Saturday, July 22, 2017

Not our responsibility

Naomi and her daughers-in-law - Gustave Dore

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ruth 1:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "… for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!" Ruth 1:13

Naomi had her situation figured out. She would return to Israel because the famine that caused her family to move to Moab was over. But it was a bitter return. For death had taken all the men in her life and with them all her hopes for grandchildren. The last thing she wanted at this point was to be responsible for the continued childlessness of her daughters-in-law. Our focus verse is almost like an apology to them that they have been implicated in what she feels is God's judgment of her.

However, here, in the middle of her trial, Naomi's sight is still partial. Wasn't she taking on herself a burden of blame that had no place on her shoulders?

But we do that too. Our health gives way, or there's a downturn in the economy, or we suffer a disaster and feel like the course of our life is set. On top of that we feel responsible for and guilty about the people we're dragging along with us into these situations.

Orpah accepted Naomi's logic and turned back. But Ruth didn't. We'll never know exactly why but I like to think she saw something attractive in even depressed Naomi's faith. In the ten-or-so years she had known the family, somehow their God had captured her heart to the extent she could say, "Your God (shall be) my God" - Ruth 1:16.

(Look! here we have it again... that personal decision to make the distant deity of an acquaintance My God)

I love how this story ends, with Ruth a big part of the solution. Here's what the women of the town, rejoicing at the time of Obed's birth (Ruth's son, Naomi's grandson) say to Naomi: "And may he be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him" - Ruth 4:14.

What can we apply to our lives form this story? Two possibilities:

1. It's too soon to judge a situation's conclusion and meaning when we're in the middle of it.

2. God is responsible for those implicated in our problems—not us. If Naomi had insisted that Ruth return home with Orpah she would have missed out on the great climax of her life. Instead, she took Ruth back with her and made it possible for God to give her a surprise ending and show His faithfulness to Ruth as well as to her.


PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to release my circumstances and my loved ones to Your care, not take undue responsibility for them. May my words and actions help them believe that You can turn things around and care for them too. Amen.
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The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Spirit rain

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 44:1-8

TO CHEW ON: “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty
And floods on the dry ground;
I will pour My Spirit on your descendants
And My blessing on your offspring."

God had to get Jacob alone to begin working on him personally. The situation that drove Jacob away from home (an angry brother who was threatening to kill him) was nasty. But already on his very first night away God came to him, transforming an open-air bedroom into the “house of God... the gate of heaven” - Genesis 28:17. That was the day Jacob began to think of himself as God’s responsibility and God as his God - Genesis 28:20-22.

In our reading, written hundreds of years later, God is still promising a blessing on Jacob’s descendants. The outpouring of His Spirit flows to us today so we too can say, “I am the Lord’s,” can tattoo or brand ourselves, so to speak, “the Lord’s” - Isaiah 44:5.

May we open ourselves to His rain (reign).



He is a GIFT - Acts 2:38
The Spirit was present in the PROPHETS for PROPHECY - 1 Peter 1:10-12
The Spirit is poured on all, YOUNG and OLD, MEN and WOMEN - Joel 2:28, 29
We can ASK - Luke 11:13
He is a LIFE-GIVER - Romans 8:11
He is a BAPTIZER - 1 Corinthians 12:13
He is the Spirit of GRACE and SUPPLICATION - Zechariah 12:10
He is HELPER - John 14:16; 16:7
He is TEACHER - John 2:27; Luke 12:12
He is POWER - Luke 24:29; Acts 1:8
 
PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, quench my thirst, flood my dry ground with Your refreshing presence. Amen.


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


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Is He your God?

"Jacob's Dream" by Salvatore Rosa (Source)
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Genesis 27:46-28:22

TO CHEW ON: “Then Jacob made a vow saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God.’” Genesis 28:20,21

As I read this bit about Jacob realizing that God could be his God, I am reminded of Abraham’s servant. His interactions with God began, at least, at arm’s length as well. In his prayers and storytelling, he always referred to Yahweh as the God of his master Abraham - Genesis 24:12, 27, 42.

My Bible’s study notes have this explanation of Jacob’s words in Genesis 28:20,21:
“Jacob was endeavoring to grasp the promise and to adopt the LORD as his God by formalizing a relationship such as his father had enjoyed. His words are nether cynical nor a bribe” - R. Russell Bixler, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 43.

We have no further insights into the relationship between God and Abraham’s servant. But Jacob, here, responded to God’s reaching out to him.

I would submit that our experience of God is not so different. It is He who makes the first move. After we sense His awareness of us, His knowledge of us and our circumstances, His reaching out to us (however that happens—through the perfect-to-our-situation scripture, song, podcast message, words of a friend etc.), we are undone. As undone as Jacob was:
“‘Surely the LORD is in this place and I did not know it.’
And he was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! this is none other than the house of God and this is the gate of heaven.’” - Genesis 28:16,17.

After such encounters, it’s up to us, like it was up to the two Old Testament men, to respond. Will we, like Jacob, move closer? Will we claim the Lord as our God?

PRAYER:
Dear Father, thank You for taking the initiative in Your relationship with humans as a whole and with individual people. Thank You for all the times you’ve shown yourself to me as my God. Help me to always respond to Your overtures in a way that will deepen our relationship. 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, July 19, 2017

The puzzle of the Kingdom of Heaven

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 13:33-46


TO CHEW ON: "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven...The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field..." Matthew 13:33,

Jesus' stories were both fascinating and puzzling for His followers over 2000 years ago and to a large degree they are still that way. Many of his parables concern the kingdom of heaven (also called the kingdom of God). This subject for the Jews in Jesus' time would have been especially captivating, considering their domination by the Romans and hope that Messiah would set up an earthly kingdom to throw off that domination.

Jesus never intended to do that. That much is clear from the many times He stated that His kingdom was not of this world. And so for us these many years later, we still puzzle over the precise meaning of the kingdom of heaven. Is it a time, a place, a state?

The parables in today's reading are a bit like puzzle piece in the picture of what that kingdom will look like.

1. Permeating everywhere (Matthew 13:33):
Like yeast grows silently yet surely, eventually permeating a whole lump of dough, so the kingdom of heaven does its work of penetrating evil and transforming lives wherever we find it.


2. Pure, though now mixed (Matthew 13:37-43):
In the story the wheat and tares (non-wheat) existed together. Jesus explained that the wheat was the sons of the kingdom, the tares were the sons of the wicked one. That tells us that there is an aspect of the kingdom that is present (Jesus Himself, the "Son of Man" is the good seed sower, and those who accept His teachings He calls "sons of the kingdom" - Matthew 13:38).

The parable implies that it's not our job as individuals or as the church to determine who is wheat (who is saved — a son of the kingdom) and who is not. That's the job for the angels (Matthew 13:39,41). "Premature separation in the present age is out of the question and becomes more destructive than purifying," says J. Lyle Story in my Bible''s study notes (New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1315).

3. Decisions about the kingdom in this life have eternal consequences (Matthew 13:40-43):
Jesus talks about the "'end of the age'" when angels will  separate those who grew into kingdom grain and those who didn't, will "'... gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and those who practice lawlessness" and cast them into a place of torment.'"

4. Hidden (Matthew 13:44-46):
Jesus likened the kingdom to hidden treasure and one valuable pearl. I imagine this pearl sitting in a box with other pearls. Though it looked a lot like the others, its greater value was obvious to the pearl merchant who knew what to look for. In other words, this pearl was hiding in plain sight. That's the kingdom too, its value apparent to those who look for the right thing.

4. Precious (Matthew 13:44-46):
Jesus likened the kingdom to a "treasure" and a "pearl of great price" worth giving up every earthly possession for.

These little pictures of the kingdom of heaven serve to heighten our expectation. They also help us live realistically on earth as we:
  • Refrain from making pronouncements and judgments on who is saved and who isn't.
  • Refuse to get discouraged at the apparent insignificance of the kingdom and how it seems not to be flourishing in many places.
  • Understand the kingdom of heaven's penetrating and permeating power wherever it is, growing silently and secretly. 
  • Realize our decisions on earth (for or against what Jesus taught) have eternal implications.
  • Value the kingdom's worth--greater than any earthly treasure or wealth.

PRAYER: Dear God help me to get the big picture of kingdom of heaven realities. May I not grow discouraged but live like a kingdom daughter as long as I am on earth, doing my bit to help it spread and grow. Amen

MORE: "Hear the Call of the Kingdom" - Keith and Kristyn Getty





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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, July 18, 2017

Soil that receives

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 13:18-32

TO CHEW ON: "But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.'" Matthew 13:23

I remember as a little girl, there were some preachers I liked a lot more than others simply because they told stories. Actually as a big girl I don't feel that differently. I'm sure Jesus with His repertoire of parables would have been a great favourite.

The parable of the sower and the seed is one of eight major parables which Jesus told. He not only told the story but took the time to explain it in all its intriguing allegorical detail. Thus it's easy to get caught up in the story's fine points. But it's also important not to miss the big point, which a footnote in my Bible has boiled down nicely: "Its central message is that the gospel of the kingdom will meet with varying levels of success in the human heart" - J. Lyle Story, commentary on Matthew,  New Spirit-filled Life Bible, p. 1314.

And don't we all want it to meet with that 100-fold success in our own hearts! A large measure of that success is due to how receptive the soil of our life and heart is — as the parable illustrates.

Here are some aspects and results of spiritual receptivity gathered from Scripture.
  • It involves attentive listening - Nehemiah 8:3; Proverbs 4:20.
  • It requires response - Proverbs 15:32.
  • A change of direction may be needed (repentance) - Jeremiah 12:16.
  • The most complete receptivity involves the commitment and abandonment we demonstrate when we eat food (faith) - Ezekiel 2:8; Ezekiel 3:2.
  • It may look different in different people. Or perhaps we could say, it involves steps or stages. Martha showed her receptivity to Jesus by opening her home to Him and preparing a meal. Mary sat at His feet listening. While Martha's receptivity was good, Jesus called Mary's listening the one "needed" thing  - Luke 10:38-41.
  • It involves obedient action. In Acts the believers who received the gospel were baptized - Acts 2:41.
  • It may require study and analysis. We compare what others teach with the Bible to ensure we're doing the things that line up with God's Word - Acts 17:11.
  • It produces results in us personally (1 Thessalonians 2:13) and spiritual productivity in our lives (Matthew 13:23 our focus verse today).

I ask myself, am I receptive to the good news of the kingdom? Do I hear it and respond to it (with repentance if necessary)? Do I commit to it in faith? Am I obedient to its ordinances? Do I study what people say about it, checking those teachings with the Bible to make sure I'm not being led astray? Are my heart and life being changed? Am I bearing fruit (both inwardly exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit and outwardly the fruit of other lives coming to Jesus and being strengthened in Him through my influence)?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for the picture of seed and soil in this parable. Please help me to be alert to bad soil conditions in my life, and to improve my heart soil's receptiveness to You and the truths about Your Kingdom. Amen.

MORE: Soil Types

Though it's too late to analyze your garden soil for better results this year, it's never too late to gather information about how you might improve it in the future. Here's an interesting article called "Soil Types and Testing" which names the various elements in soil, and describes a simple test you can do to analyze your own garden soil. (It's fun to imagine what comparisons Jesus would have made, what lessons He would have taught with such information!)

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


Monday, July 17, 2017

Kingdom secrets

The Sower - Artist unknown
The Sower - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 13:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "The disciples came to him and asked, 'Why do you speak to the people in parables?' He replied, 'Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.' " Matthew 13:10,11 NIV

We all love to be in-the-know. Here Jesus told His disciples, you are.

Though the parables appear to be simple stories which Jesus' listeners loved because they were so homey and relatable to life, they also hold deeper truths than what  appears to the eye / ear. "…secrets of the kingdom of heaven" Jesus called them.

[Secret = musterion  from mueo "to initiate into the mysteries" hence a secret known only to the initiated, something hidden, requiring special revelation. In the NT the word denotes something that people could never know by their own understanding and that demands a revelation from God. The secret thoughts, plans and dispensations of God remain hidden from unregenerate mankind, but are revealed to all believers" - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Live Bible, NIV - Kindle Location 232,200.*]

Though Jesus told His disciples the knowledge of the kingdom had been given to them, they still needed Jesus' explanation, His "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means" (Matthew 13:18). As we read Jesus' interpretation of the sower story (the verses that follow today's reading) we see what kind of metaphor this was and how Jesus intended his listeners and us readers to interpret it from a literary standpoint.

But there is another level of understanding possible, beyond literary interpretation and to which Jesus referred when He said to the disciples: "… the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them" (Matthew 13:11).

What distinguished the you from the them? It was that the you—the disciples—believed in Him. They were open to the truths He taught and willing to line up their lives with them. The them, the crowds, the Pharisees and religious leaders didn't believe. Some were downright hostile.

Jesus goes on to describe these believers as those who had (knowledge, insight, obedience) and so would be given more whereas those who didn't have would lose even the little understanding they already possessed (Matthew 13:12).

Jesus' truths are revealed:
  • to little children - Matthew 11:25.
  • by God in heaven - Matthew 16:17.
  • to those enabled by the Father - John 6:65.
  • by His Spirit - 1 Corinthians 2:10,14.
  • "to the Lord's people" - Colossians 1:26, 27.
  • through "an anointing from the Holy One" - 1 John 2:20, 27.

As we study the Bible and read it's parables and stories, let's not lose sight of the supernatural help necessary to really get them. That help leads to understanding that comes not only from our heads, but also involves our hearts.

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, help me to be the kind of listener that has, and will be given an abundance. Amen.


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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission (*Kindle version). All rights reserved worldwide.








Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sometimes seeing is not believing

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 12:38-50

TO CHEW ON:
“Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.’
But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’” Matthew 12:38,39


I have often thought it would have been wonderful to live in the time of the Israelites to experience the exodus miracles, or the time of Jesus and see all the wonders He did firsthand. Then, I tell myself, I would have no trouble believing—in God, His existence, His power, His goodness, His ability to keep me.

The scribes and Pharisees were witnesses too. They had seen many of Jesus’ signs. Yet they still resisted believing in Him. It’s like they had a set mold in their mind of how things must be, of how Messiah would look and what He would do. Jesus didn’t fit into that mold and as a result, all their rationalizing abilities were spent on explaining how He could not be who He claimed to be (including the claim that He was doing miracles by the power of Satan - Matthew 12:24).

All the grumbling and mistrust of the Israelites (despite what they’d seen and experienced), as well as this passage remind us—faith didn’t necessarily follow sight.

I would submit we moderns aren’t so different. If, for example, we have ruled out the possibility of a creator, then any evidence of intelligent creation is tossed out, to be replaced by theories that are far more fanciful and far-fetched than any creation story, and demand a lot more faith. (You could call it ABC faith—Anything But Creation faith.)

The sign Jesus left the Scribes and Pharisees with (His resurrection - Matthew 12:40), was, not surprisingly, also rationalized away by them (Matthew 28:11-14).

The question we might ask ourselves on reading this passage is, "How is faith conceived and kept strong with or without signs?"

Based on the stubborn disbelief of these religious leaders, it’s my conviction that faith in God and Jesus is first a decision to open our minds to His existence and all that that implies (as described in the Bible). When we do that, so much of history and modern life falls into place.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to see and live life through the lens of Your existence, death, and resurrection, that is, through faith. Amen.
 

MORE:
 
"Sometimes the very presence of God is barred by our presuppositions and our intense and constant desire for triumph." - Ravi Zacharias (Source: Brainy Quotes)


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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, July 15, 2017

The "evil treasure" of criticism

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 12:22-37

TO CHEW ON: " 'Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.' " Matthew 12:34

Though Jesus did at times withdraw from confrontation with the Pharisees (as we saw yesterday), it was never because He was intimidated by them. In our reading today He calls them a "brood of vipers."

His harsh name for them was in response to their reaction to His miracle of freeing a demon-possessed blind and mute man to see and speak. They said He did this miracle by Satan's power.

He showed the lack of logic in that (Matthew 12:25-30), called what they said blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, named it the unforgivable sin (Matthew 12:31-32), and then exposed the root of their problem: hearts full of "evil treasure" (Matthew 12:33-37).

We would call what's in our hearts our thoughts. The Pharisees' words here showed that their thoughts were critical and judgmental. Do you ever struggle with critical, judgmental thoughts? I do.

Joyce Meyer in her book Battlefield of the Mind says:

"Judgment and criticism are fruit of a deeper problem—pride. When the 'I' in us is bigger than it should be, it will always cause problems...The Bible repeatedly warns us about being high-minded" - p. 125.

She goes on to cite Bible verses for judgmental, critical people to consider:

  • Romans 14:4 tells us some things about which we judge others others are simply none of our business.
  • Matthew 7:1-2 reminds us that the principle of sowing and reaping apply to judgment. If we judge others habitually and harshly, that same judgmental attitude will be unleashed on our lives.
  • Matthew 7:3-5 tells us to judge ourselves before we judge others.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:7 says we should make a practice of believing the best about other people rather than assuming their actions spring from bad motives.
  • Galatians 6:1-3 makes it clear that sometimes judgment is appropriate and necessary. It shows us how to deal with sin and misconduct in someone's life in a constructive way: with gentleness, with watchfulness so as not to fall into the same temptation, and with humility and knowledge of our own vulnerability.

Jesus' little proverb — "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" — let's take it seriously. Let's listen to ourselves. What is spilling out of the abundance of our own hearts? If it's criticism and judgment, let's ask God to change our prideful hearts.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, these are sobering thoughts. Help me to hear my words today and gain insight into the state of my heart. Then help me to change by applying and obeying Your Bible words. 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, July 14, 2017

Sabbath / Sunday: is it a big deal?

Sunday label
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 12:1-21

TO CHEW ON: " ' For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.' " Matthew 12:8 NIV


We don't make much of Sabbath-keeping (or Sunday-keeping) in our church culture, let alone in society at large. How much that has changed even in the last several hundred years was brought home to me when I read the Puritan Jonathan Edwards' 73 Resolutions and came across #38:

"Resolved never to speak anything that is ridiculous, sportive or matter of laughter on the Lords Day" - from "The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards in Categories."

In our reading today the Pharisees twice confront Jesus about his non-keeping of their Sabbath rules. First they butt heads over whether it is okay to do the work of harvesting heads of grain to feed themselves (Matthew 12:1-8). Then later, in the synagogue when Jesus heals the man with a withered hand, that act steels the Pharisees' determination to destroy Him (Matthew 12:9-14).

So what is appropriate Lord's Day-keeping behaviour? Should we as 21st century Christians be concerned at all with Sabbath/Sunday/Lord's Day-keeping? Here are some principles we find as we look at Scripture:

  • God set aside one day in seven as a day of rest as early as creation (Genesis 2:2).
  • God told the Israelites the Sabbath was to be a day they kept holy or separate from work (Exodus 31:15) and to Him (Deuteronomy 5:12).'
  • A heart-felt keeping of the Sabbath came with the promise of a rich reward (Isaiah 58:13,14).
  • Jesus and Paul observed the Sabbath by attending places of worship (Luke 4:16; Acts 17:2).
  • Some of the activities that happened at "church" on the Sabbath were:
- Prayer (Acts 16:13).
- Getting acquainted with fellow believers (Acts 16:13).
- Reading Scripture (Luke 4:16).
- Teaching (Matthew 6:2).
- Apologetic reasoning from the Scripture with the goal of persuading people to put their faith in Christ (Acts 17:2; 18:4).
  •  Doing good on the Sabbath is allowed. Jesus lived His statement, "Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:12 NIV). when He:
- healed a man with a withered hand.
- healed a man with a 38-year sickness (John 5:1-9).
- healed a man of blindness (John 9:6,16).

Jesus' statement here: " ' For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath' " makes me aware of ways Jesus' observance of Sabbath differed from the Pharisees' observance. While theirs was limited to keeping a minutiae of laws and interpretations of laws about what work on the Sabbath meant, Jesus' observance was more directed by the two great commandments, to love God with all that we have and are, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).

So we too can look at Sabbath/Sunday/Lord's Day-keeping not as a burdensome, rule-generated obligation but as a privilege and benefit to do something that pleases God and shows love to our neighbor.
- It is permission to relax from work. God did.
- It is a day to nourish relationships with people.
- It gives us an entire day to focus on God—the highest and best.
- It is an opportunity to demonstrate, by our lifestyle, our devotion and loyalty to God.

PRAYER: Dear God, I have not been strict with myself about observing one day in seven as holy to You. Help me to view doing this as a privilege and benefit. 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 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.






Thursday, July 13, 2017

Voluntary praise

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 119:97-112

TO CHEW ON: "Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord." Psalm 119:108a

When the writer of Psalm 119 asked God to accept the "freewill offerings of my mouth" he was referring to a specific category of offerings. These were offerings that people gave to God voluntarily out of the overflow of their worship, gratitude and emotion.

In the Old Testament freewill offering [Nedabah = voluntariness, free-will offering] is first used in Exodus 35 where Moses asked the Israelites to bring treasure (most of it plundered from the Egyptians when they left Egypt) for building the tabernacle (Exodus 35:29).

Though freewill offerings were voluntary, they were to be of the same quality as other sacrifices (Leviticus 22:18-23). They were also to be offered not just any old place but at the place of worship (Deuteronomy 12:5-7; 17). It is clear from Leviticus 23:38 that they were an expected part of the sacrifice routine along with prescribed offerings, keeping the Sabbath, bringing gifts, and making vows. They were common enough to warrant a priest whose sole job it was to look after them (2 Chronicles 31:14).

It's in the context of this kind of sacrifice that the Psalm-writer asks God to accept the "freewill offerings of my mouth." It is a metaphor for volunteer praise, worship, adoration and thanksgiving that flows to God from a praising, worshiping, adoring, and thankful heart.

We don't know whether he offered these freewill offerings of his mouth only at the temple when he went to worship, or offered them wherever he was. Neither do we know whether he would have disqualified himself if he was an off-key singer or a stuttering speaker. I hope these exclusions are not implied. Rather I like to think of the invitation to bring such sacrifices as open-armed as the one in Hosea:

Take words with you,
      And return to the LORD.
      Say to Him,


      “Take away all iniquity;
      Receive us graciously,
      For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips." - Hosea 14:2 NKJV

and in Hebrews:
Through Him, therefore, let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name." -
Hebrews 13:15 AMP


PRAYER: Dear God, "Freewill offerings" — what a wonderful metaphor for praise and worship. Help me to make such offerings throughout my day as I reflect on You and Your ways with me. Amen.

MORE: "Hosanna" by Paul Baloche

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

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



Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Eternally settled, exceedingly broad

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 119:81-96

TO CHEW ON: "Forever, O Lord,
Your word is settled in heaven....
Your commandment is exceedingly broad." Psalm 119:89,96

Asking one to accept the eternal verity of any set of facts or truths in our day of advancing knowledge and shifting values seems nervy. Yet that's what the psalmist declares here — the eternal certainty of God's word.

Contrast this with the way standards change all around us. For example, when I was growing up there was no whisper of the possibility of homosexual people marrying. Now you can lose your job if you take a stand against such marriages. That's only one example of others we could give.

In contrast to the shifting and changing of "truth" around us, God's words are "forever...settled in heaven." J. I. Packer says God's words to us "...are the index of reality. They show us things as they really are, and as they will be for us in the future according to whether we heed God's words to us or not" - Knowing God, p. 124.

The second verse I've picked to focus on says that God's words are also "exceedingly broad." Broad enough to speak to every aspect of life? I would say yes.

Nancy Pearcey says:

"To say that Christianity is the truth about total reality means that it is a full-orbed worldview. The term means literally a view of the world; a biblically informed perspective on all reality. A worldview is like a mental map that tells us how to navigate the world effectively. It is the imprint of God's objective truth on our inner life....God's word becomes a set of glasses offering a new perspective on all our thoughts and actions" - Total Truth, p. 23,24

Whether we are aware of it or not, each one of us has a worldview. Let's be watchful that ours is based on the truth of God's eternally settled, exceedingly broad word.


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your word. Help me to study it, understand its implications for my life, and then apply it in obedience. Amen.


MORE: Thinking Christianly
"'Thinking Christianly' means understanding that Christianity gives the truth about the whole of reality, a perspective for interpreting every subject matter. Genesis tells us that God spoke the entire universe into being with His word — what John 1:1 calls the Logos. The Greek word means not only Word but also reason or rationality, and the ancient Stoics used it to mean the rational structure of the universe.
Thus the underlying structure of the entire universe reflects the mind of the Creator. There is no fact/value dichotomy in the scriptural account. Nothing has an autonomous or independent identity, separate from the will of the Creator. As a result, all creation must be interpreted in light of its relationship to God. In any subject area we study, we are discovering the laws or creation ordinances by which God structured the world" - Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p. 34.

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



Bible Drive-Thru


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Pray and inquire of the Lord

'Issac prayed to the Lord..." Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 25:7-34

TO CHEW ON: "Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. … The babies jostled within her and she said, 'Why is this happening to me?' She went to inquire of the Lord." - Genesis 25:21,22 (NIV)

Whatever other dysfunctions were present in Isaac and Rebekah's family, they did one thing right—they prayed and asked God questions about their circumstances. Isaac prayed about the problem of Rebekah's barrenness. After she got pregnant, Rebekah asked God the reason for her difficult pregnancy.

The themes of prayer and asking God about our situations runs through the Bible.

  • Men began to "call on the name of the Lord" early in the biblical story (Genesis 4:26).
  • In the Old Testament, Moses was the person the people went to when they wanted to hear from God (Exodus 18:16; 33:7).
  • God had Moses make a special piece of priest's vestments—the Uri and Thummim. It was worn over the High Priest's chest and was a way that God communicated His will to the priest for the people (Exodus 28:30,31; Numbers 27:21).
  • After Moses and Aaron died, the people were to inquire of God through the current priests and judges (Deuteronomy 17:9).
  • David spoke often of praying to God and asking Him questions directly (Psalm 5:3; 55:17).
  • In the New Testament we read of believers who added fasting and almsgiving to their prayer practice (Luke 2:37).
  • Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns during their incarceration in a Philippian jail (Acts 16:25).
  • Paul tells his readers to pray and about everything (Philippians 4:6,7).

And so we can take Issac, Rebekah's, David's and Paul's example and bring our deepest, most private, heartfelt requests to God. We might want to include some of the practices we see here:
- Ask leaders and spiritual mentors to pray for us, and take direction from them.

- Include other spiritual disciplines in our prayers, like fasting and giving, not to manipulate God but to become more spiritually attuned to His voice and ways.

- Add songs of praise to our prayers.

- Pray about everything—family, work, health, the neighbours, our city, our leaders, national and international events…

- I found one verse in this little survey, however, that gave me pause. God warned Ezekiel about two-faced requesters—people who inquired of God while at the same time setting up idols in their hearts (Ezekiel 14:7). That can be a warning too, to seek God with single-hearted integrity.

PRAYER:
Dear  God, thank You for being interested in the minutiae of my life. Help me to remember to bring my problems to You first before seeking any other solution. 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 NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.



Monday, July 10, 2017

Relationship thoughts from Isaac and Rebekah

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Genesis 24:50-67

TO CHEW ON: “Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her.” Genesis 24:67.

Who doesn’t utter an “Awww” at a beautiful love story—and this one sure fits that category. Even though the customs are quite different from our own, here are some elements that I think enhance its beauty.
  • God’s presence at every stage. The servant recognized and acknowledged God’s presence in the situation (and repeatedly: Genesis 24:27,40,48). Rebekah’s father and brother agreed - Genesis 24:50. Similarly we can invite God into every situation, especially courtship and marriage.
  • The generosity of Abraham (through the servant). Beautiful gifts went to everyone (Genesis 24:22, 53).  I’m sure it was expected to load the bride and her family with dowry. Still, it speaks to me of God’s largesse with us when we align ourselves with Him and His plans for us.
  • The understandable hesitance of Rebekah’s family to let her go at overnight notice—perhaps never to see her again (Genesis 24:55). They loved this beautiful young woman. No doubt her mother had had thoughts that someday she’d be asked to give her up. But so suddenly? And to so far away? This reminds me that thorns may be present, even on occasions of joy.
  • The family’s regard for Rebekah’s wishes in this. They didn’t force her but asked her what she wanted (Genesis 24:58). This reminds me that God also gives us choices to follow Him and His best for us—in marriage and in life.
  • The family’s blessing. Rebekah left with positive words of her family’s blessing ringing in her ears (Genesis 24:60). If only we realized, when we married, how important family was. The approval and blessing of both families is a huge asset to the establishment of a new home.
  • Rebekah’s modesty, veiling her face in preparation to meet her groom (Genesis 24:65). In this way she acknowledged current cultural custom, and that this was a very special meeting. Similarly in our relationships, physical demonstrations of respect and modesty can be a sort of dramatization of our feelings and can help enhance them.

May we and our children experience similar storybook endings to God-filled relationships.


PRAYER:
Dear Father, thank You for the love of human marriage. We want Your presence in these comings together, for us and our children.

MORE: Teaching based on this story.
Philosopher and author Ravi Zacharias has produced a powerful message about love and marriage based on Isaac and Rebekah’s love story. His talk “I Isaac take you Rebekah” is available (on YouTube) in five parts, linked below.

"I Isaac take you Rebekah" - Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5


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


Sunday, July 09, 2017

Come!

Jesus welcomes children - Paul Chenavard
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 11:20-30

TO CHEW ON: "'Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.'" Matthew 11:28

How welcoming is the word come, especially when Jesus is saying it. Some other 'comes' in the Bible illustrate the welcoming heart of God.

  • God invited Noah into a safe place when He said to him, " ' Come into the ark, you and all your household' " - Genesis 7:1
  • " ' Come with us and we will treat you well,' " Moses said to Hobab, his Midianite brother-in-law in an invitation to join with the Israelites as they journeyed through the desert - Numbers 10:29.
  • 'No one left out'  Hezekiah's invitation to the distant tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh seemed to say, when he invited them to "...come to the house of the Lord at Jerusalem" - 2 Chronicles 30:1.
  • Come for personal cleansing God invites us all through Isaiah - Isaiah 1:18.
  • Come for provision that brings lasting satisfaction: "Come to the waters … Come buy and eat. Yes, come buy wine and milk. Without money and without price" - Isaiah 55:1.
  • " 'Come to Me,' " Jesus invites here, " '… and I will give you rest.' " [Rest = anapauo  = to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labour in order to recover and collect his strength; to give rest, refresh, to give one's self rest, take rest; to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation The word describes a cessation of toil, a refreshment, an intermission.] 
  • Jesus' invitation included children: " ' Let the little children come to Me and do not forbid them...' " Luke 18:16.
  • Come all who are willing is the invitation of the king to a great supper in Jesus' parable about the kingdom of heaven: "Come for all things are now ready" - Luke 16:24.
  • And the Bible ends with this wonderful invitation for all who hear, who thirst, who desire: "And the Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears, say 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires let him take the water of life freely" - Revelation 22:17.

What is our need today? A safe place of eternal well-being? Somewhere to belong? Cleansing? Provision? Rest? Whatever it is, God's invitation is still "Come."

PRAYER: Dear Jesus thank You for these words of invitation and the wide-open-arms message of Your life on earth. As your modern disciple may I make it a habit to come to You first with my needs, and invite others to do the same. 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, July 08, 2017

The language of jewelry

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Genesis 24:28-48

TO CHEW ON:
“Then I asked her and said, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ And she said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the nose ring on her nose and bracelets on her wrists.” Genesis 24:47

Jewelry appears often in the Bible and says many things.
  • For Judah and Tamar it was a pledge to render full payment later for sexual services rendered - Genesis 38:18.
  • For an Amalekite warrior and David it was Saul’s I.D. - 2 Samuel 1:10.
  • For the Israelites plundering the Egyptians it was payment for years of slavery,  payment that was later used in the making of the Tabernacle - Exodus 3:22; 35:22.
  • For the prophet it was a metaphor of God’s care for His people - Ezekiel 16:11.
  • For the prodigal son it was “Welcome home—You are still my son” - Luke 15:22.

Abraham’s servant made a great impression on Rebekah’s family when they saw their daughter / sister decked out in rich jewels. Brother Laban took note and immediately became all gush and hospitality - Genesis 24:29-31. The rich sparkling rings and bracelets now on Rebekah asked a question and made a promise.
  • Question: Will Rebekah marry my master’s son?
  • Promise: She will be well cared for.

Warren Wiersbe’s BE Commentary makes a wonderful comparison of Rebekah’s story to the church:

“But the chapter goes beyond history into theology. It gives us a picture of the heavenly Father getting a bride for His Son (Matt. 22:1-14). The church is compared to a bride (2 Cor. 11:2-3; Eph. 5:22-33), and during this present age, the Holy Spirit is calling people to trust Christ and be “married to … him” (Rom. 7:4). The elements involved in the marriage of Isaac and Rebekah are also involved in the marriage of Christ and His church” - Warren Wiersbe Commentary accessed through Bible Gateway.com.

Isaiah helps us, as part of the church, to express thanks for this adornment:
“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation.
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness.
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels
” - Isaiah 61:10 (emphasis added).

Let's remind ourselves of this wonderful promissory, salvation, Bride-of-Christ message of jewelry as we put on our trinkets today.

PRAYER:
Dear Father, thank You for choosing the church as Your bride. Help me to live as one You have chosen and adorned today. Amen.

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


Friday, July 07, 2017

Being on the way

"Then she quickly emptied her pitcher into the trough" ( Art Journal - V. Nesdoly)
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Genesis 24:1-27

 

TO CHEW ON: “Then the man bowed down his head and worshiped the LORD. And he said, ‘Blessed be the LORD God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His mercy and His truth toward my master. As for me, being on the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren.’” Genesis 24:26,27


I can imagine the self-conversation Abraham’s servant has as he travels back to Ur to fulfill his master’s wishes to get a wife for Isaac from Abraham’s relatives:

This is crazy. How will I ever find those relatives.

Maybe Abraham’s God will be with me. My boss sounded pretty confident (Genesis 24:7).

But this is a deity of whom Abraham doesn’t even have an image. Is he real?

I’m nearing the place he told me about. How will I know where to go next? How will I recognize Abraham’s people?  If I find a girl, will she even want to come? Help!


It is at this point, I imagine, Abraham’s servant utters a prayer of his own—a very practical prayer that if answered would solve his real problem of finding the right woman for Isaac.

Can’t you just feel his heart begin to pound as beautiful Rebekah comes out and proceeds to fulfill all the conditions of his prayer? Talk about the sun beaming from behind clouds showing the servant: I, Abraham’s God, am real. I am here. And You are in the very place you should be!

Perhaps you have experienced moments like that—moments that remind you that God has been with you, guiding you all the time. Times when the brightness of His favour seems to break through the clouds of confusion, illuminating your situation with divine certainty and benediction.

I know I have. But most of the time we operate like Abraham’s servant through most of that long journey—not quite sure, but faithfully staying "on the way” the best we know how. Let’s take heart from Abraham’s servant and stay the course.

Some promises of Gods guidance:
  • He illumines our path with instruction and teaching - Psalm 32:8.
  • Sometimes we have to step out in faith. God’s reassurance that we’ve made the right move comes later - Isaiah 30:21.
  • God also goes before us. As we follow Him, we learn to know and recognize His voice - John 10:4.
  • He has promised to guide us lifelong - Psalm 48:14.


PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to faithfully stay on the way, even when the path to take seems unclear. Amen.

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


Thursday, July 06, 2017

Faith—more than just a feeling

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Genesis 23:1-20

TO CHEW ON: “So the field of Ephron which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field and the cave which was in it, and all the trees that were in the field, which were within all the surrounding borders were deeded to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the sons of Heth, before all who went in at the gate of the city.” Genesis 23:17,18

The question that came to me as I read Genesis 23 this morning was, what’s the point of this little story being in the Bible? Sure it’s an interesting example of how people did deals way back then, but is that all?

My Bible’s study notes add this bit of insight:
“A fascinating story of Near Eastern bargaining, Abraham was quite aware that the Hittites did not intend to give him a free burial ground, nor would he have dared to accept their pretended offer. The issue at stake—will Abraham gain a permanent holding in Canaan, or will he remain a landless dependent?” - R. Russel Bixler, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 34.

The Reformation Study Bible says:
“In faithful expectation that God would fulfill the covenant promise of land (Genesis 3:15), Abraham sought to anchor his descendants in the Promised Land” - Reformation Study Bible on Genesis 23:19 - accessed through “Study This” on BibleGateway.com.

This and other incidents support this interpretation of Abraham doing some intentional anchoring here:
  • He was adamant about not letting Isaac return to Ur to live, though he sent his servant back there to find Isaac a bride - Genesis 24:6-9.
  • He himself was buried in that Machpelah cave and later so were Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Leah - Genesis 25:9; 49:29-31; 50:13.

I like how Warren Wiersbe explains it:
“When Abraham purchased the cave of Machpelah for a tomb, he was making a statement of faith to all who were there. He did not take Sarah back to their former home in Ur but buried her in the land God had given him and his descendants” - Warren Wiersbe, BE Bible Study Series, accessed through Genesis 23 on Biblegateway.com.

The lesson that I see for us moderns is one of similarly stepping out of our comfort zone in faith as we take God at His word in His assignments, promises and blessings.

For example, has God given you a burden to communicate the gospel? Maybe you should set up a website or blog.

Are you concerned for today’s children? Consider volunteering in the children’s ministry of your church.

Do you sense an assignment to extend hospitality as encouragement to Christians and outreach to pre-Christians? Start inviting guests over to your teeny tiny apartment.

How will our actions today demonstrate our faith?

PRAYER:
Dear Father, help me to act in ways that demonstrate my faith in Your assignments, promises, and blessings. 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, July 05, 2017

Love is not for sissies

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Song of Solomon 2:8 - 3:5

TO CHEW ON:
“My beloved is mine and I am his.” Song of Solomon 2:16

Whether you interpret Song of Solomon as a spiritual allegory or a lyrical poem to heterosexual love, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a beautiful Bible book. Today I’m struck by the wisdom about love between a man and a woman found in our short reading:
  • The lovers enjoy each others physical presence. The Shulamite is alert to her beloved. She thrills to the sound of his voice and the sight of him (Song of Solomon 2:8,9,14). In other places, the Beloved extols the physical beauties of his loved one (like Song of Solomon 1:10, 2:2, 4:1-7).
Though the couple here may sound like they’re at the beginning of their relationship, I’ve found this can be true even after 36 years of marriage. I can pick my husband’s voice out of the crowd, recognize his form from a distance, and find reassurance even in his snoring beside me at night.
  • The couple enjoys spending time together—alone (Song of Solomon 2:10).
This is important, After the hectic years of child-rearing, when you may be hard pressed to find alone time together, come the empty nest years. God willing you’ll have lots of time for such togetherness. Hopefully it’s good.
  • However, it doesn’t take much to disturb paradise. Just some “little foxes” - Song of Solomon 2:15 (like impatience, sharp answers, sarcasm, unkindness, unforgiveness, nagging, ingratitude…etc. etc.).
  • They are secure in each other’s love - Song of Solomon 2:16.
I like how one of our church pastors and his wife flesh this out. Sometimes, even when they’re in the middle of a heated discussion (we won’t call it an argument or fight), his wife will say, “I’m committed to you,” reinforcing her commitment to her husband and the relationship even though they don’t always agree about everything.
  • Sometimes love is tested. Such tests help the lovers see their relationship with fresh eyes and cling to each other with new appreciation - Song of Solomon 3:1,2.
If you or your spouse has been ill, had a near-death experience, been incommunicado on a long trip or some such, you’ll know how such an experience helps you see your loved one through new eyes and gain a new appreciation for what you have.  
  • This love school is not for the immature. Don’t register for class until you’re ready for it - Song of Solomon 3:5.
Admittedly, this is my interpretation, but I think it’s advice that follows logically after the stresses and strains the lovers have just been through. Our Beloved and his Shulamite might tell a young man or woman, you could avoid all this by not falling in love in the first place. So hold off as long as you can, because once love has been awakened, it's a roller coaster ride. Love is not for sissies!


PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for love and marriage. Help me to work at mine. I am reminded of the many times the Bible speaks of the church as Jesus’ bride. Help us, in our Christian marriages, to pursue the unity and beauty of this spiritual relationship. Amen.

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


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Are you a loyal bride?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 45:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "Listen, O daughter,
Consider and incline your ear;
Forget your own people also, and your father's house;
So the King will greatly desire your beauty;
Because He is your Lord, worship Him." Psalm 45:10-11

This psalm is subtitled "The Glories of the Messiah and His Bride" in my Bible. The picturesque images of a middle-eastern marriage ceremony with a king welcoming his new bride grow heavy with meaning as we think of them in terms of the spiritual wedding of Christ and His bride. Of course we recognize this as a theme that flows through the Bible.

One aspect of this theme is the couple leaving their childhood homes and establishing a new home together. It's a principle as old as creation: "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh" - Genesis 2:24.

Of all the expressions in the Bible, Ruth's declaration of loyalty to her mother-in-law (even after her husband was dead) is the most poignant. Not surprisingly it is often used in wedding ceremonies:  
“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God - Ruth 1:16,17.

My Bible's commenter explains how the instructions for a bride to leave her old home apply to Christians in the church age: "The bride of a king was often from another nation, and so she had to break with her own culture to marry, just as Christians now must forsake marriage to worldly things in order to be part of the bride of Christ" - Dick Iverson, notes on Psalms, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 723 (emphasis added).

And so we do well to ask ourselves, are we living totally and unreservedly in the home of our husband the Lord Jesus? Or do we still hang on to bits and pieces of our worldly homes from the past?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I am so honored to be part of Your Bride. Help me to be faithful bride who incites Your desire because my loyalty is all to You. Amen.

MORE: Spiritual adultery

We recall how many of the prophets speak of Israel's backsliding and worshiping idols in terms of marital unfaithfulness--adultery. The prophet Hosea was even commanded to marry a harlot (Gomer) and when she left to go after other men, he had to repeatedly bring her back home. This was a picture to Israel of how God pursued them.

Andrew Peterson's powerful song "Hosea" pictures Gomer's waywardness and her final response to Hosea persistently coming after her (just as God pursues us).


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

Bible Drive-Thru

Monday, July 03, 2017

We need each other

Christians come together in Jerusalem / Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Hebrews 10:32-11:2

TO CHEW ON: “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated.” Hebrews 10:33


Today’s passage was written to first century Jewish Christians. From my Bible’s introduction:
“Apparently they expected Christ to return soon but the delay in His coming and the persecutions against them (Hebrews 10:32-34) caused them to wonder if they had made the right choice in becoming Christians… This epistle was written to wavering Jewish believers, encouraging them to stand fast in their faith” - Guy P. Duffield, “Introduction to Hebrews,” New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1728.

If we’re followers of history, we know that society’s attitude to Christianity, pro- and anti-, pendulums back and forth. In my growing up years, a generation or two after many European immigrants fled religious persecution to Canada as a place where they would be able to live their Christian convictions without fear of arrest, the attitude of society was much friendlier to Christianity than it is now.

Now the pendulum is swinging the other way. For example, a bill was passed in Ontario in June 2017, that gives the state power to apprehend a child from parents who don’t support the notion that gender is fluid, and who would oppose their child’s “human right” to change gender.  And in Camrose Alberta, the school board is attempting to limit which Bible verses a Christian school can use.

Thus the scenario pictured by our reading, of Christians suffering and struggling grows more possible for us. Apparently for the Hebrew believers it wasn’t a struggle of just ideas either but a very real physical set-to, with “plundering of goods” added to “reproaches” and “tribulations.” And this could happen to one for being a companion (friend, known associate) of a despised Christian - Hebrews 10:33.

I love this quote found in The Christian Almanac:
“There is a spiritual cancer at work in the world. The piracy of man’s fallen nature invariably mitigates against freedom and justice. Therefore voluntary associations must needs balance us—without force of state but nonetheless with the force of community—and hold us to accounts” - James Stuart (1849-1901)” - The Christian Almanac, July 3rd entry, p. 393.

What both Hebrews and Mr. Stuart drive home to me is that community is important. We in the church need each other in these times of the world’s increasing hostility.

PRAYER:
Dear Father, help me to remain loyal to You, Your word, and my Christian brothers and sisters. Amen.

MORE: Feast of St. Thomas
Today is the day the church celebrates the Apostle Thomas. (This is a feast day that has two dates attached to it - July 3rd and December 21st).

The liturgy for this day begins with this prayer:

Everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with firm and certain faith in your Son's resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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


Sunday, July 02, 2017

In the nick of time

Abraham Climbs Mount Moriah - Schirmer

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Genesis 2:1-19

TO CHEW ON:
“And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham … Do not lay your hand on the lad.’” Genesis 22:10-12


I like to plan things and know beforehand what to expect, how things will go, and what I will say. I am challenged by stories like Abraham, Isaac, and God’s nick-of-time rescue of Isaac from Abraham’s knife.

However, we could say, I think, that God is very much a God of the last minute.

  • When the Israelites faced the Red Sea after leaving Egypt, the Egyptians were nipping at their heels when God opened a way before them to cross to the other side - Genesis 14:10,13,21-23.
  • Again when Israel was about to cross the Jordan into Canaan, only when the priests carrying the ark entered the overflowing Jordan did its flow stop so the people could cross - Joshua 3:15-17.

Such last-minute events happened in the New Testament too.

  • Peter was delivered from prison the night before Herod planned to bring him out (supposedly to execute) Acts 12:6-9.
  • Jesus told His disciples to expect the Holy Spirit to give them on-the-spot answers when they would be questioned about their faith in the near (Luke 12:11,12) and distant futures: 'Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist’” - Luke 21:14,15.
God's nick-of-time ways are not, I believe, that He figures out what to do so late in the game, but His “fullness of time” way of testing our faith even as we learn by experience how very faithful He is.

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to trust You, not my own devices, as I listen to You moment by moment. Amen.

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


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