Thursday, October 31, 2013

Recipe for discipleship

Artist: Illustrator of Bible Card
published in 1904

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 8:31-47

TO CHEW ON: "Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed in Him, 'If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.'" John 8:31-32

Here we have Jesus explaining to some new Jewish believers — perhaps even some Pharisees among then — the essence of discipleship. He said that:

if they would abide...
[Abide = meno: to remain or abide, to sojourn or tarry and not to depart; to continue to be present; to be held, kept continually, to last, endure, to remain and not to become different]

in His word...
those things He had just said about Himself:
- that He came from God (John 8:14).
- that God was His father (John 8:16).
- that God supported Him (John 8:18).
- that He would go away to a place they could not follow (John 8:21).
- that they would die in their sins unless they believed He was who He said He was (John 8:23-24).
- that He would be 'lifted up' - crucified - and thus prove that His life and death were God's initiative, not His own (John 8:28-29).

they would prove themselves His disciples.
And they would know...
[Know = ginosko: perceive, understand recognize, gain knowledge, realize, come to know. "Ginosko is the knowledge that has an inception, a progress, and an attainment. It is the recognition of truth by personal experience" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1459.]

the truth...
[Truth = aletheia: the opposite of fictitious, feigned or false. It denotes veracity, reality, sincerity, accuracy, integrity, truthfulness, dependability and propriety.]

- Jesus brought it (John 1:17).
- Jesus was full of it (John 1:14).
- Jesus is it (John 14:6).

And the truth would set them free.
Free from what? It was not a freedom from ethnic, racial or political slavery. Rather it was freedom from the slavery of sin (8:34-36).

What strikes me about this recipe for discipleship is the faith needed to live it. These new believers would need to "abide" in Jesus' words (against all that their fellow Jews were saying and in the context, later, of Jesus' arrest, trial, and crucifixion). By doing this they would not only prove themselves His disciples but know (at the level of personal experience) the truth (Jesus and the fact of God's plan accomplished through Him — leading finally to freedom from sin — both its enslavement in this life and its final death-curse).

Discipleship for us takes no less "abiding" faith.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for bringing truth, for being full of truth and being truth embodied. Help me to "abide" in You and Your words so I will know truth at the level of personal experience. Amen.

MORE: Jesus' extraordinary claims

Theologian and apologist Ravi Zacharias:
"The first and most important step to understanding the nature of truth is exemplified in a conversation between Jesus and Pilate. The conversation began with Pilate asking Jesus if indeed he was a king. The very surprising answer of Jesus was, "Are you asking this of your own, or has someone else set you up for this?" 

In effect, Jesus was asking Pilate if this was a genuine question or purely an academic one. He was not merely checking on Pilate's sincerity. He was opening up Pilate's heart to himself, to reveal to Pilate his unwillingness to deal with the implications of Jesus's answer. Intent, in the pursuit of truth, is prior to content, or to the availability of it. The love of truth and the willingness to submit to its demands is the first step.

But second, Jesus said something even more extraordinary. After identifying his Lordship in a kingdom that was not of this world, he said, "They that are on the side of truth, listen to me" (John 18:37). Jesus was not merely establishing the existence of truth, but his pristine embodiment of it. He was identical with the truth. This meant that everything he said and did, and the life he lived in the flesh, represented that which was in keeping with ultimate reality. Therefore, to reject him is to choose to govern one's self with a lie" - (emphasis added) by Ravi Zacharias, in "The Empirical Demonstration of Truth" (quote  from the RZIM website; the article is no longer online).

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jesus' uncanny knowledge of God

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 8:12-30

TO CHEW ON: "'And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone; for I always do those things that please Him.'" John 8:29

Some of Jesus' statements about His relationship to God and His knowledge of God's will and thoughts didn't only raise the eyebrows of the scribes and Pharisees, but get us pondering too.

Three 'controversial' statements of His jump out at me from today's reading:

''He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him'" (John 8:26).
"'...I do nothing of Myself, but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things'" (John 8:28).
"'The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him'" (John 8:29).

When and how did the human Jesus hear things from God? Was He tapping into pre-birth memories of life with the Father in heaven? Was this knowledge the fruit of the communion that went on between them when Jesus spent all those hours praying? Or did God the Father stay in constant touch with Him, guiding His thoughts and actions throughout the day?

Jesus' statements imply a connection with deity that no other person has ever been able to make. They support the conclusion that He was not only human but also divine.

Of course my speculation of how Jesus knew God so intimately is futile. Way bigger minds than mine have tried to plumb the mystery of the divine incarnated in the human. I like how Wayne Grudem summarizes the incarnation* (using an unattributed quote and explaining it):

"'Remaining what he was, he became what he was not.' In other words while Jesus continued remaining what he was (that is fully divine) he also became what he previously had not been (that is fully human as well)" - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 562.

What implications does this have for us?
  • We can trust the words Jesus says to be in agreement with the words of God.
  • We can look at His life and see what God would do in various situations.
  • We have in Him our pattern, example, mentor, and teacher, to live a life in the light that is in agreement with truth.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for coming as a person, giving us a glimpse of God in human terms. Help me to copy, through the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit, the things I see Jesus do. Amen.

MORE: The mystery of incarnation
"To complete the biblical teaching about Jesus Christ, we must affirm not only that he was fully human, but also that he was fully divine. Although the word does not explicitly occur in Scripture, the church has used the term incarnation to refer to the fact that Jesus was God in human flesh. The incarnation* was the act of God the Son whereby he took to himself a human nature" - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 543.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dueling wisdoms

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 11:20-30

TO CHEW ON: "At that time Jesus answered and said, 'I thank You Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes'" Matthew 11:25.

The revealed things that Jesus is referring to in His prayer are the message and signs of John the Baptist, and His own miracles. They tell the people it is time to repent in order to be ready for the kingdom-of-heaven-life that Jesus represents. The people, especially in the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum, have witnessed "these things." But the seeing has made little difference in their living.

It's interesting that the ones Jesus singles out as blinded are not the foolish and impulsive, but the "wise and prudent." Has it ever struck you that a certain quality of simple thought,  childlike innocence, and willingness to trust even when it doesn't understand — anti-intellectualism if you will — seems to be a necessary part of a faith that pleases God?

Joyce Meyer in her book Battlefield of the Mind says:

"A large percentage of God's people are admittedly confused. Why?...reasoning.

[...] A simple way to say it is, reasoning occurs when a person tries to figure out the "why" behind something. Reasoning causes the mind to revolve around and around a situation, issue, or event attempting to understand all its intricate component parts. ...

Satan frequently steals the will of God from us due to reasoning. The Lord may direct us to do a certain thing, but if it does not make sense — if it is not logical — we may be tempted to disregard it. What God leads a person to do does not always make logical sense to his mind. His spirit may affirm it and his mind reject it, especially if it would be out of the ordinary or unpleasant or if it would require personal sacrifice or discomfort" - p. 86.

Have you ever reasoned yourself out of something you feel God has shown you or told you to do? I know I have.

I wonder, what are we missing out on when we let our logic and intellect override the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I'm sure if we knew both outcomes, we would understand that our apparent wisdom and prudence has not turned out to be wise and prudent at all!

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to have the simple trusting faith of a child when it comes to acting on things You reveal to me and ask me to do. Amen.

MORE: Handel's Messiah Alert

George Handel quoted Matthew 11:30: "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" in the Messiah.

Here it is the Tafelmusik rendition of Jesus' encouraging words.

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Monday, October 28, 2013

"... the world hates you"

Jesus bearing His cross - relief
TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 15:11-27

TO CHEW ON: "'If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.'" John 15:18-19.

On a Sunday a few weeks ago, militants blew themselves up outside a Christian church in Pakistan, killing 81 and injuring 140 (CTV news story). This summer Christian churches and Bible bookstores were targeted and destroyed in Egypt (CNN news story). More and more we are hearing of Christians around the world becoming victims of hatred and violence.

Hatred of Christians can also be expressed in less violent ways. Christian politicians in the west are sometimes singled out and their views characterized as dangerous. The entertainment industry has a heyday mocking people of faith. And if you are a scientist with religious conviction, watch the scientific community freeze you out!

What's going on here? Why are Christians universally hated?

[Hate - miseo is to hate, pursue with hatred, detest.
Dictionary: regard with extreme aversion, great dislike, detest, loathe, abhor.]

A short study of a few passages where Jesus talks about hate will help us understand some of the dynamics.

  • Jesus quoted scripture which showed He was aware that hatred of Him was a fulfillment of prophecy (in John 3:20, quoted passages like Psalm 35:19; 69:4; 109:3-5).
  • He said those who do evil hate the light. And who is the light (John 8:12)?
  • Another time He pointed out the reason He was hated to His unbelieving brothers:
"'The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil'" - John 7:7.
  • Taking this idea even further, Jesus said that those who hated Him also hated the Father - John 15:23.
  • In  Luke 21:17 Jesus told His followers that they would be hated because of their association with Him.
  •  In our reading, Jesus tells His followers to expect to be hated because they are not of this world  (John 15:19).

Uncomfortable words for sure for someone who wants to be liked. Yet I believe the sooner we make peace with the inevitability of the world's hatred the less the growing hostility of the world will surprise us and throw us off balance.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to be realistic about the world's aversion to You and Your claims. May its hatred draw me closer to You. Amen.

MORE: Feast of St. Simon & St. Jude

Today the church celebrates the apostles Simon and Jude.  The liturgy for the day begins with this collect:

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


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

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Are your prayers tainted?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 18:9-27

"'I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'" Luke 18:14

Luke tells us at the beginning of Jesus' parable that this teaching is going to address the attitude of self-righteousness (Luke 18:9). In the story two men go to the temple to pray: an obviously sinful man—a tax collector, and an obviously good one—a Pharisee. But in Jesus' world, the world of the Kingdom of Heaven, things turn out exactly the opposite of what we expect. The reason is shown by the attitude of each man when he prays.

  • The Pharisee has an attitude of pride, obvious even though his words are dressed up in the pious clothes of thanksgiving: "I thank You that I am not like other men…" (Luke 18:11).
  • He has an attitude of comparison. He looks at others, then himself, and concludes that he is so much better (Luke 18:11).
  • He also has an attitude of self-sufficiency, shown by how he lists all the good things that he does (Luke 18:12).

The tax-collector, meanwhile is completely undone. Overcome by his unworthiness, he doesn't even look up but beats his breast as he begs for mercy. There is not a whiff of entitlement in him, not a whisker of the attitude that he could earn God's favor. He throws himself entirely on God's mercy.

And that, says Jesus, is the attitude that moves God's heart, so that the sinner goes home justified while the saint leaves the temple in the same state as he came (Luke 18:14).

The cultural setting and the extent of Jesus' exaggeration may blind our eyes to see how we too may sometimes be the players in this parable. Who of us hasn't ever thought, 'I don't deserve that,' when trouble comes to us despite our faithful service to God? Who hasn't harboured an attitude of at least slight disdain over what we might see as the self-inflicted griefs of the homeless person, the drug addict, the prostitute? Of course these attitudes taint our prayer life, even as the Pharisee's attitudes defiled his.

My Bible commenter sums up this story well:
"Not all prayer is genuine. Attitude is just as important as persistence. Jesus also corrects the mistaken notion that righteousness is a human achievement instead of a gift of God's grace" - J. Lyle Story, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1424 (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to see and deal with the self-righteousness and pride within me. Amen.


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

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Saturday, October 26, 2013


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 84:1-12*

TO CHEW ON: "Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage." Psalm 84:5

One way the Bible describes believers is as pilgrims.  Eugene Peterson unpacks the pilgrim image in his book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society:
"Pilgrim (parepidemos) tells us we are people who spend our lives going someplace, going to God, and whose path for getting there is the way, Jesus Christ. We realize 'this world is not my home,' and set out for the 'Father's house.' Abraham who 'went out,' is our archetype. Jesus answering Thomas's question, 'Master, we have no idea where you're going. How do you expect us to know the road?' gives us directions: 'I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from Me (John 14:5-6)" - p. 18.

Our pilgrimage through life will be a mixed adventure. There will be "Valleys of Baca"—dry, difficult, dangerous places (Valley of Baca means "Valley of tears"). But because we find our strength in God, "They (we) make it a spring." Doesn't this remind us of John 14:14: "But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

However, heaven is not unresponsive, the psalmist reassures. "The rain also covers it (that Valley of Baca) with pools." The rain is "...the early rain that begins to fall in the autumn and gives new life to sprouting plants and strength to men" explains my Bible's footnote - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 751.

The journey finally ends in God's courts where "A better than a thousand." In other words, the destination is worth all the effort to get there.

Where are you on your pilgrimage today? Whether in a dry, tearful Valley of Baca, or on a path surrounded by pools of blessing, stay the course. Your destination, "God's courts" (as in your final home of heaven, or your experience of God's presence even as you journey) is well worth the quest.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be a faithful and brave pilgrim through whatever landscape life takes me. Please refresh that fountain of living water springing up in me. Amen.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Joel 2:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "Let the priests who minister to the Lord, Weep between the porch and the altar; Let them say, 'Spare your people, O Lord, And do not give Your heritage to reproach, That the nations should rule over them. "Why should they say among the peoples, Where is their God?"'" Joel 2:17

The scene in Judah that Joel paints is hellish. Locusts advance like an army:
"With a noise like chariots
      Over mountaintops they leap,
      Like the noise of a flaming fire that devours the stubble,
      Like a strong people set in battle array" (vs. 5).

The people are terrified:
"Before them the people writhe in pain;
      All faces are drained of color" (vs. 6).

The only appropriate response is repentance (Joel 2:12-13) and intercession. When Joel says to the priests, "weep between the porch and the altar," he is referring to the space between the porch of the temple and the altar of burnt offering. This was right in front of the door of the Holy Place where God's presence lived. The priests were to mediate and intercede with God for the people there.

E. M. Bounds said of intercession, "Talking to men for God is a great thing, but talking to God for men is greater still" - quoted in No Easy Road by Dick Eastman, p. 63.

S. D. Gordon explains why intercession is prayer's highest form. "Prayer is the word commonly used for all intercourse with God. But it should be kept in mind that this word covers and includes three forms of intercourse:
1. Communion — being on good terms with God, simply enjoying Him, loving Him, talking to Him.
2. Petition — a definite request of God for something I need.
3. Intercession — reaching out in prayer for others."
— quoted in No Easy Road by Dick Eastman, pages 63-64.

Intercession has several parts to it.
  • It involves identification, as we recognize another's hurt and distress. 
  • It often involves agony. I have heard intercessors describe how, during times of deep intercession, they are overcome with pain and the sense that they are actually participating in the situation for which they are praying; weeping is not uncommon. 
  • Intercession is also praying with authority, as the intercessor claims God's promises for the person or situation for which they are praying.

        Look at these intercessors in action:
        - Moses for Israel: Exodus 32:11 and for his sister Miriam: Numbers 12:13
        - Samuel for Israel: 1 Samuel 7:5-6
        - Jesus for us: Luke 22:34
        - Paul for the Ephesians: Ephesians 1:15-17

        "Indeed, no force transmits human love more than intercessory prayer. No greater gift could man give society than bended knee. In the last analysis, when all history is written and we stand before God, we will know what really shaped this age. When we talk with God in eternity we will quickly learn everything of worth that was accomplished was connected to an intercessor's prayer." - Dick Eastman, No Easy Road, p. 73.

        Who will you and I love in our families, our churches, our cities, our countries, indeed in the world, with our intercession today?

        PRAYER: Dear God, impress on me again how important, no urgent intercession is. Help me to be one of those "priests...who weep between the porch and the altar" for my world. Amen.

        MORE: More thoughts on intercessory prayer:

        "A Christian fellowship lives and exists by the intercession of its members for one another, or it collapses. I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray no matter how much trouble he causes me." -  Dietrich Bonhoeffer quoted in Prayer Powerpoints, compiled by Randall D. Roth,  p. 150

        "Criticism of others nails them to the past. Prayer for them releases them into the future." Frank Laubach, quoted in Prayer Powerpoints,  p. 150.

        "There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as praying for him." - William Law quoted in Prayer Powerpoints, p. 151.

        Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

        Friday, October 18, 2013

        Standing with leaders

        Luke the Physician - Artist unknown
        Luke the Physician - Artist unknown

        TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Timothy 4:9-22

        TO CHEW ON:
        "But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear." 2 Timothy 4:17

        As Paul mouldered in a Roman jail during what would be his last days, the Lord stood with Paul—as did Luke (2 Timothy 4:11). My Bible's Introduction to 2 Timothy describes the likely setting of its writing:

        "The circumstances of his (Paul's) second Roman imprisonment were quite different from those of his first incarceration. Previously, he was in his own hired dwelling and was able to receive visitors freely, but now he was confined in a dungeon and friends could only see him with difficulty. Formerly he had expected to be released, but now he looked forward to death (2 Timothy 4:6-8). At the writing of this letter, only Like was with Paul (2 Timothy 4:11), all others having left for various reasons" - James Lee Beall, Introduction to 2 Timothy, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1709.

        But Paul remained clear-sighted about his purpose, i.e. to share the gospel fully so that the Gentiles might hear. Luke had a similar purpose. He addressed both Luke and Acts to Theophilus.

        Who was Theophilus? Some suggest he may have been a well-known Roman figure (Titus Flavius Clemens, the Emperor Vespasian's nephew perhaps) and that Theophilus was a name used to conceal his real identity. Others think that Theophilus was his real name and that he was a representative of that class of Roman society Luke wished to influence for the gospel. At any rate, Theophilus was probably a Gentile (from the"Theophilus" entry in the New Bible Dictionary).

        And so Luke and Paul were on the same mission (to spread the gospel to the Gentiles) and stuck together. Aren't we who are Gentiles glad they did!

        Luke's loyalty to Paul at this time illustrates the importance of the friendships and encouragements our leaders need. In fact we might say that Paul's tribute to God's faithfulness ("But the Lord stood with me...") was directly linked to the presence of Luke in his life. Who are the leaders in our lives that we can encourage with our presence and loyalty?

        PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the example of faithful Paul and his loyal companion Luke. Help me to be a loyal friend, encourager and supporter. Amen.

        MORE: The Feast of St. Luke.

        Today the church celebrates Dr. Luke. The day's liturgy begins with this collect:

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


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

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        Thursday, October 17, 2013

        Soul food

        TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 31:23-40

        Autumn fruits & vegetables
        TO CHEW ON: "'For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.'" Jeremiah 31:25

        Jeremiah hears the voice of God declaring, '"For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul.'"

        The guarantee of that sweet satisfaction runs through the Bible.
        • The psalmist  promises it to those who fear God (Psalm 145:19) and who enjoy being in His house (Psalm 36:8).
        • Isaiah promises it to those who are spiritually thirsty (Isaiah 44:3; 55:1) and go to God as their Saviour (Isaiah 12:3).
        • Jesus promises filling to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6).
        • He proclaims that He is the source of living water (John 4:14; 7:37) and the bread of life (John 6:35).
        • We are invited to His feast at the culmination of all things (Revelation 7:16; 21:6; 22:17).

        Then, in the next verse, Jeremiah wakes from his vision: "After this I awoke, and looked around..." But the beautiful atmosphere of blessing lingers on "…and my sleep was sweet to me" - Jeremiah 31:26.

        May we too live today in the atmosphere of these promises, bringing our wearinesses and sorrows to Him now for temporary relief, knowing that a day is coming when God will forever satiate all our lacks with His plenty!

        PRAYER: Dear God, help me to look to You to satisfy my deepest thirsts and hungers—even as I anticipate the time when this will happen perfectly. Amen. 


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

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        Wednesday, October 16, 2013

        A virgin again

        white rose
        TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 31:1-22

        TO CHEW ON: "'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love;
        Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
        Again I will build you and you shall be rebuilt,
        O virgin of Israel!
        You shall again be adorned with your tambourines,
        And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.'" Jeremiah 31:3,4

        After all that He has been through with her, God calls Israel a virgin?!

        "Only the amazing love of verse 3 could call Israel a virgin," says my Bible commenter.

        God here seems to be talking about a process of what is sometimes called "revirginization"—of restoring that which has been lost, squandered or blemished: "Again I will build you and you shall be rebuilt."

        The idea of actual sexual revirginization is relevant in our society where sexual looseness is tolerated, even encouraged in movies, TV, books, music—and from the earliest age. Chances are good that if you came to the Lord in your 20s or 30s, though still single, you were no longer a virgin.

        Ken Shigematsu in his book God In My Everything talks about sex and spirituality. After describing how God's presence in our lives helps us express our sexuality in wholesome ways, he subtitles a final section "Revirginization." In it he says:

        "Perhaps you feel that you have fallen short or have been compromised  because of your past experiences, failing to live out God's ideal …. Perhaps your sexual purity feels like a ship that sailed away long ago."

        He quotes Ezekiel 36:25-27 and concludes:

        "You may struggle with an ongoing sense of regret or shame over past sexual sins, but God promises to sprinkle clean water on you and make you clean. He offers you a new heart. You don't need to be defined by your past. When you turn to God, you experience a new beginning" - Ken Shigematsu, God In My Everything, p. 106.

        If we are plagued by memories and regrets in this area, let's take to heart God's words to Judah, and claim His cleansing and rebuilding for ourselves.

        PRAYER: Dear God, we are surrounded by sexual lures and temptations. Please help us to stay pure and accept Your washing and rebuilding when we are plagued by memories and regrets of sexual sin. Amen.


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

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        Saturday, October 12, 2013

        Is there such a thing as truth?

        TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 111:1-10

        TO CHEW ON: "All the works of His hands are verity and justice;
        All His precepts are sure;
        They stand fast forever and ever,
        And are done in truth and uprightness." Psalm 111:7-8

        Airplane pilot Captain Dale Black in his book Flight To Heaven recounts the remarkable experience he had at age 19. He was the only survivor of a horrendous airplane accident. In the days following the accident he was in a coma. He came out of his time of unconsciousness feeling radically changed spiritually but without any recall of what happened to him while he was away.

        Due to a head injury his memory was impaired for several years. But gradually his memory of the accident and where he was during the coma came back to him, including memories of heaven:

        "While in heaven, I somehow realized that knowledge is flawed and did not seem to be of great significance. Truth is what prevails and has supremacy in heaven....

        Just one of the things I somehow seemed to "understand" was that heavenly order was everywhere and in everything. I understood in my heart that God's will was perfection and His Word was the source of all creation. As I considered all that I had seen, I understood that the Word of God was and is the foundation for everything. God was the heart of heaven. His love, His will, His order." Dale Black, Flight to Heaven p. 104.

        That heavenly order, that perfection in creation, that solidity and security of God's Word as the foundation of all that is sure and lasting is what the psalmist describes here. (Though God's Word isn't mentioned directly in the psalm, it is through the Bible that we have the record of all the things the writer praises: God's graciousness and compassion [vs. 4]; the record of the covenant He made with people [vs.5]; the power of His works [vs.6] etc.)

        Postmodernism, the reigning cultural philosophy of our time, contradicts the possibility of such overarching truth. It (postmodernism) developed out of Modernism, another way of interpreting all that exists.

        As a person whose thinking was formed when modernism was the predominant philosophy, I find myself understanding and agreeing with modernistic thought and methods of reaching conclusions more than with postmodernism. But its apparent truths also break down. For example, one of the tenets of modernism is its deification of science: "The knowledge produced by science is 'truth' and is eternal" (#4 of the second list in this article). Of course, in order to discuss that statement, we'd have to first define the word "science." If, for example, science includes the theory of evolution, I would find myself disagreeing.

        God's truth, on the other hand can, I believe, stand under scrutiny and is consistent across the disciplines. As the psalm writer says:

        "The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them... The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever and are done in truth and uprightness." Psalm 111: 2, 7-8.

        I choose to believe that the way things are, are as described in the Bible. It is my foundational truth. I have staked my life on it. Upon what "truth" have you anchored your life?

        PRAYER: Dear God, I am in awe of Your truth and wisdom as it is displayed in nature and in Your dealings with humanity. Amen.

        MORE: Postmodernism in the church

        Postmodern thought is creeping into the church. The postmodern church often self-identifies as "emergent" or "emerging." I found the book Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be (Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, Moody Press, 2008) an excellent resource to help me identify aspects of postmodern thought that are infiltrating the church and the dangers they pose to evangelical Christianity.

        Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

        Monday, October 07, 2013

        Pray peace for your city

        TODAY'S SPECIAL: Jeremiah 29:1-14

        TO CHEW ON: "And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace." Jeremiah 29:7

        Jeremiah's predictions had come true. The things Judah's rulers and false prophets had tried to keep him from saying, indeed punished him for saying (Jeremiah 18:18; 20:1-6) had happened.

         Jerusalem had fallen to Babylon in 587 B.C. and its choicest citizens were now living in exile there. Our reading today is part of the letter Jeremiah sent to his countrymen and -women now living in exile.

        It's a surprisingly upbeat, encouraging letter with assurances that things will be okay. God has a "future and a hope" for them, especially if they return to Him from their backsliding (Jeremiah 29:11-13).

        Jeremiah's advice that they pray for the peace of their new home (and thus their captors) may have surprised them. My Bible's footnotes call it "a totally new concept" - Roy Edmund Hayden, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 999.

        The exhortation to pray for the peace of the places we live is good for us too. It makes sense, as logical Jeremiah puts it "for in its peace you will have peace."

        So whether we agree with our leaders or not, whether we have issues with the laws being passed and the people in charge, the industry or lack of it, how they're spending our tax dollars,  whether or not the poor are being cared for etc. etc., or totally agree, let's pray for the peace and well-being of the countries, regions and cities in which we live.

        PRAYER: Dear God, I pray for my country Canada, my province and city. May we be a region that is peaceful and that because of this peace, Your people will prosper and Your truth flourish. Amen.


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

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        Sunday, October 06, 2013

        Are you a stumbling block?

        TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 17:1-10

        TO CHEW ON: "Then He said to the disciples, 'It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they come.'" Luke 17:1

        "Offenses: The term means 'stumbling blocks,' literally the trigger of a trap or a snare," explains a footnote in my Bible.  "Here it designates something that will cause another to sin… Jesus issues a strong warning against being the cause of the apostasy of others, particularly those less mature in years or experience" J. Lyle Story, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1422.

        A short survey of Bible verses about offenses helps us understand the gravity of giving offense and the lengths to which we should go to avoid causing it.

        Offenses are serious:

        • An offended person can erect strong walls - Proverbs 18:19.
        • Jesus prescribed extreme measure to guard against giving offense. His hyperbole (plucking out an eye if it causes you to sin) shows how seriously we should take things that cause us and others to stumble - Matthew 5:29; 18:7.
        • Jesus deemed it especially serious to cause "one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble" - Mark 9:42.
        • Paul told the Christians in Rome to avoid people who caused divisions and offenses - Romans 16:17.

        But things that cause others to be offended may step on our liberal toes:
        • Paul suggested that people limit even food preferences to those that wouldn't offend - Romans 14:21. This was especially significant in the culture of the time because the Jews had for centuries followed strict dietary laws and the Gentiles sometimes ate food that had been offered to idols.
        • Paul also told Christians newly liberated from old taboos to be aware that indulging in their new freedoms could cause weaker brothers to be offended. He told them to edit their behaviour accordingly. - 1 Corinthians 8:9-13.
        • His goal was to not offend anyone - 1 Corinthians 10:31-33, 2 Corinthians 6:3.

        Love is the best motivator against offense:

        • John tells us what inner attitude will ease the pain of curbing our behaviour. It's love: "He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him." - 1 John 2:10. (See also 1 Corinthians 10:23-33.)

        Whatever this means to us, from abstaining from alcohol because we're with someone for whom alcohol has been a problem to taking off or putting on headwear in church, let's be aware of our brothers and sisters and lovingly adjust our actions so as not to give offense.

        Dear God, thank You that the love You give us for others can make limiting our behaviour on their behalf a privilege rather than an imposition. Amen. 


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

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        Thursday, October 03, 2013

        Weeping intercession

        Jeremiah weeping - Lamentations 2-4 (Artist unknown)
        Jeremiah weeping (Lamentations 2-4) - Artist unknown
        TODAY'S SPECIAL: Lamentations 2:1-22

        TO CHEW ON: "'Arise, cry out in the night,
        At the beginning of the watches;
        Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord.
        Lift your hands toward Him
        For the life of your young children,
        Who faint from hunger at the head of every street.'" Lamentations 2:18,19

        In this chapter Jeremiah (most likely the writer of Lamentations) bears witness to the unthinkable. God Himself has destroyed Jerusalem. He has withdrawn His protection so that enemies have devoured her like a "flaming fire" (Lamentations 2:1-3). Her palaces are toppled, her strongholds destroyed. God has even abandoned the temple so that the noise from it on feast days is the voice of the enemy (Lamentations 2:4-8).

        Leaders sit in mourning and the surprising thing is that Jeremiah is with them, at least in spirit. Hasn't he warned them to repent or this would happen? Now it has so shouldn't he be gloating? But that's not Jeremiah. Instead he weeps with the most distraught.

        It seems his emotions are aroused especially by the children—the poor starving children:
        "My eyes fail with tears
        My heart is troubled ….
        Because the children and the infants
        Faint in the streets of the city.
        They say to their mothers
        'Where is grain and wine?'
        As they swoon like the wounded
        In the streets of the city…" - Lamentations 2:11,12.

        I see two lessons for us from Jeremiah's reaction here:

        1. The true intercessor identifies with those he or she prays for. She lets her heart get moved to tears as she prays for things that weigh on her spirit. As Leslyn Musch says in her commentary on verse 18: "Do not hold back your tears as you pray and intercede …. Do not hold back in pouring out your heart before the Lord" - Leslyn Musch, Truth-In-Action Through Lamentations, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1049.

        2. We too should be moved by the plight of our children. No, most of our kids aren't starving in the street (in fact the opposite, as many are overweight from too much junk food and inactivity). But they need our intercession like never before.
        • Too many are victims of broken homes and confusing relationships as they experience the consequences of our unfaithfulness.
        • Educators are mandating that the youngest be exposed to sexually confusing and explicit information ( website has links to proposed and implemented curricula).
        • Too many youth are in despair to the point of committing suicide because of bullying spread via social medial.

        What is our response? Do we stand back with a smug "I told you so" attitude? Or do we allow our hearts to be moved by the plight of our society—especially the children?

        PRAYER: Dear God, please touch and burden my heart with the things that move Yours, especially the plight of our children. Amen. 


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

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