Monday, March 19, 2018

When God spoke again

"Eli and Samuel" by William Brassey Hole

"Eli and Samuel" by William Brassey Hole
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Samuel 1-3; Psalm 78

TO CHEW ON: "... And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation .... Then the Lord appeared again in Shiloh. For the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel by the word of the Lord." 1 Samuel 3:1,21

What a contrast between the beginning and end of 1 Samuel 3. Israel went from
"the word of the Lord was rare" and "no widespread revelation" to "The Lord revealed Himself..." What made the difference? A boy—and a young boy at that.

That boy was Samuel. What made him a good candidate to hear and pass on God's words? Some things we see as we study his life:

1. His mother's prayers and a kept promise.
He had a heritage of faith and was pledged to God from before birth. His mother Hannah prayed for him making a promise to God that if she had a son, she would dedicate him to God's service. After God answered her prayer she kept her promise and brought him to Eli when he was weaned (at three or four years old) - 1 Samuel 1:1-28.

2. He stayed pure.
The old priest Eli and his lewd and rebellious sons, Hophni and Phinehas, mentored Samuel. Despite the awful example of the sons, Samuel kept his innocence. With his mother hovering in the background, bringing, every year, a new ephod, you've got to think those mother-prayers were still ascending and effective to keep little Samuel pure despite his surroundings - 1 Samuel 2: 12-10.

3. He was attentive and obedient
In our reading today we see Samuel jump out of bed three times in response to what he thought was Eli's call - 1 Samuel 3:4-8.

4. He passed on the message.
God's words to Samuel were a chilling denunciation of Eli and his sons, along with a prediction of judgment. Notice that after hearing them, Samuel didn't rush off to tell Eli. In fact, the next morning Eli had to pry God's message out of him. But Samuel did finally tell him exactly what God had said, even though it was nasty. Perhaps this was an apprenticeship test for Samuel, because throughout his ministry God would give him many more unpleasant messages to deliver.

We can apply some of these qualities to our lives to ensure the word of the Lord is not rare in our days.
  • We can pray for, dedicate, and support the next generation in the things of God—our children and the young people in our churches.
  • We can ourselves cultivate a keen ear to hear God's voice and be quick to respond to His voice.
  • We must then be willing to speak God's words to our generation, both the pleasant and the not-so-pleasant, the words of life and the words of judgment.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Samuel and his inspiring example. I love how all his words were significant. May it be said of me, "The Lord was with her and let none of her words fall to the ground (1 Samuel 3:19). Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: 1 Samuel - Read Scripture series

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, March 18, 2018

Tell your story—and tell it well

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ruth1-4; Psalm 77

TO CHEW ON: "There was a relative of Naomi's husband, a man of great wealth of the family of Elimelech. His name was Boaz." Ruth 2:1

Don't you just love reading a story as skilfully told as this one? The tale that starts out with two unfortunate widows expands as wealthy Boaz comes on the scene. There is just enough detail and zoom in on specific incidents to make the characters come alive.

We see conscientious Ruth doing all she can to provide for her aging mother-in-law. Her stellar reputation has reached the ears of landowner Boaz who arrives in a flourish of hoofbeats and dust (my imagination here). We watch his gentleness with her and her trusting response. We notice Naomi perk up when Ruth tells her of the day. We look forward to what will happen next as the at-a-safe-distance Boaz-Ruth relationship continues through the harvest season.

The question, Who wrote this? occurred to me. My Bible's introduction to Ruth suggests Samuel:
"It is also reasonable to suppose that Samuel, who witnessed the decline of Saul's rule and was directed by God to anoint David as God's heir-apparent to the throne, could have penned this himself. The lovely story would already have attracted oral retelling among the people of Israel, and the concluding genealogy would have secured a link with the patriarchs—thus giving a steady answer to all in Israel who would desire their king's family background" - Jack Hayford, Introduction to Ruth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 349.

Ruth's story brings to mind the power and usefulness of our stories. I love hearing accounts of how God works in lives—stories that reassure us of God's faithfulness and thus build our own faith. Hayford's defense of Samuel as author (above) suggests other things about stories. They are sometimes first told orally before being written down. They serve as a link to the past. They also provide valuable information about the background of a prominent person.

We can tell our stories in many ways:

  • Orally to friends and family, and especially to the next generation.
  • More formally as part of a talk, presentation, or sermon.
  • In a written devotional.
  • In a memoir.
  • Through poetry. 
  • Via the actions and words of a fictional character in a novel.
  • In a play.

Do you tell your story? Do you know how to tell it well?
Are you conscious of things like how and when to introduce characters and events with a view to timing, tension and keeping the listener or reader on the interest hook?

Your story is worth telling—and worth telling well!

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the beautiful narrative of Ruth and the stories You are telling through each of our lives. Help me to tell my story with skill and Holy Spirit anointing. Amen. 


The Bible Project VIDEO: Ruth (Read Scripture series)

MORE: More on story-telling

Another word Bible writers use for story is testimony Here are a few verses that encourage us to tell our stories / testimonies:
  • Psalm 60:4
  • Psalm 107:2
  • Isaiah 12:4
  • Acts 1:8
  • 2 Timothy 1:81 Peter 3:15
  • Revelation 12:11

Get some story-telling hints from Jeff Goins:

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, March 17, 2018

Man's wrath turned inside-out

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Judges 19-21; Psalm 76

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

As we read the last horrible chapters of Judges, we find our selves saddened, even repulsed. Israel has degenerated into violence, civil war, and chaos.But the last verse in the book gives us a clue to how this dreadful state might be setting them up for change: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” Judges 21:26.

The “wrath of man” and its consequences were preparing Israel for a king. Samuel warned them it was not the best option. A king, he cautioned, would be the type of ruler to claim their sons for his army, their daughters as his perfumers, cooks, and bakers. He would manage their farms, seize their land for his servants, help himself to their best servants and livestock, and tax them to boot - 1 Samuel 8:10-18.

But this development would also lead to their second king—David—who was the ancestor of Jesus, the Messiah. And so the wrath of man was turned around to give praise to God.

This is one of God’s characteristic ways of working. He did something similar:
  • When Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt - Exodus 14:14.
  • When David’s son Absalom, in his attempt to wrest the throne from his father, chose the advice of Hushai (his father’s secret ally) over Ahithophel - 2 Samuel 7:14. (God’s control in this is expressed in the words of another of David’s sons—Solomon: “A man’s heart plans his way, / But the Lord directs his steps” - Psalm 16:9).
  • When God spoke to Israel’s prophets explaining international events before they happened:
- Concerning Assyria and its King Sennacherib - Isaiah 37:29
- Concerning an Israelite king, a puppet of Babylon, who secretly broke a covenant - Ezekiel 17:20.
- Concerning Pharaoh, king of Egypt - Ezekiel 29:4.
- Concerning Babylon and Egypt - Ezekiel 20:24.
(… the above illustrative of another of Solomon’s proverbs: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, / Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes” - Proverbs 21:1).
  • When Jesus’ life was preserved until “His hour” had come - John 8:20.

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

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

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


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, March 16, 2018

The deadly end of flirting with temptation

The binding of Samson - Rembrandt
The binding of Samson - Rembrandt
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Judges 16-18; Psalm 75

TO CHEW ON: "Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah." Judges 16:4

Delilah was not the first woman to lure sensuous Samson into trouble. His first wife (not named) used whining and wiles in a similar way to get Samson to say more than he should have (Judges 14).

Samson's cat-and-mouse game with Delilah illustrates his vulnerability to feminine temptation and how dangerous it is to play with sin. Three times Samson put Delilah off. Yet even as he did, he crept ever closer to telling Delilah the secret of his strength when he told her:
  • Seven fresh bowstrings would hold him (Judges 16:7).
  • New ropes never yet used would make him weak (Judges 16:11).
  • Weaving his hair into the web of a loom would neutralize him (Judges 16:13).
  • And then he broke down and told her the truth about his uncut hair (Judges 16:17). The story ended tragically in his death (Judges 16:23-31).

There are some lessons for us here in how to deal with temptation.

1. We need to be students of ourselves and aware of our own weaknesses and what situations are likely to cause us to compromise and sin. Samson's irresistible temptation was women. What is ours? Money? Earning the praise of people? Needing to be liked? Fearing to offend? Self-indulgence?

2. We need to resist temptation instead of flirting with it.
How do we do that? The Bible has some good advice:
  • "Take heed to yourselves" ("Be on guard" - J.B.Phillips & Message; "Watch out!" - NLT; "Be careful" - NIV) about our tendency to be led away and distracted from godly things - Luke 21:34.
  • Be warned or forewarned against temptation - 2 Peter 3:17.
  • Prepare for it by putting on the armour of God - Ephesians 6:13.
  • Don't say the first 'yes' to temptation - Proverbs 1:10.
  • Refuse to even put our feet on the path to giving in to sin, let alone walking that path - Proverbs 4:14.
  • Present our body parts to God for His use and not to sin as "instruments of wickedness" (NIV) or "weapons of evil" (J.B.Phillips) - Romans 6:13.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to know myself and the things that tempt me. Help me to be prepared for temptation by keeping myself clothed in spiritual armour. 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, March 15, 2018

Angel visits

Angel - Judges 13:2-5
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Judges 13-15; Psalm 74

TO CHEW ON: "And the Angel of the Lord said to him, 'Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?'" Judges 13:18

An amazing thing happened to Manoah's barren wife. An angel visited her, told her she would have a son, and gave instructions for how she should live during her pregnancy as well as how to raise her soon-to-be-born little boy.

When she told Manoah, he prayed for an another angel visitation and the Angel appeared to his wife again, stuck around long enough for Manoah to meet Him, quiz Him, even offer Him food.

Did you notice my capitalizations there? That's because in this instance it seems that the Angel was none other than God Himself—a theophany—the Angel of the Lord as distinct from an angel of the Lord. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology chapter on angels says:

"Who is the Angel of the Lord? Several passages of Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, speak of the angel of the Lord in a way that suggests that he is God himself taking on a human form to appear briefly to various people in the Old Testament.

In some passages "the angel of the Lord" (not "an angel of the Lord") is spoken of as the Lord himself. [He goes on to give some examples and continues] .... These are clear instances of the angel of the Lord or the angel of God appearing as God himself, perhaps more specifically as God the Son taking on a human body for a short time in order to appear to human beings" - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 401.

In addition, in this case the fact that the Angel says His name is "wonderful" reminds us of Isaiah 9:6 where "Wonderful" is one of the names of the coming Messiah.

Why did God choose to visit Manoah and his wife in this way? Why does God ever break through in supernatural visitations and unexplainable phenomenon? Some time ago I read a fascinating book called Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters. It is a collection of first-person and as-told-to stories of people who have experienced angelic visits.

Compiler James Stuart Bell in the Introduction gives us some reasons as to why God may choose to break through in such ways:

"The supernatural world, the world revealed to us in the Scriptures, is normally apprehended by faith and not by our senses. But at times, though they may be few and far between, for God's own mysterious reasons, we are allowed a window into that world. He may be trying to warn us about some danger, encourage our faith, or provide guidance in terms of our behaviour .... Some of these experiences may be meant to be shared to edify others ... these very personal stories ... convey how much God cares for us and how active and close He is to us—fighting our battles and revealing the eternal consequences of our choices and behaviour, even our thoughts and attitudes here on earth" - James Stuart Bell, "Introduction," Angels, Miracles, and Heavenly Encounters, Kindle Location 130 (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your involvement in human existence. Thank You for these stories of angel visits—old and new—that reinforce Your reality and how much You care for us. 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, March 14, 2018

Destructive cycles

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Judges 9-12; Psalm 73

TO CHEW ON: “Then the children of Israel again did evil in th sight of the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths…

So the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel and He sold them into the hands of the Philistines …

And the children of Israel cried out to the LORD…

And the children of Israel said to the LORD, ‘We have sinned…’

So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the LORD. And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” Judges 10:6,7,10,15,16).

In the depressing chapters of our reading today we see firsthand the living out of the summary of this book from Judges 2:
1] The people leave God to worship idols - Judges 2:11-13. 
2] God gives them over to plundering neighbours and nomads who wreck their land and livelihood - Judges 2:14-16. 
3] In desperation the Israelites pray to God for help - Judges 2:15,18. 
4] God sends a leader—a judge—to deliver them - Judges 2:16. 
5] They have peace during the judge’s lifetime but on his death revert back to idol-worshiping ways - Judges 2:19. 
6] The cycle begins again - Judges 2:20-23.

As we read today’s stories of Israel descending with every generation and judge into greater anarchy, chaos, and depravity, it’s easy for us to feel critical. How could they not recognize the self-sabotage in their cycles?

Yet I would submit that their actions are only an outworking of the condition of the human heart that by default rebels against God and looks for other deities.  And I’m not so sure we’re immune from these same kinds of cyclical reactions that keep us from freedom and forward motion.

Do we find ourselves in the same spot of joblessness or debt or hoarding or obesity or addiction or relationship problems that we’ve broken free from in the past? 

Could the answer to complete and final breakthrough be that we need victory over spiritual rebellion in some chamber of our own hearts? Are we returning to our own idols of self, indulgence, fear of not enough, lust, etc. 

Let’s pray for God to give us insight into our own destructive cycles.

PRAYER: The destructive cycles of Israel are not unfamiliar to me. Please help me to see and recognize the rebellions and idols of my own heart that have me going in circles. Please show me the path to breakthrough. 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.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Playing games with God

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Judges 6-8; Psalm 72

TO CHEW ON: "Then Gideon said to God, 'Do not be angry with me, but let me speak just once more: Let me test, I pray, just once more with the fleece; let it now be dry only on the fleece, but on all the ground let there be dew.'" Judges 6:39

This little story is the origin of the saying 'put out a fleece' meaning ask for a sign to test a situation.

Asking for or depending on signs was a frequent thing in the Bible.
  • Abraham's servant asked for a sign when he was sent to find a wife for Isaac - Genesis 24:42-44.
  • Samuel told Saul that certain signs would prove that God was with him as he assumed the role of king (1 Samuel 10:7).
  • Later Saul's son Jonathan determined that the sign he and his servant should fight the Philistines would be if they said: "Come up to us" instead of "Wait until we come to you" - 1 Samuel 14:10.

So why did Gideon seem fearful of God's anger when he asked for this sign?

I believe it was because this was the second sign that he asked for to confirm the same situation. God had already given him an answer with a sign, so he realized that in a way he was trivializing God's first response by asking for another one.

Perhaps Jesus' vexation over the Pharisees' request for a sign was the reaction Gideon feared from God: "When the Pharisees came to dispute with Him and sought a sign from heaven to test Him, He sighed deeply in His spirit and said, 'Why does this generation seek a sign?'" Mark 8:12.

Seeking sign upon sign can easily disintegrate into playing games of stalling, quibbling, and rationalizing with God—what the Pharisees did again and again. That is not the behavior Jesus calls "blessed." Rather, He praised simple faith that believed because of the signs it already had. To Thomas, who insisted that he see Jesus' scars before he will believe that He rose from the dead, Jesus said: "'Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" John 20:29.

The Bible is full of reported signs: "... these (referring to "this book"—John, and all of Scripture) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in His name" - John 20:31. Let's let them be enough for us.

PRAYER: Dear Lord, please grow my faith so that Your sign-filled Bible is enough for me. Help me to recognize the signs of guidance, confirmation and affirmation that You send my way. Amen.


MORE: Reckless faith

"If you debate for a second when God has spoken, it is all up. Never begin to say - "Well, I wonder if He did speak?" Be reckless immediately, fling it all out on Him. You do not know when His voice will come, but whenever the realization of God comes in the faintest way imaginable, recklessly abandon. It is only by abandon that you recognize Him. You will only realize His voice more clearly by recklessness." - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, June 18th reading
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, March 12, 2018

A sanctified imagination

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Judges 4-5; Psalm 71

TO CHEW ON: "'Thus let all your enemies perish, O Lord!
But let those who love Him be like the sun
When it comes out in full strength.'" Judges 5:31

Judge Deborah was a woman with a vivid imagination. The "Thus..." in the verse above refers to the details of her victory over Sisera as we find them in her song (Judges 5:1-31). This victory ballad is full of imaginative specifics.

She describes the incident of Jael, the tent peg, and the hammer in gory detail (Judges 5:24-27).

She imagines Sisera's mother waiting for her son to return from battle. When he delays, she envisions how this woman and her maids will explain his lateness to themselves:

"Are they not finding and dividing the spoil:
To every man a girl or two;
For Sisera plunder of dyed garments..." (Judges 5:30).

But Deborah's most inspiring use of her imagination is in Judges 4, before she ever had reason to sing that song. Then the situation was still dire. Israel under the thumb of Canaanite King Jabin (and Sisera, his army commander), hadn't seen a ray of hope in twenty years (Judges 4:3). Yet Deborah said to Barak (the commander of Israel's army):

"Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has delivered Sisera into your hand. Has not the Lord gone out before you?" (Judges 4:14).
Her faith in God fueled her imagination so that she saw the victory before it ever actually happened.

Deborah's use of imagination demonstrates three ways we can use our imaginative ability.

  • To communicate the human experience in literature: Her description of Jael's actions is imagination put to use in the service of story and poetry. It is one God-given way we can use our visionary ability.
  • To reassure ourselves: Deborah's speculation of how Sisera's mother was handling her son's delay shows how imagination can bolster feelings of well-being. However this kind of imagining can easily disintegrate into worry when we  fuel it with pictures of the bad things that could be happening.
  • To affirm our faith: We sanctify our imaginings when we use them in the service of faith like Deborah did. This is building a visionary future on God—His person and promises—and then going into action to make it a reality.

May we have more of the kind of imagination that, ignited by God's promises and fed by faith, sees victory before the battle has even begun.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for my imagination. Please help me to fuel it not with fear but with faith in You. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 71 

MORE: The gift of imagination
"Imagination is the greatest gift God has given us and it ought to be devoted entirely to Him. If you have been bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, it will be one of the greatest assets to faith when the time of trial comes, because your faith and the Spirit of God will work together" - Oswald Chambers, February 12th entry in My Utmost for His Highest.
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, March 11, 2018

All it takes is one generation

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Judges 1-3; Psalm 70

“When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD, nor the work which He had done for Israel.” Judges 2:10

In our reading through the Bible, we’ve just finished the book of Joshua. The Israelites have finally arrived in the Promised Land. They have divided it into sections for the twelve tribes and begun routing the Canaanites living there. But they have not utterly destroyed them, as told to, for very soon we see them adopting Canaanite ways, especially religious ways (Judges 2:11-13).

Thirty-two years have elapsed between when Joshua took over from Moses and Joshua's death. During those years and a few beyond that, the old timers who had experienced God’s miracles firsthand—the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, the manna and water from the rock, the path through the Jordan and the crumbling Jericho walls—have kept alive the memories of Yahweh at work in Israel.

But of the generation following we read that they DIDN’T KNOW GOD.

God had warned that this could and would happen, had given the people feasts and holidays to commemorate their experiences with Him, their escape from Egypt (Passover) and His care during their years of wilderness wandering (Feast of Booths). Moses had lectured them in specifics of keeping God and His laws uppermost in their homes  and families (Deuteronomy 6:5-9). They had pledged with Joshua to cultivate familiarity with God’s words (Joshua 1:8,16). But still they forsook Him in the very next generation.

This is a huge warning to me—to us. Because for us too, all it takes is one generation.  

So let’s keep telling and writing the stories of our personal history with God, planting God’s word in our children from infancy on, establishing family altars of Bible reading, prayer, and story telling so that it can never be said of us: “... Then another generation grew up that didn’t know anything of God or the work he had done…” Judges 2:10 MSG.

PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to be faithful to You and the next generation by continuing to tell my children and grandchildren about You and instilling in them a deep love and respect for the Bible. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO:  Judges (Read Scripture series)

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

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Witness stone

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Joshua 22-24; Psalm 69

TO CHEW ON: "And Joshua said to all the people, 'Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.' " Joshua 24:27

Joshua had lived a long good life. At 110 years no doubt he sensed the end was near. Here we have his last words to the people he had led into the Promised Land. They are not instructions on how to be materially successful or remain militarily strong. Rather, they are words of spiritual advice that, if followed, will help them be successful in all areas.

He challenges them:
- To choose Yahweh above the idols of the land they now live in (Joshua 24:16).
- To demonstrate their choice by putting away every vestige of the idol-worshiping life and serve God only (Joshua 24:23).

The people covenant wholeheartedly to do this (Joshua 24:24).

Then Joshua, obviously aware of their fickle tendencies, writes their promise in the Book of the Law of God and sets up a memorial stone beside the "church" as a reminder to the people of this covenant day. I'm sure his whimsical depiction of that stone hearing their promise (Joshua 24:27) arrests their attention later when they enter the sanctuary.

If their consciences are clear, that stone will remind them of Joshua and God's miracles when they conquered the land. If they are again flirting with idols (and they do) that stone will prick their consciences about their broken covenant and be a warning of the dangers of two-timing God (Joshua 24:19).

Like the Israelites, it is easy for us to make promises to God in the heat of emotion. I know I've made pledges and covenants at the height of spiritual fervor that, when reviewed later, seem unreal. Did that really happen? Did I really say that?

Joshua's idea of setting up a memorial stone to remind the people of their promise may be something we should adopt too. A stone, a wall hanging, a fridge magnet, a key fob, a table ornament designed to help us recall our covenant may help to pull us back to spiritual reality from the apparent reality of this world and its idols.

Dear God, this story reminds me of my own wayward tendencies. Help me to not only promise to be loyal to You but to make good on that promise. 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, March 09, 2018

Company of proclaimers

magnifying glass focuses on 'communication'
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Numbers 13-21; Psalm 68

TO CHEW ON: "The Lord gave the word;
Great was the company of those who proclaimed it." Psalm 68:11

Some verses in the Bible remind me of icebergs—relatively small and seemingly simple. But below the surface they are huge. Psalm 68:11 is one such verse.

It seems a little out of place, sandwiched between words of praise to God and a poetic description of battle. It feels almost like David's thoughts in parenthesis—an aside: 

"The Lord gave the word; Great was the company of those who proclaimed it."

What word?

We may think of creation. The Genesis account is that—God creating with words: "Then God said 'Let there be light …' Then God said, 'Let there be a firmament…' Then God said, 'Let the waters under the heavens be gathered…'" Genesis 1 3,6,9.

Paul writes to the Romans about how this creation communicates or spreads the word about God: "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and God head" - Romans 1:20.

But there's more. For word also brings to mind the beautiful passage in John 1 that links creation with Jesus God's Son: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. … All things were made through Him. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us" - John 1:1,3,14.

So aspects of word are God's creation and Jesus (including all that He did and is)—two ways we come to know God. They are proclaimed by a company.

Who is that company?

  • It is the hosts of heaven—the stars, planets, black holes, galaxies, nebulae - Psalm 33:6.
  • It is the hosts of earth - Genesis 2:1.
  • It was Israel's leaders like Moses - Numbers 11:24.
  • It was individuals like the prophets and apostles - Ezekiel 2:7; Acts 18:9.
  • It was a couple of disciples set free from prison by angels - Acts 5:20.
  • It was bands of persecuted Christians - Acts 8:4; 1 Peter 4:9.10.
  • It was ministers in training - Titus 2:15
  • Someday it will be the armies of heaven - Revelation 19:11-14.
  • And today it is us, communicating the gospel using the written word (Bible) and our words - Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:14; Acts 1:8.

I ask myself, am I being faithful as part of that company of proclaimers? Are you?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the word—Your creative power, Jesus the Word come in the flesh, the words of good news that His life accomplished as recorded in the Bible. Help me to be faithful as part of the company who proclaims this word. 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, March 08, 2018

Failure to consult with God

Joshua and the Gibeonites - from

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Joshua 9-12; Psalm 67

TO CHEW ON: “Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask the counsel of the LORD.” Joshua 9:14

The Hivites, people who lived in the Canaanite city of Gibeon about six miles northwest of Jerusalem, were terrified of Israel—scared not witless but witty. They organized a trip to Joshua and the marauding Israeltes that involved worn out wine skins, tattered clothes, and moldy bread. Their story: the wine skins had been new when they began their journey, the bread hot out of the oven, the new clothes completely worn out on the long long trip from their home to where Israel was camped. They came to request a peace treaty with Israel.

(Perhaps they knew of the stipulation God had given Moses. Israel was to utterly destroy all the Canaanites but was allowed to make peace with distant peoples - Deuteronomy 7:2; 20:10-16.)

Joshua and other leaders looked at the worn out skins and the tattered clothes. They tasted the moldly bread. It all convinced them of the truth of the Hivites’ tale and so they made a covenant of peace with them (Joshua 9:15).

But one thing they neglected to do: “… they did not ask the counsel of the LORD.” Big oops!

I feel convicted by this story as I think of how often I make decisions on my own, without asking for the “counsel of the Lord”—convinced by how things look or what seems obvious. Like the Israelites I know so little, am na├»ve, easily duped, and unaware of what is transpiring in the unseen spiritual realm. Do you ever do the same?

Joshua and the his fellow leaders then experienced the consequences of their rash decision. Their own people were upset with them but now there was no way out but to let these people live (Joshua 9:18,19). And there was more bloodshed later. When King Saul violated the covenant, killed the Gibeonites, and God sent a famine to punish this broken promise. In order to break the famine, more lives—Israelite lives—were required (2 Samuel 21:1,6).

Similarly, we should not be surprised when our impetuous, self-inspired moves result in consequences to us and those around us.

PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to pause and pray, to really consult You and await Your answer, when I face decisions. 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.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Your Source hasn’t changed

"The Gathering of the Manna"
by James Tissot 1896-1900
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Joshua 5-8; Psalm 66

TO CHEW ON: “Then the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna but they ate the food of the land of Canaan that year.” Joshua 5:12

Imagine that first morning of going out to collect manna as usual and finding – none! What God had provided every morning six days a week for forty years stopped as suddenly as it started. I can just see the people looking all around them puzzled, scanning the more distant terrain, and someone asking, “What day is today?” thinking perhaps it was Sabbath after all.

But no, their eyes weren’t playing tricks on them and it wasn’t Sabbath. The miraculous provision of their daily food was over. From now on they would have to work the land for their three squares.

Change. It comes to us all. I wonder if the Israelites welcomed this one. No doubt some of them did, for they had had their moments of complaining about their one-item menu in the past. I’m sure, though, that others looked back on the manna years as the good old days, spoke fondly of their mother’s ingenuity in preparing it and sometimes hankered after just one more taste.

There was one constant in this, though. The One behind the provision was still God. Before He withheld the manna, He made sure there was something to take its place.

Has your current supply of manna stopped? Perhaps you’ve lost your job, or a big client hasn’t renewed a contract. You’re wondering, how will my needs be met?

This is a good time to remember your source. It’s not your boss, or your client, or the company, but God. The God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills - who has promised to supply all your need according to His riches . Of course life after your current ‘manna’ may not be quite the same. Your new provision may demand a different kind of effort or a new level of responsibility. Still, God promises to supply what you need.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your presence in my life and for Your provision for me in many ways. Help me to have the flexibility to change when that is required.


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, March 06, 2018

A literal step of faith

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Joshua 1-4; Psalm 65

TO CHEW ON: And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap.” Joshua 3:13

Moses is gone and Joshua is now the leader of the Israelites. His is a daunting job and he knows the challenges all too well for he was with Moses for the duration of the exodus.

His first task is overcoming a literal barrier—the Jordan River. He must somehow get an entire nation from one side to the other. How will he do it?

God's instructions are explicit. The priests carrying the ark are to lead the way. They are to walk into the flood-stage Jordan.

I wonder if there were any skeptics in the crowd that day. Probably. Because remember, almost the entire generation of Israelites had died off during the forty years of wandering. This relatively young crowd had only heard of the crossing of the Red Sea. The ark-carriers themselves had to have faith as they walked into the water when there was as yet no sign that anything unusual would happen.

I like Matthew Henry's reflection on this scene:

"God could have divided the river without the priests, but they could not without him. The priests must herein set a good example to the people, and teach them to do their utmost in the service of God, and trust him for help in time of need." - Matthew Henry's Commentary

The priests walking into the water is an illustration of how faith works for us too. Though God could work without us, He often asks us to step into the fast-flowing waters of our Jordan Rivers in a literal step of faith.

I ask myself, what Jordan River am I facing today? Perhaps it's starting a new project, teaching a class, volunteering in my community, or talking to my friend about Jesus. What about you?

Is God telling us to take a step of faith in regard to it and this way show our confidence in Him to help us do what seems impossible?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to have the faith to obey Your directions when I face impossible circumstances. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: Joshua (Read Scripture Series)



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, March 05, 2018

Moses—incredible senior

Moses on Mt. Nebo by Thomas Nast
Moses on Mt. Nebo by Thomas Nast
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 64

TO CHEW ON: "Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished." Deuteronomy 34:7

There is an unofficial rule in our society that after a certain age it's time for the shelf. Obviously God and Moses didn't get that memo. Moses would have made a fascinating study for our gerontologists.

At 40 years of age, when we would consider him in his prime,  Moses' self-generated plans to realize what he may have thought of as his life purpose (freeing his countrymen from slavery), failed miserably. As a wanted murderer, he had to flee Egypt - Acts 7:22-29.

For 40 years he lived the life of a nobody. He married, he and his wife had kids, but in our estimation he was pretty much a failure with no land, no flock of his own, living with and working for his father-in-law (Exodus 2:16-23; 3:1).

Then at 80 God met him at that burning bush and gave him back his dream. Only now he didn't want it. After a lot of arm-twisting Moses decided to cooperate with God's destiny for him.

The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy tell the story of Moses' next 40 years (from 80-120 years old). They are an incredible tale of leadership as Moses faced the resistance of Pharaoh, getting a multitude of thousands out of Egypt and through the wilderness, rebellion within the ranks, physical testing and hardship, victory and disappointment…

We meet him in today's reading at 120 years—no glasses, hearing aids, false teeth or walker needed. He's still physically acute and fit and wanting more, though God had said no (Deuteronomy 3:23-29). So he's saying goodbye to this life on a high note, both physically and spiritually.

I take from Moses' life some encouragement for our own lives:
  • God isn't boxed into our norms and expectations. If he has a job for us to do, age isn't a hindrance.
  • Zest for life can extend into old age. I love Moses' description of his rekindled desire to live on and how he begs God to be able to finish job of leading the Israelites into the promised land (Deuteronomy 3:23-25).
  • When it's our time to go, God will take us. (Or we could turn that around and say, God won't take us until it's our time to go.) For Moses it wasn't even a matter of being sick or wearing out. It was simply his time and that was it. But he lived fully right to the end. May we be so blessed!

Dear God, May I live fully and usefully till my last breath, like Moses did. 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, March 04, 2018

Choose life!

"Moses speaks to Israel"
by Paul Hardy

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Deuteronomy 30-31; Psalm 63

TO CHEW ON: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life that both you and your descendants may live." Deuteronomy 30:19

The book of Deuteronomy is a series of farewell talks that 120-year-old Moses gave to the Israelites just before they entered Canaan. Our reading today is the end of his third message, where he begs the people to choose God and by choosing Him, choose life.

Look at how he persuades, instructs, and pleads:

1. They can come home (Deuteronomy 30:1-5):
If they've wandered (as he says they will) God's call for them to return is mighty appealing. It's a call from captivity to freedom, from separation to togetherness. It's an invitation to come HOME!

2. God will change them at the deepest level (Deuteronomy 30:6):
How will God keep them from wandering away again? He will circumcise their hearts. We know how male circumcision was a physical sign of God's covenant with the Israelites. Here God promises to carve that same incision of covenant into their hearts. It's a mark that will, like physical circumcision, affect them spiritually at the deepest most private place (their hearts). And like physical circumcision is irreversible, so this heart circumcision will help them stay the course.

3. God is for them (Deuteronomy 30:7, 9):
When they choose God, the tables will be turned on their persecutors while God blesses them in quantifiable ways — more kids, more cows, more carrots!

4. The choice is clear (Deuteronomy 30:11-14):
This is no new, hidden, mysterious, distant or confusing matter. It's a choice they've faced before. It's near them, in them. What is it?
- A choice to love God (Deuteronomy 30:6).
- A choice to obey God (Deuteronomy 30:10).

5. The choice is important (Deuteronomy 30:15-20):
It's important because it's a choice between good and evil, life and death. "Choose life," Moses begs, "so that you and your children will live."

Imagine Moses preaching this sermon in my church or yours. It would be fitting, wouldn't it — his plea for backsliders to return with the assurance that God can permanently change hearts. His confronting us with the challenge to love and obey God in the context of all the things that clamor for our allegiance (worship?). His plea that we make the right decision because it will impact our eternal destiny.

I ask myself have I chosen life? Or have I, in my heart, wandered away, even set up some idolatrous outposts? What about you?

PRAYER: Father God, help me in today's every decision to understand what's at stake and to choose life. Amen.


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

Saturday, March 03, 2018


Image: Pixabay

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Deuteronomy 28-29; Psalm 62

TO CHEW ON: "And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God." Deuteronomy 28:2 

We cannot read Deuteronomy 28 and not be struck by the repetition of the word "bless" in its various forms in the first 14 verses. I count ten repetitions.

["Bless" here is the Hebrew word barak - "to bless, kneel." 
"Blessing" is berakah, derived from barak - "blessing, prosperity, praise of God, gift, present."

In English we define bless as "to consecrate, make holy; to honor, exalt; glorify; to invoke God's favour upon; to bestow happiness or prosperity; to guard and protect."

We define "blessing" as the act or words of a person who blesses; a special favor, mercy or benefit; a favor or gift bestowed by God bringing happiness."]

As we follow the idea of blessing through the Bible, here are some things we discover:

1. Blessing is within our creator God's power to bestow (Psalm 134:3).

2. It is involved with God's plan for the Jewish people (Genesis 26:24)
  • Blessing is evidenced in the unusually large harvest of year six in a seven-year cycle, so that the people would have food when they let their land rest in year seven (Leviticus 25:21).
  • It is visible in their large families (Deuteronomy 1:11).
  • It results in them settling in Canaan — the land of promise (Deuteronomy 26:15).
  • Israel's independence and self-sufficiency are an evidence of God's blessing (Deuteronomy 15:6).

3. It is connected to obedience. Fourteen verses of Deuteronomy 28 (our reading) are taken up with promises of personal, family and national blessings that will flow out of obedience (Deuteronomy 28:1-14).

4. It is closely connected with giving (2 Chronicles 31:10; Ezekiel 44:30).

5. It is an expression of God's love (Deuteronomy 23:5).

6. It is His presence (Psalm 21:6).

7. It comes when people live peacefully together (Psalm 133:1-3).

8. It makes rich (Proverbs 10:22).

9. It is part of the upside down Kingdom of God, where we inherit a blessing when we refuse to reciprocate evil with evil, but with blessing (1 Peter 3:9).

But, you say, these blessings were for Bible time people not for us now — right?

Wrong! The exciting thing is that the blessing pronounced on Abraham and his descendants is linked to us too. Look at Galatians 3:13-14:
"Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith." - Galatians 3:14 NLT

So when we say, "God bless you," we are not mouthing empty words. Rather we are invoking a rich heritage of blessing that is ours because of Jesus — just another fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham and the way he would bless, made way back in Genesis ("And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed" Genesis 12:3)

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to live blessed and under Your blessing. May my life be a means of blessing to others today. Amen. 


MORE: "I Will Delight" - Fernando Ortega

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.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Become the people of God

 Jeremiah 29:11 written on stone - Salt Spring Island Pentecostal Church
Photo © 2012 by V. Nesdoly

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Deuteronomy 24-27; Psalm 61

TO CHEW ON: "Then Moses and the priests, the Levites, spoke to all Israel, saying, 'Take heed and listen, O Israel: This day you have become the people of the Lord your God…' "- Deuteronomy 27:9.

The book of Deuteronomy is a collection of Moses' final instructions to Israel, the nation he has led for 40 years. At last they are about to enter Canaan.

We discover today that this anticipated move is not only a natural migration but very much a spiritual event. In the segment we read today he reminds the people:

- They are God's "special people" and "holy" i.e. set apart - Deuteronomy 26:18,19.
- They are to have a heart-mind-spirit connection to God. Notice the verbs used to describe how they are to seek God and His laws: observe, walk in His ways, keep, obey, write, take heed, listen.

What interests me especially in this passage is the variety of modalities God uses to help them grasp and pass on the reality of their connection to Him:

- Obey from the core of their beings: "observe with heart and soul" - Deuteronomy 26:16.

- Speak of their beliefs - "proclaimed" - Deuteronomy 26:17.

- Listen to God's affirmation of them, delivered by Moses - Deuteronomy 26:18,19.

- "Keep" these commandments, as in habitually, not just once - Deuteronomy 27:1.

- Choose and prepare physical stones, then write God's laws on them to remind them and their children of their spiritual connection to God and the spiritual basis of their land ownership - Deuteronomy 27:3,8.

I believe there are lessons for our lives from this reading;
  • The things that occur in our lives have more of a spiritual component to them than we realize. A move to another home, a change in jobs etc. are spiritually significant things. Let's be sensitive to the spiritual aspects of our apparently natural circumstances.
  • We can use many modalities to help us know God and live in ways that please Him: listen, speak, obey, write, display these writings where they remind us and our families of whose we are and how He wants us to live. Let's be creative in how we nourish our faith and pass it on to others.

Dear God, please help me to acknowledge and honor You through the many inputs and outputs of my being. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: Deuteronomy (Torah Series)

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, March 01, 2018

A test of family loyalty

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Deuteronomy 21-23; Psalm 60

TO CHEW ON: “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of the city, to the gate of his city.” Deuteronomy 21:18,19

One day before the February 14th Florida school shooting, a grandmother in Everett Washington reported her grandson to the police. This was after reading disturbing entries in his journal, entries in which he talked about shooting up his school (Read CNN article.)

What a test of family loyalty! And yet, for the greater good—the good of the community and this kid— this grandma reported her grandson for short-term pain.

The test of family ties in our reading is even more extreme. Parents were to bring their stubborn, rebellious, disobedient, gluttonous, alcoholic son to the elders, not for a scolding or a fine or lockup but stoning (Deuteronomy 21:21).

We’ve been studying the SHEMA which the Israelites prayed regularly:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” - Deuteronomy 6:5. 

Such a radical family “betrayal,” then, could be seen as part of that heart, soul and strength love for a God who hated, condemned and punished these sins.

Of course we now live in the New Testament church era. Jesus’ death on the cross has atoned for our sins of stubbornness, rebellion, disobedience, gluttony, addiction etc. It’s not that our current sin is any less serious, but that God’s holy wrath at our wrong-doing has been satisfied by Jesus’ death in our stead.

Still, I believe there is a principle for us here, seen in the singlehearted focus of the parents. Jesus in the NT also referred to the cost of following Him in Matthew 10:34-39. In that section he described how His coming into a life could have the potential to mess with relationships, especially in the family:
‘For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or more more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worth of Me'” - Matthew 10:35-37.

Do we have this OT/NT devotion to Jesus that trumps even blood ties?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, may my love for You be stronger than any love tie on earth. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: The Law (Theme series)

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.

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Does God detest anything in your life?

Time Magazine cover - June 19, 1972.

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Deuteronomy 17-20; Psalm 59

TO CHEW ON: "For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out before you." Deuteronomy 18:12

What a strong word—abomination—Moses uses here to warn the Israelites against compromise and syncretism.

[The word abomination is translated from the Hebrew word towebah. It is also rendered detestable and loathsome.]

What are the things that God names an abomination (detestable, loathsome)? Deuteronomy 18:9-11 names:
  • sacrificing children to idols.
  • practicing witchcraft.
  • acting as a soothsayer or one to interprets omens—a sorcerer.
  • conjuring up spells.
  • acting as a medium or spiritist.
  • calling up the dead.
It's a list of not altogether unfamiliar activities because our society, despite how "advanced" and technological it is, yearns for spiritual connection. If we have rejected God, we will look somewhere else for it. The scary thing is that sometimes these practices make their way into the lives of Christians and so enter the life of the church. Tim Challies in his book The Disciplines of Spiritual Discernment says:
"It should come as no surprise that even though we are called to live within the culture, the culture itself hates God and seeks to destroy those who love him. And yet this culture has influenced the church, perhaps more than the church has influenced the culture. There are at least four cultural influences that have led to a decline in discernment among Christians."

He goes on to name (and elaborate on) 1] a secular worldview; 2] a low view of scripture; 3] a low view of theology; and 4] a low view of God, as reasons for the church's slump into compromise.

Let's ask God by His Spirit to point out any abominable practices and involvements in our lives. And then let's denounce and forsake them. For:

Can two walk together unless they are agreed?" - Amos 3:3

Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” - John 8:12 NLT

Take no part in and have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead [let your lives be so in contrast as to] expose and reprove and convict them." - Ephesians 5:11 AMP

PRAYER: Dear God, please give me a discerning heart to recognize the practices and involvements that are loathsome to You. Then help me to be quick to denounce and forsake them. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: ME'OD: Strength (Shema Word series)

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.

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

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Times and reasons to celebrate

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Deuteronomy 15-16; Psalm 58

TO CHEW ON: "You shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger, and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide." Deuteronomy 16:11.

Moses reminded the Israelites of three yearly feasts in Deuteronomy 16:
  • the Feast of Passover.
  • the Feast of Pentecost (here called Feast of Weeks, i.e. seven weeks = 7 x 7 = 49 days + the next [feast] day = 50 days).
  • the Feast of Tabernacles.

As described here, the Feast of Pentecost was an annual harvest festival. It was also called Feast of Harvest - Exodus 23:16, the Day of Firstfruits - Numbers 28:26, and Pentecost in Leviticus 23:16. (Pentecost is based on the Greek translation of fifty days.)

Viewed as a whole, God instituted these feasts to help the Israelites remember their history with Him. Through them they recalled their time of slavery in Egypt, God's miraculous deliverance, their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness in tents, and the fact that God was the source of their blessing.

It's a good thing for us too, to regularly remind ourselves of these things and rejoice, like people did in the Old Testament. Matthew Henry says:

"Never should a believer forget his low estate of guilt and misery, his deliverance, and the price it cost the Redeemer; that gratitude and joy in the Lord may be mingled with sorrow for sin, and patience under the tribulations in his way to the kingdom of heaven. They must rejoice in their receivings from God, and in their returns of service and sacrifice to him; our duty must be our delight, as well as our enjoyment. If those who were under the law must rejoice before God, much more we that are under the grace of the gospel; which makes it our duty to rejoice evermore, to rejoice in the Lord always" - Matthew Henry, Commentary on Deuteronomy 16.
We can celebrate:
  • Our unique story of freedom from 'slavery' and our salvation, whether it occurred when we were youngsters or later.
  • How God has blessed us in the meantime with family, a home, the family of God.
  • How God has seen us through wilderness experiences (death of loved ones, times of sickness like cancer or depression, financial straits, unemployment...).
  • How God continues to provide for us through the produce of our own gardens, or the salary from our workplace, or our pensions if we are retired.
PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the Israelite example of regular, repeating celebrations that helped them review their history with You. Help me to remember in a similar way, and weave an attitude of rejoicing and thanksgiving into the fabric of my life. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: NEPHESH: Soul (Shema word study series)

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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