Friday, August 17, 2018

Community transformation—is it possible?

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Chronicles 13-17; Psalm 74

TO CHEW ON: “… and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the LORD God of their father.” 2 Chronicles 13:18

“O God, how long will the adversary reproach?
Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever?” Psalm 74:10


Three things come together for me in today’s readings:

1. In the recitation of good and bad kings from 2 Chronicles, what stands out is that all the bad kings were guilty of occultism, idolatry, and seeking to do things on their own without God. God’s blessing flowed again when godly kings destroyed these things and returned to true worship.

2. In the psalms reading, psalmist Asaph’s pleading with God (to again make His name famous, to make His cause prevail, to restore sincere worship and purity to the land) resonates. It’s how I would pray for my own land and people in the 21st century.

3. I watched a video about community transformation last night. In it the filmmakers tell the story of several communities (one in Mexico, one in Guatemala, and one in California) that experienced community-wide spiritual revival in the 1990s. It happened when the church and concerned pastors became modern-day Asaphs and pleaded for their cities, with prayer and fasting.

When God revealed to them the occultic roots of their community’s enslavement to the drug cartels (Mexico), poverty, drunkenness, and abuse (Guatemala), and addiction (California) they confronted and took authority over dark forces with, again, prayer and fasting.

If we are burdened for our land and community like Asaph was, let’s follow the example of the Christians of the 1990s and contend (with prayer, fasting, church unity etc.) for another transformation!

PRAYER:
Dear Father, I believe the kind of turnaround You brought to Judah and Israel under godly kings, and the transformation witnessed in the 1990s is possible today. Help me to contend for it in my country and town. Amen.
PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 74

MORE: Transformations (the documentary film)





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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.

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.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Leadership - how does yours rate?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Chronicles 9-12; Psalm 73

TO CHEW ON: "Blessed be the Lord your God, who delighted in you, setting you on His throne to be king for the Lord your God. Because your God has loved Israel, to establish them forever, therefore He made you king over them to do justice and righteousness." 2 Chronicles 9:8


The fashion these days is to criticize leaders, not praise them. The Queen of Sheba's idea that God had blessed Israel by letting her be ruled by a king as wise as Solomon seems foreign to us — fed as we are by scandal-driven media features, negative news items and critical editorials about our leaders.

But maybe we should stop criticizing and complaining. Because our rulers are actually there by God's permission and authority as much as Israel's were (see Romans 13:1).

It helps, of course, to change our focus and instead of looking for mistakes, look for ways our rulers are a positive force in our nation, region and town. Political parties and preferences aside, there is much to appreciate and be thankful for in our democratic leaders.

Politicians aren't our only leaders. Churches, organizations, even families have leaders. If you are a parent, you are a leader.

What kind of leaders are we? Would someone exclaim about our church, club or family how fortunate they are because they are under our leadership?

PRAYER: Dear God, Solomon prayed for divine wisdom to lead Israel. I need similar wisdom to lead in my small way in my family and every other place where I have leadership responsibilities. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 73 

MORE: Advice for leaders

Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing writes a lot about leadership on his blog Michael Hyatt - Intentional Leadership. Here are links to a few recent articles about leadership:

"Why Leaders Cannot Afford to be Easily Offended"

"Four Temptations Christian Leaders Face"

"A Tale of Two Leaders: Which Are You?" <— this is excellent!



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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, August 15, 2018

Human temples

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Chronicles 5-8; Psalm 72

TO CHEW ON: "But will God indeed dwell with men on earth? Behold heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built!" 2 Chronicles 6:18

Picture the scene: all of Israel is gathered in Jerusalem for the dedication of a magnificent structure - the temple David began with an idea, plan, materials, and Solomon built.

On this day of the temple's dedication Solomon stands before the assembled crowd, probably in the temple's outer courtyard, blesses them, then ascends a bronze platform, kneels, raises his hands toward heaven and prays the eloquent prayer recorded in 2 Chronicles 6:12-42.

Within it he asks the question of our today's focus verse: "Will God indeed dwell with men on earth?"

He answers: "Behold heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built!" Solomon grasped God's bigness and the impossibility of only one location ever holding Him.

He's right, of course. No place on earth can contain God, as in become a boundary or edge past which He cannot go, or contain His sum-total so that He is no where else. But God will dwell with men on earth — will and does.

1. In Israel's case, God responded to Solomon's prayer by sending fire which consumed the prepared sacrifices and glory so awesome, the priests couldn't enter the temple to complete their duties (2 Chronicles 7:14). From that time forward, God's presence dwelt in the temple's Holy of Holies room, as it had the ark.

2. Centuries later God sent Jesus to dwell with us in human flesh (John 1:1-5,14)

3. Now, since the day of Pentecost  and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4), God dwells in us:

"Do you not discern and understand that you [the whole church at Corinth] are God's temple (His sanctuary), and that God's Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you [to be at home in you, collectively as a church and also individually]?" 1 Corinthians 3:16 Amplified
"Or didn't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Message


PRAYER: Dear God, please teach me what it means to be Your dwelling in practical day-to-day ways. May Your glory shine through my life today more than it ever has before. Amen.


PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 72
It's interesting to note that today's psalm is one of the rare ones written by Solomon!




MORE: The Holy Spirit in us — insights from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest

"It is very easy to quench the Spirit; we do it by despising the chastening of the Lord, by fainting when we are rebuked by Him....Never quench the Spirit..."  (August 14 reading).
"Never discard a conviction. If it is important enough for the Spirit of God to have brought it to your mind, it is that thing He is detecting." (September 24th reading)
"Obey God in the thing He shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. One reads tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when one five minutes of drastic obedience would make things as clear as a sunbeam." (October 10th 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.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What is your heart's desire?

Solomon's Dream - Artist unknown
Solomon's Dream - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Chronicles 1-4; Psalm 71

TO CHEW ON:
" 'Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people ...'
God said to Solomon, 'Since this is your heart's desire ... therefore wisdom and knowledge will be given to you.' " 2 Chronicles 10-12


This story reminds me of the three wishes folk tales I loved as a kid. It also prompts me to examine myself and ask, what would I have said if I were Solomon?

In the dream God lists some common and desirable things Solomon could have asked for: material possessions, prestige, safety and security, and long life (which implies good health). Which of those things wouldn't we want?

I love the telling words that God answers Solomon with. "Since this is your heart's desire..."

How can we know what our heart's desire really is? I've heard Bible teachers describe one way to tell is note the thing(s) our thoughts flit to when there's nothing else vying for their attention.

Using this method I ask myself, what is my heart's desire? The spiritual well-being of my family? The beauty of my house? Great health and fitness? Where I'll spend my next vacation? How I can fulfill my role in God's kingdom?

What is yours?

Is it something that God would be pleased to answer? If not perhaps you and I need to work on changing so that our deepest desires do line up with God's values.

PRAYER:
Dear God, please help me be so in touch with You that my deepest heart desires will reflect what You value.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 71

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Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures quoted s 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.


Monday, August 13, 2018

An ancient father's advice

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Chronicles 25-29; Psalm 70

TO CHEW ON:
“‘As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts.’” 1 Chronicles 28:9

David’s advice to his newly crowned son, Solomon, is good advice for us too.

David told Solomon:

“know the God of your father…”
Know (yada) is transliterated know, learn, perceive and see, know by experience, recognize, admit, acknowledge and confess.

“…and serve Him…”
Serve (abad) - work serve, labour, serve another by labour.

“…with a loyal (whole - NASB) heart…”
Whole (shalem) - complete, full, perfect.

“… and a willing mind.”

Willing (chaphets) - desiring, delighting in, having pleasure in.

Living out this advice is bound to impact life in practical ways. In Psalm 37, written perhaps around the same time David gave the advice to Solomon (Psalm 37:25), David declares:
“Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the LORD
And He shall give you the desires of your heart” - Psalm 37:3,4.

Notice the word “delight” - an aspect of the willing mind.

David, in Psalm 37, argues against fretting (Psalm 37:7,8), and for keeping life’s big picture in mind (Psalm 37:9-22; 34-40), trusting God to direct the steps of everyday living (Psalm 37:23,24), and of treasuring God and His word in one’s heart (Psalm 37:31 cf. 1 Chronicles 28:9).

In this day of distraction and many shiny things to explore with the accompanying temptation to give one’s heart and mind to them, David’s simple advice to Solomon may be more difficult for us to follow than it would seem. Yet I believe it is the solution to many of the issues we deal with—stress, worry, decision-making, and being scorned, overlooked, and ignored by the world as people of faith, to name some.

PRAYER: Dear Father, I want to know You and serve You with a loyal (my whole) heart, and a willing mind. Please nudge me today when my heart wanders to lesser things.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 70

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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.

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.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Your sin hurts more than just you

"Deliverance from the flood" - Psalm 69:15
Engraver Melchior Kussell
Artist SL
From the Pitts Theology Library.

Deliverance from the flood - Psalm 69:15 - Engraving by Melchior Kussel - Artist SL
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Chronicles  22-24 Psalm 69

TO CHEW ON:
"Let not those who wait for You,
O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me;
Let not those who seek you be confounded because of me,
O God of Israel." Psalm 69:6


What a desperate cry for help David makes in this psalm! In picturesque language he describes the feeling of drowning in trouble and being sucked into the mire of problems (Psalm 69:1-2; 14-15). His enemies seem numberless and his treatment unfair (Psalm 69:4). The message that comes through is, 'None of this is my fault!'

And then we come to verse 5:

"O God you know my foolishness / And my sins are not hidden from you."
Maybe he isn't as blameless as he let on at the beginning.

I really appreciate his thoughts relating to the potential fallout of his actions in verse 6:

"Let not those who wait for You
O Lord of hosts, be ashamed because of me;
Let not those who seek you be confounded because of me,
O God of Israel."
The sad truth is that we are often at least a little to blame for our own problems. And when we sin we hurt those who view us as examples and mentors—our children, young Christians, our friends and colleagues, those who look to us for instruction and inspiration etc. Our broken marriages, involvements in pornography, illegal money schemes, theft, child sexual abuse—whatever—especially if we are leaders, impact much more than just our own lives.

Let's keep that in mind before we yield to temptation. Let's let our love for the body of Christ be another reason not to sin in the first place.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to realize how my sin affects Your body (the church) and resist temptation. Help me, at the same time, to refrain from harsh judgment when my brothers and sisters sin. I want to be a restorer of the broken. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 69

MORE: Second most-quoted psalm
The NIV Study Bible's introduction to this psalm names it the second most-quoted psalm in the New Testament:

"The authors of the NT viewed this cry of a godly sufferer as foreshadowing the sufferings of Christ; no psalm except Psalm 22 is quoted more frequently in the NT" - NIV Study Bible, p. 855.

Those quotes:

  • Psalm 69:4 - John 15:25
  • Psalm 69:9 - John 2:17; Romans 15:3
  • Psalm 69:21 - Matthew 27:34
  • Psalm 69:25 - Acts 1:20
  • Psalm 69:33 - Luke 4:18 
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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, August 11, 2018

Sing, you kingdoms!

"Glory of the Lamb - Revelation 5:13" by David van der Plaats
"Glory of the Lamb - Revelation 5:13" by David van der Plaats (The Bible and Its Story Vol 10)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Chronicles 18-21;  Psalm 68

 TO CHEW ON: "Sing to God you kingdoms of the earth;
O sing praise to the Lord.  - Psalm 68:32

It's interesting how our two readings complement each other. In Chronicles, we see David going to war, conquering even the giants, and read the author's observation: "And the Lord preserved David wherever he went" - 1 Chronicles 18:13. 

In the psalm David describes one of his battles.

There is blood (Psalm 68:21-23).

There is a procession (Psalm 68:24-27).

And there is the obeisance of earth's rulers (Psalm 68:28-31):

"Sing to God you kingdoms of the earth;
O sing praises to the Lord."

David's words suggest a voluntary—not a forced—praise. They bring to mind the wonderful scene from Revelation:
"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” - Revelation 7:9-10.

I see this psalm as a picture of life.
  • Life on earth is our battlefield.
  • We anticipate the final victory that we know is coming:
 "So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:
'Death is swallowed up in victory.'
 'O Death, where is your sting?
 O Hades, where is your victory?'
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" - 1 Corinthians 15:54-57.

Then will come the time when all on earth will acknowledge God for who He is:
“As I live, says the Lord. 
Every knee shall bow to Me, 
And every tongue shall confess to God”- Romans 14:11 (quoting Isaiah 45:23).

PRAYER: Dear God, in a world that doesn't even acknowledge Your existence, the sight of the kingdoms of earth singing Your praises seems almost unimaginable. Help me to cling to this hope with unwavering faith. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 68

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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, August 10, 2018

Avoid the fate of the worship judge

"David dancing before the ark with all his might" by James Tissot
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Chronicles 15-17; Psalm 67

TO CHEW ON: "And it happened, as the ark of the covenant of the Lord came to the city of David, that Michal, Saul's daughter, looked through a window and saw King David whirling and playing music; and she despised him in her heart." 1 Chronicles 15:29

Michal is an interesting Bible character. Here's what we know about her:

  • She is Saul's younger daughter (1 Samuel 14:49).
  • She loves David and David pays the grisly bride price to get her as a wife (1 Samuel 18:20, 27).
  • She helps David escape from Saul's murderous rage (1 Samuel 19:12).
  • After David leaves the city to live on-the-run, Saul gives Michal in marriage to another man (1 Samuel 25:44).
  • When David becomes king in Hebron he demands Michal be returned to him (2 Samuel 3:3).
  • On bringing the ark to Jerusalem David celebrates "leaping and whirling before the Lord." Michal watches and despises him (2 Samuel 6:16; 1 Chronicles 15:29). 
  • She goes to meet David, and accosts him with scorn and sarcasm: "How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellow shamelessly uncovers himself!" (2 Samuel 6:20).
  • But David doesn't give an inch. He tells her, "'It was before the Lord … Therefore I will play music before the Lord. And I will be even more undignified than this…" (2 Samuel 6:21-22).
  • Michal is doomed to barrenness (2 Samuel 6:23).

Why is Michal so critical of David's worship? There may be many reasons.

Maybe she is a prisoner of her own undemonstrative personality. Perhaps her palace upbringing has engrained in her a sense of how royalty should act. She is obviously hung up on appearances and what others will think. Perhaps too, her own spiritual life is lacking and so she has no category for the passion David feels and exhibits when he worships.  Whatever it is, her scornful reaction to David and his worship seals her fate of barrenness.

I think of this story when I hear people criticize the worship of others. Oh, I know there are guidelines laid down in the New Testament about church decorum. And I believe we should follow these. But in the area of how my Christian brothers and sisters personally interact with God, who am I, who are we to criticize how much emotion they display, whether they kneel or raise their hands, dance or lie face down, weep or whirl? They are, after all, presenting their worship to God, not us. It's for Him to read their hearts. And don't we want to stay out of the realm of spiritual Michal-barrenness?

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to worship You with the abandon that David shows, and to keep from judging others for their worship. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 67

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New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.






Thursday, August 09, 2018

Foxhole prayers

Soldier in a foxhole
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Chronicles 11-14Psalm 66

TO CHEW ON: "I will pay You my vows,
Which my lips have uttered
And my mouth has spoken when I was in trouble."  Psalm 66:13,14


Have you ever prayed, God something like, If You help me out of this situation I'll ______ (go to Africa; never do this thing again; do whatever You ask; etc.)'? Then after the crisis passed, did you follow through with your promise?

The practice of making vows to God when in trouble is thousands of years old. My Bible dictionary defines Bible vows:
"A vow may be either to perform or abstain from an act in return for God's favour or as an expression of zeal or devotion towards God. It is no sin to vow or not to vow, but if made—presumably uttered—a vow is as sacredly binding as an oath. Therefore a vow should not be made hastily" - New Bible Dictionary p. 1313.

Bible characters certainly took vows seriously.
  • Israel's judge Jephthah vowed that whatever came out of his house to meet him after victory in battle he would sacrifice—and was shocked when that turned out to be his daughter (Judges 11:30,40).
  • Saul was ready to kill his own son when it was discovered Jonathan had eaten honey during battle after Saul had sworn the people to fast all day (1 Samuel 14:24-45).
  • Here the psalmist promises to pay the vow he spoke while in trouble. Does the need for such a statement imply that he may have considered not keeping his promise to God?

What troubles me about making vows is the undertone of manipulation—as if our potential action will convince God to come through for us. (Jesus alludes to the futility of our vow-making in Matthew 5:33-37).

Still, when our backs are against the wall and we're desperate, I would hazard most of us would not be above praying frantic foxhole prayers. Whether we follow through with the promises we make in them is a measure of how seriously we take God and our word to Him.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me not to use manipulation in my relationship with You. When I do make promises, help me to act with as much integrity toward You as I would if I had made those promises to a person. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 66

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New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.


Wednesday, August 08, 2018

The power of a list

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Chronicles 1-10Psalm 65

TO CHEW ON:"Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion;
And to You the vow shall be performed." Psalm 65:1



Do you make lists?

I do — lists to remind me of what needs to be done, to organize my thoughts, help me with shopping, pack without forgetting anything, keep me on track when I give a talk or speech ...

Psalm 65 is David's list of praise and thankfulness to God. He praises God for:
1. Hearing and answering prayers (Psalm 65:2).
2. Providing atonement / forgiveness for sin (Psalm 65:3).
3. Choosing people to come near to Him (Psalm 65:4).
4. Being approachable (Psalm 65:4).
5. The temple (Psalm 65:4).
6. The joy and satisfaction of living in God's presence (Psalm 65:4).
7. The way God inspires confidence (implied is the need to remember ways God has come through for them in the past) (Psalm 65:5).
8. God's power as illustrated in nature — the grandeur of mountains, God's ability to calm physical and people storms (Psalm 65:6-7).
9. That He is visible and available to all on earth (Psalm 65:8).
10. The reliability of day and night (Psalm 65:8).
11. God's nourishment of the earth with rain (Psalm 65:9-10)
12. An abundant harvest (Psalm 65:11-12).
13. The beauty of a pastoral scene (vs. 13).

David's list is a good example of one way we can set the tone of the day by focusing on God's gifts to us. Instead of dwelling on what's wrong with life, what we dread, fear or regret, let's focus on the good stuff.


PRAYER: Dear God, I'm sorry for my frequent lapses into worry and ungratefulness. Today I choose to think about You and reflect on the things for which I can praise and thank You. Amen

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 65

The Bible Project VIDEO: 1 & 2 Chronicles (Read Scripture Series)



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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, August 07, 2018

Healing sun

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Malachi 3-4; Psalm 64

TO CHEW ON: "But to you who fear My name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
With healing in His wings..." Malachi 4:2


Here we have a picture of Jesus as a sunrise. What a stunning image. Watch Him as He breaks over the horizon, His rays like wings that spread radiant light, warmth and healing.

[The word for healing used here is marpe'. It means restoration of health, remedy, cure, medicine, tranquility, deliverance, refreshing. Marpe' comes from the verb rapha' - to heal, cure, repair - "Word Wealth," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1273.]

An article in my Bible explains further, "Salvation is God's rescue of the entire person, and healing is His complete repair of that person as marpe' illustrates."

Note some instances of rapha healing in the Bible:
- It refers to the healing of a soul that has sinned in Psalm 41:4.
- It refers to the healing of a broken heart in Psalm 147:3.
- It speaks of just plain healing (physical, emotional and spiritual) through "His stripes" in Isaiah 53:5.

I love Clarke's commentary on our healing Sun verse:

"With healing in his wings - As the sun, by the rays of light and heat, revives, cheers, and fructifies the whole creation, giving, through God, light and life everywhere; so Jesus Christ, by the influences of his grace and Spirit, shall quicken, awaken, enlighten, warm, invigorate heal, purify, and refine every soul that believes in him, and, by his wings or rays, diffuse these blessings from one end of heaven to another; everywhere invigorating the seeds of righteousness, and withering and drying up the seeds of sin. The rays of this Sun are the truths of his Gospel, and the influences of his Spirit. And at present these are universally diffused"

 Let's claim that healing today for broken bodies, and sin-sorry and sad hearts while we anticipate the day when we see this Jesus-Sun face to face, and all healing will be complete:
"Your sun will never set;
      your moon will not go down.
   For the Lord will be your everlasting light.
      Your days of mourning will come to an end." - Isaiah 60:20 NLT

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for healing that characterized Your ministry on earth and for how the Gospel made alive by Your Spirit brings healing to lives and bodies still today. Help me to be an instrument of Your healing to others. Amen.


PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 64

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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, August 06, 2018

Cheap religion

"A Message for the Priests"
by B. Picart & G. Gouwen

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Malachi 1-2; Psalm 63

TO CHEW ON: "Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand." - Malachi 1:10 ESV

It sounds like Malachi is invoking the shutdown of the temple! What is the reason for his drastic suggestion?

Malachi prophesied during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, when worship abuses were rampant. As we read Malachi 1 closely, we begin to understand his almost unbelievable message to the priests of his time. He exposed their practices which were making a mockery of temple worship:

1. They offered blemished animals (Malachi 1:8).

2. They "snort(ed) at" rather than respected the temple rituals (Malachi 1:13 ESV).

3. They allowed the people to go back on their promises to offer the best of their flocks, accepting, instead, their inferior offerings (Malachi 1:14).

Though we no longer do the rituals and sacrifices of Malachi's day, there are parallels and lessons for us in his message:

Our lives are now the "living sacrifice" we offer to God (Romans 12:1). Are we giving God our best? The best part of each day? Our best effort? Our best years?

What about the rituals we do keep, like the Lord's Supper? Are we participating with gravity, mindful of its significance? Or do we take part as a rote celebration without examining ourselves and our relationships (1 Corinthians 11:27-32)?

Finally, do we keep our promises to God, perhaps made when we're in trouble? Or, when everything settles down, do we go back on our vows?

As the Bible dictionary writer says it:

"Cheap religion avails nothing....sacrifices given grudgingly are displeasing to God. Better a temple closed than filled with such worshippers" - International Standard Bible Dictionary on Malachi.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for these sobering thoughts from Malachi. Help me to apply them to my life today. Amen.


PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 63


The Bible Project  VIDEO: Malachi (Read Scripture Series)



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Scriptures marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved. ESV® Text Edition: 2016



Sunday, August 05, 2018

The Spirit who moves in world affairs and the hearts of people

Prayer
Prayer - Photo courtesy Pixabay.com
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Zechariah 9-14; Psalm 62

TO CHEW ON: "And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn" - Zechariah 12:10

The prophet Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai. He prophesied to the Jews who had returned from exile under Zerubbabel and Joshua. These returnees quickly set about rebuilding the temple. But their Samaritan neighbors resisted them, went to the King of Persia, and got an order for them to stop the rebuild. This project was then on hold for twelve years.

Into this context of discouragement and distraction (for in the meantime, the returned exiles became absorbed in fixing their own homes) Zechariah encouraged them to finish the job. He did this by pointing them to a day when Messiah will rule from a restored temple in a restored city.

I see two unexpected, we could say miraculous pictures in Zechariah 12.

The first is a picture of a restored Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:1-9).

This is something God does. Earth's armies don't stand a chance when God makes Jerusalem a "cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples" (vs. 2) and a "heavy stone" (vs. 3), when He strikes "every horse with confusion... blindness" (vs. 4), and causes Judah's governors to be "like a fiery torch in the sheaves" (vs. 6). God says in plain language: "It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Israel" - Zechariah 12:9.

The second is a picture of the Jews understanding and accepting "Me whom they pierced" (vs. 10).

How can this be a reference to anything other than Jesus on the cross? The cross was an instrument of torture and extreme humiliation. How will the Jews' scornful, mocking attitude toward Jesus change? Via another miracle. It happens when God pours on the "house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of Grace and supplication" - Zechariah 12:10.

I take encouragement for our own times from these pictures.

1. God's Spirit is active in nations.
God isn't governed by polls, the political pundits, or the media when it comes to who governs us and how successful they are. Whenever we're in election mode, it's easy to become smug or discouraged about the outcome depending on how our favorite party or leader is doing, based on the natural ways of measuring public support and the vote that will result. Do we believe that God is in these things too—that He can move in circumstances relating to who comes to power, no matter how it looks along the way? Let's not stop praying for the things God has laid on our hearts for our country, knowing that He is sovereign in who comes to power.

2. God's Spirit can enlighten the darkest heart.
Here God pours out His Spirit on those who killed Him so that they recognize who He is and understand what He did. He can also enlighten our loved ones.  In the words of a sidebar article in my Bible:

"This obvious prophetic reference to the Cross is a dramatic witness to the ministry and power of the Holy Spirit, whose mission is to glorify the Messiah and draw hearts to Him. It explains how the outpouring of the Holy Spirit has caused and will cause Jesus' death and sacrifice to become understood from Pentecost until He comes again" Scott G.Bauer, "The Holy Spirit Witnesses to the Cross of the Messiah," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1261.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for these encouraging pictures of how You move in world affairs and in the hearts of people. Help me to continue to pray in faith that You are at work in my land and in the people I love. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 62

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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, August 04, 2018

Practical piety

Shopping carts of the homeless - Photo V. N.
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Zechariah 5-8; Psalm 61

TO CHEW ON: "Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the Lord of hosts." Zechariah 7:12


The people's representatives Sherezer, Regem-Melech, and his men came to the temple priests with a question: "Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?"

It is likely that they were inquiring about commemorating the destruction of the temple in 587 B.C. (according to the writer of my Bible's study notes, D.W. Shibley - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1255).

God's message back to them through Zechariah may have come as a surprise. It contained no congratulations for their past piety. Instead, it pointed out things they had left undone: practicing true justice, showing mercy and compassion, treating widows and orphans well, and acting with integrity toward their neighbors (Zechariah 7:9,10).

These lacks, God said, were proof of the actual condition of their hearts—stubborn, refusing to hear, and hard ("hearts like flint") toward what really mattered to God (Zechariah 7:11,12).

I think there is a warning in this vignette for us too. We also easily reassure ourselves with spiritual activities and practices even while we may be glossing over the hard but practical aspects of obedience and what it means to love God—that is, to love our human brothers and sisters. Often our lack of love comes out in how we treat the poorest.

For me right now, I think of the homeless that trek the streets of my town. For the last few years I've seen them outside, summer through winter. The places they call home remind me of the tent city ghettos I've seen in the photos of faraway cities. I must admit these scenes stir up mixed feelings in me... not all of them positive.

I often ask myself—how do I show justice, mercy, and compassion to these, whose problems are complex (mental illness, addiction, poverty)? Is our household doing enough by supporting the local Salvation Army and the home missions arm of our church? May God never have to say to us (to me) "they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders and stopped their ears… yes, they made their hearts like flint."

PRAYER: Dear Father, I bring to You the homeless and poor in my neighborhood. Please give me creative ideas of how to show mercy and compassion to them. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 61

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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, August 03, 2018

God finishes what He starts

Image: Skitter Photo / StockSnap.io
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Zechariah 1-4; Psalm 60

TO CHEW ON: "Therefore, thus says the Lord: 'I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy;
My house shall be built in it,' says the LORD of hosts,
'And a surveyor's line shall be stretched over Jerusalem ' "- Zechariah 1:16



In the city where I used to live, there was a massive commercial building that was never finished. Whenever I drove by it, I looked for signs of progress but saw only deterioration. The bare wood walls became grey and weathered in the rain. The tattered wrapping around unused building materials waved in the wind. Tall grass obscured the foundation. The scene in today's reading is similar.

On their return from a 70-year exile in Babylon, the Jews had enthusiastically begun to rebuild the temple. But their efforts soon slowed under Samaritan opposition. The Samaritans eventually got an order from the ruling Persian king for the Jews to stop construction altogether. And so for twelve years the temple sat there a half-built sorry sight and reminder of their inability to finish the job.

It was into this situation that Zechariah spoke. His prophecies rekindled hope. His beautiful vision of angelic riders reporting on the peace of the earth (Zechariah 8:8-11) was followed by encouragement to again take up the temple project because God had determined it would be built - Zechariah 1:16,17.

Besides this prophecy giving hope to those post-exilic Hebrews, we might apply its message to our lives. In her "Truth-In-Action through Zechariah" commentary, Leslyn Musch says about Zechariah 1:16,17:
"Understand that the New Testament believers are now the house of the Lord, the dwelling place of His Spirit. Receive God's mercy and comfort. Have confidence that the Lord will complete the good work He has begun in you (1 Corinthians 6:19; Philippians 1:6)" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1264.

If it seems to you that your plans, hopes and dreams have been half-realized, your life house has been abandoned mid-build for whatever reason (sickness, family troubles, financial ruin, etc.) take heart. God's word to you today is: "My house shall be built…" Put your hope in God who finishes everything He starts. Quoting the verse Musch refers to above:
"Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ." - Philippians 1:6.

PRAYER:
Dear God, I believe You will finish what you have started in my life. Show me how to cooperate with You to bring this about. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 60 

The Bible Project  VIDEO: Zechariah (Read Scripture Series)




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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, August 02, 2018

Right priorities

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Haggai 1-2; Psalm 59

TO CHEW ON:  "You looked for much, but indeed, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. 'Why/' says the Lord of Hosts. 'Because of My house that is in ruins, while everyone of you runs to his own house.'"  Haggai 1:9


Haggai had returned home to Jerusalem with the other exiles from Babylon in 536 B.C. Now, sixteen years later, the temple still lay in ruins. And the people weren't doing so well either. They were working hard but in spite of that, their crops were failing, they were often hungry, and it was if they had put their wages in holey bags.

It was in this situation that God spoke to Haggai, and Haggai gave God's message to Governor Zerubbabel and High Priest Joshua.

God explained why this was happening: "Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house." In other words, the exiles had given their own interests top priority while neglecting God's interests. The dismal situation in the country was not just bad luck, but had come on them as a result of their violating a fundamental Kingdom of God principle.

A footnote in my Bible explains:

"The people were apparently using their poverty, food shortages and inflation as excuses not to finish the temple. In actuality, they are judgments for failing to build (vs. 9-11). Somewhat similarly, when God's people fail to tithe and honour the Sabbath in an effort to have enough money and enough time for themselves, their efforts are in vain because they deny themselves God's blessing on their efforts. God was not denying houses for the people; He was asking that they prioritize the building of His house and thereby trust Him for the building of theirs." - New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1243.

We find this principle—of attending to God's interests first before our own, with the promise that in the meantime our needs will be met—woven throughout the Bible. Jesus articulates it clearly in Matthew 6:25-33. It is part of the mysterious economy of the Kingdom of Heaven that when we try to satisfy our own needs and desires first, we'll be in want. But when we give God our first and best, we'll have abundance.

How can we respond?
- Understand God's principle of giving.
- Make God's priorities our priorities.
- Give Him the first of our time, talent and treasure.
- Do not live by the world system, which tells us to look out for ourselves first.
- Honor God and He will honor us.
— "Truth in Action through Haggai," New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1246.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this reminder of how Your kingdom works. Help me to work it by putting You and Your interests first in my life today. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 59

The Bible Project VIDEO: Haggai (Read Scripture Series)



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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, August 01, 2018

Prayer—fighting the darkness

robed and hooded warrior holding a sword
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 10-12; Psalm 58

TO CHEW ON: "Then he said to me, 'Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the Kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days.'" Daniel 10:12,13


Daniel 10 tells the interesting story of Daniel spending a considerable time in mourning-prayer and fasting as he seeks to understand a message he has received.  After three full weeks he gets a heavenly visitor, a "man"—obviously an angel (Daniel 10:5-6)—who appears to him and says, "...from the first day that you set your heart to understand, your words were heard..."

So why does this angel wait three weeks before coming?

Because he himself was  tied up, fighting spiritual forces (Daniel 10:13).

The writer of my Bible's notes on Daniel explains this section:

"This is one of the clearest OT examples that demonic armies oppose God's purposes and that earthly struggles often reflect what is happening in the heavenlies, and that prayer with fasting may affect the outcome" - Coleman Cox Phillips, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1136 (emphasis added).

What does this glimpse into the spiritual realm mean for us? Dick Eastman in his book Love On Its Knees makes the following points about the Christian's mission, and fighting spiritual resistance with prayer:
1. "It is God's desire to see every person on earth provided access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ... (2 Peter 3:9; Mark 13:10; Matthew 24:14).

2. "It is Satan's plan to prevent every unbeliever from receiving access to the Gospel of Jesus Christ... (2 Timothy 2:25-26; Ephesians 2:1,2).

3. "It is the Church's duty to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to every person on earth ... (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15).

4. "It is the intercessor's responsibility to hold back the unseen forces of satanic darkness wherever the Gospel of Jesus Christ is shared ... (Ephesians 6:10-12; 2 Thessalonians 3:1,2).

"... intercessors who contend for lost souls do indeed help add names to the Lamb's Book of Life. They may not be aware that they are sweeping through the heavenlies on their knees, or that they are contending against the darkness for a soul who has just been confronted with the claims of Christ, but their prayers make the harvest possible." - Dick Eastman, excerpts from Love On Its Knees, pages 166-171).

We don't need to know the names or territories of the demonic forces we fight, but being aware that our prayers are Kingdom warfare, and that spiritual battles take time is crucial, I believe, to our preparedness and perseverance.

PRAYER:
Dear God, please convict me of the importance and effectiveness of intercessory prayer for the advancement of Your Kingdom. Help me not to be discouraged when the answers take long time to come. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 58

MORE: Prayer is...

"Prayer is God's supreme gift to assist the Church in establishing His Kingdom throughout the earth" - Dick Eastman, Love On Its Knees, p. 161.
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New King James Version (NKJV) Used with permission. The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Daniel's vision of King Jesus

"The Glory of the Lamb" by David van der Plaats - Revelation 5:13
"The Glory of the Lamb" by David van der Plaats (Revelation 5:13)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 7-9Psalm  57

"TO CHEW ON: … behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom one
Which shall not be destroyed." Daniel 7:13,14


Who of us, familiar with the Bible, can read Daniel's description of the king in his vision and not get it? This is Jesus Daniel is seeing—Jesus whose kingdom he is describing.

He is "One like the Son of man" i.e. recognizable as a person. And how many times haven't we seen His coming described a "coming with the clouds of heaven"? Listen to Matthew's recall of Jesus' words:

"'Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven … and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory'" - Matthew 24:30 (see also Mark 13:26; 14:62; Luke 24:27; Revelation 1:7; 14:14).

Daniel goes on to describe how the Son of Man's dominion, glory, and kingdom encompass all the kingdoms of earth. All peoples, nations, and languages will serve Him. And His kingdom will be indestructible and last forever.

Though Jesus rebuffed any attempts to install Him as an earthly king,  He talked often about His kingdom (e.g. John 3:35-36).

Paul understood His ruler role as well as anyone and explained it to the early church and to us in passages like 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22 and how about this from Philippians:

"Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name,  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father "- Philippians 2:9-11

I love how the Bible's message reverberates from the Old Testament to the New in such a consistent way. As we see Daniel's picture of Jesus the king, let's allow our hearts to soar in admiration, awe and worship.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I so readily picture You as a wise but meek teacher, striding around Judea and Galilee telling stories and doing miracles. May the image of You as King be planted as firmly in my imagination. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 57

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The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Civil servant with an excellent spirit

Daniel praying by G.C.H. - Daniel 6:10
Daniel praying (Daniel 6:10)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 4-6; Psalm 56

TO CHEW ON: "'I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel.
For He is the living God,
And steadfast forever;
His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed,
And His dominion shall endure to the end.'" Daniel 6:26


Daniel in the lion's den—what a gripping story. It has all the elements of a good read: a noble hero, jealous villains, a naive king, and an insurmountable problem. But it is so much more than just entertainment.

Three things stand out for me in this incident.
1. The description of Daniel having an "excellent spirit" (Daniel 6:3).  That tells me he had a reputation for good things—good work, making wise decisions, perhaps a pleasing manner.

2. Daniel's unshakeable, even stubborn devotion to God (Daniel 6:10). When it came down to choosing between faith in God or his life, he chose God with not even a flicker of hesitation.

3. The incident resulted in praise and glory going to God, not Daniel, shown by Darius's prayer at the end of the chapter (Daniel 6:25-27).

We can draw three lessons for our own lives:
1. We can make it our goal to have an "excellent spirit." What would that look like? Perhaps a heart of service, a cheerful attitude, a considerate manner, a reputation for fairness... Leslyn Musch in her Truth-In-Action Through Daniel article, calls it "godliness" ("Try to reflect godliness in all you do" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1140). That would imply the that the attributes we see in God would make up an excellent spirit in us.

2. We can stay loyal to God no matter what the consequences. In our time that may or may not be reason for civil disobedience, as it was for Daniel.

3. The goal of all this is the only worth one: that glory goes to God, not us.

PRAYER:
Dear God, please help me to cooperate with You in developing an excellent spirit within me. May it be the goal of my life to bring glory to You, no matter what the cost. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 56

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






Sunday, July 29, 2018

Yielded bodies

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Daniel 1-3; Psalm 55

TO CHEW ON: "Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, 'Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego,  who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God." - Daniel 3:28

I love the way Nebuchadnezzar spells out what these three rebellious officials have done this day. He says, in effect, 'You thumbed your noses at my law, yielding your very bodies in order to obey God, whom I now see is greater than I am.' Not only had these men  faced the possibility of giving up their positions and reputations but their physical lives to stay loyal to God.

Similar sacrifice is found throughout scripture. In the Old Testament
  • Caleb and Joshua followed the Lord to the extent that their fellow Israelites were about to stone them when when they defended Moses after their spy mission - Numbers 14:10; 32:12.
  • King Josiah promised and then made good on his promise to follow God with all his heart, soul and might - 2 Kings 23:3,25.
  • In the New Testament Paul models that kind of surrender, facing stoning, riots, and imprisonments to spread the gospel.

Surrender to the point of physical pain—even death—is foreign to us, or to me at least. I wonder how I would have done under the pressures of Nebuchadnezzar's edict or the hounding that the first Christians lived with. No doubt the spirits of these stalwarts were first steeled in the mental, emotional and spiritual way Paul talks about in:


Romans 12:1
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.


Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.


Galatians 5:24
And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.


2 Timothy 2:21
Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.

PRAYER: Dear God, you are not asking me to yield my body to a fiery furnace, but to honour You and achieve Your purposes in my own setting. Help me to discern what Your purposes are, and to give myself, soul, spirit and body, to You. Amen.

The Bible Project VIDEO: DANIEL - (Read Scripture Series)



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





Saturday, July 28, 2018

Invincible

The king extends his sceptre to Esther - Artist unknown
The king extends his sceptre to Esther - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Esther 6-10; Psalm 54

TO CHEW ON: "The Jews gathered together in their cities …. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people." Esther 9:2

Here we read again what we've read before—of God coming to the aid of His helpless and outnumbered people, the Jews, using the psychological weapon of fear in their enemies.

This fear of the Jews is an old theme from when God promised to help the Israelites conquer Canaan. Moses reminded the Israelites of this repeatedly in passages like Numbers 14:9, Deuteronomy 7:24, 11:25; 28:7; 32:30.

When Joshua became their leader, God promised to help him in the same way - Joshua 1:5; 10:8. We read of the results of this fear in places like Joshua 12:1; 21:44; 23:9.

The Old Testament prophets continued to predict fear in the enemies of the Jews. God was intent on preserving the people out of which His Son would be born to bring salvation for the world  - Isaiah 19:17; Jeremiah 15:20; Daniel 11:16; Zechariah 9:13.  This incident in Persia is an example of this fear in action.

When Jesus walked the earth, we recall the many times during his life when the scribes and Pharisees, who were intent on killing him, were mysteriously hindered from harming Him by fear of one kind or another - Matthew 21:26,46; Mark 12:12; Luke 5:26; 20:19.

And the wonderful thing is that the promise of invincibility comes down to us.

Jesus promised about the church that the "... gates of hell shall not prevail against it" - Matthew 16:18.

Paul tells Christians to put on the armor of God, take up the shield of faith and in this way they would be able to "... quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one" - Ephesians 6:16.

No wonder the demons believe and "... tremble" - James 2:19.

When we feel small, insignificant, and badly outnumbered in an unbelieving world, let's not lose sight of the fact that God is still at work in the enemy's ranks. And He still has the weapon of fear in His arsenal.

PRAYER:
Dear God, please help me to live with confidence that Your plans and purposes for this world will never be thwarted. Amen.





PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 54

MORE: Modern fear of the Jews
When former KGB spy Jack Barsky (a Soviet spy in the U.S. during the Cold War years) recently talked to Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes, he said that the Jews were one of three things the Soviets feared most during those years. (The others were AIDS and Ronald Reagan).

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


Friday, July 27, 2018

Favor

Esther crowned by Ahasuerus
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Esther 1-5; Psalm 53

TO CHEW ON: "So the young woman pleased him, and she obtained his favor; so he readily gave beauty preparations to her besides her allowance .... And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her .... The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins." Esther 2:9,15,17

Exit Vashti; enter Esther. Esther rose, it seems effortlessly, to the top of the group of beautiful women assembled for the king and from which he would choose his next queen.

Several times we read that she had favor.

[The Hebrew word used for favor here is nasa which means to lift up, to be lifted up, to cause to be lifted up. Our English word favor is defined as a friendly regard shown toward another, especially by a superior; approving consideration or attention.]

We don't read that Esther made any effort to curry that favor. It just inexplicably came to her (because of her beauty, perhaps, or her pleasing personality). Or maybe there is an explanation. The writer of a sidebar article in my Bible says:

"Recognize that favour is given for a purpose. For Esther God's favour led to provision and protection for His people." - Leslyn Musch, Truth-In-Action through Esther, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 642.

I'm sure the same principle is true in our lives. If we find or are given favor, let's realize that God has a larger purpose for it than our good feelings. Perhaps we could pray for insight into how God wants to use that favor. Of course we don't have to know what His plans are. The realization that this favor is, in the end, about His cause and glory being advanced and not our own, will help keep us from getting swelled heads and egos.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this story of You working in the background to accomplish Your plans and purposes by giving Esther favor. Help me to acknowledge Your behind-the-scenes action in my life in a similar way. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 53

The Bible Project VIDEO: Esther (Read Scripture Series) 




MORE: More favor

"For his anger lasts only a moment,
 but His favor lasts a lifetime!
 Weeping may last through the night,
 but joy comes with the morning"- Psalm 30:5 (New Living Translation).
A good man obtains favor from the Lord,
    but the Lord condemns a crafty man. -
Proverbs 12:2 (NIV 1984).
"And Jesus increased in wisdom (in broad and full understanding) and in stature and years, and in favor with God and man." - Luke 2:52 (AMP).

Said of the early church: "... praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" - Acts 2:47.

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

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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

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