Monday, April 24, 2017

Are you a functioining part?

body parts
Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 4:1-16

TO CHEW ON: From whom the whole body joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:16

Is your body operating with replacement parts? Modern medicine has made amazing progress at fixing faulty body parts and replacing those that no longer work well. I would hazard a guess, though, that no matter how slick your replacement heart valve, or what a great match your transplanted kidney is, it’s not as good as a healthy original.

Each of our body parts has its own function. Toes, fingernails, eyelashes, the ability to smell, taste, feel (yes, pain too) are important and missed when absent. Even a small discrepancy in, say, the length of one’s legs can have repercussions to posture, neck, back, and foot health. Most of the time we have no clue about how interconnected our body parts are—until one of them gets ill or stops working and our whole body feels the impact.

In today’s passage, where Paul underlines the importance of Christian unity (Ephesians 4:1-4), and identifies spiritual gifts available to believers (Ephesians 4:7-12), he ends with a sort of argument for the function and cooperation of each member in the body of believers by comparing this spiritual body to a physical body (Ephesians 4:13-16).

I love these segments:
"...Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint suppliesworking by which every part does its share...” Ephesians 4:16.

This reminds us that each individual is not only important but essential for the smooth functioning of the body of believers. Of course only God in His ultimate wisdom and omnipotence would have the smarts and power to also place us in physical churches on physical earth in our place and time where we also have a unique purpose and function.

Why?

For body growth and edification (Ephesians 4:16).

[Edify: to instruct or benefit, especially morally or spiritually; to uplift.]

So, don’t absent yourself from the Christian community just because you appear (to yourself at least) insignificant or useless. You are needed and essential as one of the "every joint” and “every part” of the body of believers.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to be a healthy part, in tune and cooperating with You, my Head. 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, April 23, 2017

Breath of new life

Resurrected Jesus and His disciples - Artist Unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 20:19-31

TO CHEW ON: "And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" John 20:22

Jesus breathing on the disciples brings to mind another time God breathed on a man: "And the Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life" - Genesis 2:7.

God as the source and sustainer of our human breath (life) is a theme that flows through the Bible (e.g. Job 33:4; Ecclesiastes 3:19; Acts 17:25). But even in the Old Testament there are inklings of a new quality of life ahead.

Isaiah 42 is a Servant Song (a prophetic reference to Jesus) where God, the giver of physical life (Isaiah 42:5) speaks of the Servant doing a "new thing." He will be a "… light to the Gentiles / To open blind eyes / To bring out prisoners from the prison…" - Isaiah 42:7.

God speaking to Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones vision says, "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live" - Ezekiel 37:5.

Them comes Jesus. He tells Nicodemus it is necessary to receive Him and being reborn (John 1:12-13), and that that rebirth is necessary to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).

And here we see Him performing the very act—breathing on the disciples—that God had performed when He created the first man to give him physical life. My Bible's footnote to his verse explain it simply: "The old creation began with the breath of God; now the new creation begins with the breath of God the Son" Siegfried Schatzmann (notes on John), New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1480.

Has Jesus breathed on you? Have you been reborn of the Spirit in this way? Here's how Jesus explained it to Nicodemus:
"Jesus said, 'You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit'"  - John 3:5-6 - The Message.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this life that You breathed into me when I accepted to You. Help me to let the life of Your Spirit have access to all of me. Amen.

MORE: More about the new life:
  • It makes us a new creation - 2 Corinthians 5:17.
  • It is not achieved through our works but by God's mercy - Titus 3:5.
  • Our hope is a living hope because of Jesus' resurrection - 1 Peter 1:3.
  • This life is visible and obvious to others by the way we love people - 1 John 4:7; 5:1.

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The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson - Used with permission.

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

Bible Drive-Thru


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spiritual benefits of insomnia

wide awake
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 16:1-11

TO CHEW ON:
"I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel;
My heart also instructs me in the night seasons." Psalm 16:7



What do you do when you can't sleep at night? Fret? Toss and turn? Count sheep? Take a pill?

Night wakefulness is referred to quite a few times in the Bible.

  • For Job's friend Elihu it was a time of hearing God's songs (Job 35:10).
  • For the psalmist Korah it was also a time of lingering songs as well as prayer (Psalm 42:8).
  • For Psalm-writer Asaph night songs evoked meditation and spirit searching (Psalm 77:6).
  • When Israel faced the Assyrians, Isaiah prophesied, not nighttime thoughts of dread and foreboding but "a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept" (Isaiah 30:29).
  • Who can forget Paul and Silas, locked in stocks in a jail in Philippi, praying and singing hymns at midnight? We remember the miraculous jail break that followed (Acts 16:25, 26)!
  • And in our psalm today, David testifies of God instructing him in the night seasons.

So next time we're troubled by insomnia, perhaps we should pause our fretting, turn our attention to God, and ask:
~ Do you have a song for me?
 

~ What Bible verses could I meditate on?
 

~ Who or what situation needs prayer?
~ Is there a battle somewhere that could be impacted by my praise and prayer?

PRAYER: Dear God, You know I don't usually think of sleeplessness as a good thing. Please help me to remember that it can be a time of prayer, song, counsel, meditation and spiritual warfare. 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, April 21, 2017

Duelling hostesses

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 9:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "Wisdom ... cries out from the highest places of the city, 'Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!'
A foolish woman ... sits ... on a seat by the highest places of the city, to call to those who pass by, ... 'Whoever is simple let him turn in here.'" Proverbs 9:1, 3-4, 13-14, 16.



In Proverbs 9 we have two hostesses competing for guests.

Wisdom has prepared a banquet with meat and wine. She advertises a delicious and wholesome experience:
"'Come and eat of my bread
And drink of the wine I have mixed
Forsake foolishness and live,
And go in the way of understanding'"
- Proverbs 9:5-6.

Foolish Woman's commercial has an intriguing undertone to it—an air of mystery mixed with naughtiness:
"'Stolen water is sweet,
And bread eaten in secret is pleasant'"
- Proverbs 9:17.

Of course, this isn't really a story about two women and their banquets, but about choices we're faced with in life. Other places in the Bible express a similar idea:
  • Jesus talked about people having a choice between two different roads—a wide one and a narrow one (Matthew 7:13-14).

  • He also talked about building our house on two different foundations—sand or rock (Matthew 7:24-27).

How do we know which is the right banquet, the right road, the right foundation? Proverbs 9:10 gives us the answer:

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" -
Proverbs 9:10.

That choice may not have the sensual attractiveness of the other. We may need to ignore the clamoring of our human nature which finds stolen water, secret bread, the wide path, the easy foundation compelling. But such self-denial is a small price to pay for the final end: Wisdom's understanding and multiplied days, vs. Foolish Woman's scoffing, death, and hell.

PRAYER: Dear God, I recognize the voices that call out to me in these metaphors. Please help me to make the "fear of the Lord" choice in every situation. Amen.

MORE: Where to find the "fear of the Lord" choice
  • Romans 8 from the Message Bible:
"'Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life' Romans 8:6 - Message.
  • Rick Warren, from  The Purpose Driven Life:
I have read many books that suggest ways to discover the purpose of my life. All of them could be classified as 'self-help' books because they approach the subject from a self-centered viewpoint. Self-help books, even Christian ones, usually offer the same predictable steps to finding your life's purpose: Consider your dreams. Clarify your values. Set some goals. Figure out what you are good at. Aim high. Go for it! Be disciplined. Believe you can achieve your goals. Involve others. Never give up.

Of course these recommendations often lead to great success. You can usually succeed in reaching a goal if you put your mind to it. But being successful and fulfilling your life's purpose are not at all the same issue ....

How, then, do you discover the purpose you were created for? You have only two options. Your first option is speculation. This is what most people choose. They conjecture, they guess, they theorize....

Fortunately there is an alternative to speculation about the meaning and purpose of life. It's revelation. We can turn to what God has revealed about life in his Word" - Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life, pp. 19,20.
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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 MSG are taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Bible Drive-Thru

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wisdom for creativity

Man creating street art
Image: Pixabay

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Proverbs 8:22-36

TO CHEW ON:
“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old …
Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
Rejoicing in His inhabited world,
And my delight was with the sons of men.” Proverbs 8:22,31


Today in our continuation of the Lady Wisdom poem we began yesterday, my attention is snagged by one of her strengths or functions—to inspire and facilitate creativity.

- Wisdom speaks here as an eye-witness of creation - Proverbs 8:22, 27-30.
- She especially delights in God’s created humanity (“… and my delight was with the sons of men” - Proverbs 8:31).

The video about the book of Proverbs that was on yesterday’s devo emphasized that the wisdom Proverbs speaks of is not only head knowledge but help in developing practical skills for living well in God’s world.

One of those practical skills is the wisdom of creativity and skill to make things. It’s the wisdom that God bestowed on the craftsman Bezalel and his colleagues to make the worship accessories for the Tabernacle (God to Moses: “‘See, I have called by name Bezalel … And I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship to designto work… and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans that they may make all that I have commanded you…’” - Exodus 31:2-6, emphasis added).

Do you like to make things? No matter what your preferred medium—wood, paints, crayons, pens, fabric, metal, glass, precious stones, clay, words, etc.—wisdom to create is a divine gift to you. Use it. Develop it. Embrace it. Joy in it. Put it to work for its highest purpose—to reflect glory back to God.

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for the wisdom of creativity. As I seek to develop my interests in this area, help me to use any talents you’ve given me toward their highest purpose—glorifying You. Amen.

MORE: Bible Journaling
I recently reviewed the book The Complete Guide to Bible Journaling and got hooked on a new-to-me area of creativity—meditating on Bible passages through art. If you enjoy activities like doodling, lettering, sketching, drawing, scrapbooking, etc., this might be an avenue of creativity you’d like to explore.

Check out #biblejournaling on Twitter, Instragram, and Pinterest to see some of the amazing art people are creating in Bibles formatted especially for that purpose


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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, April 19, 2017

Thought and speech along the grain of the universe

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Proverbs 8:1-21

TO CHEW ON: “Listen, for I will speak of excellent things,
And from the opening of my lips will come right things;
For my mouth will speak truth;
Wickedness is an abomination to my lips,
All the words of my mouth are with righteousness,
Nothing crooked or perverse is in them.” Proverbs 8:6-8



During he last few months we’ve been studying Proverbs in our life group. As a result I’ve been on the lookout for information and study helps about this Bible book. The “Bible Books Simply Explained: Proverbs” video (embedded below) is most helpful.

From it I learned that Proverbs—the book with its many wise sayings—is not law or prophecy, but the accumulated insight of God’s people through generations. It is insight about how to live in a way that honours God and others.

Chapters 1-9 of Proverbs are a series of father-to-son speeches that include four poems by Lady Wisdom. These poems are, in the words of the video, a “… poetic way of exploring that we live in God’s moral universe. Goodness and justice are objective realities that we ignore to our peril.” When we follow Lady Wisdom’s advice we will be “living along the grain of the universe.”

Today’s focus verses are just a snippet from one of these Lady Wisdom poems. They contain advice about wise speech. What is to come from our mouths? Words that are ...

EXCELLENT,   RIGHT,   TRUE,   RIGHTEOUSNESS

What is not to come from our mouths? Speech that is...

WICKED,   CROOKEDPERVERSE

[Perverse means willfully determined or disposed to go counter to what is expected or desired; contrary, wayward or cantankerous; persistent or obstinate in what is wrong; turned away from or neglecting what is right, good, or proper.]

Of course we know that speech has its beginnings in thought. And so another list comes to mind:
“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 these things - Philippians 4:8.

My challenge to myself today (and maybe it's a challenge to you too) is to think and speak wisely—along, not against, the grain of God’s moral universe.

PRAYER: Dear Father thank You for these lofty ideals about thought and speech. Please poke me when my thoughts drift to what is wicked, crooked, and perverse. I want to live along the grain of your moral universe. Amen.

 MORE: Bible Books Simply Explained: Proverbs






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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, April 18, 2017

Grooves or Gravity?

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Peter 1:1-16

TO CHEW ON: “So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing … As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, ‘I am holy; you be holy.’” 1 Peter 13-16 MSG

I see two actions in this Message rendering of these verses from 1 Peter:

1. Slipping back into “old grooves of evil.”
The images that come to mind are a record player needle bobbing along in the groove of a record or car wheels caught in hardened mud or snow ruts. It’s an object caught and following the path of least resistance.

What are some of those “grooves of evil” we might be caught in?
  • Wayward, undisciplined thoughts that take us to bad places.
  • Rote actions (habits) that we need to break.
  • Giving in to triggers that cause us to become irritated or angry (e.g. people consistently late, inconsiderate drivers).

2. Being “pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life.”

The image I see here is an object (satellite, moon, asteroid) attracted and pulled toward a star or planet by gravity. How can we cooperate with the pull of God’s gravity?
  •  Arresting those negative thoughts and changing their direction.
  • Substituting bad habits with good. (E.g. instead of checking email or text messages first thing in the morning, check in with God’s word and prayer. My confession: When I do the former first, my whole morning can get derailed by silly little details that suddenly feel way more important than they are.)
  • Intentionally living with a grateful outlook.
  • Cultivating a “yes” attitude toward God (obedience).

An excellent book on holiness is The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. Here is a quote from that book that I was reminded of by today’s 1 Peter reading:

“… we have misunderstood ‘living by faith’ (Galatians 2:20) to mean that no effort at holiness is required on our part. In fact, sometimes we have even suggested that any effort on our part is ‘of the flesh’ … But then the Holy Spirit said to me, ‘And you can put away the sinful habits that plague you if you will accept your personal responsibility for them. Acknowledging that I did have this responsibility turned out to be a milestone for me in my pursuit of holiness” - Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness, Kindle Location 101, 109 (emphasis added).
PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to be realistic and honest about those old “grooves of evil” I’m still caught in. May I, more and more, respond to Your Spirit’s gravitational pull toward You and a life of obedience to Your revealed will in attitude and action. 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 MSG are taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Man's wrath turned inside-out

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 76:1-12

TO CHEW ON: “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You;
With the remainder of wrath You shall gird Yourself” - Psalm 76:10


After reading about the earth-rocking events of the crucifixion and resurrection, today’s psalm reading feels like we’re taking a step back as we ask, what just happened? Our focus verse suggests an answer: “Surely the wrath of man shall praise You”
 
At the crucifixion we saw humanity at its most wrathful against God. But with the resurrection that wrath was turned around to give praise to God. This is one of God’s characteristic ways of working. He did something similar:
  • When Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt - Exodus 14:14.
  • When David’s son Absalom, in his attempt to wrest the throne from his father, chose the advice of Hushai (his father’s secret ally) over Ahithophel - 2 Samuel 7:14. (God’s control in this is expressed in the words of another of David’s sons—Solomon: “A man’s heart plans his way, / But the Lord directs his steps” - Psalm 16:9).
  • When God spoke to Israel’s prophets explaining international events before they happened:
- Concerning Assyria and its King Sennacherib - Isaiah 37:29
- Concerning an Israelite king, a puppet of Babylon, who secretly broke a covenant - Ezekiel 17:20.
- Concerning Pharaoh, king of Egypt - Ezekiel 29:4.
- Concerning Babylon and Egypt - Ezekiel 20:24.
(… the above illustrative of another of Solomon’s proverbs: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, / Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” - Proverbs 21:1).
  • When Jesus’ life was preserved until “His hour” had come - John 8:20.

God will continue to work this way. An example is predicted in Revelation, when God will cause unity among 10 kingdoms to accomplish His purpose: “For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose to be of one mind and to give their kingdom to the beast until the works of God are fulfilled” - Revelation 17:17.

We, with our limited vision are easily flummoxed by what is happening in our world’s halls of power. Often it looks like God and the causes of His kingdom are losing. But the story is not over. The Bible assures us that God is in control, no matter how things may look when we’re in the middle of them.

PRAYER: Dear Father, when I am troubled by apparent Kingdom of God setbacks, buoy my faith as I recall Your ability to turn man’s wrath around to praise 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.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Do not fear!

Image: Pixabay

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 28:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "But the angel answered and said to the women, 'Do not be afraid'.... Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid...'" Matthew 28:5,10

So often in the Bible, the first words heaven speaks when it encounters earth is "Do not fear. Do not be afraid."

Why is that? Perhaps because there is within those encounters all the fear-producing elements:

Fear: 1] an agitated feeling aroused by awareness of actual or threatening danger, trouble, etc., 2] An uneasy feeling that something may happen contrary to one's desires. 3] A feeling of deep reverential awe and dread 'the fear of God.' 4] A continuing state or attitude of fright, dread or alarmed concern."

Angel encounters are beyond the ordinary, the explainable, and outside usual human experience. Our sinful state and tendencies anchor in reality the fears that come out in such meetings. It is natural to react like Isaiah did: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips" - Isaiah 6:5.

The word 'fear' used by the angels and Jesus here is phobeo, defined as "panic that grips a person causing him to run away, be scared, alarmed, frightened, dismayed, intimidated, anxious and apprehensive (compare 'phobia)"  - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1308.

"Don't do that — run away, be scared, alarmed, frightened," say the angels and Jesus at the unveiling of the resurrection. "For this is good news. Now your most basic fear — the fear of death — is conquered."

Imagine how incredible must have been the realization for Jesus' disciples and friends that He was back. But even greater the joy when it finally sunk in what He had accomplished. That what He had said to Martha just before raising Lazarus ("Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die'" - John 11:25-26) was now a reality for them, indeed for all who believe in Him. For us! We do not need to be afraid of our last great enemy - death.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for conquering death in Your resurrection. May the knowledge of what that means for me sink deep into my psyche, helping me life free-fear. Amen.

MORE: Easter! "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" - Steve Green




The Easter Day liturgy begins with this collect:

O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Secret disciples

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 27:57-66

TO CHEW ON: "Now when evening had come, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus." Matthew 27:57

Here Joseph of Arimathea (a rich man, Matthew points out) asked Pilate for Jesus' body. John's account of the same event includes Nicodemus as Joseph's companion in this:

"After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds" - John 19:38-39.

I find it interesting that these two members of the Sanhedrin, so intimidated by their fellow Jewish leaders during Jesus' life that they didn't follow Him openly, finally showed their colours at His death. Perhaps they felt ashamed that they hadn't declared themselves sooner. Maybe they wished they had tried harder to bring about a different ending, and this was the least they could do. From their point of view it had ended badly and now showing their allegiance to Jesus was more important than staying tight with the Sanhedrin crowd. Maybe folks like they were the reason Jesus had warned so often about the danger of riches.

On the other hand, their riches and position now gave them the leverage they needed to get Jesus' body from Pilate. Joseph had the tomb, Nicodemus the expensive spices. With their resources they showed Jesus care and respect, albeit too late.

I come from this story with two thoughts.
  • Riches and influence can be a trap. Fear of losing them has the power to shut mouths and change behaviour. I am reminded of Jesus' words: "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels" - Mark 8:48.
  • But riches and influence are also needed in the Kingdom of God. God gives the power to make money ("...for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth..." - Deuteronomy 8:18). He places people into positions of influence ("But God is the Judge: He puts down one, And exalts another" - Psalm 75:7). If we're rich and influential, let's not get caught up in materialism and power, nor be made to feel guilty by those who have given up everything. Rather, let's put our resources at the disposal of the Kingdom of God.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the example of Joseph and Nicodemus who honoured Jesus so beautifully in His death. Help me to use my influence and resources for Your kingdom. 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, April 14, 2017

Forsaken

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 27:27-56

TO CHEW ON: "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachtani?' that is, 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'" - Matthew 27:46

Jesus and God the Father were always incredibly close. Even at twelve years, Jesus wanted to be in his Father's house and seemed surprised that His parents hadn't thought to look there first when He was discovered missing on their journey back to Nazareth.

At Jesus' baptism the Father, in "a voice from heaven" alerted the onlookers to their relationship: "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" - Matthew 3:16-17.

Jesus was always going off somewhere to spend time with His Father. He'd get up early, spend all night,  stay behind, go off by Himself  just so He could be with Him (Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16).

Again at Jesus' transfiguration, God the Father broke through to the human bystanders in the proud pronouncement: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!"- Matthew 17:5.

So when Jesus cried from the cross, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" we know something very serious was up.

And why Had God the Father forsaken His beloved Son? Because that Son had become something the Father could not look at. Jesus became utterly abhorrent to God when He took our sins on Him.

"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Why did Jesus and God allow that to happen? Because:

"God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life' - John 3:16

Explained eloquently by J. I. Packer:

"God's love to sinners was expressed by the gift of His Son to be their Saviour. The measure of love is how much it gives and the measure of the love of God is the gift of His only Son to be made man, and to die for sins, and so to become the one mediator who can bring us to God. No wonder Paul speaks of God's love as "great," and passing knowledge (Ephesians 2:4; 3:19). Was there ever such costly munificence?" - Knowing God, p. 138-9.

PRAYER: Dear God, Thank You for sending Jesus. Jesus, thank You for enduring the utter desolation of my sin and death on the cross and so that I can be reconciled to God. Amen.


MORE: Good Friday

Today the church celebrates Jesus' crucifixion. We call it "Good Friday."

The Good Friday liturgy begins with this collect:

"Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

Andrew Peterson's song "The Silence of God" portrays how we  feel when it seems God is giving us the silent treatment. At such times perhaps the best thing for us to do is follow Jesus' example and keep praying.




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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, April 13, 2017

Devilish Judas spirit

Judas before the Sanhedrin - Alexandre Bida
Judas before the Sanhedrin - by Alexandre Bida

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 27:1-26

TO CHEW ON: "Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders."  Matthew 27:3

I have thought a lot about Judas. What drove him to betray Jesus? What inner need was he giving in to?

Our passage today implies (when it says "…seeing He had been condemned, was remorseful…") that he may have thought his actions of betrayal would force Jesus' hand. Perhaps he thought that Jesus would again slip out of the grasp of the scribes and Pharisees as He had at other times. And this time, He would assert Himself as Messiah and show Himself to be the human King of the Jews.

We know that the other disciples had co-ruler ambitions. The mother of James and John asked that her sons have special positions in Jesus' kingdom. How much more Judas, who handled the money and already dipped into their common purse for his own use? In other words. I believe Judas thought his relationship with Jesus was a means to improve his own fortunes.

Are we so different? Don't we also often think of ourselves as the privileged chosen who, because of our relationship with Jesus will escape sickness and money problems, will have good families and successful businesses? What happens when things don't turn out the way we expect? Might we also be tempted to try to manipulate Him to follow our agenda? (You didn't hold up your end of the bargain, so I'll turn my back on You. Pout, pout.)

But Jesus had told them that following Him would include more than blessing and well-being:

"'Assuredly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters of father or mother or wife or children or lands for My sake and the gospel's who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—house and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life'" - Mark 10:29,30 (emphasis added).

Let's be watchful over our own motivations, careful to recognize and deal with any selfish ambition that might, if left to grow, sabotage our loyalty to Him when His plans for us turn out to be entirely different than we had imagined.

(Jesus' description of Judas is strong: "…one of you is a devil" - John 6:70.)

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help me to love and follow You, not for selfish gain but because You are truth and life (John 6:67,68). Amen.

MORE: Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday, the church feast that commemorates the Last Supper Jesus celebrated with His disciples. Here is the Collect that begins the day's liturgy.

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now 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.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Stumbling and remorse

"Peter's Denial" by Otto Dix - 1960

"Peter's Denial" - Otto Dix
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 26:57-75


TO CHEW ON: "And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times!' So he went out and wept bitterly." Matthew 26:75

Peter wept for good reason. Not only had he let himself down, but he had let Jesus down  and this mere hours after declaring, "even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble" - Matthew 26:33.

His trip-up wasn't just a momentary lapse either. When given a chance to reverse his disloyalty he had nailed it down with an oath, then dusted off his colourful fisherman's vocabulary to dance around it with curses and swearing.

When he heard the rooster crow, he remembered. It's almost as if he was temporarily insane. But that cock crow pulled him back to reality and deep, deep remorse.

His story and other instances of remorse following stumbles in the Bible teach us some valuable lessons:

1. Anyone can fall.
David, who was called a "man after God's own heart," indulged in adultery with Bathsheba and then committed murder to cover it up. He felt similar deep remorse. His feelings are recorded in Psalm 51.

2. It's important to feel remorse in time.
Proverbs 5:7-14 and Ezekiel 7:14-16; 36:31 talk about being remorseful too late, when the situation is lost or when life is all but over.

3. Remorse without repentance is dangerous.
The writer of Hebrews talks about Esau (who was full of regret after trading his birthright for a bowl of stew) as having remorse that didn't fruit into anything good (Hebrews 12:17). Neither did Judas's remorse at betraying Jesus (Matthew 27:3,5).

Fortunately, Peter's remorse took a different path. He and Jesus were reconciled and he was even able to extract from that experience of stumbling a triumphant theme:
"...you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple... 
'He is the stone that makes people stumble,
      the rock that makes them fall.'

   They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them.
 But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people..." (NLT from 1 Peter 2:4-10)
I am not immune from stumbles. You probably aren't either. Let's determine, though, to learn from those falls and to return quickly to Jesus with remorse and repentance, knowing that there is for us, like there was for Peter, a place in God's "spiritual temple."

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to live alert to situations that would stumble me. When I fall, help me to get up and return to you not only with remorse, but also with repentance. 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 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.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Watchful praying

"The sleep of the disciples"
by Alexandre Bida

l"The sleep of the disciples" - Alexandre Bida
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 26:31-56


TO CHEW ON: "'Stay here and watch with Me....What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation...'" Matthew 26:38, 40-41


In Bible passages that precede Matthew 26 we see, Jesus had given the disciples plenty of warning that something big was up. He had interpreted the fragrance Mary of Bethany poured on His head as "'for My burial'" (Matthew 26:12). He had said plainly that one of them would betray Him (Matthew 26:21). He had charged them to eat and drink parts of the Passover meal as if they were His body and blood (Matthew 26:26-29).

Surely they sensed it wasn't business as usual. They didn't know what was about to happen (even though Jesus tried to tell them), but they could have brought their puzzlement to God. Especially when Jesus alerted them specifically to "watch," they could have been on the lookout for what all these things meant − to Jesus and to them.

The word watch has within it the meaning of close observation with a view to warning if trouble is coming, as a guard or sentinel. In the Old Testament watchmen guarded walled cities. It was their responsibility to warn the inhabitants of approaching enemies.

Jack Taylor says of this kind of praying: "Watching in prayer and supplication bespeaks having spiritual insight to discern the wiles of Satan and to discover the latter's ends and means" - Jack Taylor, quoted by Dick Eastman in The Hour that Changes the World, p. 64.

But instead of watching, the disciples slept.

I ask myself, am I much different? In the last little while the earth has been plagued with disruptions all over — refugees flooding Europe, worldwide threats of terrorism, wonderment over Earth's rising temperature, disasters of floods, earthquakes, and wildfires, diseases for which there is no antibiotic or cure.  I do pray for peace generally and for the inhabitants of these natural-disaster-ravished places along with the people trying to help them. But am I also watchful for what these things might mean in the realm of the spirit? Am I alert and praying into that? What about events in my own community and family?

Jesus' words: "'Watch and pray'" echo down to us across the centuries. Are we engaged in watching prayer, or are we, as the disciples were, thick, drowsy, and becoming riper every day for temptation's picking?

PRAYER: Dear God, I confess my frequent preoccupation with "other things" and my short-sightedness when it comes to prayer. Help me to be more spiritually alert and watchful especially over Satan's designs towards me, my family, and the world. Amen

MORE: Watchful Praying

Dick Eastman concludes his chapter on watching prayer, in the book The Hour that Changes the World, with four practical things we can do to become watchful prayers:

1. Take a few moments during prayer to become spiritually alert. Watch for the methods Satan may try to use to hinder your Christian walk that day. Prayerfully claim power to defeat Satan in each of these areas.


2. Read denominational or missionary-evangelism magazines to help become alert to specific needs in God's work around the world.*


3. Prayerfully recall various international news developments that deserve special prayer.


4. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal further spiritual facts about these needs. This will aid you in praying more intelligently for these needs."

- Dick Eastman in The Hour that Changes the World, p. 73.


*These days one could add to magazines, websites of mission organizations and individual missionaries.

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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, April 10, 2017

Table Covenant

Photo: V. Nesdoly
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 26:1-30

TO CHEW ON: "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Matthew 26:28

Here we have the story of Jesus starting something new or, better said, revealing the next chapter of God's plan that lay within something old.

He and His disciples were celebrating the Passover meal. This was the symbolic meal the Israelites had celebrated since the night before their exodus from Egypt. It is explained in Exodus 12. There Moses instructed the people how to celebrate it. He also told them to eat it yearly from then on, using the various rituals of preparation and menu items as prompts in retelling the story to their children of how God had spared the life of each family's firstborn child the night the Death Angel visited Egypt.

Jesus and His disciples were eating this Passover meal when Jesus took parts of it—the bread and the wine—and gave them new significance. Of the bread He said, "Take, eat, this is My body." Of the wine, "Drink from it all of you. For this is My blood of the new convenient which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

A sidebar article in my Bible explains the significance of what He was doing:

"Jesus used the occasion of the Passover meal to inaugurate the New Covenant. The symbolism of the Passover meal under the Old Covenant was about to be fully satisfied through Christ's crucifixion. In this historic moment, Jesus transformed the meaning of the elements of the Passover meal into New Covenant thought.


The bread now represented His body, which would be given, and the cup His blood, which would be shed for the forgiveness of sins The holy requirements of God and the Old Covenant were about to be forever satisfied.


A new and living way into the presence and provision of God was being prepared through Christ, the Lamb of God. A new and eternal bond was being established by the blood of Jesus Christ. God was sovereignly inaugurating the new and ultimate covenant" - Charles Simpson - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1339.

Though a covenant between two people or parties is an agreement by both sides, a God-initiated covenant is solely His idea. We have nothing to bring to it—no bargaining power or clout of any kind. This covenant, to give us life when we deserved death because Someone took our place, is entirely His gift to us.

As we approach Easter, the realization, again, of the hugeness of His gift is reason for nothing but thankfulness and worship.

(Read more about covenant at Rebecca Writes - Theological Term of the Week: "covenant")

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this new covenant by which I have life when I deserved death. Help me to respect the Lord's Supper, treating it with the solemnity it has as Your initiative, pledge and seal of undeserved favour. Amen.

MORE: "Come to the Table" by Michael Card



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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, April 09, 2017

Riding to Jerusalem—but not to coronation

Stained glass window - Jesus rides into Jerusalem
Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Philippians 2:1-11

TO CHEW ON:
“And being in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:8

Today is Palm Sunday—the day we remember Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey (recorded in Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19).

It was a symbolic ride. Matthew and John point out how this act fulfilled prophecy (Matthew 21:4,5; John 12:14,15). The people, with a display that showed they recognized what was being said (they spread their clothes in front of the donkey and waved palm branches in celebration) shouted praise to Jesus, who they thought they would soon be crowning as their earthly king (Matthew 21:9; Luke 19:38; John 12:15).

But Jesus knew that this ride was not a ride to a coronation but a crucifixion. In John the account of Him riding into Jerusalem is followed immediately by His explanation of these events to His disciples:
‘The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain … Now My soul is troubled and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour” John 12:23,27 (emphasis added).

And so the challenge Jesus left with His disciples (us)‘He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life'"- John 12:25)—and Paul left with his readers (the church, us)“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God … made Himself of no reputation” - Philippians 2:5-7)—is to look past the apparent to the real:
  • The real reason Jesus came, which was to glorify His father through His death and resurrection (John 12:28).
  • The real reason we’re alive, which is to bring glory to the Father (Philippians 2:11), however that will happen and whatever it means to us of life or death.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for willingly becoming that grain of wheat who died to produce much grain. I join with the kneeling, praising multitudes to confess You are Lord. Please give me Your attitude of obedience and self-sacrifice. Amen.

MORE: Palm Sunday

The Collect in the Palm Sunday liturgy:
"Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ 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.


Saturday, April 08, 2017

Bruised

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 52:13-53:12


TO CHEW ON: "He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities.
The chastisement of our peace was upon Him
And by His stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5



Today's magnificent reading is Isaiah's final Servant Song. A footnote in my Bible describes it: "...one of the greatest passages in the Bible, the mountain peak of Isaiah's book, the most sublime messianic prophecy in the Old Testament, relating to so many features of Jesus Christ's redemptive work" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 936.

This passage is teeming with prophecies fulfilled through Jesus (listed in a sidebar article in my Bible - p. 937):

  • He will be exalted (Isaiah 52:13) - Philippians 2:9.
  • He will be disfigured by suffering (Isaiah 52:14; 53:2) - Mark 15:17,19.
  • He will be widely rejected (Isaiah 53:1,3) - John 12:37-38.
  • He will bear our sins and sorrows (Isaiah 53:4) - Romans 4:25; 1 Peter 2: 24-25.
  • He will make a blood atonement (Isaiah 53:5) - Romans 3:25.
  • He will be our substitute (Isaiah 53:6,8) - 2 Corinthians 5:21.
  • He will stand silently, giving no defence (Isaiah 53:7) - Matthew 26:63; 27:12-14.
  • He will voluntarily accept our guilt and punishment (Isaiah 53:7) - John 10:11.
  • He will be buried in a rich man's tomb (Isaiah 53:9) - John 19:38-42.
  • He will justify many from their sin (Isaiah 53:10,11) - Romans 5:15-19.
  • He will die with transgressors (Isaiah 53:12) - Mark 15:27; Luke 22:37.

What I am most struck by, though, is the tenderness of Isaiah's writing as He depicts this Servant. There is no doubt this is God, the Holy Spirit inspiring Isaiah. It is God the Father seeing Jesus through Isaiah's eyes, describing His one and only Son through Isaiah's pen:

"His visage was marred...He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant.... He is despised and rejected...He was wounded...He was bruised... He was oppressed and He was afflicted...He was taken...He was cut off..."

At the same time, it is Isaiah's regret-filled reaction:

"And we hid as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised and we did not esteem Him... Surely He has borne out griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities..."

It's as if he is saying "What have we done?"

That is the emotional response that wells up in me as I read this. And not only what have "we" done, but what have "I" done? I doubt that I would have been much different from the people in Jesus' time who scorned and accused Him, who refused to realize He was dying not for His own sins but theirs (Isaiah 53:4-5). I too am a sheep who has gone astray in the past and still easily wanders.

I turn my eyes away. I can't look as this "tender plant" is "cut off" for me. Thank You Jesus!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for taking my sin on You. Thank You for enduring all the pain, humiliation and undeserved blame to buy me back. Words feel inadequate to describe what You've done, and how much I am indebted to You. Thank You over and over! Amen

MORE: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross - Kathryn Scott



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


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Friday, April 07, 2017

Pawnshop rescue

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 52:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "Break forth into joy, Sing together
You waste places of Jerusalem!
For the Lord has comforted His people
He has redeemed Jerusalem." Isaiah 52:9


Unless we've been kidnapped and held for ransom, being redeemed probably isn't something with which we have a lot of experience. A pawnshop is probably the closest modern redemption scenario we're familiar with.

People short of money bring their valuables to these businesses. They enter into a contract with the owner whereby in exchange for property (jewelry, say, or a pricey camera) the pawnshop owner lends them money. If they want their property back, they must return within the required amount of time and redeem or buy back that ring or camera by paying the money they borrowed plus interest (called a ransom). If they don't redeem on time, the pawnshop owner can sell their stuff and keep the proceeds for himself.

The theme of redemption goes through the Bible.
  • In Leviticus 25:23-55 God lays out for Israel the rules for physically redeeming property and slaves. 
  • In the book of Ruth, Boaz was the relative who redeemed Naomi's land and in this way also secured Ruth his wife. In the spiritual sense redemption refers to people being delivered from enslavement to sin.
God's redemption of Jerusalem in our passage today has both natural and spiritual overtones. During Isaiah's time the Jewish people were constantly being harassed by neighbouring countries. Eventually Jerusalem fell to Babylon and its inhabitants were captured and taken away as exiles. They would be a people needing redemption.

But even before that, Jerusalem was a city that had fallen into serious spiritual and moral decline. The time of Isaiah is described in my Bible:

"Secret places of pagan worship were tolerated; the wealthy oppressed the poor; the women neglected their families in the quest of carnal pleasure, many of the priests and prophets became drunken men-pleasers...It was clear to Isaiah that ...judgment and captivity were inevitable for Judah, even as it was for Israel" - Nathaniel M. Van Cleave in the introduction to Isaiah,  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 871.

And so Isaiah prophesies a time when God will redeem the city and again own it. It will be a time of joy, rejuvenation and comfort.

What significance does redemption have for you and me today?

1. Jesus is our ransom - Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:18.
Jesus' death on our behalf pays the price for sin that our just God requires. This ransom is paid to God, not Satan.
"God's mercy ransoms men from God's justice" - Shedd (quoted by H. Thiessen in Lectures in Systematic Theology, p. 328.
2. Our sins are forgiven - Colossians 1:14.

3. We're adopted into God's family and are His children - Galatians 4:4-5.

4. We are free to live a new lifestyle where we:
  • glorify God in our bodies and spirits - 1 Corinthians 6:20.
  • are "...peculiarly His own, people who are eager and enthusiastic about [living a life that is good and filled with] beneficial deeds" - Titus 2:14 AMP.
  • need to be watchful that we don't again return to being slaves - 1 Corinthians 7:23
5. We have an eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15). We will receive it along with people of all generations from all parts of Earth - Revelation 5:9.

What an incredible gift of release! No wonder it is accompanied, in Isaiah, with joyful singing.

I ask myself, am I living like someone who has been redeemed,  as God's possession, His child? Or am I practically still in the pawnshop of sinful habits, other peoples' opinions of me, my idea that I belong to myself and as a result continue to serve my own plans and agendas? Jesus has paid dearly to ransom me, you, all of us from these things. Let's live life as God's property, His redeemed, set-free kids.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for paying the price my sin required — death on the cross. Help me to life the free life You have for me as Your adopted chid.

MORE: "My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness" - Keith & Kristyn Getty and Stuart Townend - sung by Kristyn Getty

Lyrics




Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations 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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Thursday, April 06, 2017

WWJD?

Jesus in the midst of the doctors - Alexandre Bida
Jesus in the Midst of the Doctors - Alexandre Bida
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 50:1-11

TO CHEW ON: "The Lord God has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned
The Lord God has opened My ear
And I was not rebellious
Nor did I turn away.
" Isaiah 50:4-5



By the context it's easy to identify the Servant in this Song as Jesus (Just go on to Isaiah 50:6 and compare to Matthew 27:30). We have in Isaiah's words a wonderful Jesus-template on which to pattern our lives.

  • Wisdom
We see Jesus' wisdom on display already when He was 12 and talking with the temple rulers. We acknowledge our own need for wisdom, praying along with young king Solomon: "But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties..." (1 Kings 3:7 NIV). But do we take James seriously when he tells us what godly wisdom consists of: "...pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy..." (James 3:13-17)?

  • Appropriate speech
Jesus' speech wasn't always meek and mild. He could be fiery and funny, probing and gentle. Of course His speech was tied to His wisdom (Matthew 13:34) and ours needs to be too (Matthew 5:37; Colossians 4:6; James 3:2).

  • A disciplined spirit
Have you noticed how many times Jesus sneaked away from His disciples to be with His Father? Sometimes he got up early. Sometimes He went off by Himself after a long day of teaching and doing miracles. Sometimes He stayed up all night. His words to His disciples about disciplined prayer are a warning to us too: "...'Stay here and watch ... Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation'" (Matthew 26:38,41).

    • A personal relationship with God
    "He awakens me... He awakens My ear" are the words of Christ through Isaiah. We get the sense of not dutiful but joyous voluntary meetings. Jesus' heart for us is to have such a relationship with Him and the Father (John 17:20-26).

    • A compliant heart
    Who can forget the scene of Jesus praying in Gethsemane and how He battled through to pray "Not as I will but as You will" (Matthew 26:39)? He brought home to Peter the necessity of such total surrender when they met after Jesus' resurrection when He accepted Peter back into ministry with the simple "'Follow Me'" (John 21:19,22). They are the same words He says to us (Luke 9:23).

    What would Jesus do (WWJD)? We have many answers to that question in this Servant Song. Will we follow His lead?

    PRAYER: Dear God, Jesus' example life is beautiful but impossible for me to copy without the activity of the Holy Spirit in my life. Help me to live out these qualities of wisdom, good speech, a teachable spirit, and a compliant heart. May my relationship with You be personal, honest, and strong. Amen.

    MORE: "Lily of the Valley" - David Ruis and Kelly McMechan




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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 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.

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    Wednesday, April 05, 2017

    When God takes over at your church

     "The Multitude in the Temple" by James Tissot


    TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 21:1-17

    TO CHEW ON: "Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple and He healed them. But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying out in the temple and saying, 'Hosanna to the Son of David!' they were indignant." Matthew 21:14-15

    For one glorious afternoon in the first century God took back the Jerusalem temple. Can you see the scene in its chaotic wonderfulness?

    The wreckage of the temple market is strewn all around—tables tipped over, chairs with their legs in the air, freed doves underfoot pecking away at spilled grain.

    Meanwhile a stream of unfortunates begins trickling in. There's a blind man stick-jabbing, hand-feeling his way. And here comes another hop-hobbling on crutches and another stoop-shouldered, shuffling between his helpful sons. "We've heard Jesus is here. Can you take us to Jesus?"

    The children that ran with the palm-branch-waving crowd have followed Him into the temple too. With the energy and exuberance of kids everywhere they cut through they line that is forming to dance circles around Jesus as they resume the chant: "Hosanna! Hosanna to the Son of David!"

    People get fixed, healed, straightened, loosed, and the excitement grows. This is not a King who only rides through the streets fulfilling a parable-prophecy, but Someone who has power to actually change things—heal sicknesses, correct conditions where they matter, where people live!

    The scribes and pharisees miss it completely. Matthew underlines the irony of the scene: He was doing "wonderful things" but they were "indignant."

    Jesus was so comfortable with the less-than-perfect, the poor, the desperate, the accused, the lame, the blind, the ones with issues. Almost all His miracles are performed on such. When He went to parties it was with the outcasts. When He told stories about banquets, it was this class of people that got the invite that took, because they came.

    Far be it from you and me, perhaps somewhat set in our faith ways, to be the chief priests and scribes kind of cold-water-throwers when these types begin coming to our meeting places. When the addicts get freed and happy, when the tattooed former motorcycle gang member leads his leather-clad buddies right into "our" pew, when God, using His unconventional-to-us ways takes over at our church — will we respond with indignation or become part of God's palm-waving, Hosanna-singing program?

    PRAYER: Dear God, help me to recognize Your working, welcome and join it, it rather than feeling threatened because it doesn't fit with old custom and tradition. Amen.

    MORE: "Ride On King Jesus" - Steve Bell



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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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