old baby girl with her mother. Mom had her strapped in a snuggly so that they faced each other. That little girl’s eyes were wide open and she just gazed intently into her mother’s face the whole time. It was like she was trying to satisfy the need to be connected to this person who was the centre of her world. She was looking to see her mother’s face shine on her.

In a way that’s the picture the writer of this psalm paints of Israel toward God. Three times he begs, “Cause Your face to shine” - Psalm 80:3,7,19. In each request, though, he addresses God slightly differently.

  • In verse 3 it’s “Restore us O God.”  
God is Elohim: “The basic meaning behind the name Elohim is one of strength or power or effect. Elohim is the infinite, all-powerful God who shows us by His works that He is the creator, sustainer and supreme judge of the world” - From GotQuestions.

  • In verse 7 it’s “Restore us O God (Elohim) of hosts 
Hosts is Tsaba: that which goes forth, army, warfare, host.

In this way the psalmist brings in the idea that God is powerful, has hosts—armies—at His command, and will He bring them to their aid against those neighbours and enemies that are causing them grief (Psalm 80:6)?

  • In verse 19 it’s “Restore us O LORD God of hosts.”
LORD is Jehovah or Y@hweh #3068 - the existing one, the proper name of the one true God. 

This is the name of God used in the stories of the patriarchs, the God who talked with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses in Genesis and Exodus. This is the God they know, the God of their story. (When we see the name LORD—all capitals—it’s our English Bible’s designation of Jehovah or Yahweh.)


I take two things from this psalm for myself, for us:
  1. We too want God’s face to shine on us. No matter what we have to face of tears and difficulties, we can get through it with a sense of His presence.
  2. As we go through life, we’re challenged to discover God in increasingly personal ways for ourselves, as the psalmist reveals more of Him with each request.

PRAYER:
Dear Father, so often I feel like that baby—peering  at you with the question, is Your face shining on me? Are you pleased? Even when it seems like You’re not there, help me to trust You as the God of the Bible, my past, with faith for the future. Amen.

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


Friday, October 06, 2017

Articulate creation

Fives in starfish, fruit core, flowers
 Creation's Fives 
(Photos & collage by V. Nesdoly)

TODAY'S SPECIAL:  Psalm 19:1-14

TO CHEW ON: "
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork." - Psalm 19:1


In this beautiful psalm, David points out two ways God reveals Himself—through nature (Psalm 19:1-6) and through His Word (Psalm 19:7-14). When we've read this passage in the past, we've focused on the Word revelation ("The Bible—Amazing Book"). Today, let's look at nature as a source of revelation.

Here are some things Bible writers say we can learn about God through creation:

He is a wise and powerful provider
  • Job, speaking of God's wisdom and power in nature, challenges his listeners to learn about God from the beasts, the earth, and the sea creatures - Job 12:7-10.
  • Later in Job, Elihu praises God in a similar way, illustrating his point with a description of the water cycle - Job 36:24-33.
  • Jesus too points out this aspect of creation when He instructs, " 'Consider the lilies…' " drawing our attention to their care-less and beautiful existence -  Luke 12:27.

He is a judge
  • Psalm 50:6
  • Psalm 97:6.
One can easily see how people could get a judgment message from a sky that crackles with lightning, rattles with thunder, and drops hail and snow.

God is big. We are tiny
  • Isaiah describes God: "He sits above the circle of the earth"… while we are the "grasshoppers" on it - Isaiah 40:21,22.

In creation we have enough evidence to believe that there is a God and to know some things about Him.
  • Paul and Barnabas waste no time turning the attention of the crowd at Lystra—who want to crown them gods after Paul heals a man—to the God of creation whose witness, Paul says, is the rain and fruitful seasons - Acts 14:15-17.
  • Paul speaks clearly about creation's evidence of God in Romans 1:20: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse."
I love how Paul says we can deduce things about God by what is "seen" and "the things that are made." Isn't it true! Our study of natural things—creatures, plants, elements, atoms, our own bodies—shows how wisely and creaatively God has designed them all. Design elements, that repeat across created things (like the five-pointed star shape in fish, flowers, and the core of fruits), show creation's unity—the signature of the same creator.

Man's observation of creation leaves him with no excuse before God

  • Paul, in answering his own question in Romans 10:14 ("How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?") says they actually have heard: "But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed." Then he quotes Scripture:  " 'Their sound has gone out to all the earth and their words to the end of the world' " - Romans 10:18. Who is Paul quoting here? Psalm 19:4 (part of our today's reading) that speaks of the fact of God's existence going  "... to the ends of the world." 

Let's look for God and enjoy Him in creation today!

PRAYER: Dear God, I am amazed at Your wisdom, creativity, care, and majesty evidenced in creation. Thank You, however, that you didn't leave us with only that, but also gave us Your Word and Yourself in Jesus. 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, October 05, 2017

Our real home and native land

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Philippians 3:12-4:1


TO CHEW ON:
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be transformed to His glorious body according to the working by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself.” Philippians 3:20,21


The older I get the more I long for the day my “lowly body” will be “transformed” and “conformed” to Jesus’ “glorious body.” That longing is multiplied many times over when I see bodies of family members and friends ravished by disease and crippled by failing parts. We are so fragile. A few moments of insufficient oxygen at birth can determine the course of a life. A trip or fall or crash can maim us permanently. And then there are all those hidden processes of our inner organs that open the door to heart attacks, strokes, dementia, and the growth of malignant cells.

Another reason I long for heaven is because more and more I feel like a social and cultural misfit here on earth. It's just as Paul described it in Philippians 3: 18,19. I have the sense of being an alien in a place populated by enemies of the cross. It’s a place where I am bombarded by advice on how to placate the god of my belly and where much that the Bible teaches me is wrong is my society’s pride.

Anticipating heaven reminds me of planning a trip to the tropics during Canada's harsh winter. When we do that, we feed our anticipation for our trip by reading the travel agent's brochures about our destination.Today, let's anticipate our heavenly destination by reading some of the Bible's brochures about it. 

  • It’s where our Father lives and prepares the reward for all the secret “charitable deeds” we’ve performed while on earth - Matthew 6:4.
  • It’s a place we’re known. Our names are written in its roster - Luke 10:20.
  • It’s a place of honour and work—a banquet and an assignment - Luke 22:30.
  • It’s a place of residence, of “many mansions” prepared for us by Jesus - John 14:2.
  • It’s a perfect place (of “incorruptible and undefiled inheritance”). Only people whose names are in God’s book are allowed to live there - 1 Peter 1:4.
  • It’s a place of purity, reserved (again) for those named in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
  • It’s the place of our real citizenship, with our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ - Philippians 3:20 (our focus verse).

What a destination to look forward to!

PRAYER: Dear Father, I’m excited for heaven. While I’m still firmly on planted on earth, help me to envision this final destination to keep me hopeful, focused on what’s real, and unswayed by the tempting voices around me. Amen.


MORE: "Sometimes I Wonder"

Heaven is a very popular subject for gospel music writers. Here's a relatively recent song about heaven, "Sometimes I Wonder" sung by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound.



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


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

The great trade-off

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Philippians 3:1-11


TO CHEW ON: "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ." Philippians 3:8

Paul, here, could be the merchant in the story Jesus told: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls. who, when he had found one pearl of great price went and sold all that he had and bought it" (Matthew 13:45-46).

What had Paul "sold" (Philippians 3:4-6)?
- His own efforts to satisfy the law.
- His confidence of special Hebrew-born status.
- His self-assuredness from his training, education and prestige as a Pharisee.
- Faith in his zealous religious work.

And what did he get in exchange (Philippians 3:7-21)?
- Intimate knowledge of Jesus.
- Right standing with God based on faith not works.
- Power (resurrection power).
- Suffering - to the extent of death.
- A new life-goal.
- A new final home.
- The hope of a glorified body.

A sidebar article in my Bible comments:
"This passage sums up Paul's primary pursuit in life: to know Christ. From a prison cell in Rome, Paul pens this personal letter in which he comes to terms with an accomplished past and a confining present. After his past as a persecutor of God's people and through his "superior" religious activities as a Pharisee, Paul came to the liberating conclusion that all is rubbish compared to knowing the Lord (Philippians 3:8).


Freed from the stagnation of yesterday's victories and the emotional paralysis of yesterday's mistakes, Paul knew that the only thing that ultimately counted was knowing the Lord and being obedient to His will." - Steven Fry, New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p 1664.

I ask myself, have I felt the heartbeat of such a passion to know Christ? Could I readily "count all things loss," turning my back on everything that is "me"—my education, family, comfortable home, attainments—if such relinquishment meant I would get I would get to know Jesus better? What about you?

PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, please birth in me a deep hunger and longing for more of Jesus. Put in my heart a burning desire to know God in a greater way then ever before. Amen.

MORE: "He is No Fool" - by Twila Paris




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Tuesday, October 03, 2017

A warning for our mouths

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 20:1-17


TO CHEW ON: "You shall not take the name the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." Exodus 20:7

In our culture where oaths and minced oaths [expressions based on profane or taboo terms that have been altered to reduce the objectionable characteristics of them] flow as freely as water, it is a good thing to remind ourselves of how serious it is to "take God's name in vain."

But what exactly does that mean? Various Bible translations and paraphrases express it as:
"misuse" God's name (NLT, NIV 1984).
"use the name of the Lord your God carelessly" (God's Word 1985).
"idly utter" (Douay Rheims).
"You shall not use or repeat the name of the Lord your God in vain [that is lightly or frivolously, or profanely]" (Amplified).
"No using the name of God your God in curses or silly banter" (Message).

Bible commenters agree that this means we are not to use God's name
- to swear falsely as in undergirding a lie.
- to swear as a means of enforcing acts of witchcraft and conjuring.
- to swear trivially as in using God's name lightly during everyday conversation.


I like how Matthew Henry places this commandment in its context of number three in the first four that deal with our duty to God:
  • Commandment One: We are to worship God and Him alone.
  • Commandment Two: Our worship is to be spiritual and not given to images, pictures, superstitions or human inventions for God. 
  • Commandment Three: Our worship is to be serious and reverent. 
  • Commandment Four: One day in seven us to be allotted for worship.

Today I feel warned about the seriousness of loose speech. Even minced oaths like gosh, gee, geez, golly, cripes, etc. have no place in the daily speech of one who is determined not to take God's name in vain.


PRAYER: Dear God, please grow in me true respect for You—such respect and reverence that avoids any shade of disrespect and vain misuse of Your name. Amen.


MORE: More on minced oaths
"As blood-bought children of God we should be very thoughtful about the words that we use, and very careful in our choice of words. This is especially true at times of surprise or amazement or sudden pain or disappointment when we tend to burst out with an exclamatory word or comment. Those of the world blurt out all kinds of inappropriate words, not giving much thought to what they are really saying. All such careless speech and profane cursing should find no place on the lips of a redeemed saint: "Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips" (Psalm 141:3)...."
The article goes on to name a variety of minced oaths and explain their origins. Read all of "Minced Oaths."

Bible Drive-Thru


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

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

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

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


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

Monday, October 02, 2017

Taking advice

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Exodus 18:1-27

TO CHEW ON: “So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people, he said, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” Exodus 18:14

It is interesting to watch Moses’ interactions with Jethro, this in-law parent. Gone is the authoritative, often slightly annoyed and irritated-appearing leader. Toward his father-in-law Moses is all congenial hospitality.

He goes out to meet him and welcomes him along with Moses’ wife and sons. He tells the older man the good news of what has occurred in Egypt and at the Red Sea. He summons Aaron and the elders to break bread with them (Interestingly, very little mention is made of Moses’ wife. Hmm.)

The next day Moses goes to his post as lawyer, judge, and jury of the peoples’ disputes and quarrels. Jethro watches as from light to dark the line of people slow-snakes past Moses. At the end of the day Jethro gives Moses a bit of good advice—to share the load of responsibility for judging with his leaders (Exodus 18:14-23).

I love that this advice comes from a family member, an in-law no less. Sometimes we’re blind to a situation and its solution. It’s then that often a family member, who loves us and has our best interest at heart, but also isn’t intimidated by us, the success we’ve achieved or our position, can open his or her mouth with good, common sense advice. It’s one of the benefits of families and parents (both natural and acquired).

Are we open to the observations and advice of parents? Maybe, like Moses (Exodus 18:24), we should be.

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for my family. Though my parents are no longer alive to give me advice, I can still often sense how they would respond to a situation. Help me to be a wise and courageous parent and parent-in-law. Amen.

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


Sunday, October 01, 2017

Let your reasoning lead to faith

Religious leaders - Artist unknown
Religious leaders - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 21:18-32

TO CHEW ON:
"And they reasoned among themselves saying, 'If we  say, "From heaven," He will say to us "Why then did you not believe him?" But if we say, "From men," we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.' " Matthew 21:25,26


These chief priests, scribes and elders had the mindset of the conniving politician down pat. Their reasoning showed that they were more concerned with the impression they were making on observers than about searching their own hearts.

Jesus' claims often pulled out of His hearers such a reasoning response. That's what happens when what you see doesn't line up with what you have always thought possible. For example, after He said to the paralytic (whose friends lowered him to Jesus through a roof), "Your sins are forgiven," the scribes "reasoned" in their hearts that He had made a blasphemous statement (Mark 2:6-12).

When He talked about being the bread of life, the Jews "quarreled" with His claim (John 6:52).

Though such back-and-forth conversations in a reasoning, what-might-appear-to-us-as-argumentative style was the manner of Jewish teachers, Jesus never left the discussion on the theoretical plane. He inevitably pushed for a decision and a commitment.

In our reading today, Jesus refused to answer the leaders' insincere question about His authority to do miracles (Matthew 21:23-27). What was the point? It would just have produced more 'reasoning.'

In the story about the paralytic, from Mark, after forgiving the paralytic's sins, Jesus healed him physically, challenging the onlookers' assumptions that He was an ordinary man.

In the John account, after hearing the objections to His claims of being the bread of life, Jesus challenged the Jews to eat His flesh and drink His blood (a metaphorical allusion to the Last Supper and His death) - John 6:53-58.

Another time, when Jesus heard the wise answer of a scribe to His question, "Which is the greatest commandment?" He concluded, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God"  Mark 12:34) (the implication being, 'Why don't you just take that next step and enter it?').

Paul does a good job of summing up the tension between reasoning and going farther.
"Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" - 1 Corinthians 1:20,21 (emphasis added).

It's fine for us to discuss and reason. But at the end of the day we need to take that step of admitting who He really is and, in the perfect reasonableness of believing faith, surrender to Him the lordship of our lives.

PRAYER: Dear God, there is in our age more than ever the tendency to reason away Your claims. Help me to go beyond playing with words and ideas, and to commit myself to You in action-changing belief. 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.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Shining legacy

Milky Way (Image: Pixabay)
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Daniel 12:1-13

TO CHEW ON: “Those who are wise shall shine
Like the brightness of the firmament
And those who turn many to righteousness
Like the stars forever and ever." Daniel 12:3



Some years ago when we were cleaning up Mom’s apartment, preparing to move her to a tiny suite a fraction of the size of where she had lived, there was much stuff to dispose of. “Take this or that as a keepsake,” she’d urge us kids and grandkids. Very often the answer was “No thanks.” Mom's stuff was not what her family wanted as the legacy of this lovely lady.

Like my mom’s main legacy did not consist of stuff, neither does the legacy of the wise that Daniel speaks of in Daniel 12. Instead, we all understand the wish to leave a lasting legacy and hope that ours will be just that. Our verse today tells us that we do this when we “turn many to righteousness.” What does that mean?

The Amplified version expands on the phrase: “turn many to righteousness” (to uprightness and right standing with God).” The Message rephrases it to: “…those who put others on the right path to life ...” An expression used in many Christian circles to describe this activity is soul winning. Here are some conclusions about soul winning we can draw as we look at Bible passages that talk about it and the people who do it.

1. Soul-winning springs from the fellowship-desiring heart of God.- Luke 14:16-23.
2. It flows out of a right relationship with God - Psalm 51:12,13.
3. Soul-winners are motivated by their concern for others- James 5:20
4. The first soul-winners were trained by Christ.  He is the great soul-winning trainer - Matthew 4:19; Mark 1:17
5. Soul-winners are willing to make great personal sacrifice to succeed - 1 Corinthians 9:19,20.
6. They are vigilant over the authenticity of their lives and what they teach - 1 Timothy 4:16.
7. Successful soul-winners realize their actions count as much as – may be more than – their words - 1 Peter 3:1.
8. Soul-winners are wise - Proverbs 11:30.
9. They consider soul-winning an assignment from God - 1 Thessalonians 2:1-4
10. Soul-winners don’t need ideal circumstances to be successful- Philemon 1:10
11. They persevere despite a lack of visible results - 1 Corinthians 7:12-16
12. The legacy they leave “…will shine… like the stars forever and ever.” - Daniel 12:3.

I ask myself, am I working on leaving such a legacy? Are you?

PRAYER:  Dear God, thank You for entrusting me with the privilege and responsibility of influencing lives for You. Please teach me how to do this better. Amen.


MORE: Rita Springer: "All My Days"




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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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