Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Passing through foreign territory

Image: Pixabay
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ephesians 1-2; Psalm 8

"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." Ephesians 2:1,2

Do you sometimes feel like the society in which you live is against many of the things you value? Marriage and the family are under attack. Public education removes any reference to God. The people most honored, admired, and influential are the beautiful, wealthy, and entertaining who charm and excite through movies, music and sports.

Feeling like we're misfits, traveling through a foreign land shouldn't surprise us. One of the reasons why is found in Ephesians 2:2 where Paul talks about a character, "the prince of the power of the air," who directs these things. The writer of my Bible's study notes describes his influence:
"The mood and manner of society is shaped by the prince of the power of the air, a title for Satan as he exercises influence globally and within each culture" Jack W. Hayford,  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1646.

We see Satan referred to as a princely ruler in other places:

  • He tempted Jesus on the basis of this position: "'And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish'" - Luke 4:5,6.
  • Jesus predicted, and God the Father agreed, that Jesus' death would "'cast out'" the "'ruler of the world'" as He (Jesus) would " '…draw all peoples to Myself'" John 12:28-32.
  • Satan and his system had no claim to or presence in Jesus - John 14:30.
  • Jesus, before He died, told the disciples of the Holy Spirit who would come to them after He left. One of the Holy Spirit's functions would be (and is) to "…convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment …. of judgment because the ruler of this world will be judged.'" John 16:11. In other worlds, through the Holy Spirit we understand that God will someday judge this world's ruler and the system he oversees.
  • Satan has power over the minds of those locked in his system - 2 Corinthians 4:3,4.
  • And in our passage—Ephesians 2:2—Paul describes those in the clutches of this prince as "dead in trespasses and sins."

So maybe we should view our discomfort within our society and our sense of living at enmity with it as a good thing. When we feel like "strangers and pilgrims" it's a sign that we are really citizens of a different tribe, traveling through this earth system to a "homeland" and "heavenly country" - Hebrews 11:13-16.

Dear Father, help me to know how to conduct myself while I'm in this world system controlled by the "prince of the power of the air." Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: Ephesians (Read Scripture Series)

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The force in us

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 5-6; Psalm 7

TO CHEW ON: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." Galatians 5:6

Paul states his position about the need for circumcision. He says it doesn't "avail" anything.

Different Bible translations use different words for "avail": "… neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything" (AMP); "… means anything" (NASB); "… has any value" (NIV);  "…amounts to anything" (MSG); "… there is no benefit" (NLT).

[Ischyo is the Greek word translated "avail."  It means to be strong in body, robust, in sound health; to have power, be a force, avail, be serviceable, able.]

What does avail? It's "… faith working through love." That sounds wonderful and simple, though also somewhat ethereal. What does "faith working through love" look like in real life? Other places in the Bible help fill in the picture.

  • This love is a fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22.
  • It grows in us as we make a home for Christ in our hearts and He reveals to us the extent of His love for us - Ephesians 3:17-19.
  • It is demonstrated through the body-like workings of the church - Ephesians 4:16.
  • As individuals "faith working through love" looks like:
    • Obedience: "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfect in him. But this we know that we are in Him" - 1 John 2:5.
    • Love for our brothers and sisters: "He who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him" - 1 John 2:10.
    • Avoiding the things that are against what the Father stands for: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" - 1 John 2:15. "World" is defined in the next verse as the "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life" - 1 John 2:16.
The Message translation of this passage is so clear: "Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father" - 1 John 2:15,16 MSG (emphasis added). (See also 1Timothy 6:9-11.)

Wow! We might concur with the sentiments the Galatians may have had when they understand the extent of what "faith working through love" meant—Circumcision was a lot easier! But thank God they weren't left to do achieve this by themselves and neither are we. For it's all Jesus working both the faith and the love in us and through us by the Holy Spirit.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I need this force of faith working through love strengthened in my life. Thank You for living in my heart through Your Spirit and broadening my practical understanding of that what truly avails (counts, means something, has value, amounts to something, benefits). Amen. 


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

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

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

Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (

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

Scriptures marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 12, 2018

An effective ransom

Charles Lindbergh Kidnapping poster
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 3-4; Psalm 6

"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." Galatians 4:4,5

Kidnapping is a crime that strikes fear into a parent's heart. Though the demands for ransom that sometimes accompany kidnappings give a glimmer of hope, the stories of abduction victims never redeemed but found dead even after ransom was paid, are chilling (10 Unsolved Ransom Kidnappings).

God is a parent whose human children were, in a sense, abducted—kidnapped by Satan. As such they (we) were in bondage, not tied up in the trunk of a car or hidden in an out-building, but prisoners to Satan and his workings in circumstances and through our enemies, captive to our default setting of sin, to our inability to keep God's law, to the curse of sin on creation, and to death.

But, praise the Lord, our kidnapping has a happy ending. The ransom paid—Jesus' death on the cross—was effective. Because of it we are or can be redeemed from:
  • circumstances - Psalm 34:19-22.
  • enemies - Psalm 69:18.
  • the bondage and guilt of sin - Psalm 130:7,8.
  • the need to keep the law - Galatians 4:5.
  • And we look forward to a time when this ransom will effect the release of nature from the curse of sin (Romans 8:19-23), including death (Psalm 103:2-4).

Do we appreciate God's ransom—His Son Jesus become human for us, dying for us? Have we applied it personally to our own lives? Do we live by faith, as freed sons and daughters of the Father who has redeemed us?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for sending Jesus who laid down His life as a ransom for me. I no longer belong to Satan but to You. When I forget this, please remind me by Your Spirit that I am Your daughter—that You are my "Abba" - Daddy. Amen.


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

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Taking a principled stand

Peter and Paul by El Greco
"Peter and Paul" by El Greco
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 1-2; Psalm 5

TO CHEW ON: "And I went up by revelation and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles." Galatians 2:2

In Galatians 1, Paul told the Galatians (a collection of churches in Galatia) that he had special revelation from Jesus (Galatians 1:12). In chapter 2 he goes on to explain how, after fourteen years of ministry, he went to see the leadership in Jerusalem to explain his position.

What was his position? That Christ's work on the cross alone was sufficient for salvation. The law-keeping work of circumcision was not needed to be saved (Galatians 5:1-6).

But in Jerusalem he got push-back.  Some "false brothers" insisted Titus (a Greek) be circumcised. He and Titus resisted this (Galatians 2:3-5).

The Jerusalem leadership did eventually accept his message and ministry to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7-9), but not without reluctance from Peter, who had started avoiding fellowship with Gentile Christians. Paul pointed out the hypocrisy of this. Peter had earlier championed freedom from dietary laws so why was he now reverting back to separating himself in a "holier-than-thou" way (Galatians 2:11-14)?

What I admire about Paul here is his principled stand and how he stuck with it no matter what others said. He wasn't swayed by "false brethren." Nor did he change his message for "those who were of reputation"—the church leadership.

There's a lot of pressure on Christian leaders to change message of Christianity these days. That pressure is coming form outside the church and within it, to soften official positions especially in the realm of sexual ethics.

Though the Bible takes a clear position on things like adultery, fornication, homosexuality and gender identity, pressure is exerted from all sides (within and without the church) for churches to move from biblical positions of calling these things sin to accepting them as normal. Will our pastors and leaders have the courage to continue to uphold what the Bible says, even when it's unpopular? What about us in the pews?

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to live first and foremost for Your approval. Help me especially to not be swayed by social pressure. Amen. 


The Bible Project VIDEO: Galatians (Read Scripture Series)

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

Saturday, November 10, 2018

When weak is strong

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 11-13; Psalm 4

TO CHEW ON: "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10

Overshadowed as 2 Corinthians 12:10 is by grand verse 9, I've never before today noticed the list of things Paul takes pleasure in:

Infirmities [Astheneia. In English infirmity means the state or quality of being infirm: debility, weakness, a physical or mental defect or weakness.]

Reproaches [Hubris. "It means hurt, loss, injury arising from violence, damage caused by the elements, hardship, detriment, trouble, danger... In 2 Corinthians 12:10 hubris denotes insolence, impudence, a haughty attitude, insult, injury, outrage, persecution and affront. ... it is adversarial" - Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1540.]

Needs [Anagke - calamity, distress, straits. Several other translations render this hardships.]

Persecutions [Diogmos. The dictionary definition of persecute is to harass with cruel or oppressive treatment. To maltreat or oppress because of race, religion or beliefs, to annoy or harass persistently.]

Distresses [Stenochoria - narrowness of place, a narrow place (metaphorically). The Amplified translates this perplexities and distresses, the ESV calamities.]

Is there a negative condition we could encounter that we don't find here? And Paul says he "takes pleasure" in them because Christ comes through for him and in him via that weakness. The turnaround is not because of him but because of who indwells him: "My grace is sufficient for you for My strength is made perfect in weakness." That, for Paul, is a reason to welcome infirmities, reproaches, needs, distresses, persecutions and difficulties—so that he needs and depends on the power of Christ to flow through his needy self .

I ask myself, what item on Paul's list do I identify with today? What about you? Are we sick, beleaguered by the reproaches of nature or people, needy, persecuted, perplexed, distressed, in a tight spot?

Instead of viewing this as a negative thing, we can begin with Paul to thank God for our bad, challenging, overwhelming thing. We can invite Him into the circumstance or event for the first time, or again, with a more helpless, dependent attitude. Then we can watch Him turn our weakness into strength as He changes our attitude, gives us the ability and patience to cope while we wait for Him to bring about a change, or provides us a download of  wisdom to know how to improve or change things. 

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You that Your grace (undeserved favour and blessing) is enough for any and every bad thing that could come my way. Help me to be like Paul—glad in negative circumstances, welcoming them as opportunities for Your abilities and resources to shine through my inability and disability. Amen. 


MORE: I Need Thee Every Hour - Fernando Ortega

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

Friday, November 09, 2018

Demolish those strongolds

Castle fortress on a mountain
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 9-10; Psalm 3

TO CHEW ON: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:4,5

Joyce Meyer, in her book Battlefield of the Mind says: "The mind is the leader or forerunner of all actions .... Our actions are a direct result of our thoughts" - Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, p. 3.

What  a key scripture 2 Corinthians 10:4,5 has become in my life as I seek to think rightly.

'Strongholds' seemed like an old-fashioned word, though, and I wondered how different Bible translations rendered it. Surprise! in four that I consulted (Amplifed, NLT, NIV, and ESV)  the word strongholds was used. So I looked up stronghold.

[The dictionary says it is "a place that has been fortified so as to protect it against attack, also a place where a particular cause or belief is strongly defended or upheld."]

My Bible has a wonderful article which gives an anatomy of the mental strongholds Paul talks about here:

"Strongholds are first established in the mind; that is why we are to take every thought captive.

Behind a stronghold is also a lie—a place of personal bondage where God's Word has been subjugated to any unscriptural idea or personally confusing belief that is held to be true.

Behind every lie is a fear and behind every fear is an idol.

Idols are established wherever there exists a failure to trust in the provisions of God that are ours through Jesus Christ.

Some of the weapons that pull down these strongholds are:
  • God's Word (Hebrews 4:12-13).
  • The blood of the Cross (Revelation 12:11).
  • The name of Jesus (Mark 16:7).

Strongholds are pulled down and confronted bondage is broken as these spiritual weapons of our warfare are employed (see Ephesians 6:13-18)" - Christopher Hayward, "Pulling Down Strongholds," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1621,2 (formatting added).
You will recall that Ephesians 6:13-18 is the Armour of God passage where the weapons named are truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Word of God, and prayer.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to recognize the strongholds in my life and to identify the lies, fears, and idols behind them. Help me to use Your weapons to tear these strongholds down. Amen. 


MORE: We need to know the Word
"Second Corinthians 10:4,5 clearly indicates that we must know the Word of God well enough to be able to compare what is in our mind with what is in the mind of God; any thought that attempts to exalt itself above the Word of God we are to cast down and bring into captivity to Jesus Christ" - Joyce Meyer, Battlefield of the Mind, p. 4.

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, November 08, 2018

The upside-down grace of giving

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 7-8; Psalm 2

TO CHEW ON: "...they gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God." 2 Corinthians 8:5

Giving could be considered one of those upside-down realities of the Kingdom of Heaven. Though it seems contradictory to think our enjoyment of life will increase when we give away the things that we own (supposedly meant to enhance our enjoyment in life), that's what Paul seems to be implying here.

I see six aspects of giving in our reading today:

1. Giving can be a powerful movement.
The Macedonian Christians, though persecuted and poor, gave willingly and beyond their means to be a part of the churches' generosity to the Jerusalem churches (2 Corinthians 8:1-4).

2. Carefree giving is rooted in belonging to God (2 Corinthians 8:5).

3. Giving is a "grace" that proves mere words of loyalty and love (2 Corinthians 8:6,7).

4. Jesus was our shining example of giving when He left behind the riches of heaven to give up the most valuable thing He had—His life—so we could be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).

5. Good intentions and yesterday's promises are not enough. We need to finish the giving we've begun (2 Corinthians 8:10-11).

6. Giving should be realistic (2 Corinthians 8:12-14).

I can relate to several of these.
  • I know how good it feels to be part of a 'giving' event. There is something uplifting, energizing and unifying in participating with others to support a noble cause.
  • It's no surprise that giving is called a grace. Don't we call generous people 'gracious'?
  • I easily fall into the category of giver with mere good intentions, or the one who doesn't give because my small gift doesn't seem important.
  • But Paul's point about the Macedonians being able to give so generously because they gave themselves to God first resonates with me the most. The thought of me being God's dependent takes away the anxiety of fending for myself. It changes my outlook so that I can go from being a collector of things to a distributor of them—from a dam to a channel if you will. I need more of this attitude in my life. What about you?  

Dear God, help me to see that as Your dependent, you will take care of my needs. Help me to be open-handed with not only my money and possessions, but also with my time, energy and love. Amen.  


MORE: Hoarders

The opposite of givers are hoarders. If you've ever watched the depressing reality show called Hoarders: Buried Alive, you will have seen the pathological end of someone who can't bear to get rid of stuff or give anything away. It proves the deceitfulness of the lie we so often live by—that life consists in the abundance of things we have.

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, November 07, 2018

The urgent job of being a reconciler

Image: CikerFreVectorImages /
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 5-6; Psalm 1

TO CHEW ON: "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:18

Have you ever been at odds with someone in your family so you weren't speaking to each other, or every time you did, that issue between you got in the way? Or perhaps you've been the person trying to get family members to reconcile with each other? Either one is uncomfortable, sad, even tragic.

The need for reconciliation follows a wrong or perceived wrong or hurtful action by one of the parties. It  causes a rift in the relationship. To become reconciled, someone usually needs to forgive.

The rift in humankind's relationship with God happened when Adam and Even sinned in Eden. The story of Israel in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New is the story of God making a way of reconciliation.

The penalty for our rebellion is death. God is able to forgive our sins (yet stay true to His justice) because Jesus, God the Son, paid that death sentence for us. On the basis of Him becoming sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21) God can now forgive our sin, yet stay true to His standard of moral perfection.

Now our job, as those whose friendship with Him has been repaired because we have admitted our sin and accepted His way of reconciliation, is to tell this good news to others. In our reading Paul calls it the "ministry of reconciliation."

Challenges to the job of being a reconciler are several:
  • To live the reconciliation lifestyle by staying in relationship with others both believers and unbelievers. We are forgiven. We need to live a life characterized by forgiveness.
  • To share the good news of possible reconciliation to God with friends, neighbours and family members who may not even acknowledge God's existence, let alone the possibility of being alienated from Him by sin.

Why is it important to persist?

Because the consequence of giving up
, implied in 2 Corinthians 5:19 "… imputing their trespasses to them…" i.e. making our loved ones bear the penalty of their own sin and rebellion, is unthinkable.

Dear God, please impress on me the urgency of the ministry of reconciliation. Amen. 


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

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Don't let your spirit wear out with your body

Smiling old man
Smiling elderly man  -
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 3-4; Psalm 150

TO CHEW ON: "Therefore we do not lost heart. Even though our outward man is perishing yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." 2 Corinthians 4:16

At our home group meetings we typically hear one prayer request after  another for healing and better physical health (our group is made up of seniors). It illustrates how, after a certain age, the body wears out and falls prey to a variety of diseases and malignancies. Our "outward man is perishing."

But we are not to lose heart in this. Why? Because our "inward man is being renewed day by day."

But is it? Despite failing physical systems, a slower pace, loss of vitality, energy, brain power and drive, are we being renewed? How does this happen?A collection of verses under the heading "New Person" in my Bible gives some ideas of how this comes about.

Renewed day by day:

1. It starts with confession of and turning from sin on our part and a work of God's grace in our hearts - Ezekiel 18:30-31; Psalm 51:10.

2.By faith we accept that God is doing something in us - Philippians 2:13.
  • A little further on in our 2 Corinthians reading Paul reminds us: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation—old things have passed away, all things have become new" - 2 Corinthians 5:17.
  • There may be other evidences too. For Saul there were new powers of prophecy. Samuel promised him he would be "turned into another man" - 1 Samual 10:6.

3. But we don't just sit by waiting for ourselves to be magically changed. We cooperate with the Holy Spirit as He prompts us to live differently.
  • We spend time with God. Isaiah talks about waiting on the Lord to renew strength (Isaiah 40:31).
  • We cut away old habits and practices of sin and in this way identify or mark ourselves as God's possession. Paul refers to this in Colossians 2:11 as the "circumcision of Christ."
  • We refuse to be defined by and conformed to our former lusts - 1 Peter 1:14.
  • We put on the new man - Colossians 3:10.

4. We persevere despite physical failings and weakness.
  • Our focus verse (2 Corinthians 4:16) reminds us not to lose heart despite the fact that  physically we're wearing out.
  • Philippians 1:6 reassures us that "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."

So, if our bodies are failing us and the state of our affairs is deteriorating rather than improving, we need to remind ourselves this is happening only in the physical, earth realm. In the meantime, our spiritual renewal can and should continue day by day till we pass from this life to the next.

PRAYER: Dear God, I pray that the day by day renewal Paul talks about here will happen in me. Help me to rise above the trials of a wearing out body and cooperate with You in this process. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 150

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, November 05, 2018

Eau de Parfum of Christ

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Corinthians 1-2; Psalm 149

TO CHEW ON: "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place." 2 Corinthians 2:14

Sometimes my husband gifts me with a bottle of perfume at Christmas—one of my favourite gifts. I loved the fragrance he picked, a couple of years ago and soon found myself online, researching my new scent and the world of perfume in general. The metaphor of our lives being the perfume of God to the world reminds me of some of the characteristics of perfume I discovered.

  • Commercial perfumes come from a multitude of sources: barks, flowers and blossoms, fruits, roots, seeds, animal glands...
This speaks of how the scent of Christ wafts from many peoples and places.  Individuals of every tribe and nation and from all over the world will be in heaven (Revelation 7:9).

  • A perfume unfolds in stages. Its first impression is called its top or head note. When that fades the middle or heart note becomes prominent. Finally its base note is established, becoming the scent that lingers the longest.
This brings to mind the fact that the perfume of Christ pervades all our interactions from casual to intimate. Its fragrance should be evident in first encounters with people behind us at Starbucks and those we do business with on the phone. It should blossom in our relationships with people who know us better like neighbours, and friends. In fact, it should be the very stamp of our character so that even those we live with—spouse and children—will know its lingering fragrance.

  • The same perfume doesn't smell the same on every person. When perfume molecules come in contact with the unique chemical makeup of our skin, they react and unfold differently.
We can take this as a picture of how the perfume of Christ manifests uniquely through each person's blend of personality, talent and experience. It involves each of us growing the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) and using our spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:1-31). Instead of describing this perfume as floral, spicy, fresh or woodsy, we could name these perfume types merciful, generous, prophetic, wise, faith-filled, instructive.

  • When putting on perfume, the advice is to apply it to pulse points. That's because perfume gets stronger as it's warmed. When our pulse increases due to exertion, excitement, or stress the scent spreads more efficiently.
Does that mean that life's stresses are good for spreading the perfume of Jesus? I think so. If we are full of Him, His scent (or lack of it) will spread more than ever when our lives heat up with trouble.

  • Another tip for perfume application is to spray it into the room and enter its mist in order to be enshrouded by scent.
This reminds us of how important it is to spend time in the perfume—reading and studying God's word, praying, meditating, and spending time with other Christians.

  • Finally, we all know that wearing perfume is forbidden in many places. That's because some people are allergic to perfume scents and actually experience physical dis-ease when in their presence.
2 Corinthians 2:16 reminds us that not everyone will appreciate or welcome the Christ fragrance that we carry. To those who have rejected Him, it is the fragrance of death. It should not surprise us that there are more and more places where sharing the good news about Jesus is forbidden. When we do it anyway, we'll probably get into trouble.

How are we doing as spreaders of the perfume of Jesus? Is this world a sweeter  place because of our presence?

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to spread Your pure scent, unmixed with notes of selfishness, jealousy, anger, covetousness, lust... Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 149

The Bible Project VIDEO: 2 Corinthians (Read Scripture Series)

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

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Sound of the trumpet

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 15-16; Psalm 148

TO CHEW ON: "Behold I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." 1 Corinthians 15:51,52

Trumpets played a big role in Hebrew life. They were made or improvised of various materials and served a variety of uses.

One kind of trumpet was what we call a shofar and fashioned out of a ram's horn. Another type was made of beaten silver on God's instruction. Others were improvised from bones, shells or made from other metals: bronze, copper, and gold as well as silver.

These trumpets were not musical instruments in the sense that they couldn't play different pitched notes. But they could play their one note in legato, staccato and trills, and thus convey complicated signals. In this way they were used as communication.

Only Aaron and his Levite descendants were to sound the two silver trumpets God commissioned (Numbers 10:1-10).
  • When both trumpets sounded together all the congregation was to assemble at the tabernacle. If only one trumpet sounded only the leaders and heads of divisions were to meet.
  • Another trumpet sound was that of alarm, as the Israelites went into war: "When you go to war … then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the LORD your God, and you will be saved from your enemies" - Numbers 10:9. What an aural reminder of where their trust and hope for help lay!
  • A more common use of trumpets was to get the people moving during their forty years in the wilderness. For this the trumpet sounded an advance to signal which parts of the camp were to set out on their journey (Numbers 10:5,6).

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 explains how Jesus' resurrection makes possible our resurrection too. It will be heralded by a trumpet sound. What will that sound be to us?

Will it be the summons to assemble?

Will it be the call to advance to a new body, in a new place?

Or will it be the call of alarm, and judgment (Revelation  8 & 9) as we find ourselves on the wrong side? It doesn't have to be that. It can be the sound or victory if we trust in Jesus: "But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" - 1 Corinthians 15:57.

PRAYER: Dear God, may all of us be ready and anticipating Your victory-over-death trumpet sound! Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 148

MORE: 1 Corinthians in Handel's Messiah (The Trumpet Shall Sound)

Handel dipped often into 1 Corinthians 15:42-58 when he wrote the Messiah. He put to music:

  • 1 Corinthians 15:54b, also Isaiah 25:8 in "Then shall be brought to pass" and 1 Corinthians 15:55-56, also Hosea 13:14 in "O death, where is thy sting?" (Choruses 49 & 50).


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

Saturday, November 03, 2018

The secret-teller

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 13-14; Psalm 147

TO CHEW ON: “But if all prophesy and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so falling down on his face he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.” - 1 Corinthians 14:24-25

I don’t know how many times after listening to a convicting sermon, I’ve heard people say something like – Who told the minister about my life? He was talking about me!

At other times when the gift of prophecy is operating, through the leader or members of the congregation, someone will later say – That message was perfect for my situation.

This supernatural aspect of prophecy – God’s way of giving thoughts and words to a speaker that relate perfectly to a listener in the congregation or crowd – is what makes it so powerful. God does this not to show up the speaker as super-spiritual, psychic, or weird and flaky. Rather, it’s to show the listener that He is aware of his life and loves him deeply.

In addition to putting value on spontaneous and unscripted prophecies, Paul stresses the importance of orderly and peaceful church services. Churches where prophecy is encouraged support these easily conflicting values in different ways.

In our church when someone has a prophetic word, they must first go to the “front row pastor” – the pastor who is in charge of the service that morning. That pastor will look for an appropriate time to bring the speaker on stage (our church is large and the speaker needs a mic to be heard) to deliver his/her message.

Often these messages are encouragement, or a reminder of what God is like, or a recitation of His promises from the Bible. Paul's definition of what the prophet's words accomplish ("But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men" 1 Cor. 14:3), it seems to me, keep it out of the realm of modern cessationists' biggest objection to it – that it introduces new extra-scriptural material.  

Does prophecy have a place in 21st century churches? What do you think?

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 147

PRAYER: Dear God, make me a mouthpiece of Your words today. Amen

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

Friday, November 02, 2018

The church's brain

brain tree
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 11-12; Psalm 146

TO CHEW ON: "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit." 1 Corinthians 12:13

In our physical bodies, there is one organ, I would submit, that is more important than all the others. It is the brain.

The brain is the body's command center. It is only through a properly functioning brain that we see, hear, taste, smell, move about, and think. There is a section in the brain where even our seemingly automatic functions like breathing and heart beating are controlled. We can live minus a hand or foot, eyes or even without our heart and lungs (if we're hooked up to artificial ones) but we can't live without the brain. When someone is "brain dead" the line between death and life has been crossed.

In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, where Paul likens the church to the body with all its members having differing, complementary, mutually beneficial functions, I think we could say that the Holy Spirit is the brain. He is the life-giver and coordinator of the body of Christ, the church. Here are some things for which the Holy Spirit is responsible:

  • He gives life - John 6:63. Through Him we become part of the body - 1 Corinthians 12:13.
  • The baptism of the Spirit is for each one - Acts 2:3; 10:44; 1 John 2:20.
  • The Spirit gives us assurance that we are part of this body - Romans 8:16.
  • Life in the Spirit is for each one - Galatians 4:6; 1 John 3:24.
  • We are intimately connected to Him - John 14:17.
  • He teaches us - 1 John 2:27. The promise is that in a time of pressure, He'll even give us the words to say - Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12; John 14:26.
  • He guides us into truth - John 16:13.
  • He orchestrated the movements of the Apostles in the early church - Acts 8:39; 10:19,20; 16:6.
  • He appointed individuals for specific tasks - Acts 13:2.

Just like the smooth functioning of a body part is impacted when its connection to the brain is damaged or severed, so our use to the church body is impacted when our connection to the Holy Spirit is interrupted by:
  • Lying to the Spirit (see the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5).
  • Blaspheming against the Spirit - Mark 3:29.
  • Resisting the Spirit - Acts 7:51.
  • Grieving the spirit - Ephesians 4:30.
  • Quenching the Spirit - 1 Thessalonians 5:19.
  • Insulting the Spirit - Hebrews 10:29.

We are probably unaware of our brain activity—though essential to life. Similarly we may be unaware of the Spirit's work in and through us. But like we sense something amiss in our physical bodies when that connection to the brain is broken or damaged, we may sense something is wrong spiritually when our connection to the Holy Spirit is damaged.

The good news is, this connection can be re-established. It's done not through medicine or surgery, but by confessing our sin and turning from it - Psalm 51:1-11; Ephesians 4:25-32.

PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, help me to preserve a healthy connection to You, so I will be a functioning and useful member of the body of Christ on earth. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 146

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, November 01, 2018

Things that build up

building blueprints
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Corinthians 9-10; Psalm 145

"All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify." 1 Corinthians 18:23

We have dwelt in the past on how we as Christians may have freedoms which we intentionally restrict in order to help and not hinder or offend others. Today, let's change our focus from what we shouldn't do to what we should. Let's look at the things that "edify."

[The word edify transliterated oikodomeo, is a word for building. It is used here in the metaphorical sense for the construction and well-being of the church. Used this way it means "to found, establish; to promote growth in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue' to grow in wisdom and piety."]

Edify used in this way appears often in the New Testament. As I look through verses that speak of it, I see them fitting into two categories:

1. How we are edified
  • Through God's word. Paul's parting speech to the elders at Ephesis brings this out: "I commend you to God and to the word of His grace which is able to build you up…" Acts 20:32.
  • Through church leaders. Again and again the visits of the early church leaders to the various congregation are described as edifying, or building up: Acts 14:22; 15:32,41; 18:23,27.
  • Our leaders' authority is for our edification - 2 Corinthians 10:8.
  • We're edified through the different roles in which they come to us, such as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers - Ephesians 14:12,29
  • Even their scoldings and rebukes are meant to build us up—as Paul assured the Corinthians - 2 Corinthians 13:10.

2. How we edify others:
  • Like the early church did to grow, we walk "… in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit" - Acts 9:31. This works itself out in many practical ways:
  • We pursue harmony and peace - Romans 14:19.
  • We comfort each other - 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
  • We seek to please our neighbors and pursue their well-being - Romans 15:2; 1 Corinthians 10:24 (part of our reading).
  • We use our spiritual gifts - 1 Corinthians 14:3, 12.
  • We take part in corporate worship: "… Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification" - 1 Corinthians 14:26.
  • We love - 1 Corinthians 8:1.

Today, let's focus on building others up and being built up through God's word and the Christian community, rather than how close we can live to the line of things that are not lawful or edifying. 

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the reach means of edification we have in You and through the church. Help me to build up others today. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 145

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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