Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Be still; know God

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 46:1-11
 

TO CHEW ON:"God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble...
Be still and know that I am God..."Psalm 46:1,10a



Someone from the Sons of Korah wrote Psalm 46 to encourage and give hope to people who were in trouble. By the things the psalmist mentions it seems the trouble was war with another nation. The writer begins with a declaration about who God is:

"God is our refuge  — shelter, protection, fortress, hope, place of trust — and our strength  — power, security — in trouble" 

He reminds the people about the security of the city (Psalm 46:4-5). It has an underground stream that provides water even if the city's main water supply is cut off by siege. (Though there is no actual river flowing through Jerusalem, "...it is believed by many that there is a subterranean water supply that is the source of various fountains and pools in Jerusalem" New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 723.) God's presence in her makes her unshakeable in case of battering. He will help her at sunrise, which is a likely time for the enemy to attack.

He says more about the identity of God (Psalm 46:7-9). He calls Him Yahweh Sabaoth — the Lord of Hosts. Remember the story of Elisha in a city besieged by  Syria's army? In the morning, Elisha's servant saw the army and was afraid. But Elisha drew his attention to another army — an army of heavenly hosts: "Do not fear for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" - 2 Kings 6:8-17.

He also calls God the "God of Jacob." This reminds them of their history with God when, in the past, He preserved their forefather Jacob and his descendants. 

In the light of all this, God Himself steps to the mic, telling the readers/listeners: "Be still and know that I am God."

The comment writer of my Bible suggests this is "God addressing the wicked warring nations." That may be so. But I think God is also addressing the worried, wailing people. He tells them to still the fearful voices around them and in their own heads, perhaps even to shush their own ideas and suggestions to God about how He could help them.

We may not be living in a city surrounded by an enemy army but our lives can feel just as attacked. Circumstances, demands of home, family and church, sickness, sandwich pressures (simultaneously looking after kids and parents), the clamour around us (internet, TV, radio, the constant demands of social networking via the phone, Facebook, Twitter) can make a mighty din, causing us stress, anxiety and fear.

At such times, let's use the encouragements of Psalm 46. We can:
  • Know our God — a shelter, strength, the Lord of Hosts.
  • Remember our history with God. ("He is the God of ___" [insert your name here]).
  • Drink from the river that flows within — get strength from the Bible and the Holy Spirit's application of what we read.
  • Be still — turn off the noise in our environment, refuse to listen to the chatter in our heads, even silence our own suggestions to God while we wait for His solutions (Exodus 14:13-14).

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to take advantage of what is available in You when I'm feeling stressed, anxious, surrounded by demands, or trouble. Help me to be still and wait for You to work.  Amen.

MORE: All Saints Vigil or Halloween

Tonight is Halloween (hallowed or holy evening). It was first kept as a religious feast known as All Saints Vigil on the night before November 1st, All Saints Day, which is the celebration of dead saints and martyrs.

The Catholic site International Crusade for Holy Relics USA  describes its early celebration and the beginnings of what we know as Halloween today:

"In the first ages, during the night before every feast, a vigil was kept. In the evening the faithful assembled in the place or church where the feast was to be celebrated and prepared themselves by prayers, readings from Holy Writ (now the Offices of Vespers and Matins), and sometimes also by hearing a sermon. On such occasions, as on fast days in general, Mass also was celebrated in the evening, before the Vespers of the following day.

Towards morning the people dispersed to the streets and houses near the church, to wait for the solemn services of the forenoon. This vigil was a regular institution of Christian life and was defended and highly recommended by St. Augustine and St. Jerome (see Pleithner, "Aeltere Geschichte des Breviergebetes", pp. 223 sq.). The morning intermission gave rise to grave abuses; the people caroused and danced in the streets and halls around the church (Durandus, "Rat. Div. off.", VI, 7). St. Jerome speaks of these improprieties (Epist. ad Ripuarium)." Read all of "All Saints Vigil."
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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, October 30, 2017

Somday we'll meet Jesus

"Christ the Redeemer" statue - Rio De Janeiro
"Christ the Redeemer" statue - Rio De Janeiro - Photo: Pixabay.com

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 2:9-3:5

TO CHEW ON: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?"  1 Thessalonians 2:19


First Thessalonians contains several references to Christ's return. In chapter 2 Paul mentions it in verse 19 when he describes how he anticipates presenting the Christians in Thessalonica to Christ and how that will work out: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?" - 1 Thessalonians 2:19.  He looks forward to meeting Jesus with joy. His victory crown will be the believers he brings with him.

The Bible speaks in other places of meeting Jesus and being in His presence.

  • There will be joy in His presence - Psalm 16:11.
  • We will enter His presence on the "today" of our death - Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 5:8 - or on the day He returns, whichever comes first - 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17.
  • Jesus' servants on earth will someday join Him in heaven where even the Father will honor them - John 12:26.
  • Appearing before Jesus will be just the beginning of living with Him - John 14:3.
  • When we appear before and live with Him, we will experience Jesus' and God's glory in all its eternity - John 17:25.

What motivation to serve God and in that serving win the crown of others standing with us at Christ's appearing on earth or our appearing before Him in heaven.

What a reason to live each day well, for none of us knows the day He will return or the day we will die.

What a hope for the future as we soldier on in the world of sometimes difficult relationships, unpredictable circumstances, and wearing out bodies.

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, thank You for Your promise to return and accept me into heaven to live with You. May this hope motivate my living. Amen.

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


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Enduring legacy

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 90:1-17


TO CHEW ON: "And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands." Psalm 90:17

Does it seem to you that the seasons are changing faster than they ever did? That Christmas, another birthday, your  anniversary is always just around the corner and that they keep coming at you faster than they ever did when you were a child?I don't know what it is about getting older that makes time seem to fly. Perhaps it's the realization that it's running out. The top of the timer is only half full, one third full, one quarter full...

The theme of Psalm 90 is the brevity of life and the stewardship of time. What vivid pictures the writer, Moses, paints to show how short life is:

To God a thousand years are like yesterday (before you realize it, only a memory), and a watch in the night (a few hours on duty) - Psalm 90:4.

To us life is like a flash flood, a sleep when time passes without our awareness, grass that grows in the morning but by evening is cut down, as slight as a sigh - Psalm 90:5-6,9.

Other Bible passages add paintings to the "Life is Brief" gallery:
  • "Our days on earth as as a shadow" - 1 Chronicles 29:15.
  • "My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle" - Job 7:6.
  • "My life span is gone, taken from me like a shepherd's tent; I have cut off my life like a weaver. He cuts me off from the loom" - Isaiah 38:12.
  • "You have made my days as handbreadths" - Psalm 39:5.
  • "He comes forth like a flower and fades away" - Job 14:2.
  • "For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" - James 4:14.

In the setting of such fragility and brevity, Moses' request seems almost brash: "...establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands."

[Establish = kun means to be firmly established, stable, secure, enduring, directed aright, fixed aright, steadfast.]

Isn't this what we all want—to do something significant, to leave something that endures past the span of our short lives?

Just over a month ago we celebrated the sixteenth anniversary of 9-11. I would suppose that the men who designed those twin towers thought they had left a multi-generational legacy in the massive structures. Yet they came down in mere hours. What everyone celebrated on the anniversary was not the memory of those buildings but the acts of heroism, self-sacrifice, and love performed by many who died that day and how they made a lasting difference to lives.

Our love for people, as it works itself out in a hundred different ways, is also the best legacy we can leave. It is an investment in never-dying souls. Let's concern ourselves with leaving such a legacy especially as it involves introducing those souls to Jesus, the giver of eternal life.


PRAYER: Dear God, Moses' prayer is my prayer today: 'Let the beauty of the Lord my God be upon me. And establish the work of my hands for me. Yes, establish the work of my hands. Amen.


MORE: a poem...




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


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Love—antibiotic for a toxic church

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jude 1:1-25

TO CHEW ON: "Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." Jude 1:21


The first part of Jude's letter is a warning about "certain men" who have "crept in" to the church. Jude exposes their behaviors and teachings which include immoral and sensual lifestyles, a denial of Jesus, slandering authority, made-up teachings, greed which shows itself in an over-concern about profit, grumbling, complaining, flattering people in order to take advantage of them, mocking, dividing the congregation and all this obviously without the Holy Spirit. If there ever was a toxic church, this sounds like one!

In the face of this mess, Jude gives two instructions:
- Build yourselves up in your faith.
and
- Keep yourselves in the love of God.

I've written about building ourselves up in the faith in other devos about this passage, so today let's drill down a bit into what it means to keep oneself in the love of God. Though we can't know for certain what this meant to the people in the church to which Jude was writing, we'll make some assumptions. And because we're still part of imperfect churches and living in a hostile world, this focus on love remains as relevant for us today as it ever was.

I can see keeping oneself in the love of God as having three parts.

First, we remind ourselves of the quality and extent of God's love for us. This helps to counteract the twisted doctrine that interlopers are so eager to dispense.
"The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying:
“Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you" - Jeremiah 31:3.
"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" - John 3:16.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" - Romans 5:8.

Second, we put muscle into loving God back. This sets us on the path of the morally straight and narrow, to live a lifestyle that  pleases God, who loved us so much.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength" - Deuteronomy 6:5.

"Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints!
For the Lord preserves the faithful,
And fully repays the proud person" - Psalm 31:23.

"Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ" - 2 Thessalonians 3:5.

Third, we express the love God has showered on us and which we reciprocate to Him, to others in the church and in the world around us. This sets a guard in our lives against ways we would sin against others.
" Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

"And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma" - Ephesians 5:2.

"But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection" - Colossians 3:14.

Love—it's a simple yet powerful antibiotic against moral bacteria of every strain.


PRAYER: Dear God, when I'm troubled by the evil in the church and life in this world, help me remember this simple instruction about keeping myself in love. Amen. 

MORE: Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude

Today the church celebrates the Feast of St. Simon and St. Jude. (Simon and Jude, the writer of our reading today, were brothers of Jesus - Mark 6:3). The day's liturgy begins with this prayer:

"O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."

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


Friday, October 27, 2017

God's apprenticeship program for leaders

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Deuteronomy 34:1-12

TO CHEW ON: "Now Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom for Moses had laid his hands on him; so the children of Israel heeded him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses." Deuteronomy 34:9


I wonder how Joshua first came to Moses' attention, and why. Perhaps it was his innate leadership ability, for he was first mentioned as a leader of the Hebrew fighters when they battled Amalek (Exodus 17:9). (That's the battle that the Israelites won as Moses kept his hands raised with the help of Aaron and Hur.)

He then became Moses' servant—someone who did a lot of lingering in the background. It was Joshua who accompanied Moses partway up Mount Sinai waiting around while Moses got the commandments (Exodus 24:12-13). His staying behind at the tent of meeting after Moses met with God there is fascinating (Exodus 33:11). One gets the sense that he so enjoyed being in God's presence he didn't want to leave.

When Moses sent spies into Canaan, Joshua was one of two (Caleb was the other) who came back with an encouraging report—whose view of God was bigger than fear of the giant Philistines (Numbers 14:6-30). That incident was about 40 years before the events in today's reading.

Moses had recently laid his hand on Joshua in ordination. He was God's choice: "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him...and inaugurate him..." (Numbers 27:18-21). Moses then challenged the Israelites to respect and follow him (Deuteronomy 31:1-8). And so here he was, their leader after Moses 'disappeared.'

Joshua is an example of how God sometimes puts future leaders into an apprenticeship program where they serve more than lead.  Elisha serving Elijah is another instance of this.

It doesn't always work out that way with servants, though. Remember Gehazi, Elisha's servant? Elisha may have been trying to mentor him. After all, he sent Gehazi back with the Shunamite woman to raise her son from death. Gehazi couldn't do it (2 Kings 4:29-31). And later, he proved himself unworthy as even a servant when he went after Naaman for the gift he had offered Elisha, lying to both Naaman and his boss (2 Kings 5:20-27).

Perhaps you sense that you're really leader material but feel stuck in the background serving. Don't grow impatient. Rather let this time of service sift and strengthen you. For if leadership is God's plan for your future, you are in the perfect apprenticeship program.


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the example of wise, godly Joshua who served before he led. Help me to be a willing and faithful servant, waiting for You to raise me to more responsibility—or not. Amen.

MORE: A verse to memorize

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." James 4:10

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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

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Paul's mother-care

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8

TO CHEW ON: "But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but our own lives, because you had become dear to us." 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8


What untypical words to read from Paul, who is usually so instructional and corrective. They remind me of a little saying:

"People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care" - John C. Maxwell.

This might be a good time to refresh our memory about who these people were that Paul was writing to (the Thessalonians) and how the church at Thessalonica came into existence.

It was only the second church started on the European continent. The first was in Philippi, about 90 miles northeast. You will recall how Paul and Silas traveled from Troas to Macedonia (on the continent of Europe) in response to a vision (Acts 16:9). The mission at Philippi took a bad turn when Paul and Silas were thrown into prison. But an earthquake sprung them from their cell. They then led the jailor to Jesus and soon left town. (Their Philippian adventures are recorded in Acts 16:11-40.)

Their next stop was Thessalonica. Their stay there was just as troubled. Paul spent mere weeks with them, teaching for three Sabbaths in the synagogue where he "...reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead saying, 'This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ'" - Acts 17:1-3).

His message kindled a big response: "...a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women joined Paul and Silas" - Acts 17:4. But the gospel was too controversial for the Jews, who also envied the missionaries their success, hassled Jason their host, provoked a riot, and essentially ran Paul and Silas out of town (Acts 17:5-10).

It is to these believers Paul had known only a matter of weeks that he wrote this letter. It demonstrates the bond of love that Christians everywhere can feel for each other even though they have barely met. For Paul the relationship was especially poignant, as the people he had left behind were brand new believers. And so he used the language of motherhood, assuring these spiritual babies of his mother care for them: "...we were gentle among you just as a nursing mother cherishes (literally 'keeps warm') her own children.... pleased to impart to you not only the gospel...but our own lives."

I ask myself, do I have that spirit of sacrificial mother-love, especially toward those who are new and immature in the faith? Physical babies take a lot of time. Toddlers can tax one's patience. It's not so different with spiritual babies. I want Paul's words to be a model of Christian nurture to me as I interact with believers in all stages of maturity. You too?

PRAYER: Dear God, please grow in me love and gentle care for other believers, especially those who are new in their faith. Amen.


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


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Exploring Jesus' authority

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 7:15-29

TO CHEW ON:
“And so it was when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.”  Matthew 7:29

Oh, I wish I could have sat in on one of Jesus’ hillside lectures! Mathew puts his finger on at least one aspect of Jesus' appeal—the authority with which He taught. Our passage contrasts it to the scribes.

What was the scribe’s teaching like. The IVP New Testament Commentary says:
“Other Jewish teachers regularly cited earlier sages' opinions, and though later teachers sometimes came to regard their tradition as tantamount to God's Word, Jesus' contemporaries never would have claimed, like Jesus, that people would be judged according to how they treated their words.

With greater authority than the scribes who expound the law, greater authority than Moses who gave it (5:1), the authority indeed of the One who will judge humanity on the final day (7:21-23), Jesus declares God's word, and the people recognize that he speaks with authority unlike their other teachers” - IVP New Testament Commentary accessed through Biblegateway.com.

The word authority here is exousia. It means:
1. The power of choice - liberty of doing as one pleases.
2. Physical and mental power - the ability or strength with which one is endued.
3. The power of authority (influence) and of right (privilege).
4. The power of rule or government (the power of him whose will and commands must be submitted to by others and obeyed.


The lexicon I used to look up exousia lists other places in the Bible this word is used. I checked out the ones from the gospels and have tried to pair the times Jesus claimed or showed this authority with the various definitions:

1. Power of choice:
'Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.'" John 10:17,18
2. Physical or mental power, ability or strength:
"Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves, saying, 'What a word this is! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits, and they come out'" - Luke 4:36
3. Power of authority (influence) and right (privilege): 
"But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name'" John 1:12 
"'For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man'" John 5:26,27.

4. Power of rule or government:

"Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”
Jesus answered, 'You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin'” John 19:10,11

 Furthermore, Jesus gave His followers His authority:
- Over demons, disease and Satan’s power: 
"Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases" Luke 9:1.

"'Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you'" Luke 10:19.
- At Jesus' ascension, on the strength of His authority He commissioned His followers—us—to use that authority:
 "And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen"  - Matthew 28:18-20.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to experience Your authority coursing through me by the presence of the Holy Spirit to fulfill Your great commission. Amen.

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


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Persistent children


Praying child
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 7:1-14

TO CHEW ON: " ' Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened.' " Matthew 7:7,8


If you've ever lived with a child determined to get his or her way, you'll have experienced a bit of what these verses talk about from God's point of view.  "Mom, please. Why not? You said…Please? When?"

My Bible's commentary says about the grammatical construction: "The Greek imperatives ask, seek and knock (vs. 7) are in the present tense suggesting continued petition" - J. Lyle Story, commentary on Matthew, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1302.

However, prayers that take a long time to be answered are much more than our attempts to convince God that it's answer time. Persevering prayer:
  • proves to God and us our deep desires.
  • reminds us of our ignorance of God's timing.
  • focuses us on what is really important enough to stay on our prayer list year after year.
  • may have us searching our lives for hindrances to God answering our prayers,
  • while at the same time living alert to ways God is working and the part He may want us to play in bringing about the answers.

Daniel Henderson, in his book Transforming Prayer says about prayer generally:
"He has ordained prayer as a means by which we depend on and trust in Him. He answers our prayers to give us what He knows we need to bring Him glory. … We often pray to escape our difficulties rather than embrace discipleship" Daniel Henderson, Transforming Prayer, p. 79.

About the parallel passage to this one (Luke 11:9-13) Henderson says:
"Jesus clarifies His focus on the good things we should expect with these words: 'How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!' (Luke 11:13). The life spring of all the good things the Father wants to give us is the presence and power of the Holy Spirit" - Ibid, p. 81.

So we can and should keep up our persevering ways in prayer, knowing that the answer—whatever it is, whenever it comes—will be good.


PRAYER: Dear God, please keep the burden heavy on me over the things You want me to continue to pray for. Amen.

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




Monday, October 23, 2017

Building Blocks of Belief

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 22:34-46

TO CHEW ON:
‘The LORD said to my Lord,
Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’
” - Matthew 22:44



After the Jewish leaders had come to the end of their questions, Jesus had one for them: ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?’

Of course they gave Him the right answer: “‘The Son of David.’”

Jesus volleyed back with, What about the words of King David Himself, spoken by the Spirit: “‘The LORD said to my Lord / Sit at My right hand, ‘ Till I make Your enemies Your footstool’” - a quote from Psalm 110 written by David and believed by the Jews to be full of Messianic references.

Jesus’ questioners were silenced. They left Him realizing that the logical implication of His observation was that Messiah, the Christ, was not only the physical descendant of David. My Bible’s study notes explain:

“A father does not call his son Lord but rather the reverse, a son calls his father, 'Lord.' Therefore, if the LORD (God) said to my Lord (Messiah) how can the Messiah be the Son of David? Thus the title ‘Son of David’ is inadequate. To be sure Jesus Christ is the “Son of David” (Matthew 1:1) but no less is He the ’Son of God.’” - J. Lyle Story, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1332.

Despite all the arguments in which Jesus bested these clever men, did He convince them? Not many. Which brings us to the question, what would it have taken to win them over to belief in Him if apologetics (what many of us consider evangelization's trump card) didn’t?

Similarly in our time we tend to think that having convincing apologetic points at our fingertips and winning arguments with them should convince unbelievers to believe in Jesus. But they rarely do.

John Dickson, author of Jesus: Who He is and Why He Matters, explores the foundations of belief in the book’s opening chapters (posted online as the article “Jesus: God’s Tangible Sign"). He quotes the findings of the ancient philosopher Aristotle, who identifies three building blocks of belief:
“… people form their beliefs on the combination of three factors: What is called logos, pathos and ethos.”

Logos is the intellectual dimension that would be influenced by convincing arguments.

Pathos is the personal or emotional aspect. “… an argument with pathos is one with a beauty and poignancy that resonates with our deepest selves.”

Ethos
is the social aspect of persuasion: “What we believe is hugely influenced by our upbringing, our education and the circle of friends we find ourselves in.”

If even Jesus could not sway these religious teachers by his astute apologetics, perhaps we should not be as fixated on coming up with the airtight right answer, the undeniable proof. For belief is multifaceted.  When some religious leaders believed in Jesus, they changed sides not after hearing Him win an argument but after seeing Him raise Lazarus from the dead (John 11:45). And Pharisees like Nicodemus and Joseph kept their belief in Jesus secret because of “ethos”—their fear of their peers - John 19:38.

A segment from Mr. Dickson sums up well how Aristotle’s building blocks of belief function today:

“When Christians talk about how they 'became Christians,' they will often mention an intellectual component, a personal component and a social component. They will talk about some book they read or sermon they heard that laid out the facts about God and Christ. Their intellect was nourished and impressed. 
But they will also happily tell you, for example, how one day while pondering the significance of Jesus they felt a deep resonance with the Christian gospel. The message somehow became attractive and personally satisfying. It answered deep longings and clarified certain confusions. 
And very often such people will admit to having been drawn into a community of Christians, at school, church or wherever, whose lives had an authenticity and goodness that was hard to argue with” - John Dickson. This segment of Mr. Dickson’s book is published online at rzim.org. Read  entire article “JESUS: God’s Tangible Sign”.

Let’s keep these things in mind as we interact with an unbelieving world.

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, help me to be  always conscious of how You draw people to Yourself using many means. Help me to live and speak in a way that will draw people to, not repel them from You. Amen.

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


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Piling on

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 22:15-33

TO CHEW ON:
“Then the pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher…’
“That same day the Sadducees came to Him and ask Him saying, “Teacher…’  Matthew 22:15,16,23.



Jesus was a huge challenge to the Jewish religious leaders. In our reading we see two groups of them trying to trap Him into saying something they could use against Him. Farther along in the same chapter, a lawyer posed another question - Matthew 22:35-36. Their persistence reminds me of “piling on” the quarterback in football (not that Jesus was ever down, though).

In fact, Jesus seemed to relish these interchanges. In an earlier one, He provoked the back-and-forth by the way He answered a lawyer. That man, after he interpreted Jesus’ words as condemning of him and his buddies said, in effect, ‘Surely you’re not speaking of us lawyers here’ (Luke 11:45). Jesus answered with an inflammatory speech of woes (Luke 11:46-52) that stirred up the scribes and Pharisees to fever pitch (Luke 11:53,54).

Our incident in Matthew 22 came near the end of Jesus’ life. And though He consistently bested His questioners in argument, so they were eventually silenced (Matthew 22:46), we know that He was still arrested, tried, convicted (on false testimony) and put to death.

Some observations we can make about Jesus’ handling of verbal testing:
  • He didn’t avoid it even though it got Him into trouble - Luke 11:37-54.
  • He was nimble in His responses. He seemed to have no formula.
- Sometimes He answered with Scripture - Mark 10:2-9.
- Sometimes He told stories - Luke 10:25-37.
- Sometimes He used objects - Mark 12:15-17.
  • He knew when to speak and when to be silent. Several times He simply kept His mouth shut - Luke 20:1-8; John 8:6.

Jesus’ wisdom in dealing with His questioners, no matter how they piled on, never ceases to amaze me. The beautiful thing is, we can have it too, through the Holy Spirit. Jesus has promised it:
'Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say’” - Luke 12:11,12 (emphasis added).

May we have the faith to hear and speak!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to live so in tune with and empowered by Your Spirit that Your wisdom of words and deeds will be evident in my life. Amen.

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


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Would you say "Imitate me"?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Let’s keep the mentor chain growing!

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

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


Friday, October 20, 2017

All knees will bow

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 45:14-25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

God casts the deciding vote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures quoted in this meditation are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Back to God's perfect default

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 35:1-10

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Must-haves

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Timothy 4:9-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Monday, October 16, 2017

Intimate

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 33:12-23

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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Wedding clothes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Saturday, October 14, 2017

The death of death

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 25:1-9

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

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

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

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

OR IS IT SO INEVITABLE?

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

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

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

The results of the resurrection are many:*

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

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

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


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

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Phinehas: a leader to follow

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

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 106:24-48


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MORE: More about Phinehas
  • After the above event, Phinehas led the people into battle against the Midianites with unusual weapons: "...the holy articles and the signal trumpets in his hand" - Numbers 31:6. How telling: spiritual weapons for a spiritual battle.
  • Later, his leadership in breaching a potential rift between Reuben, Gad, Manassah and the rest of the Israelites averted a potential civil war. Read that story in Joshua 22:1-34.
  • It was he who inquired and heard from the Lord as to whether to continue the war against the treacherous tribe of Benjamin. Read that story in Judges 20:1-48.
  • He was a direct descendant of Levi, the son of Israel - 1 Chronicles 6:1-4.
  • He was from a family of singers and worshipers whose descendants were still serving in that way at the time of David - 1 Chronicles 6:1-4, 31-33.
  • He was also in charge of the gatekeepers of the tabernacle. In that capacity the Bible says of him "...the Lord was with him" - 1 Chronicles 9:19-20.
  • Ezra was his descendant - Ezra 7:5.
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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Do we insist too much?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 106:1-23


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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