Thursday, May 25, 2017

Jesus’ farewell—a blessing

"The disciples watch as Jesus ascends into heaven"
 


TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 24:36-53

TO CHEW ON: “And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass while He blessed them, that He parted from them and carried up into heaven.” Luke 24:50,51

According to Luke, Jesus ascended into heaven as He was in the middle of blessing His disciples. This is a detail I’ve never noticed before.

I went on a little search for other places God blessed people:

  • God’s blessing came early, before the fall, when God blessed Adam and Eve
“Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” - Genesis 1:28.

  • God pronounced blessing again on Noah, repeating some of the same blessings He pronounced on Adam and Eve. To that blessing He added a bit about the uniqueness of human life (a blessing, we might call it) in the form of a warning:
“ Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
“Whoever sheds man’s blood,

/ By man his blood shall be shed;
 /For in the image of God
 / He made man”  Genesis 9:5,6

  • God blessed Abram:
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
 I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” - Genesis 12:2,3

  • God blessed Jacob. After wrestling through the night with a Man, Jacob asked for a blessing. He received a name change (from Jacob to Israel) and a blessing - Genesis 32:26-29.

  • God blessed Mary, Jesus' mother-to-be. An angel visitor said this blessing:
““Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”[ - Luke 1:28.

  • Jesus blessed the children - Mark 10:15

  • Jesus blessed Peter after he answered Jesus’ question: ‘But who do you say I am?’ with “‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” Jesus’ blessing:
'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'” - Matthew 16:17-19.
  • And here Jesus blessed His followers as He left them - Luke 24:50,51. 

I wonder what He said. Maybe something like the wonderful Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:24-26?
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”’

Whatever it was it struck a good note, for the disciples left the spot of His last presence on earth, not with the tears of mourning we would expect from people who had just said goodbye to their dear friend, but with “great joy.” Their next days were characterized by "praising and blessing God."

Does Jesus’ blessing echo down to us? Are we similarly blessed [consecrated to God’s use, caused to prosper, made happy, favoured by God]?

I believe we are. Let’s live today with joy, praise, and worship in the light of Jesus’ ascension blessing on us!

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, thank You for this account of Your ascension on the high note of Your favour. Help me to claim and live in Your blessing as mine today. Amen.

MORE: Ascension Day

Today is the day the church celebrates the ascension of Jesus into heaven. The liturgy for the day begins with this collect prayer:

"Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen."


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


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Holy Spirit drenching

Image: pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Acts 1:1-11

TO CHEW ON: ‘For John truly baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’” Acts 1:5

My pastor spoke on this passage two days ago (from when I’m writing this). What a happy ‘coincidence’!

One of the parts from his talk that sticks in my mind is the part about the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

On Easter Sunday in our church, 50 people were water baptized in front of the congregation in two services (eight planned, 42 decided that day in church, when pastor gave the invitation and made available T-shirts, towels, dryers, etc.). So the image of people getting baptized is fresh in my mind. They start out dry, they end up drenched and dripping.

The baptism of the Spirit is like that. I love how pastor expressed it:
 “Being baptized is being soaked, saturated, drenched. Jesus told the disciples to wait to be soaked, saturated, drenched in the Holy Spirit. He wants you to get caught in the rain of the Spirit” - Rev. Derrick Hamre, in “Making Room for the Spirit.”

Where I live, we get lots of rain and I know what it’s like to get caught in it. It soaks your hair and trickles down your neck. It spots your glasses and makes your jeans clammy and cold. It even squishes into your socks and shoes. I ask myself, have I ever been so Spirit drenched?

An aspect of this baptism Pastor brought out is that it’s not salvation. We do receive the Holy Spirit when we ask Jesus into our lives and make Him Lord (Ephesians 5:1-21, specifically verse 18). But this Holy Spirit baptism experience is often (but not always) subsequent to salvation. It was for the disciples. Jesus had already breathed the Spirit on them (John 20:22) but here they were baptized. It was also a second experience for the new believers in Samaria (Acts 8:13-17). For Cornelius and his family, though, it occurred at the time they first believed (Acts 10:44-48).

Finally, we need to keep in mind the reason for this baptism. It’s not for spiritual thrills and chills but for power to carry out Jesus’ final assignment to us:
‘But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’” Acts 1:8.

Let’s not get drawn into theological arguments over this Holy Spirit baptism (and I know there are many). Rather, let’s just read what Jesus says and be open to the Holy Spirit’s baptism of empowering as He came on the Christians in Acts—however and whenever He chooses.

PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, I open my life to You today. Drench me, fill me, use me in any way You choose. Amen.

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


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Clap for God

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 47:1-9

TO CHEW ON: “O clap your hands, all you peoples!
Shout to God with the voice of triumph?” Psalm 47:1


Clapping is an interesting human action. Its #1 definition in the dictionary is “to strike with the palms of one’s hand against one another resoundingly and usually repeatedly, especially to express approval.”

When do we clap?

At concerts, lectures, and readings. At baseball, hockey, basketball, and football games. But in the middle of worship at church?

Here the Sons of Korah are urging worshipers to clap for God. Why? They give some reasons: Because He is awesome, the great King of all Earth, He controls nations and gives victory over them, gives an inheritance to His people, and is exalted.

This psalm shimmers with exuberance, energy, joy, and victory. It’s a psalm we’d read and identify with on a good day. Not so much on a bad one… or maybe that’s exactly the time it should be required reading—at the beginning or in the middle of a battle.

I love the story of King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20) and how when he was threatened by surrounding nations, he reminded himself and the people of who God is. He told God how helpless he felt in the face of these threats. God responded by giving Jahaziel prophetic encouragement for him. The Levites replied in praise “with voices loud and high.” And the next day, Jehoshaphat arranged his army in an unusual way:

 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying:
“Praise the Lord,
For His mercy endures forever.”
 
Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated (2 Chronicles 20:21,22)
Their praise moved God’s hand. Isn’t that wonderful?

In the light of that, maybe we could read, quote, and follow Psalm 47’s example of praise not just when things are good, but as part of our battle strategy. We could use it as a weapon of praise, a physical expression of faith (with clapping, singing, and speaking praise) reminding us of who God is.

PRAYER: Dear God, You are awesome and King over all Earth. Help me to remember this next time things aren’t going well with me, and give physical expression to my adoration of who You are and my faith in what you will and are doing with singing, praising, and clapping. Amen.

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


Monday, May 22, 2017

Your life—a finished story

books
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ephesians 1:1-23

TO CHEW ON:
"… He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." Ephesians 1:4

Do you realize that your life's course is old news, a finished story, a foreordained destiny to God? One word the Bible uses to describe this is predestine (predestined/predestination).

[Predestine, from pre - before, and destiny. It means to destine or decree beforehand. Predestined: to foreordain by divine decree or purpose - Funk and Wagnall's Dictionary]

Here are some things the Bible says about His predestination (some other words used to express this concept are election, foreknowledge and foreordained):

1. God has something in mind for each person He created - Proverbs 16:4. For example, Paul explains the fate of Jacob and Esau on the basis of each having a foreordained place in God's plan - Romans 9:11.
2. God's plan of salvation as it unfolded in history with all its characters playing their parts was predestined - Acts 4:27-28.

3. Jesus was "foreordained before the foundation of the world" to be our sacrificial "lamb without blemish and without spot" - 1 Peter 1:18-20.
 

4. We—Paul's first century readers, down to us Christ followers all these millennia later are chosen, were chosen "before the foundation of the world for holiness" - Ephesians 1:4 (our focus verse).

5. We're called to be changed people, known and predestined to "… be conformed to the image of His Son" - Romans 8:28,29.

6. We're predestined to adoption as Sons by Jesus Christ to Himself - Ephesians 1:5.

7. God has good works planned beforehand for us to accomplish - Ephesians 2:10.

8. Our inheritance is predestined according to His purpose - Ephesians 1:11.
10. The church is part of God's predestined plan and the means, Paul says, to make God's plan known to demons and angels - Ephesians 3:10.

When we try to completely understand the idea of God's predestining of events and lives, we run smack into a wall of human thought limitation. We ask, how can a just God predestine some lives for wicked evil purposes that will take them to a bad end? Isn't that unjust? On the other hand, we ask, how can an omniscient God not know the path that every person will  take, the choices they will make?

The way I harmonize the Bible's teaching on God's predestination / foreknowledge / election with His justice is to reflect that as far as I'm concerned I have choices. I am not aware of a Divine Puppet-master, pulling my strings.  You too have choices. Everyone on this planet has choices. The choices we make in this life reveal and prove what God knew/knows about us all along—our pre-destiny.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for being bigger than my mind can comprehend. May my life today, the way I live and the choices I make, demonstrate that I am Yours. Amen.

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

Sunday, May 21, 2017

A home for God

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 14:15-31

TO CHEW ON: "Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him and We will come to him and make Our home with him.'" John 14:23

What a delightful possibility—to make a home with God, to have God make His home with us. This is what we have when we have the Holy Spirit. Our passage today gives us some ideas of what God at home with us is like.


1. We live with a Helper - John 14:16, 26
[Helper - parakletos 3875. Para = beside. Kaleo = to call. Called to one's side, intercessor, comforter, helper, advocate, counsellor. In nonbiblical literature parakletos had the technical meaning of an attorney who appears in court in another's behalf. The Holy Spirit leads believers to a greater apprehension of gospel truth. In addition to general help and guidance, He gives the strength to endure the hostility of the world system. - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1472.]
What are some of the ways He helps us? He will teach all things and bring Jesus' sayings to mind. For the disciples one way this promise was fulfilled was by the Holy Spirit bringing to mind the sayings of Jesus so Matthew, Mark, Luke and John could write them down in the Gospels. For us, it is words, ideas, songs, and memorized Scriptures that come to mind to encourage us in everyday life.


2. We live with truth - John 14:17
When the Holy Spirit lives with us we have within us a spiritual and moral compass based on what is real, true and unchanging. No longer is there any question about whether it's okay to lie, cheat, spread gossip, or nurture jealousy and unforgiveness.

3. We live with family - John 14:19-20
Jesus said, "I will not leave you orphans," implying that when He imparts the Holy Spirit, He comes with an aspect of family—of parenting. He also said, "I am in My Father and you in Me and I in you." This reminds us of how we carry the characteristics of our ancestors in our very DNA. Oh that we would carry God's characteristics in our makeup to that extent!


4. We live in a mutual relationship - John 14:21, 23-24
Our mutual relationship with God is characterized by revelation and love on the Father's part, obedience and love on our part. Revelation comes through His commandments (God's word - the Bible) and His promise to "manifest" Himself to us. We keep our end of the relationship when we become familiar with and obey His words, and thus demonstrate that we really do love Him.

A home is not made in a day. It is something that lasts and can endure a lifetime of day-to-days, of experiences, of walking through life together. That's what God wants to do with us—make a home with us, do life with us.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the Holy Spirit — in a way the oxygen, blood and synapses of my life with You. Help me to be a worthy, compliant and obedient host for Your life in me. Amen.

MORE: My Heart Christ's Home

I have in my packrat collections, a little booklet called "My Heart Christ's Home" by Robert Boyd Munger. A few years ago, I posted several sections of it on my personal blog promptings. Munger has done a wonderful job of extending the metaphor of our life being a home for God. The booklet is longer than these two sections, but they will give you an idea:

Heart cleaning — the library

Heart cleaning — the dining room

**********

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, May 20, 2017

The ready Christian

alter to the unknown god
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 17:16-34

TO CHEW ON:
"Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols." Acts 17:16.

Paul is such a good example of the ready Christian: "… always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…" - 1 Peter 3:15. Here, in new-to-him Athens, watch how he does it:

1. He starts by observing his surroundings (Acts 17:16).

2. He goes to the hotbeds of thought and discussion—the synagogue and the marketplace to listen and talk. (Acts 17:17-18).

3. He accepts an invitation to speak at the Areopagus, even though the invite is hardly given in a  complimentary way. (They call him a babbler - Acts 17:18. According to my Bible's footnotes, a babbler was one who picked up scraps of learning here and there and peddled them. It seems this is a better description of those who "… spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or hear some new thing" - Acts 17:21).

4. He grabs their interest with something from their own culture—an inscription to an Unknown God seen on an altar. He dangles this need for something they haven't yet found in front of them: "Wouldn't you like to know Him?" (Acts 17:22-23)

5. He's a good closer. At the end of his message he urges them to take action: repent because judgment is coming (Acts 17:30-31).

6. He does all this while killing time in Athens—waiting for ministry partners to join him.

I ask myself, what would I have done if I had been in Paul's shoes? Sightsee? Probably. But with a view to giving my testimony and sharing the gospel? I don't know. I'd probably have viewed this as time off from ministry.

But for Paul—really for all of us—there is no time off. This story shows us that all kinds of situations can be a springboard for the gospel.

Though the fruit of Paul's ministry here is minimal ("For reasons Luke does not explain, results here were meagre—no baptisms, no new church, and no letter to the Athenians in the New Testament" - Gary Kinnaman, notes on Acts, New Spirit-Filled Bible, p. 1524), some believed. But Luke/Paul don't dwell on the low numbers. Paul has been faithful, and now it's time to move on (Act 18:1).

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to become a ready Christian—alert to any and all opportunities to tell about and defend my faith in You, and not discouraged by small results. Amen.

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





Friday, May 19, 2017

The fair-minded Christian

Bible study
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 17:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." Acts 17:11


"These" were the members of the Jewish synagogue in Berea. Though not necessarily believers (yet), they reacted differently to Paul's teaching than "those."

"Those" were a segment of the synagogue attenders in Thessalonica. Paul reasoned with them for three weeks using the Old Testament writings to prove that Jesus was the Christ—the Messiah. There were two reactions. Some were persuaded so that "…a great multitude of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women joined Paul and Silas" (Acts 17:4). Others—"those"—became jealous, sparked a riot and ran Paul and Silas out of town.

"These" Bereans, on the other hand, "received the word with all readiness." They probably followed along (if they had their own copies) and read the passages around those Paul quoted to make sure he was using them in context. Perhaps they asked questions. They didn't let personal insecurity, jealousy and fear interfere with how they read and understood scripture.

The Bereans are a good example for us to follow when we hear Bible teaching of any kind, but especially when it clashes with what we believe. J. Norton Sterrett in his book How To Understand Your Bible talks about  Bible study principles that can guide us as we interpret any passage of scripture.  (Below is his bare bones list; he devotes a chapter to each item.)

1. Interpret a passage in the light of its context - p. 49. This means to read the verses before and after the verse you're focusing on.

2. Interpret according to the correct meaning of the words - p. 55. This could include looking up a word in the dictionary, noting the word's context, and using a concordance and lexicon.

3. Interpret according to the grammar of the sentence … the form of words and the relationship of words - p. 61.

4. Interpret according to the author's purpose and plan. … The purpose of the author is the object he has in mind for writing (e.g. 1 John 5:13). … The plan of the author is the way he structures the writing in order to carry out his purpose - p. 71.

5. Interpret in the light of the historical, geographical, and cultural background as far as that can be known - p. 77.

6. Interpret each passage in the light of the Bible's teaching as a whole"- p. 85.
As we follow these principles, perhaps we'll also gain the reputation of being fair-minded ("better disposed and more noble" - Amplified) Christians.

PRAYER:
Dear God, thank You for the Bible and those who teach it. Help me to dig into it in a fair-minded way for myself. Please teach me by Your Holy Spirit. Amen.


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




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Letters old and new

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Acts 15:22-35

TO CHEW ON:
“So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.
When they read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.” Acts 15:30,31


In these days of instant messaging across the world, it’s interesting to try to put ourselves in the place of these early Gentile Christians. Their missionaries had gone to Jerusalem to get a verdict from church leaders (the Apostles) on how they were to conduct themselves in this new life. Now Paul, Barnabas, and a delegation had returned with the Apostles' decision in a letter. What would the letter say?

Letters played an important role in Bible times.


Sometimes letters sealed a fate.
  • Uriah carried his own death sentence letter from David to Joab at the battlefront - 2 Samuel 11:14.
  • Jezebel (King Ahab’s wife) sent letters to Israel’s leaders with a plot to kill Naboth so Ahab could take his garden - 1 Kings 21:8.

Kings sent threatening letters to their rivals and enemies.
  • The king of Assyria sent one such to Hezekiah, prompting a panicked prayer meeting and divine help - 2 Kings 19:14.

Sometimes kings sent letters on behalf of their subjects.
  • The king of Syria asked the king of Israel to heal Naaman of leprosy - 2 Kings 5:5.
  • King Artaxerxes sent letters on behalf of Nehemiah asking for safe passage  for him through territory and wood for rebuilding Jerusalem - Nehemiah 2:7-8.

The book of Esther is full of letters.

  • The king sent letters mandating male authority in the home - Esther 1:22.
  • Haman’s plan to annihilate the Jews was spread by letter - Esther 3:13.
  • Mordecai’s victory allowing the Jews to defend themselves was spread by letter as was the establishment of a holiday to remember this event - Esther 8:10; 9:20.

Of course we know how the New Testament is largely made up of letters
—missives that, thankfully, do more than threaten or carry evil plots. The letter in our reading today is one such. We discover that the reading of it brought joy and encouragement (Acts 15:31), as did most of the letters of Paul, John, Peter, and James (along with teaching, reproof, and training in righteousness, delivered with large amounts of love).

Do you still write letters? I suppose emails and even text messages could be considered modern letters.

What can we moderns do with letters?
  • Send information about plans and events.
  • Think through and discuss ideas about anything—how to garden, to faith in God
  • Express gratitude and appreciation.
  • Assure the recipient of our care, concern, and prayers.
  • Tell someone we’re remembering them on a special day (birthday, anniversary etc) 
  • Encourage and cheer.

Let’s continue to use this old-to-new way of communicating for good today!


PRAYER: Dear Father thank You for distance communication that has survived the centuries. Help me to use the amazing modern communication resources at my fingertips for good today. Amen.

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


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Two kinds of worship

Church photo collage... a collection of memories for its 80th Anniversary.

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 66:1-20

TO CHEW ON: “O, bless our God, you peoples!
And make the voice of His praise to be heard…
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul.” Psalm 66:8,16


There are two kinds of praise and worship in this psalm.

There is corporate worship - Psalm 66:1-12.
The psalmist calls “all the earth” to praise God - Psalm 66:1-4. He calls the congregation to praise God with him for remembered events from their shared history, the “works of God” when Israel passed through the sea and river on dry land (Exodus 14:22, Joshua 3:14-17) - Psalm 66:3-7. He even leads in praise to God for the times of testing - Psalm 66:10-12.

But he doesn’t stop there.

There is private worship - Psalm 66:13-20.
We see how the pronoun changes from “us” and “we” to “I” and “me” in this section as he testifies of what God has done for him personally and how he responds: “I will go… I will pay… I will offer… I will declare” - Psalm 66:13,15,16.  He is jubilant over answered prayer, though always aware of his sinful tendencies and unworthiness - Psalm 66:17-19.

This psalm is a good model for us. We too need both kinds of worship—corporate and personal.

We need corporate worship, those times when we get together with others and remind each other of God’s presence in our history—from Bible times till the present. Our church is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. The staff has put together a wonderful visual reminder of our history with a collage of old photos commemorating the founders, old buildings and sites, and photos of our present building under construction. It’s a great way to remember and inform newcomers to the church of God’s faithfulness.

But we also need private worship, where we come to God with praise and thanksgiving for what He has done for us personally. We need to remember times of answered prayer for ourselves, our children and grandchildren, for healing from illness, recovery from financial problems, safety when traveling...

What will your thank-you list to Him include today?

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for Your faithfulness and help, for Your life-giving presence and the many times you’ve rescued me. I am so grateful for Your mercy. I bless You today. Amen.

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


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What do you know about your inheritance?

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Peter 3:8-22

TO CHEW ON: “Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9

Here Peter challenges his readers to counteract evil and insults with blessing. I like how the Amplified Bible phrases our focus verse:
“Never return evil for evil or insult for insult—scolding, tongue lashing berating; but on the contrary blessing—praying for their welfare, happiness, and protection and truly pitying and loving them. For know that to this you have been called, that you may yourselves inherit a blessing [from God]—obtain a blessing as heirs bringing welfare and happiness and protection” - 1 Peter 3:9 AMP.

Peter connects this surprising reaction to evil and insults with a Christian’s inheritance. He says that an inheritance of blessing is a consequence of responding to evil and insults with blessing.

This connection of our reaction and the consequence of inheritance set me on a small search for other things that impact our inheritance or are part of it. Here are a few examples:

  • David connected getting a godly heritage with fearing God’s name - Psalm 61:5.
  • The writer of Psalm 119 considered God’s spoken / written word (“Your testimonies”) as his heritage - Psalm 119:111. Paul reminded the Christians at Ephesus of this aspect of God’s word in his farewell talk with them: “‘So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, who is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” - Acts 20:32.
  • The “servants of the Lord” are promised a heritage of God’s defense from words and weapons - Isaiah 54:17.
  • Paul urged King Agrippa to accept salvation through Christ. In his talk, he quoted the words that Jesus spoke to him on the Damascus Road. They include a heritage of going from spiritual darkness to light, being removed from the power of Satan to the power of God, and forgiven sins - Acts 26:18.
  • Our inheritance is in Jesus - Ephesians 1:11.
  • Someday we’ll get our inheritance reward from Jesus - Colossians 3:24.
  • It’s an inheritance that can’t be tinkered with or destroyed, awaiting us in heaven, as Peter explains it in 1 Peter 1:4: “…  an inheritance which is imperishable [beyond the reach of change] and undefiled and unfading, reserved in heaven for you” - AMP.

The inheritance we get from our parents and grandparents is largely out of our control. But this spiritual inheritance is one over which we have a lot of say as we:

1] Accept Christ’s forgiveness and leave Satan’s kingdom to enter God’s.

2] Take advantage of one of our Father’s greatest gifts to us—the Bible.

3] Serve Him and act like His kids (including how we return blessing for cursing—our focus verse).
4] Live in hope and expectation of the day Jesus will give us our inheritance in heaven.


PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for this inheritance, awaiting me in heaven. Help me to live as Your child in the way I react to evil and insults with blessing. Amen.

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

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



Monday, May 15, 2017

Vine life

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 15:1-17

TO CHEW ON: 'These things I have spoken to you that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.'” John 15:11

Jesus here relates life in the vine to joy—the joy that comes as a result of “these things.” What things is He referring to?

If we read back, we find Jesus has described life with Him using the metaphor of a fruit-bearing vine. He has talked about “abiding” in the vine, being part of it, dependent on it for life. In fact, we risk being severed from the vine if we don’t “abide.” When we do, we are pruned to bear more fruit.

We get the idea that living this way contains elements of giving up a right to be separate, to choose one’s own way, be one’s own self-determining, egotistical self. There is also love in the mix—God’s love for Jesus playing out in Jesus' love for us.

Leaving the metaphor aside, we might ask, how does this look practically?

I think one word sums it up: OBEDIENCE: 'If you keep My commandments you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love'” - John 15:10.

However, doesn’t “obedience” often conjure up visions of boring duty, being hemmed in by what we should and shouldn’t do, rather than what we want to do, feeling stymied by “don’ts” or guilt-ridden when we mess up?

Yet, following His description of the compliant vine, Jesus says:  'These things have I spoken to you that My joy may remain in you, that your joy may be full.'

What is He talking about? How does such surrender and obedience lead to joy?

The IVP NT Commentary gives this helpful insight:

But the obedience Jesus is talking about is an obedience not to societal rules, but to the Father who is all love. To obey him is to conform one's life to the very pattern of God's own life. Such obedience shares in his life, which is characterized by harmony, grace, goodness and beauty. We are in intimate union with him and swept up into his dance for which we were created and which brings the deepest fulfillment and deepest joy to our lives.

Jesus' joy came from such intimacy with the Father and his delight to do that which pleases the one who is all love and goodness.

Jesus is showing how our joy may be complete…. Indeed, we might ask ourselves, what does bring us joy. The answer will reveal to us our own hearts” - IVP NT Commentary on John 17:11 (accessed through Bible Gateway "Study This") emphasis added.

 That last question “What does bring me joy?”  is what I leave myself (and you) with today. If obedience to Him doesn’t bring us joy, we may discover why in the answer to that question.


PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, help me to experience vine life and its end product of joy to the extent that You describe it here. Amen.

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


Sunday, May 14, 2017

A model mother

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!
Image: Pixabay

TODAY’S SPECIAL:
Proverbs 31:10-31

TO CHEW ON: “Her children rise up and call her blessed. Her husband also, and he praises her.” Proverbs 31:28

What a gorgeous—and intimidating—passage to read for Mother’s Day.  This model of biblical womanhood has been both a shining beacon and a convicting searchlight for me. I think if I was in her presence, I would watch and listen as I tried to figure out—how does she do it all? I love her industriousness, creativity, wide-ranging abilities, and energy. And I love her family values.

Today, let’s focus on her qualities as a mother.

1. She is a good example of marriage to her, children, by her faithfulness and support of her husband - Proverbs 31:12.

2. She works hard and willingly - Proverbs 31:13,18,19.

3. She puts the needs of her household above her own as she gets up early and stays up late to ensure they are met - Proverbs 31:15,18.

4. She is a good example in her treatment of the poor and needy - Proverbs 31:20.

5. She looks ahead, plans, and works for the future - Proverbs 31:16, 21, 27.

6. She speaks with kindness and wisdom, always, and to everyone - Proverbs 31:26.

The reward for all this? She gets praise from her husband and blessing from her children.

Is all the above worth it for a few words of praise and affirmation from hubby and the kids?

I would say yes, despite how our modern society would insist a woman needs more. For the sense of well-being conveyed by the word “blessed” goes beyond a mere word.

[Blessed - ashar - means “Happy, blessed, prosperous, successful, straight, right, contented. Its original meaning is to ‘be straight’” - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 841.]

The fact that she is called “blessed” communicates this woman’s inner sense of rightness as she does what she was created to do. Her life is straight, plumbs with how she was made. As a result she experiences deep inner peace and contentment in living out her industrious, nurturing essence.

May us mothers and the mothers in our lives (our own mothers, mothers-in-law, daughters, granddaughters) be similarly blessed.

PRAYER:
Dear Father, thank You for my mom, who was more like the Proverbs 31 woman than I will ever be. Be with the mothers in my life, rewarding them as only You can for their work and faithfulness. Amen.

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


Saturday, May 13, 2017

The first thing God looks at on your resumé

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 1:12-26

TO CHEW ON: "And they prayed and said, 'You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen.' " Acts 1:24

Peter instigated the choice of another disciple to take Judas Iscariot's place. It's interesting to read how the early believers went about doing this:

1. They didn't choose just anyone, but someone who had been a faithful follower of Jesus to the extent that the original twelve were: "… who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us" - Acts 1:21.

2. They picked two men and prayed " 'O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen.' "

3. They cast lots (drew straws, flipped a coin, however they did it; it's interesting to note that after the Pentecost baptism of the Holy Spirit there is no more mention of casting lots in the Bible) believing that the outcome was a revelation of God's choice.

I wonder, are we as focused on who God has chosen for a job as they were? When we need to fill a ministry vacancy, what's the first thing we look at—talents, appearance, experience, or the person's heart toward God? Maybe that should be the thing we ask for help with and pray for insight about above everything else.

The story of Samuel at Jesse's home on the assignment of anointing a new king comes to mind. When he sees Eliab, Jesse's handsome oldest, Samuel thinks, surely he's the one. But God says to him: " ' Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.' " 1 Samuel 16:7 (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me on two fronts: to be the person with the right heart for ministry, and to get Your insight on workers whenever I am tasked with finding someone for a job. Amen.

MORE: Eliab revealed
Eliab. David's oldest brother who Samuel thought was such great king material, shows his heart in the next chapter of 1 Samuel, when David (the youngest son of Jesse who Samuel anoints as the next king) comes to the battlefield and suggests the army should do more than quake in fear over Goliath's appearances. Eliab reveals himself as a carnal, sarcastic, bitter, and faithless man - 1 Samuel 17:28. Good thing Samuel didn't follow his original instincts to anoint him king!

 *********
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, May 12, 2017

Write yourself out of a funk

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 31:1-24

TO CHEW ON: "Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart
All you who hope in the Lord." Psalm 31:24


Do you notice how the writer's mood changes as we make our way through this psalm? David starts off in an emotional funk but ends in a much better place. Let's track his thoughts as he journeys from desperation to hope.

1. He cries for help (vs. 1-5):
From his bad place David cries to God "Deliver me...bow down Your ear...Deliver me speedily...Be my rock of refuge...Pull me out of the net...Into Your hand I commit my spirit."

2. He does some self-lecturing (even though, judging by what follows, his feelings aren't yet on-board) (vs. 6-8):
"I will be glad...You have considered my trouble...You have known my soul in adversities...(You) have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a wide place."

3. He lays it all out (vs. 9-13):
David speaks his feelings and fears:  
"I am in trouble...I am a reproach...I am repulsive...I am forgotten...I am like a broken vessel...They scheme to take away my life." 
Thankfully he doesn't stay there!

4. He declares his faith in God (vs. 14-15a):
"But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say 'You are my God'
My times are in Your hand..."
In other words, even considering the worst that people can do, David reminds himself that God, not his enemies, is ultimately in charge of his life.

5. He requests specific help (vs. 15b-18):
David puts into words exactly what he needs:
"Deliver me from the hand of my enemies and from those who persecute me... Make Your face shine on me...Let the wicked be ashamed...Let the lying lips be put to silence."

6. Finally he offers praise to God, in faith that God has heard and will answer (vs.19-24):
"Oh how great is Your goodness...You shall hide them (those who fear You) in the secret place of Your presence...Blessed be the Lord...You heard the voice of my supplication when I cried out to You...Be of good courage ...All you who hope in the Lord."

My journal entries are sometimes a bit like this — a writing journey from trouble to trust. I find it helps to pour it all out on paper: the mixed-up feelings, the fears, the self-recrimination and revulsion. But it's important not to stay there but to move from a focus on self back to a focus on God.

If you're in trouble today, try writing your own version of Psalm 31. Just make sure you end up in the place David did — with your eyes on His face that shines on you.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for David's very real relationship with You, showing even his dark moments. I have them too. Help me to work my way out of them and back to You like he did. Amen.

MORE: Journaling resources

How to Keep a Spiritual Journal

Journaling: Being a Brave Soul (with more resources listed within the post and a link to more articles in Ann Voskamp's 2009 series about journaling).

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


Bible Drive-Thru


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Word that cuts to the heart

Stephen before the Sanhedrin - Artist unknown
Stephen before the Sanhedrin - Artist Unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 7:35-8:1

TO CHEW ON: "When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth." Acts 7:54

After taking his listeners (the High Priest and members of the Sanhedrin) on a trip through Old Testament history, recalling Israel's long record of rejecting the prophets, Stephen came to the climax of his message:
"'You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers'" Acts 7:51,52.

The reaction was immediate:
"… they [the Jews] were cut to the heart and infuriated, and they ground their teeth against [Stephen]" Acts 7:54 AMP.

The same expression, "cut to the heart," is used another time when Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin. Peter was defiant about their orders to stop speaking of Jesus. He accused them of killing the One who was now exalted as "Prince and Leader and Savior and Deliverer and Preserver…"  - Acts 5:31 AMP.  Their reaction was identical:
"Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart and infuriated and wanted to kill the disciples" - Acts 5:33 AMP.

In both cases the speakers—Peter and Stephen—used Scripture to make their points, retelling its stories, quoting relevant verses, and making unpopular applications. The effect this use of scripture had on members of the Sanhedrin reminds me of another verse that flat out states that the word of God cuts:
" 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" - Hebrews 4:12 AMP.

As our society drifts ever farther from Judeo-Christian moorings, the message of scripture—the Bible—will become ever more controversial. But because it was authored by the One who created the human heart, who knows the deepest part of human nature, it continues to have the penetrating power to expose, sift, analyze and judge our thoughts and motivations. It still cuts to the heart.

This cutting can bring us to a place of obedience or resistance, as was the case with these Jewish leaders. Perhaps we should prepare ourselves for a time when the widespread reaction to it in our culture will be every bit as dangerous to us as it was to Stephen in Acts.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your Word which exposes me to myself. Help me not to resist it but to let it  cut, expose, sift, analyze, and judge me toward obedience. Amen.

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

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)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

God brings us full-circle

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Acts 7:9-34

TO CHEW ON: “For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand, but they did not understand.” Acts 7:25.

Stephen’s retelling of Moses’ story adds some interesting details that the original telling (Exodus 2:11-14) doesn’t include.

  • Stephen makes it sound as if Moses never visited the Hebrews until he was 40 years old. Maybe he didn’t even know his origins—although since his own mother nursed him, probably through toddlerhood (“Children were not weaned until they were three to five years of age," study notes on Exodus, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 78), her training was no doubt a memory. I love how Stephen phrases it: “.. it came into his heart to visit his brethren…” Acts 7:23.
  • Stephen gives us an insight into Moses’ thoughts at that time: “For he supposed that his brethren would have understood that God would deliver them by his hand” - Acts 7:25.
I wish we knew more. Did Moses’ mother whisper her dreams for his future into his ear when he was just a child? Had he been sitting for years on the notion that he’d been spared for the purpose of freeing the Hebrew slaves, perhaps not quite sure what to do next?

Of course his attempt to realize that destiny went horribly wrong. It took another 40 years before one surprising day God came to him.

I can only imagine the emotion Moses felt when Yahweh Himself acknowledged the legtimacy of his Egypt emotions: “‘I have surely seen the oppression of My people … I have heard their groaning and have come down to deliver them’” - Acts 7:34. Now God’s plan was to use Moses for the job Moses had earlier dreamed of, but in God's time and way.

We can take away from this, I think, that the things that are in our hearts, the memories, pulls, old dreams, are not there by accident. We know who put it into Moses’ heart to visit his brothers and hope to free them. Surely it was God.

We also know that God took a long time to incubate that dream. By Moses’ reaction to God’s assignment, we can conclude that he had all but given up on it (Exodus 3:11). But God hadn’t. And it didn’t matter to Him that Moses was now 80 years old (Exodus 7:7). He would still use the faux Egyptian prince-turned-shepherd to accomplish the dream He had planted in Moses’ heart 40+ years prior.

So let’s not give up on the dreams God has planted in our hearts, even if they are decades old. God brought Moses’ full-circle, back to his dream, and has wonderful ways of bringing us there too.

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to be alert to Your signals and quick to follow Your directions, delighted when You in Your wisdom lead me back to see the fulfillment of youthful dreams. Amen.

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


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Spirit of wisdom

"Stephen before the Council" 
by Joanes Vicente. 
From Artwork from the Bible 
and Its Story - Volume 10 (1910)

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Acts 6:8-7:8

TO CHEW ON: “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” - Acts 6:10


I never cease to be amazed by modern apologists like Ravi Zacharias. I’ve listened to numerous Q&A sessions, recorded at universities where questioners will pose to him the most difficult (to me) questions or dilemmas. Without skipping a beat, Zacharias answers, often exposing in the questioner and his/her question, the very fault of logic they are implying that he is making in his defense of Christianity.

(Eg. A back-and-forth with Zacharias can go something like:
Q: How can you say there is objective truth [implying such a thing doesn’t exist]?
A: The assumption you make by asking that question is itself based on your belief in the meaningfulness of statements that claim to be true or false [objective truth].)

I imagine Stephen as that kind of orator / apologist. I love how the NKJV with its capitalized pronouns of God draws our attention to the source of this wisdom:
“… they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” - Acts 6:10.

Isaiah describes the Spirit that would rest on Jesus and was also on Stephen (Acts 6:5):
“The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD” - Isaiah 11:2 (emphasis on wisdom words added)
.

The beautiful thing is that God’s wisdom is available to us. James tells us:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” - James 1:5.

What exactly are we asking for, when we ask for this wisdom?
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality* and without hypocrisy” - James 3:17.

Though I would never aspire to be a Ravi Zacharias, I would love and welcome more of the Spirit of wisdom in my life!

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, thank You for sending Holy Spirit, who supplies wisdom, understanding, counsel, and knowledge. May You, Holy Spirit, find a welcome home in me. Amen. 


*Interesting, isn’t it, that Stephen came to prominence as someone the early church fathers put in place to correct a problem of perceived partiality - Acts 6:1-5.

 *********
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, May 08, 2017

One Shepherd

"Separating Sheep from Goats"
(Matthew 25:32) from
Treasures of the Bible

"Separating Sheep from Goats"  (Matthew 25:32) from Treasures of the Bible
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 34:16-31

TO CHEW ON: "I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them—My Servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd." Ezekiel 34:23


By Ezekiel's time David had been dead for hundreds of years. So what does Ezekiel mean here, speaking about God's servant David being their shepherd?

Bible students interpret "my servant David" non-literally to mean the promised Saviour or Messiah that would descend from David's line (2 Samuel 23:5; 1 Kings 2:45). It was a line God promised would never end (Psalm 89:3-4).

"This is clearly fulfilled in Jesus Christ" writes Roy Edmund Hayden in my Bible's notes on Ezekiel.

How wonderfully Jesus fulfills this prophecy. When we study His life, ministry, and teaching, we see that He is everything the irresponsible shepherds are not:
  • He is compassionate with the helpless - Matthew 9:35.
  • He is a seeking shepherd of both flocks—the Jews and Gentiles - Matthew 15:24; John 10:16.
  • He knows His sheep - John 10:14-15, 27; Matthew 25:32).
  • His sheep know Him and His voice - John 10:3,4, 5, 16, 27.
  • He provides for and protects them - John 10:9,28.
  • He lays down His life for them - John 10:17,18; Matthew 26:31.
  • He is their just judge - Matthew 25:32-46.

Those of us who believe in Jesus all these many centuries later are also part of His flock—a flock made up of peoples from all nations (Ezekiel 34:11-13; John 10:16) and added to over centuries.

Our pastors and leaders are His under-shepherds now (John 21:15-17; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:4).

And we look forward to a day when the beautiful scene Ezekiel paints, the peace and security (Ezekiel 34:25), the plenty (Ezekiel 34:26,27,29), and the freedom (Ezekiel 34:27,28) will be realized in real time (Revelation 7:16,17).

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your shepherding of people over the centuries. Help me to hear Your voice and follow You through my life till the time I see You face to face. Amen.

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


Sunday, May 07, 2017

Seeking shepherd

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 34:1-15


TO CHEW ON: "For thus says the Lord God, 'Indeed, I Myself will search for My Sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they are scattered on a cloudy and dark day." Ezekiel 34:11-12


I think I have these verses underlined in all the Bibles that I use. It first came to my attention when I read it paraphrased  in the prayer for rebellious and prodigal children in Barbara Billett's book Praying With Fire:

"...I thank You Father in the name of Jesus that You will search for ___ (name of child) and seek him/her out, as a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep. I think You Father in the Name of Jesus for seeking out ___ from where he/she has strayed and You are delivering him/her" - excerpt from "Prayer/Confession for a Rebellious Child," Praying With Fire, p. 62.

It reminds me of the story Jesus Himself told about looking for sheep:
“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?
And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! - Luke 15:4-7 NLT.
How comforting to know that God Himself is concerned and goes after our prodigals.


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the picture of You as the seeking shepherd. May I be your instrument of seeking and finding as I love and pray my own and others' prodigals back to You. Amen.


MORE: Prodigal stories

"The Power of Two Praying Sisters and a Faithful God"

Stories at Prodigal Child Ministries

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




Bible Drive-Thru


Saturday, May 06, 2017

Spiritual hearing

Image: Pixabay

TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 10:1-10

TO CHEW ON: ‘To him the doorkeeper opens and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him for they know his voice.’” John 10:3,4

Jesus is here setting the scene for one of His iconic “I Am” statements—actually two: 'I am the door of the sheep'” - John 10:7 and'I am the good shepherd'” - John 10:11.

These verses speak so powerfully to me that I’ve chosen them as my 2017 verses of the year to accompany the word “Listen,” my word for the year.

Two things stand out about the shepherd-sheep relationship from them: 
  1. The shepherd knows his sheep individually and intimately: “…he calls his own sheep by name.”
  2. The sheep follow him because they recognize and know his voice and obviously trust him.

This is what I want above all—to hear the voice of my Shepherd, recognize that it’s Him, and that I can confidently follow. How does this happen? We find some clues as we look at other places in the Bible that talk about spiritual listening and hearing.

  • We discover that it may involve tuning our ears to listen, and watching and waiting. In one of his Lady Wisdom poems, Solomon, speaking as wisdom personified says, “Blessed is the man who listens to me / Watching daily at my gates, / Waiting at the posts of my doors” - Proverbs 8:34.

  • It is listening to rebuke: “The ear that hears the rebukes of life / Will abide among the wise” - Proverbs 15:31.

  • It is going to church with a receptive attitude: “Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools” - Ecclesiastes 5:1.

  • It is recognizing that spiritual truth and wisdom may not always come from the places we expect: “Words of the wise spoken quietly should be heard / Rather than the shout of a ruler of fools” - Ecclesiastes 9:17.

  • We can pray to have renewed hearing even if we’re getting on in age: “O Lord, revive Your work in the midst of the years! In the midst of the years make it known” - Habakkuk 3:2.

  • It involves acting on what we’ve heard—obedience for the long haul, as Jesus taught:‘But the ones (seeds) that fell on the good ground are those who having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience’” - Luke 8:15.

  • God’s words to and in us can flourish when we live with an attitude of saying less and listening more: “… let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” - James 1:19.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your words as recorded by the apostles, as well as all the words of the patriarchs and prophets in the Bible. May You, by Your Holy Spirit, help me to hear, understand, know how to apply, and then obey what You say to me through them. Amen.

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


Friday, May 05, 2017

You are with me


Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 23:1-6

TO CHEW ON: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me…” Psalm 23:4



“The key to provision is the presence of God,” the writer of my Bible’s study notes reminds us  (K. R. Iverson, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 703).

Indeed, we want God with us in the most extreme hour of life—“the valley of the shadow of death.” But thank God, He is with us in so many other less trying situations as well:

1. He is with us wherever we go—as He promised to be with Jacob and Joshua - Genesis 28:15; 31:3; Joshua 1:9.

2. He is with us all the time - Psalm 139:18.

3. He is with us when we’re given a big assignment, as Moses and Joshua discovered - Exodus 3:12; Joshua 1:5-9.

4. He reveals the road ahead to us - Psalm 16:11.

5. He is with us through the hard times - Isaiah 43:2; Psalm 23:4 (our focus verse).

6. His presence allows us to relax - Exodus 33:14.

7. He is with us through His word - Joshua 1:8,9.

8. He lives among His people. He lived among the Israelites (Exodus 29:45) and gives the prophetic promise:
“‘…behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst’ says the Lord” - Zechariah 2:10.
9. His indwelling Spirit within us equips us with power and everything we need to fulfill our purpose here on earth - Acts 1:8.

Reminding ourselves of God’s presence all the time, everywhere, and in every situation, practicing it, as in talking to Him throughout the day (prayer), singing songs (worship and praise), keeping short accounts (repentance—“Sorry Lord, I blew it there!”), catching and responding to His signals (fulfilling our purpose as witnesses) is key. It is what we can do now to be in His presence when times are good. We don’t have to save the reassurance and comfort of His presence for the “valley of the shadow of death.”

PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for Your presence in my life in these many ways. Help me to acknowledge You in the good times and not wait for a desperate time to turn to You. Amen.

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


Thursday, May 04, 2017

Balanced prosperity

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Proverbs 30:7-32

TO CHEW ON: “Give me neighbor poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, ‘Who is the LORD?”
Or lest I be poor and steal
And profane the name of my God.” Proverbs 30:8,9


I love Agur’s balanced attitude toward possessions. Though he doesn’t use the words, “prosper” and “prosperous” come to mind. He describes someone who is prosperous in a balanced way.

A sidebar article in my Bible gives good insights on how this attitude might look in our lives:
“As we ask God to meet our needs, we grapple with how to ask Him to prosper us. Our goal is not to accumulate wealth (riches) or renounce it (poverty) but to faithfully oversee our individual portion from God and remain undistracted in our love for Him” - Clark Whitten, “Neither Poverty Nor Riches But Prosperity,” New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 838.

The Bible speaks often about people prospering. From a sampling of these references, we learn that prosperity:

  • Allows us to be generous as Jacob was with Esau - Genesis 9:27.
  • Can come to us even when we’re in sub-optimal circumstances. Potiphar observed that all that his Hebrew slave Joseph set his hand to prospered and was successful, and so Potiphar promoted Joseph - Genesis 39:2-6.
  • Is promised to those who fashion and conform their lives to God’s word and the principles in it - Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:1-6.
  • Was a consequence of seeking God wholeheartedly, as Judah’s King Uzziah discovered - 2 Chronicles 26:5.
  • Is a promise for those who pray for and love Jerusalem (Israel) - Psalm 122:6.
  • Can come to us in many areas. John prays for early Christians: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health just as your soul prospers” 3 John 1:2.

I love how my Bible’s sidebar article details many-faceted prosperity:
Prosperity is more than money. It is a lifestyle that includes spiritual fullness, physical well-being, mental soundness, social friendships, and financial well-being…. A prosperous person is one who is wealthy in all things that eternally matter” Charles Whitten, Ibid.

As I examine my life from this perspective, I see that it is flush with prosperity. I do well to be grateful.

PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to recognize and be grateful for all that I have received so generously from Your gracious hand. I want to cultivate a lifestyle of seeing where I prosper and being content with what I have. Amen.

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


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...