Monday, July 31, 2017

A legacy of dysfunction

Mandrake roots
Mandrake roots (Source: Wikipedia)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 30:1-24

"Now when Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister, and said to Jacob, 'Give me children or else I die.'" Genesis 30:1

Jacob's harem was not a happy place. Rachel envied Leah's fruitfulness and blamed Jacob for her lack of conceiving. This provoked Jacob's anger. The rivalry between the sisters soon drew their maids into the competitive struggle and enlarged the circle of bigamy. In these women's eyes, even God chose sides, favoring one and then the other with sons. This all sunk to a new low when Rachel and Leah showed their superstitious side as they haggled over some supposedly aphrodisiac mandrake plants for a night with the man.

Some thoughts on this depressing installment of the story:

1. We see the wisdom of God's design of one man + one woman (Genesis 2:24) by the mess in homes where men had several wives (like this one and see also the story of Elkanah, Peninnah and Hannah - 1 Samuel 1:1-7).

2. Individual sinful tendencies and family strife are readily passed from one generation to the next. The tensions of Isaac & Rebekah's relationship are only magnified in Jacob's family.

Do we find such generational weaknesses in our homes too? Probably, to some extent at least. But do they have to carry on? How can we put a stop to such a  legacy of dysfunction? Here are some ideas. Can you think of more?
  • Ask God to show us where we are duplicating the sins of our fathers. We may be blind to these and need to grow sensitive again. One way is to read and apply what God's word says about attitudes to avoid (Exodus 20:1-17; Galatians 5:17-21) and those to cultivate (1 Corinthians 13:1-13, Galatians 5:22-26). Another way to gain insight is to ask close friends and family members what they see in our relationships and homes.
  • We need to beware that kids interpret  "normal" from what they see at home, and by God's grace set a different example than, perhaps, we saw in our own homes growing up. Emulate the good; reject the bad.
  • Remember that with God there are new beginnings.
" … put off … the old man … and be renewed in the spirit of your mind and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" - Ephesians 4:22-24.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" - 2 Corinthians 5:17

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me not to make excuses for sinful attitudes and tendencies which have been part of my family. With Your enabling, I'm never too old to change. 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, July 30, 2017

Offending wisdom

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 13:47-58

TO CHEW ON: "When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, 'Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?'" Matthew 13:54

The kingdom of heaven parables poured out of Jesus. In today's reading, we read the last of a series recorded in Matthew 13. In it, Jesus compared the kingdom to a mixed catch of fish (Matthew 13:47-50).

We take from it the message that the church's responsibility is to spread the gospel wherever it can, even to those who appear unlikely to accept it, for it attracts people of all kinds. And like the parable of the wheat and tares, here the 'fish'  who survive a sorting by the angels at the end of the age will be preserved while the wicked will be cast into a place that sounds a lot like hell - Matthew 13:50.

"Where did this Man get this wisdom?" the people in Jesus' home town inquired. Even though they may not have been referring to His kingdom of heaven speech specifically (He had in the meantime traveled to the place where he grew up - Nazareth), His teaching was invariably wise, thought-provoking, stimulating, and controversial.

Unfortunately even though townspeople called Jesus' teaching wise, they were offended by it (Matthew 13:57). It's the same reaction Jesus' teaching receives today (e.g. the ongoing controversy within Christianity about the existence and meaning of hell).

Two applications come to mind:

1. I wish I had a tiny iota of Jesus' wisdom, don't you? We are reminded of Peter and John and the reaction to their teaching: "Now when they (rulers, elders, scribes etc.) saw the boldness of Peter and John and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus" - Acts 4:13 (emphasis added). Is the secret to wisdom spending time with Jesus?

2. We need to be mindful of our own reaction to Jesus' teaching. Our generation has a tendency to select what it will believe and live by. A popular emphasis today is Jesus' message about caring for the poor, while we gloss over His message of judgment. Are we personally guilty of letting society's preferences dictate which of Jesus' words we take seriously and which we don't because they offend?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for the record of Your wisdom in the Bible. Help me to assimilate it into my life. I want my mind, life and speech to be changed by time spent with You. Amen.

MORE: What is wisdom?

Charles Spurgeon writes:
"Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom."
J. I. Packer writes:
"Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it. Wisdom is, in fact, the practical side of moral goodness. As such, it is found in its fulness only in God. He alone is naturally and entirely and invariable wise."
John Piper writes:
"Wisdom is the practical knowledge of how to attain that happiness. Therefore, wisdom is hearing and doing the Word of God."
For further reflection, see John Piper's 1981 sermon titled "Get Wisdom."

(From the website

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 29, 2017

What we can learn from an unloved wife

"Leah and Rachel" by Johann Friedrich Overbeck
"Leah and Rachel" by Johann Friedrich Overbeck
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 29:19-35

TO CHEW ON: "And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, 'Now I will praise the Lord.' Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she stopped bearing." Genesis 29:35

Trickery ran in the family it seems. Just as Rebekah had set up Jacob to trick Isaac about his identity, so Laban, Rebekah's older brother, set up Leah to trick Jacob about her identity on his wedding night. I'm sure the irony wasn't lost on the groom.

Leah, who was probably a willing participant, ended up being the third wheel in this marriage—at least affection-wise. But not otherwise. For in the area of having babies, which mattered a lot in that culture, she conceived and birthed son after beautiful son for Jacob.

Her reaction to each is interesting:
- "Now my husband will love me," she said after Reuben, son #1.

- "Because the Lord has heard that I am unloved, He has therefore given me this son also," she said after Simeon, son #2.

- "Now this time my husband will become attached to me," she said after Levi, #3.

- But after son #4, her focus shifted from her husband to God. "Now I will praise the Lord," she said and named the baby Judah which means 'praised.' Jacob later blessed Judah with the highest blessing of all his sons (Genesis 49:8-12). And indeed, King David and Jesus are descendants of Judah.

Some lessons from life we can take from Leah's story:

1. Our choices have consequences. They can last a lifetime.

2. We can praise God in spite of our circumstances—in our circumstances, as Leah did. After Judah's birth her focus was no longer on what, in the situation, she wanted to change, but on God.

3. God can bring good things out of bad. Unloved Leah was the mother of both Levi—the ancestor of Moses, Aaron and all Israel's priests, and Judah, the ancestor of David and Jesus. My Bible's study notes: "God's love for Leah is displayed in her becoming mother to the priestly and kingly tribes, Levi and Judah" - R. Russell Bixler, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 44.

One aspect of bringing good out of bad is conveyed by the word redemption. One of my favorite redemption passages underlines God's abilities here:

"So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten,
The crawling locust,
The consuming locust,
And the chewing locust,
My great army which I sent among you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And my people shall never be put to shame."
- Joel 2:25,26

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to consider my choices carefully, mindful of the consequences they hold.  Help me to praise You in the middle of right now, whatever my right now holds. Thank You that You can redeem  any situation. 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 28, 2017

Tender Shepherd

"The Meeting of Jacob and Rachel" by William Dyce (1806-1864)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 29:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept." Genesis 29:11

Today's reading paints a very human Jacob. A tent-dweller versus outdoorsman Esau, he was a mama's boy (Genesis 25:27-28). Now, due in no little part to his and his mother's cunning, he (at 40+ years - Genesis 24:34) was forced to leave home due to twin brother Esau's threats to kill him after Dad dies.

Traveling east, he arrived at a well where shepherds were gathered with their flocks. He inquired if they know his mother's brother Laban, and they did! Then, even as they were talking, who should come along but Laban's beautiful daughter Rachel with her father's flock.

Jacob promptly removed the stone from the well (he may have been the indoors type but was obviously no wimp), watered Rachel's flock, told her who he was, and kissed her in a patriarchal greeting, so overjoyed at finding his family he broke down in tears.

We know, from reading the whole story, how his trials were just beginning. But God had big plans for him. To put them in motion, Jacob needed to leave home and live under the discipline of Laban. Laban would give him a taste of his own treacherous nature and Jacob would, as a result, develop into a man of character. Unlike Esau who, intent on instant gratification, sold his birthright to quell hunger pains, Jacob would end up working 14 years for the girl he loves.

The happy 'coincidences' in today's reading did no doubt reassure Jacob, as he thought back on them years later, when he again felt Godforsaken. They would remind him that God had led him, caring for him tenderly and personally—the shepherd of a human sheep, if you will—all that time.

God is the same with us. For if we examine our histories we will see how God's hand has been with us too, moving the pieces on the game boards of our lives in the big things, like meeting our spouse, to the little, like reminding us that we need to drop by the store. As Jesus put it:

" ' My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.' " John 10:27,28.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for watching over me as closely as you watched over Jacob. Help me to remember this and be reassured when I feel alone and afraid. 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 27, 2017


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 119:129-144

TO CHEW ON: "Direct my steps by Your word;
And let no iniquity have dominion over me." Psalm 119:133

This deceptively easy request, if granted, could make life a lot simpler.
- Our struggle with resentment would be over, for we would forgive.
- Jealousy would be a thing of the past, for we would not covet.
- Rudeness, selfishness and generally living with a chip on our shoulders would be replaced with love.
- Etc.

So how many of us actually pray this and mean it?

Perhaps it's simplistic to interpret and spell out the results of this prayer so literally. It certainly is a lot easier said than done. But it does seem like the last part of our focus verse gives us a clue as to why obeying God's word is not only a good suggestion but vital to spiritual health. Because when we don't, "iniquity" will not only be present in our lives, but may rule us (Romans 6:12).

["Iniquity" is the old-fashioned word that means the bad stuff. The Message renders it malign: evil in effect, pernicious, baleful, injurious. It is bad attitudes, harmful tendencies, plain old sin.]

I'm going to challenge myself today to actually pray and mean this prayer. When negative attitudes creep in, when fear pops up, when my thoughts toward others are critical, negative, suspicious — anything but loving —I will ask: Does the Bible have a command, give advice, or tell a story about this that, if obeyed, would defeat this iniquity in me. And then I purpose to act on what I'm shown.

Will you join me?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the Bible — so clear and practical. Please show me where sin has the upper hand in my life because I haven't let Your word direct my steps. Amen.

MORE: Obey — what exactly?
In order for this prayer to make sense, the pray-er needs to have some familiarity with what God has said in the Bible — His outright commands and the stories of how He dealt with people. Eugene Peterson, in the chapter on obedience from the book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction speaks of the need for getting familiar with that history:

"The psalmist [Peterson is analyzing Psalm 132 in this chapter] is not an antiquarian reveling in the past for its own sake but a traveler using what he knows of the past to get to where he is going — to God.

For all its interest in history the Bible never refers to the past as 'the good old times.' The past is not, for the person of faith, a restored historical site that we tour when we are on vacation; it is a field that we plow and harrow and plant and fertilize and work for a harvest." p. 168.

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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Wednesday, July 26, 2017


Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 119:113-128

“I hate the double-minded
But I love Your law.” Psalm 119:113

Double-mindedness is mentioned in various places in the Bible.

We see it lived out in Old Testament times in Samaria which was resettled with foreigners when Israel came under Assyrian domination. These settlers from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and Sepharvaim brought their religious practices and idols. When wild lions killed some of them, the solution was to re-introduce the “rituals of the God of the land.” This meant that priests of God joined idol-worshiping priests in sacrificing. The society became double-minded, serving God and idols - 2 Kings 17:32,33,41.

Jesus talks pointedly about double-mindedness:
‘No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon’” - Luke16:13. [Mammon means  wealth, treasure, riches.]

Paul mentions double-mindedness in relation to celebrating the Lord’s Supper and making sacrifices to idols. He ssays, in effect, choose one or the other. Doing both provokes God’s jealousy - 1 Corinthians 10:18-22.

James speaks of double-mindedness too. A double-minded man, he says, is unstable - James 1:8. Further, double-mindedness makes our hearts and hands impure and is a barrier to intimacy with God - James 4:8.

Are we in danger of being double-minded? We’re probably not tempted to worship physical idols like the Isrealites and early Christians coming from paganism were. But Jesus’ warning that we cannot serve God and money certainly hits a chord. And in our culture, where we’re encouraged to depend on and serve anything and everything but God (money, of course, and our own wits, science, social connections, society’s moral standards in the areas of marriage and sexuality, etc.) , double-mindedness is a real danger.

The psalmist sets double-mindedness against loving God’s law. Perhaps that’s the answer for us too. As we soak ourselves in Scripture, we begin to see where we are serving two masters and where we need to choose faith and loyalty to Jesus above all other options.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to recognize and eliminate the double-mindedness within me. I want You as my only master. 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, July 25, 2017

Jesus - model servant

Foot-washing - at my daughter's wedding
 (they both washed each other's feet).

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 20:17-34

TO CHEW ON: " 'And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.' " Matthew 20:27-28

Jesus didn't just point the disciples to the way they should live, He modelled it. He lived and breathed service during His time of ministry on earth. Skim through any of the synoptic gospels and you may come away exhausted yourself by his gruelling schedule of traveling, teaching, healing and then, when he tried to get away to rest, teaching and healing some more when the crowds followed Him to even remote places.

He also spelled out the importance of service. Our passage today is one such place (as is Mark 10:35-45). His washing of the disciples' feet (John 13:3-5; 14,15) was another dramatic object lesson of service where He again said plainly how this was something His followers should emulate: " 'Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.' "

Paul in Philippians describes the extremity of His service. The New Living Translation says it so clearly:

Though he was God,
      he did not think of equality with God
      as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
      he took the humble position of a slave
      and was born as a human being.
   When he appeared in human form..." Philippians 2:6-7 - NLT

The NKJV says He came "taking the form of a bondservant..." A bondservant was a Hebrew slave who had served out his six years of required service but instead of going free, insisted on continuing to serve the household he loved. His master would then pierce his ear as a sign of his state and accept his service for life (see Exodus 21:1-6).

A sidebar article in my Bible talks about the faithful servant:

"The character of a faithful servant reveals devotion to the interests of others; the thoughtfulness of rendering untiring care, the delight in the prosperity, honour and happiness of someone besides himself" -Fuchsia T. Pickett  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1328.

We can personalize such servanthood by asking — in my role as wife, mother, teacher, clerk, bank teller, waitress, CEO or... what does it look like to:
  • Devote myself to the interests of others?
  • Render untiring care?
  • Delight in the prosperity, honour and happiness of others?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your clear teaching about the importance of having a servant's heart and Your modelling of service. Help me to make a permanent paradigm shift and pursue this quality above the ways to be great that my culture recognizes. Amen.

MORE: Feast of St. James the Apostle

It's a pity that James the Apostle is remembered most for this rather crass request (made by his mother, for sure, but it's clear that he and his brother John were in on it, for she "came to Him with her sons..."). I wonder how Jesus' teaching on this occasion, impacted him.

Here is a little more about this close friend of Jesus's:

Not much is known of his ministry after Jesus' resurrection.  It is believed, however, that he lived another 14 years before his martyrdom.  In fact, the apostle James was the first apostle to suffer martyrdom.  By order of Herod Agrippa I, James was beheaded in Jerusalem about the feast of Easter, 44 AD.

It is believed that within this 14 year period, James visited the Jewish colonist and slaves in Spain to preach the Gospel.
from "The Apostle James, son of Zebedee"
from this Bible Path article.

There is a church in Spain where the Apostle James' is believed to be buried.

Today is the day the church celebrates James the Apostle. The liturgy for the day begins with this collect:

"O gracious God, we remember before you today your servant and apostle James, first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the Name of Jesus Christ; and we pray that you will pour out upon the leaders of your Church that spirit of self-denying service by which alone they may have true authority among your people; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. 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 NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Wisdom for what you don't know

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Kings 3:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "'Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.'" 1 Kings 3:7

One of my favourite TV reality shows is Undercover Boss. In it the CEO or president of a company goes undercover to observe the works of their organization firsthand. Disguised and given another identity for a week or so, they travel around visiting the company's various branches to experience its workings as an entry-level employee.

I have seen these bosses muck out stables, work on assembly lines, make courier deliveries, clean hotel rooms, look after kids and lead a fitness class. In this way they interact with employee-mentors and discover weak spots in their company and its workings so they can make it better. Their undercover quest is to discover what they could never know by only working in their head office suite.

Solomon, as a brand-new leader, didn't need to go undercover to know what he didn't know. The question God posed to him in his dream: "Ask! What shall I give you?" had him laying bare his greatest insecurity. It was with himself: "I don't know how to do this job!" (my paraphrase).

I think we are attracted to the humility in these undercover bosses and Solomon because we so often feel the same way. We don't understand the situation and when we do, we're not sure how to respond or do the job.

God promises to hear our cry for help and give us wisdom just as He did for Solomon:

"For the Lord gives wisdom. From His mouth come knowledge and understanding" - Proverbs 2:6.


"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.

Let's claim this promise for whatever we need wisdom today!

PRAYER: Dear God, so often I feel like Solomon: I don't know how to parent my kids, love my neighbour, make the best use of my life and opportunities (fill in your personal challenge _____). I need Your wisdom today. Amen.

MORE: Advice from a former CEO

"Early in my career, I was the marketing director for a book publishing company. Because of my workload and the on-going pressure to produce results, I felt overwhelmed. I was certain that it was only a matter of time before my boss discovered that I was in over my head.

This produced uncertainty. I was afraid to act. Instead, I worried and spent an inordinate amount of time thinking through worst-case scenarios—something I am pretty good at. Frustrated, I went to a wise, older colleague and poured out my soul. He listened patiently, then said something I will never forget:..."
Read the rest of "What to do when you don't know what to do" by Michael Hyatt.

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Divine prayer-Helper

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 8:18-39

TO CHEW ON: "Likewise the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered." Romans 8:26

The verse I chose as our focus today is both mysterious and comforting. Mysterious in that it raises several questions:
  • Is the Spirit praying here, or are we?
  • What activity, on our part, does this deep intercessory prayer involve?
  • Does this "groaning which cannot be uttered" mean that this is silent prayer or...?
My Bible's footnotes about this passage shed some light. About Romans 8:26 it says:
"The Greek word translated helps is used in Luke 10:40 where Martha wants Mary to come and help her. The word does not indicate that the Holy Spirit prays instead of us, but that the Holy Spirit takes part with us and makes our weak prayers effective.

[...] If vs. 26 refers to "groaning" of the Holy Spirit which we cannot hear, then the verse simply gives encouragement that the Holy Spirit prays for us and adds effective prayer when we do not pray effectively. But if, as seems more likely, the verse refers to our "groaning" in prayer, then it means that those sighs, groans, loud 'cries and tears' - Hebrews 5:7- and other expressions of our hearts and spirits in prayer are taken by the Holy Spirit and made into effectual intercession before the throne of God" - Wayne Grudem, commentary on Romans in the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1562.

And that's where the comfort lies. For when we are so overcome with grief or confusion, or outrage, or empathy or any number of emotions that all we can do is blubber, the Holy Spirit translates our inarticulate communication into effective intercession.

So let's bring our deep emotional issues to God, even if we don't know what to pray for or how to frame our prayer in words, confident that we have a divine prayer helper.

PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, thank You for this promise of your aid in our prayers. Help me to take You up on Your promise to intercede effectively and accurately when I don't know what to pray for. Amen.

MORE: More on the Spirit and prayer

"Unquestionably, all of us need massive help with praying aright. So set is our flesh against praying at all that the Helper's first task is to create in us even the basic desire to pray. He is the One who also spotlights for us the prayer-need or topic for prayer by creating a 'concern' within us" - Catherine Marshall (quoted in Prayer Powerpoints p. 100).

"Acknowledge you can't really pray without the direction and energy of the Holy Spirit. Ask God to utterly control you by His Spirit, receive by faith that He does, and thank Him" - Joy Dawson (quoted in Prayer Powerpoints p. 98).

"We wish to pray in the spirit and at the same time walk after the flesh, and this is impossible" - Andrew Murray (quoted in Prayer Powerpoints p. 98).
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 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.

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.

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?

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.

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

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!)

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.

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

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

“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.

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

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.

 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.

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


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." (

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.

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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