Sunday, June 24, 2018

A bright future

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 26-29; Psalm 20


TO CHEW ON:
 "For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11
If you've been around church or Christians for a while, you've probably heard someone quote the verse above. Perhaps you've read or recited it to yourself, maybe in a time you felt confused, directionless, or discouraged for some reason.

It is interesting to come across it in context. We discover these words are part of a letter Jeremiah wrote to people who were being punished. They were former Jerusalem dwellers who the Babylonians had taken captive.

These words assured the exiles back then, and us now, that no matter what situation we find ourselves in, God's intentions toward us are good. His ways in our lives move us toward a bright future.

But that future seems contingent on some actions on our part — actions that no doubt arise out of our confusion, difficulties and troubles: "Call upon Me...go and pray to Me...seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:12-13).

A sidebar article in my Bible says about these verses;

"Implied in this passage is a quest for God that includes a level of intensity beyond what might be termed ordinary prayer. The word 'search' along with the phrase "with all your heart" suggests an earnestness that borders on desperation" Dick Eastman, "Seeking God and Spiritual Warfare," New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 999.

I am reminded of other passages that speak of our search: Hosea 6:3; Matthew 6:33; Matthew 7:7-8.

There is no question: I want that hopeful future God has in mind for me. No doubt you do too. So let's do what it takes to get it, in terms of praying, seeking and searching to find, not a bright career or a satisfying human relationship, or power, or wealth, but Him.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for all the ways You draw me to Yourself — even using problems, difficulties and punishment to accomplish Your plans in my life. May these things drive me to seek You with all my heart.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 20

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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, June 23, 2018

Are we perverting God's word?

Bible
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 23-25; Psalm 19

TO CHEW ON: "'And the oracle of the Lord you shall mention no more. For every man's word will be his oracle, for you have perverted the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God.'" Jeremiah 23:36

In his diatribe against the false prophets of Judah, Jeremiah lays bare what these prophets are all about. He accuses them of being self-appointed (Jeremiah 23:21), of prophesying lies as they interpret any old dream as a message from God (Jeremiah 23:25), of putting their words in God's mouth (Jeremiah 23:31,32), of being a burden to God instead of speaking God's burden (oracle) (Jeremiah 23:33 especially clear in the Amplified), and of perverting God's words (Jeremiah 23:36). Let's look closely at that last.

The Bible is clear about how sacred God's word is and not to be treated flippantly.
- It is not to be added to or subtracted from (Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:19).
- It is to be obeyed (Deuteronomy 12:32).
- How we observe it will have eternal consequences (Matthew 5:19).

But could we be guilty of perverting it as those Old Testament prophets were? I can think of several practices which might result in such perversion:

- Emphasizing or giving more weight to one section of the Bible over another. (An example: the Red Letter Movement.)

- Using Bible texts to prove a doctrine which isn't otherwise generally supported in scripture. (An example: Using 1 Corinthians 13:8 as a proof-text that the charismatic gifts, particularly the gift of tongues, have ceased.)
- Overlaying our Bible interpretation with systems of numbers, colours and symbols, making the plain narrative into a puzzle that only the initiated can decipher.

- Picking and choosing which parts of the Bible to obey.
Can you think of more?

I appreciate the five types of people T. Norton Sterrett suggests will properly interpret the Bible. Those with:
1. A new heart (1 Corinthians 2:14).
2. A hungry heart (1 Peter 2:2).
3. An obedient heart (Psalm 119:98-100).
4. A disciplined heart (in its persistence) (Matthew 7:7).
5. A teachable heart (Isaiah 50:4).
- T. Norton Sterrett, How To Understand Your Bible, p. 19-21, 1974 edition.

In today's atmosphere of "My truth is as good as yours," let's continue to let these attitudes guide our reading and following of the Bible.

PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, please be my Bible teacher (John 14:26; 16:13). Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 19

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

Friday, June 22, 2018

Potter picture

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 18-22; Psalm 18

TO CHEW ON: "And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel as it seemed good to the potter to make." Jeremiah 18:4


The Bible writers often use everyday objects and activities to teach lessons of the Spirit. Here Jeremiah bases his prophecy and plea to Israel on a visit God instructs him to make to a pottery shop. As he watches the craftsman shape the glistening clay spinning under his hands, then change the pot's form when the clay refuses to cooperate, God gives him a message for Israel. He draws their attention to similarities between the potter working with the clay, and God working with people.

- Just as the potter is sovereign over the clay, doing with it as he pleases, so God is sovereign over the "house of Israel."

- What the potter makes depends on the clay. When the vessel he is making doesn't stand up to the process but becomes marred, he shapes it into a different one. Similarly, what God can do with Israel depends on her response to Him.

My Bible study notes sum up these lessons well: "As the quality of the clay limits what the potter can do with it, so the quality of a people limits what God can do with them." Spirit Filled Life Bible p. 985.

We can apply this potter picture to our own lives as we ask questions like:
  • Am I resistant or malleable clay in God's hands? 
  • Do I insist on fulfilling my own plans and ambitions, or do I submit those to Him. When circumstances in my life don't turn out as I plan, do I get all frustrated? 
  • Do I realize that God may be shaping me for some task of which I'm not aware
  • Am I letting the Master Potter shape my life into whatever jar, cup, plate or pitcher most useful for the purposes of His kingdom?

PRAYER: Dear God, please show me where the clay of my life is stubborn or marred with impurities. I want my life to be good clay, that You can shape for Your kingdom purposes. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 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.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Is trouble our fault?

Image: Pixabay.com
TODAY’S  SPECIAL: Jeremiah 14-17; Psalm 17

TO CHEW ON: “Thus says the LORD to this people;
‘They have loved to wander;
They have not restrained their feet.
Therefore the LORD does not accept them;
He will remember their iniquity now,
And punish their sins’ “ Jeremiah 14:10.


There is probably nothing that draws our attention toward or away from God like tragedy. Whether it’s the personal tragedy of sickness, death, or accident or mass disasters like flood, earthquake, fire, or war, when such things touch our lives we feel compelled to ask life's hard questions.

In Jeremiah 14 of our reading today Jeremiah describes horrendous drought conditions. There is no water anywhere. Man and beast alike languish (Jeremiah 14:1-6).

He links these physical conditions to the spiritual state of the land’s inhabitants - Jeremiah 14:10 (our focus verse).

As if that isn’t bad enough, God goes on to command Jeremiah not to pray for these people because even if they perform outward signs of repentance (fast, bring offerings) God knows that their repentance isn’t genuine (Jeremiah 14:11,12).

God is especially hard on the religious leaders—false prophets—who claim to speak for God but don’t (Jeremiah 14:13-15).

Back to us, we hesitate—maybe too much—to link difficult circumstances and tragedies to our spiritual condition. Maybe there’s a stronger connection than we acknowledge. For starters, we live in a fallen world where things devolve into chaos rather than evolve into order. Additionally, as citizens of nations that have, in effect, turned their backs on God, Christians are not immune from feeling the effects of God’s punishment on the countries in which we live.

Maybe the consequences resulting from spiritual hardness of sword, famine, and pestilence is one that should not surprise us, both personally and nationally (Leviticus 26:25,26).

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to search my own heart and keep clear accounts with You in good times and in bad. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 17

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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, June 20, 2018

A close God

Praying hands resting on an open Bible
Image courtesy Pixabay.com
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 10-13Psalm 16

TO CHEW ON: "I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved." Psalm 16:8


Though David calls for help at the beginning of this psalm, most of it is a flag plant of faith. It's as if in his trouble he is reminding himself of some core truths about God and his relationship with God:
  • He has cast in his lot with the LORD (Yahweh) and His people (Psalm 16:2,3).
  • God has been there for him in the past (Psalm 16:5,6).
  • God is with him now, even at night (Psalm 16:7).

Psalm 16:8, our focus verse, illustrates two sides of this relationship.

David does something: "I have set the LORD always before me; …"

It's as if he sees himself as living always in God's presence. It's a presence with whom he aligns his life (an ancient "WWJD" or "What would Yahweh approve?").

God does something:
"Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved."

He's there—a constant and reassuring presence. This awareness of God's presence not only keeps David on the straight and narrow but is his protection.

Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe says that God at David's right hand suggests God as his advocate and defender. Wiersbe sums up his commentary on this passage:
"With the Lord as his guide and guard, he has nothing to fear; he would not be moved. The future is your friend when Jesus is your Lord" - Warren Wiersbe, BE Bible Study Series (accessed through Biblegateway.com - emphasis added).

Perhaps we could benefit from using David's method of reassurance.

1. Set God before us.
Though we know He's everywhere present, it helps to specifically invite Him into our circumstances, to "... set the Lord always before me..."
  • when we're brokenhearted - Psalm 34:18.
  • when He feels silent and absent - Psalm 35:22; 38:7.
  • when we need His help - Psalm 145:18.
  • when we already sense His activity in creation and the course of our lives - Psalm 75:1.

2. Live assured that He is there.

We can know that He is there to guide, defend, protect, and carry us through whatever circumstance we face: "Because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved."


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for being not some distant, disinterested deity but a close God who is with us through all the ups and downs of life. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 16

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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, June 19, 2018

Will He know you?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 7-9; Psalm 15

TO CHEW ON:
"'And like their bow they have bent their tongue for lies.
They are not valiant for the truth on the earth.
For they proceed from evil to evil
And they do not know Me,' says the Lord." Jeremiah 9:3


These chilling words from today's focus verse snag my attention: "And they do not know Me." Why does God claim these people — citizens of Judah and members of His chosen race -- don't know Him? In this case the peoples' lies show that they don't know God in any life-changing way.

These words set me on a search to find other places God talks about our estrangement from Him and His from us.

Jesus echoes the sentiment from Jeremiah in Matthew 7 when he says that those who do the will of God are the ones God recognizes:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23 - emphasis mine).

Jesus also talks plainly about not knowing those who try to come to God in any but the given way - the "narrow gate":

Then one said to Him, “Lord, are there few who are saved?”
And He said to them, 'Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open for us,’ and He will answer and say to you, ‘I do not know you, where you are from,’ then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.’ But He will say, ‘I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.’ "(Luke 13:23-27 - emphasis mine).

There is a disturbing trend in modern Christianity to dilute Christ's claim that He is the only way to God. Perhaps it seems too narrow, exclusive, and intolerant. Or maybe it comes from a desire for novelty and finding a new and improved way to connect with God. The result is a tendency toward syncretism, a blending of our worship of God with the practices of other religions. It borrows from various faith streams to make a hybrid way to God, which includes Christ and/or a little meditation, asceticism, mysticism etc. These practices are rooted in Gnosticism and eastern religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism etc.

In this context the warning words of Moses ring across the ages. They apply to the church today:

“When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way..." (Deuteronomy 12:29-31a - emphasis mine).

In our quest for a new and improved way to connect with God, to experience spiritual thrills and chills, let's be ever aware of Jesus' words: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).

PRAYER: Dear God, at the end of my life I do not want to hear You say, "I do not know you." Please alert me, by Your Spirit, to disobedience and wandering in me. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 15

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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, June 18, 2018

The fruit of our thoughts

pomegranate fruit tree
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 4-6; Psalm 14

TO CHEW ON: "Hear O earth!
Behold, I will certainly bring calamity on this people—
the fruit of their thoughts,
Because they have not heeded My words." Jeremiah 6:19



Any gardener or farmer knows that each plant can only produce the fruit that it was created to produce. He will never get apples from a corn plant or blackberries from a rose bush.

Fruiting plants can be a good picture of our lives. We might say that the type of plant we are is determined by our thoughts. Jeremiah predicted that the fruit of Judah's natural, anxious, idol-trusting thoughts would be calamity. As a plant they had turned from trusting God back to their old wild-vine status of trusting in themselves and idols.

What sort of fruit do our thoughts produce? If the seed of new life has been planted in our hearts (Ezekiel 36:25-27), we should be operating in a new thought paradigm. With Jesus as our Shepherd, Lord, King, Master, we will think differently than we did when we were wild vines or bushes.

  • We "bring every thought into the captivity and obedience of Christ" - 2 Corinthians 10:4,5.
  • We dwell on thoughts that will lead to Spirit fruit (Galatians 5:22)—thoughts that are pure, lovely, loveable, kind, winsome, gracious, virtuous, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8).
  • We ask for God's wisdom and act on His answers (James 1:5-8).
  • We refuse to dwell on worrisome, anxious thoughts. Instead we unload those thoughts on Jesus in prayer and we reap the peace of God (Philippians 4:6-7).

I ask myself, do the above habits characterize my thought life? Yours? If Jeremiah 6:19 were written about us, what crop would describe the fruit of our thoughts?

Behold, I will certainly bring ___________ on ____(insert your name here)___,
The fruit of his/her thoughts.


PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to align my life with Kingdom principles, starting with my thoughts. I want the Spirit fruit of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to describe my life.  


PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 14



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


Sunday, June 17, 2018

Three life lessons from Jeremiah

Jeremiah - Artist unknown
Jeremiah - Artist unknown
Happy Father's Day!

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 1-3; Psalm 13

TO CHEW ON: "But the Lord said to me: 'Do not say "I am a youth,"
For you shall go to all to whom I send you
And whatever I command you, you shall speak.' " Jeremiah 1:7


In ten short verses Jeremiah gives us three lessons for a lifetime. They were truths from God to him that would guide, comfort, and goad him on through the reign of Judah's last five kings.

Lesson 1 - His life was planned
- Jeremiah 1:5.
God told Jeremiah he was no accident. His ministry and assignment were part of God's design. Before he was even conceived God knew him and set him apart for his unique job as a prophet to the nations.

Lesson 2 - His natural shortcomings were no problem - Jeremiah 1:7.
Jeremiah objected to this assignment. He wasn't a speaker. He was too young. God allayed all his fears with the promise of His presence.

Lesson 3 - His ministry could have an impact far beyond what would be expected
- Jeremiah 1:9,10.
Who would listen to a young, single prophet of Judah? Yet God's promise that He would supply Jeremiah's words meant that they would have divine authority over nations and kingdoms.

Though God will not give any of us the assignment He gave Jeremiah, I believe the lessons behind the specifics of Jeremiah's life apply to us too.

1. We are not accidents either. God has a plan and destiny for each one of us. I love Ephesians 2:10 in this regard:
For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us] - AMP version.

2. Neither are our shortcomings a problem to God. Our excuses (I'm too old, too uneducated, too poorly connected, too old-fashioned etc.) might just be a benefit in that they show off who is really working through us.
But we have this precious treasure [the good news about salvation] in [unworthy] earthen vessels [of human frailty], so that the grandeur and surpassing greatness of the power will be [shown to be] from God [His sufficiency] and not from ourselves - 2 Corinthians 4:7 AMP.

3. Our lives can also have a way bigger impact and our words have more authority than common sense says they should. Jesus' many teachings on the power of prayer  (e.g. Matthew 6:6) as well as His words to Peter and the disciples come to mind:
I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth shall have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth shall have [already] been loosed in heaven - Matthew 18:18 AMP.

As we face our life assignments and big and little, let's relate the life lessons God gave Jeremiah to our lives and find purpose, courage and hope in them.

PRAYER:
Dear God, thank You that You knew me before I ever existed, that You have a purpose for my life, and that You are and will be the means of fulfilling it. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 13

The Bible Project VIDEO: Jeremiah (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.


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)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A pest in the garden

"Rise up my love, my fair one
and come away"
by James Shaw Crompton

"Rise up my love..." by James shaw Crompton
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Song of Solomon 5-8; Psalm 12


TO CHEW ON: "I had put off my garment;
how could I put it on?
I had bathed my feet;
how could I soil them." Song of Solomon 5:3


Even this idyllic garden of love has a pest or two. In today's reading we see glimmers of selfishness when Beloved comes to the door, but Bride doesn't feel like getting dressed or soiling her clean feet. So she delays. When she does eventually open the door no one is there.  Beloved has gone. She has delayed too long.

We may recognize Bride's selfishness in reactions that well up within us. We don't like to be interrupted, pulled away from activities that we have planned, or have our sleep broken by the telephone.

After ignoring the summons to respond we may be filled with regret just like Bride was. But when we try to back-track, we often find, just like she did that once an opportunity to show love has been squandered, it is lost forever.

PRAYER: Dear God, I recognize Bride's selfishness in me. Help me to respond to opportunities to show love and think more of others than myself. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY:
Psalm 12

MORE: The sober truth

John Piper explores selfishness in a February 2011 sermon entitled "I Act the Miracle":
"Selfishness is virtually the same as pride and is the deep, broad corruption that is at the bottom of it all. I would give it six traits.
    •    My selfishness is a reflex to expect to be served.
    •    My selfishness is a reflex to feel that I am owed.
    •    My selfishness is a reflex to want praise.
    •    My selfishness is a reflex to expect that things will go my way.
    •    My selfishness is a reflex to feel that I have the right to react negatively to being crossed.
And the reason I use the word “reflex” to describe the traits of selfishness is that there is zero premeditation. When these responses happen, they are coming from nature, not reflection. They are the marks of original sin.
Now what happens when this selfishness is crossed?"
 
By John Piper. ©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

Read all of I Act the Miracle and discover ANTHEM (an acronym for victory over selfishness and its nasty symptoms).


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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, June 15, 2018

Love is not for sissies

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Song of Solomon Psalm 11

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


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


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

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 11

The Bible Project VIDEO: Song of Solomonhttps://youtu.be/4KC7xE4fgOw (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, June 14, 2018

Wisdom for work

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ecclesiastes 9-12; Psalm 10


TO CHEW ON:
"Cast your bread upon the waters,
For you will find it after many days." 11:1

"He who observes the wind will not sow,
And he who regards the clouds will not reap." 11:4

"In the morning sow your seed,
And in the evening do not withhold your hand;
For you do not know which will prosper,
Either this or that,

Or whether both alike will be good." 11:6

I don't know whether you read the positive thinkers (Dale Carnegie, Robert Schuller et al). I know I have and, though some of their writings seem unrealistically optimistic, I do admit to feeling empowered, energized, and hopeful after spending some time with them.

That's also how the three verses above make me feel. They provide a refreshingly positive outlook in a book that takes a mostly gloomy view of human effort.

These three proverbs speak to three aspects of work. I'll tell you how they speak to me as a writer. Perhaps that will give you thoughts about how they relate to you and your work.

  • The "Cast your bread..." verse says to me: "Make investments even though the return isn't immediately apparent; risk effort rather than withholding it out of an abundance of caution." This verse is in my stack of "writing verses." I think of it when I send away a manuscript. It is true in more ways than one. For it is often many days before I hear back the fate of something I have submitted.
  • I've paraphrased the "He who observes..." verse: "Don't delay effort by making excuses that the conditions aren't exactly right." In my field of endeavor, this is easy to do. I can tell myself, this piece isn't quite ready and continue tweaking it forever. Or I can think up reasons why now is not the right time to submit (in summer editors will be on holidays, in fall -- swamped with submissions, close to Christmas -- preoccupied etc.). This verse advises me not to rationalize myself into paralysis. Rather, I should expend myself, even if conditions don't look ideal.
  • "In the morning sow your seed..." says to me, "Diversify your efforts/investments for you don't know which will succeed, or if they all will. (I like the positive note "...or whether both alike will be good." He could just as easily have said, "Or whether both alike will fail.") As a writer, this verse gives me permission to diversify (work in a variety of genres), something which the common wisdom doesn't recommend but which suits my style and personality only too well.
These proverbs all advise wise stewardship of effort. It's a work ethic of which Jesus approves. Whatever your line of work, may their wisdom liberate, motivate, energize, and empower you too!

PRAYER:
 Dear God, please deliver me from laziness, over-cautiousness and fear, Help me to act on your promptings, and live carefree as I leave the results in Your hands. Amen.
PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 10

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Soul food

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ecclesiastes 5-8; Psalm 9

TO CHEW ON: "All the labor of man is for his mouth,
And yet the soul is not satisfied." Ecclesiastes
6:7



Has it ever struck you how ever-near is your next bout of hunger? For the healthy person the desire to eat recurs at regular intervals separated by mere hours and is never satisfied in a final way. This is, however, a good thing, as it keeps us fueling ourselves so we stay alive.

In the Ecclesiastes passage the Preacher refers to this inability to once-and-for-all slake hunger. But he looks at it as a disadvantage. We could take his reference to our physical hunger as a stand-in for all the physical things in life that promise satisfaction. We partake, indulge, even over-indulge, hoping to quell that nagging ache. But still there is hunger — soul hunger. Our souls are not satisfied with material things.

Jesus' words stand in bold contrast. He tells us He is the water that finally quenches soul and spirit thirst. He is the bread that finally satisfies and gives spiritual life.

I ask myself, where do I find myself going to quench soul and spirit hunger? To material things? To the arts—literature, paintings and sculptures, music? To social interaction? To personal performance and productivity?

These things have their place. Some are better at providing temporary satisfaction than others. But Jesus and what He offers is the source and supply of spirit and soul food that fully and finally satisfies in a way that lasts into eternity.

PRAYER:
Dear Jesus, please help me look for and find my satisfaction in You.


PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 9

The Bible Project VIDEO: Ecclesiastes (Wisdom theme)





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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, June 12, 2018

What's the point?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ecclesiastes 1-4; Psalm 8

TO CHEW ON: "What profit has a man from all his labor
In which he toils under the sun?" Ecclesiastes 1:3

'What's the point" Solomon seems to be saying as he begins the little book of Ecclesiastes. This collection of only twelve chapters discusses the purpose of human endeavor. Scholars believe that Solomon wrote it at the end of his life, when he may have returned to God from the state that is described in 1 Kings 11.

Our reading today seems like the ruminations of an old man, or if not old, surely jaded:

- What's the purpose of all one's work, he asks. The next generation comes along and it's all forgotten anyway. (Ecclesiastes 1:4)

- Nature carries on in it its cycles uninterrupted (Ecclesiastes 1:5-7).

- Work is never done (Ecclesiastes 1:8a).

- Desire is never satisfied (Ecclesiastes 1:8b).

- Mankind really has no control over anything; what will be, will be (Ecclesiastes 1:9a).

- Everything supposedly new is really a rehash of something old (Ecclesiastes 1:9b-10).

- We forget the past, refusing to learn from or be changed by it (Ecclesiastes 1:11).

- Even what I (Solomon) learned in the quest for wisdom didn't satisfy (Ecclesiastes 1:17-18).

He seems, in all this, to be driving toward the conclusion that there is no point to anything.

I must admit, especially as I've grown older, that I have had some of the same thoughts. Witnessing loved ones die and seeing how quickly their memory and influence fade from this earth underlines the truth of what the preacher is implying. Does the perspective of increasing age doom one to adopt such a pessimistic outlook? Not at all.

As the writer of the Introduction to Ecclesiastes in my Bible says:

"The Preacher's constant probing of all existence for meaning shows him to be an optimist, not a pessimist, and his failure to discover any absolute, abiding value in this life ("under the sun") does not mean his quest is a failure. Instead, he finds himself compelled (by his observation that God placed order in the universe at the time of its creation, Ecclesiastes 3:1-14) to seek the value he seeks in the world to come (not "under the sun" but "above the sun" so to speak)....
The Preacher's failure to find real value in earthly things and comfortable lifestyles challenges the Christian who lives in this age of greed and materialism to concentrate on the things that are above (Colossians 3:1-2) and not to glorify greed and possessions." William C. Williams, "Introduction to Ecclesiastes," New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p, 844.

Before we succumb to the Preacher's negativity, let's remind ourselves, there is a point. But it's not to be found in this world.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 8

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me not to view this life and human endeavor as ends in themselves. Help me, instead, to view all of life within the context of eternity. Amen. 

The Bible Project VIDEO: Ecclesiastes (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.



Monday, June 11, 2018

Disrespect of fathers--an old attitude

Image: Microscoft Clipart
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 28-31; Psalm 7

TO CHEW ON: "This is a generation that curses its father, and does not bless its mother." Proverbs 30:11


I don't think I can recall a TV show or commercial lately where fathers are honoured. The message is more likely to follow along the lines of certain credit card promos, where the dud of a father books a flight (to his parents' home or a vacation spot) at an inappropriate time because his inferior credit card company has blocked all the good weeks.

What follows is scenes of the family in full sweaty costume celebrating all the year's holidays in the heat of summer, or on the beach besieged by storms, or the tennis court hassled by swarms of bugs. The camera segues to one of the kids who mutters, "Dad needs to get a ___ card," followed by him / her looking at the camera and asking, "What's in your wallet?" They're funny, but they do carry the message: Poor dad. He sure is stupid. His kid is way smarter.

This attitude is not new. In fact it's as old as Jacob deceiving Isaac to get the blessing of the firstborn (Genesis 27:1-29).

There are many ways we can dishonour our fathers (and mothers; the Bible usually talks in terms of both parents):

1. By living lives of disobedience, rebellion, stubbornness and sensuality (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).

2. By showing lack of respect (Deuteronomy 27:16).

3. By taking sides and promoting dissension and quarreling in the family (Micah 7:6).

4. By failing to provide for them when they are in need and we have the means (Mark 7:9-13).

The Bible teaching is clear in its stand supporting fathers and parents in general.
1. The command to honour parents is one of the ten, and accompanied with the promise of long life (Deuteronomy 5:16).

2. The child who treats parents disrespectfully is living dangerously (Proverbs 30:17).

3. Robbing parents of what is their due puts children in cahoots with the destroyer (Proverbs 28:24).

4. Children betraying parents is one of the unnatural family behaviors that will typify end times (Matthew 10:21; 2 Timothy 3:2).

The application to us cuts many ways.

  • If you are a father, you will want to live in a way that earns the commanded respect.

  • If you are the wife of a father, it's important to refrain from undermining your husband to your children by going behind his back with deceitful, underhanded speech or manipulations like Rebekah did.

  • If you are a child and your father is still living, you can provide for him (time, attention and respect are provisions as well as financial help if he needs it and living support if he is elderly or failing).

  • Whether your father is dead or alive, you can focus on the good in him, refusing to dwell on the hurtful actions or lacks that may be a part of your memories.

How will you honour your father, not just on Father's Day (which we celebrate this month) but every day?

PRAYER:
Dear God, thank You for earthly fathers. Thank You for the gift of my dad and his godly example. For those of us who don't have earthly fathers, thank You for promising to be a father to the fatherless. Amen.


PSALM TO PRAY:
Psalm 7

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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, June 10, 2018

Do you have an obedient ear?

Gold earring with amber gemstone
Photo from RGB Stock
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 25-27; Psalm 6

TO CHEW ON: "Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear." Proverbs 25:12



Rebuke isn't a word we use often these days. It means to reprove sharply, reprimand, check or restrain by command. Its synonym reprove (to rebuke, censure, blame) is almost as rare.

Perhaps we don't use these words because we don't do much rebuking or reproving. When the news carries stories of people getting beat up for trying to check or restrain bad behaviour, can we be blamed for keeping our mouths shut?

Yet here Solomon praises the person who learns from a rebuke. Other references to rebuke in the Bible help us understand from whom rebuke might come and how to receive and give it.

  • Sometimes it comes from unexpected sources. In the Old Testament, rebuke came to Abram and Sarah from an Egyptian Pharaoh and Abimelech, the king of Gerar, when they lied about their relationship - Genesis 12:18 and Genesis 20:16.
  • Rebuke is valuable when it comes from a righteous, wise person. In Psalm 141:5 the psalmist calls it "excellent oil." Our focus verse likens wise rebuke to gold jewelry.
  • Parents are expected to rebuke their children and wise children will respond with corrected behaviour - Proverbs 15:5; Proverbs 2:1-22.
  • Rebuke is most helpful when it's "open" vs. hidden, as in not delivered - Proverbs 27:5.
  • We demonstrate whether we are foolish or wise by how we respond to it - Proverbs 17:10.
  • God, our heavenly Father, shows His care for us when He rebukes us - Hebrews 12:5.

Have you been rebuked by someone lately? Or by God Himself? How do you tend to respond to rebuke?

Instead of getting our hackles up, or objecting "Who are you to tell me I'm wrong?!" let's prove ourselves wise by valuing righteous, helpful, needed rebuke and responding to it with an obedient ear.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to be open to rebuke today and to respond with an obedient ear. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 6
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The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.


Saturday, June 09, 2018

Some do's and don'ts for a successful life

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 22-24; Psalm 5

TO CHEW ON: "Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
And apply your heart to my knowledge;
For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you;
Let them all be fixed upon your lips,
So that your trust may be in the Lord..." Proverbs 22:17-19


Even though its wisdom is ancient, the advice in Proverbs is as relevant today as ever. The issues addressed in one chapter of today's reading (Proverbs 22) are wide-ranging—from bringing up children to having a good work ethic. Yet the theme of SUCCESS runs through them all. The writer is telling us, to have a successful life you must do some things and refrain from doing others.

DO:
  • Seek to have a good reputation - Proverbs 22:1
  • Understand your times and guard yourself against possible catastrophe - Proverbs 22:3.
  • Live humbly and fear God - Proverbs 22:4,5.
  • Train children from the earliest age - Proverbs 22:6
  • Be generous and give to the poor - Proverbs 22:9
  • Remove cynical contentious people as partners or associates - Proverbs 22:10.
  • Love purity and speak with grace - Proverbs 22:11.
  • Actively seek wisdom and knowledge - Proverbs 22:17,18.
  • Trust in the Lord - Proverbs 22:19
  • Work hard to be the best you can be - Proverbs 22:29.

DON'T:
  • Live a wilfully sinful life - Proverbs 22:8.
  • Be lazy - Proverbs 22:13.
  • Ignore the foolishness that is found in your child's heart - Proverbs 22:15.
  • Take advantage of the poor and downtrodden - Proverbs 22:23.
  • Become intimate with angry people - Proverbs 22:24,25.
  • Borrow money or underwrite someone else's loan - Proverbs 22:7, 26, 27.
  • Move the borders of your property to increase the size of your plot - Proverbs 22:28

Though living by these do's and don'ts may sound like common sense, some are anti-intuitive—at least anti-intuitive to our 21st century minds. To put them into practice we need to have faith in God and that what He says through Solomon is really wise.
- Being generous makes you rich?
- Gracious speech has more impact than bullying, angry words?
- Borrowing and going into debt is bad?
- Innocent little children need correction and discipline?

Especially when God's wisdom clashes with our modern 'wisdom' we need to cling to Him as we resist going along with the crowd:
"Let them all be fixed on your lips
So that your trust may be in the Lord.
"

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to trust You and take seriously the wisdom in Your word, especially when it goes against what my peers think, believe, and live by. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY:
Psalm 5

MORE: Are you foolish enough?
"When looking back on the lives of men and women of God the tendency is to say - What wonderfully astute wisdom they had! How perfectly they understood all God wanted! The astute mind behind is the Mind of God, not human wisdom at all. We give credit to human wisdom when we should give credit to the Divine guidance of God through childlike people who were foolish enough to trust God's wisdom and the supernatural equipment of God." - Oswald Chambers, from the October 26th reading of My Utmost for His Highest.
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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, June 08, 2018

Insomnia

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 19-21; Psalm 4


TO CHEW ON: "I will both lie down in peace and sleep;
For You alone, O LORD, Make me dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8

Are you ever troubled with insomnia? I certainly am. I think perhaps David was too. For in this psalm he reminds himself (and us, the readers/listeners) that he should be able to sleep:

"Meditate within your heart on your bed and be still ...
I will both lie down in peace and sleep ..."

The Bible speaks of peaceful sleep coming as a result of:

  • Doing a hard day's physical work - Ecclesiastes 5:12.
  • Entrusting the final outcome of our work to God - Psalm 127:2
  • Trusting God for general well-being and protection - Psalm 3:5; Proverbs 3:24 and our focus verse,Psalm 4:8.
  • Trusting God in even extreme circumstances, like Jesus did in the storm-tossed boat (Mark 4:38) and Peter did in prison (Acts 12:6).

I would submit that often 'trust' is the secret to our ability to sleep well:

"... put your trust in the Lord ... For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety."


PRAYER: Dear God, it is so easy to take the responsibility for my life on my shoulders and with it a load of fear and anxiety that keep me awake. Help me to trust You to the extent that I can relax in sleep. Amen.


PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 4

MORE: Insomniac prayers

One thing many of us do at night when we can't sleep is pray. (David mentions communication with God four times in this short psalm.)

I love how Donna Farley writes of nighttime prayers in her poem "The Geography of Prayer." Here is a sampling:


THE GEOGRAPHY OF PRAYER

my midnight wakeful prayers
the gift of insomnia
I hold a globe cradled in my hands
and the wave of prayer begins:

a slingshot drawn back to the west coast
then as if the daylight terminator reversed itself
sweeping eastward with mercy, healing,
over the homes of people I know
and people I don't...

....

But I can't be the only one who lies
awake nights like this.
Like lines of magnetic force
caressing the world I imagine prayers
emanating from the faithful
wrapping the world up like string
wound around the core of a baseball....

© 1999 by Donna Farley (Used with permission)
Read the entire peom here.

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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, June 07, 2018

The power of words

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Proverbs 16-18; Psalm 3

TO CHEW ON:
“Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” Proverbs 16:24 NLT*

Are you a person of many or few words?  Have your words ever you into trouble? Or perhaps your words helped get you out of trouble.

The three chapters of Proverbs in today’s reading deal with many subjects. A prominent one is the role of the tongue in everyday life. What wisdom can we learn about speech from these chapters?


  • Our words reflect our thoughts and reveal who we really are.

“The wise are known for their understanding” - Proverbs 16:21.

“From a wise mind comes wise speech” - Proverbs 16:23.

“Anyone who loves to quarrel loves to sin…” - Proverbs 17:19.

“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.
Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut they seem intelligent” - Proverbs 17:27,28


“Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinion” - Proverbs 18:2.

“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish” - Proverbs 18:13.

  • Our words have power for good and bad.

“… pleasant words are persuasive… the words of the wise are persuasive” - Proverbs 16:21,23.

“Scoundrels create trouble; their words are a destructive blaze” - Proverbs 16:27.

“A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends” - Proverbs 16:28.

“Rumors are dainty morsels that sink deep into one’s heart” - Proverbs 18:8.

“The first to speak in court sounds right—until the cross-examination begins” - Proverbs 18:17.


  • Our speech has consequences.

“The king is pleased with words from righteous lips; he loves those who speak honestly” - Proverbs 16:13.

“Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; those who rejoice at the misfortunes of others will be punished” - Proverbs 17:5.

“The crooked heart will not prosper; the lying tongue tumbles into trouble” - Proverbs 17:20.

“Fools’ words get them into constant quarrels; they are asking for a beating. The mouths of fools are their ruin; they trap themselves with their lips” - Proverbs 18:6,7.

“Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars” - Proverbs 18:10.

“The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences” - Proverbs 18:21.


  • Rulers and those in authority have added responsibility to speak carefully.

“The king speaks with divine wisdom; he must never judge unfairly” - Proverbs 16:10.

“Eloquent words are not fitting for a fool; even less are lies fitting for a ruler” - Proverbs 17:7.

  • Wise speech makes life better.

“Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy to the body” - Proverbs 16:24.

“Wise words are like deep waters; wisdom flows from the wise like a bubbling brook” - Proverbs 18:4.

“Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction” - Proverbs 18:20.


Let's watch our words today!




PRAYER: Dear Father, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” - Psalm 19:14.
 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 3


*I used the New Living Translation [NLT] today. I like the way it simplifies ideas that are sometimes hard to get in the NKJV. The verses that appear on the website when you hover over the Bible reference reference quote the NKJV.

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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations 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.


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, June 06, 2018

The other side of God

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 13-15; Psalm 2


TO CHEW ON: I will declare the decree:
The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son
Today I have begotten You
Ask of Me and I will give You
The nations for your inheritance
And the ends of the earth for Your possession." Psalm 2:7,8


The Lord is speaking through David here as he makes these prophetic pronouncements about Messiah (Jesus).

"You are My Son..." brings to mind the several times we see this phrase repeated in the New Testament. We hear it:
- at Jesus' baptism - Matthew 3:17.
- at His transfiguration - Matthew 17:5.
- through the words of Paul - Acts 13:33
- and the writer of Hebrews - Hebrews 1:5

Psalm 2 goes on to describe the ferocity of this Son/King as He possesses the nations. He will break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like pottery—unless they are on His side. For they have another choice. They can choose to fear Him (Psalm 2:11) give Him obeisance (Psalm 2:12) and put their trust in Him (Psalm 2:12).

In our times we rarely portray God in such a stern, judgmental light. We like to emphasize His grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And He is gracious, merciful, and forgiving. But He is also black-and-white-holy, and will eventually come down on the black with a fury that will make us tremble in fear if we haven't trembled in awe and submission first. As the commenter Matthew Henry says it:

"The kingdom of Messiah is founded upon an eternal decree of God the Father. This our Lord often referred to as what He governed Himself by. God hath said unto Him, Thou art My Son, and it becomes each of us to say to Him, Thou art my Lord and my Sovereign."


PRAYER: Dear God, I acknowledge You as King and Sovereign in my affairs today. I long for the blessing of those who put their trust in You. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 2

MORE: "Ride on King Jesus" by Steve Bell



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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, June 05, 2018

Walks-stands-sits

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 10-12; Psalm 1

TO CHEW ON:"Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly
Nor stands in the path of sinners
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful:
But his delight is in the law of the LORD" - Psalm 1:1,2


It's easy to pick up the movement here. As my Bible's comments points out:
"The walks-stands-sits seems to suggest a progression of influence that results from initially turning one's attention in this wrong direction" K. R. "Dick" Iverson, commentary on Psalms, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 686.

How is our attention attracted, then turned to the "counsel of the ungodly, the path of sinners, the seat of the scornful"? In our multisensory world it happens in dozens of ways:
  • through what we read on the internet, the papers, books.
  • through what we watch on TV, movies, the internet.
  • through the people we interact with, from family to strangers.

Trouble is, what surrounds us seems so normal, natural, safe. Do we even recognize the threats to our spiritual well-being? The 'everywhere' presence of the secular is why it's so important to guard our spiritual lives. How do we do that?

  • by regularly spending time in the "law of the LORD" — the Bible.
  • by spending time with godly people who love, respect and live by this law.
  • by attending church where we immerse ourselves in an atmosphere of worship and physically identify with fellow believers.
  • by intentionally filling our homes and our heads with sounds of worship and instruction. (For example, next time you're making dinner or cleaning the house, or doing anything that doesn't demand silence for concentration, try putting on a worship CD or podcast message by a favourite speaker.)

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" goes the old saying (attributed to Confucius). I would submit that that first step is usually taken in our minds. Let's be watchful over the thought steps we take in our minds so we don't inexplicably find ourselves one day following ungodly counsel, walking in the path of sinners, sitting in the seat of the scornful.


PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to recognize the ungodly counsel, the sinner's path, and the scornful seat embedded in the stimuli around me. I want to be a genuine lover and follower of Your words. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 1

MORE: The mind is the leader
"The mind is the leader or forerunner of all actions. Romans 8:5 makes it clear .... Our actions are a direct result of our thoughts. If we have a negative mind, we will have a negative life. If, on the other hand, we renew our minds according to God's Word, we will as Romans 12:2 promises, prove out in our experience 'the good and acceptable and perfect will of God for our lives'" - Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, p. 3


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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, June 04, 2018

When the wise speak

Curse
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 7-9; Psalm 150

TO CHEW ON: "Listen, for I will speak of excellent things,
And from the opening of my lips will come right things." Proverbs 8:6


One of my favourite down-time activities is to watch reality shows on the Food Network. I love the contestants' ingenuity with food and seeing the amazing creations they come up with in limited time. But there is one thing I don't enjoy—the profanities used by many contestants. The beeper is busy and still some leak through.

These brilliant cooks may be wise about food but according to the writer of today's reading, could they be lacking in other wisdom? For wisdom here identifies herself largely by what comes out of one's mouth.

What does come out of the mouth of a wise person?

Right things, excellent things, truth, words spoken with righteousness, nothing perverse or crooked, plain understandable speech, instruction, knowledge.

The Bible speaks of speech in other places too:

  • A wise person "spares his words"  and is "of a calm spirit" - Proverbs 17:27.
  • Jesus advises us to make simple promise which are kept - Matthew 5:37.
  • Paul tells the Colossians that their speech should be "always with grace" - Colossians 4:6.
  • However, James reminds us that none of us is perfect in this department - James 3:2-18.

Oops! Maybe I'd better take a closer look at myself. What is my speech like when I get upset, am under pressure, on the offensive? Always gracious and excellent? Never perverse? I know too that unwise words nurtured in my thoughts may one day spill out. Perhaps I'd better attend to my own unwise thoughts and words before I point fingers at others.

What about you?

PRAYER: Dear God, help me with my pesky tongue. Actually, help me to go one step back and root out unwise thoughts that, if allowed to grow, will produce a harvest of unwise words. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 150


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






Sunday, June 03, 2018

A heritage of wisdom

Image: Microsoft
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Proverbs 4-6; Psalm 149

TO CHEW ON: "Hear my children, the instruction of a father,
And give attention to know understanding." - Proverbs 4:1



Two weeks from today we celebrate fathers, on a day set aside as "Father's Day."

We can think of fathers in two ways: as children of fathers and as fathers of children. Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, has skillfully woven both viewpoints into our reading.

First he urges his kids to listen to his advice like he listened to his own father's words. His was a father who made a passionate case for his son's careful attention. Sample David's words as his son Solomon remembers them (New Living Translation):

“Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live.....Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you. Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!....If you prize wisdom, she will make you great....She will place a lovely wreath on your head; she will present you with a beautiful crown” (excerpts from Proverbs 4:1-9)

Following that in verses 10-13 Solomon urges his children to follow this advice themselves. He names three reasons why:

1. Their lives will be prolonged (Proverbs 4:10).

2. Their journey will be swifter and smoother (Proverbs 4:11-12).

3. This instruction will be their life (Proverbs 4:13).

"Instruction" is an interesting word and not completely pleasant.

[Instruction (muwcar) means correction, chastisement, instruction, discipline, an admonition, rebuke or warning. Muwcar comes from the word yacar - "to reform, chastise, discipline, instruct." It encompasses chastening both by words and punishments (Proverbs 1:1-3; 22:15). Muwcar includes all forms of discipline intended to lead to a transformed life. - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 809.]

Words of correction, rebuke, warning, or admonishment are harder for a child to take than words of praise, encouragement or affirmation. However, for fathers, they may be the easier, more natural words to give. Paul acknowledges this when he talks about fathers not discouraging their children:

"Fathers, do not provoke or irritate or fret your children [do not be hard on them or harass them], lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated. [Do not break their spirit.]" - Colossians 3:21 - Amplified

And so fathers (and mothers) need a balance. For if correcting words are a child's life, a loving parent would not ever want to withhold them. But neither would that parent want to discourage, frustrate, or break the child's spirit.

In this every godly father and mother can be goaded and guided by the principal of love God applies when He scolds us. It's in Proverbs too - Proverbs 3:11-12

"My son, do not despise or shrink from the chastening of the Lord [His correction by punishment or by subjection to suffering or trial]; neither be weary of or impatient about or loathe or abhor His reproof, for whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights" - Amplified.


PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for my godly father. Though he has been gone a long time, his example still lights my life. As the wife of a father, help me to support my husband's fathering of our children. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 149
The Bible Project VIDEO: Wisdom (Wisdom 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.

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