Monday, March 31, 2014

Living bones

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 37:1-14

TO CHEW ON: "'And I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken it and performed it.' says the Lord." Ezekiel 37:14

Ezekiel's startling vision of a vast valley of bones reassembling into bodies, their coming back to life as he speaks God's words over them, catches the imagination. Hear their words of explanation as to why they are in that state: "Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!" They were, after all, a people in exile.

But God is a God who breathes life into dead things. "Then you shall know that I am the Lord when I have opened your graves...I will put My Spirit in you and you shall live..."

We may identify with those hopeless bones for a number of reasons:
- Perhaps we're away from God and in spiritual exile ourselves.
- Perhaps we're tired and burned out.
- Perhaps we're discouraged from long praying and working with no visible results.

Whatever the reason, let's claim the promise of God's Spirit who, along with breathing new life into our hopeless dead selves and circumstances:
  • Gives unusual wisdom and insight (Genesis 41:38-39; Daniel 4:8).
  • Helps us to want to live wisely and according to His principles (Ezekiel 36:27).
  • Guides us into truth (John 14:17).
  • Actually lives within us (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19).
  • Teaches us (1 John 2:27).
We don't have to live in discouragement and deadness. God is in the business of putting new life into people and circumstances!

PRAYER: Dear God, I bring my hopeless situation of ___ to You today. Please breathe on it by Your Spirit. Help me to be Your agent in it, bringing to it Holy Spirit resources. Amen.

MORE: Cathedrals Quartet - "Dry Bones"

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.

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, March 30, 2014


"Blind man on trial"
by William James Webb

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 9:24-41

TO CHEW ON: "Jesus said to them, 'If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say "We see!" Therefore your sin remains.'" John 9:41

The interesting way this story ends, with some of the Pharisees checking on what Jesus thinks of them, shows that either they wanted to catch Jesus in another outrageous pronouncement—more incriminating evidence—or  they really were beginning to have doubts about their perception of what had just happened.

For the miracle of a blind man's sight restored on the Sabbath did not fit in their "it makes sense" category. And so they had reasoned it away and excommunicated the healed man. A footnote to this story in my Bible says,

"The perverse reasoning of the Pharisees placed them in a dilemma from which the only escape was to disprove the miracle that had been performed. They argued that no miracle could have occurred because it was the Sabbath, and God would never violate the law of rest by healing a person. However, the fact that a man born blind now had perfect sight refuted their theory. Thus, they must either deny the facts or confess the divine nature of Jesus. The logic of the healed man was simple and irrefutable (vs 30-33). Unable to deny the man's testimony, the religious authorities took the cowardly way out and excommunicated him" -Siegfried Schatzmann, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1460.

Much as we like to dump on the Pharisees, we act a lot like they do when we encounter spiritual things that don't jive with our reality.

Take, for example, the speaking in tongues controversy (Acts 2:1-4; 1 Corinthians 14). Because this phenomenon has ceased in many parts of the 21st century church, some theologians and Bible scholars have constructed an entire apologetic about why it was only for the early church. In some cases they go so far as to demonize those who practice it now.

It's in our nature to want to live consistent within what we believe is real and true. When something doesn't fit our paradigm, we feel uncomfortable until we've "proved" it wrong.

I ask myself, do I do that? Do I insist that every sign and wonder must have a material, rational explanation? Do I too reason away parts of God's revelation because I don't understand them or they haven't been my experience? Do I deceive myself by insisting I see, when I really don't, thus demonstrating my own spiritual blindness?

PRAYER: Dear God, I want Your word, not my experience or common wisdom to set the boundaries of my reality. Please give me faith that flexes and stretches to believe all that is in the Bible. Amen.

MORE: Another view

Lest I have opened a can of worms by mentioning tongues, above, let me leave you with another viewpoint. Here, from John Piper's 1990 message "Tongues of Fire and the Fullness of God" (text Acts 2:1-13) is Piper's description of what that phenomenon means for us today:

"That leaves just one last observation from the text. And it turns out to be a caution to us. In verse 12 the demonstration of God's power in the miracle of tongues causes amazement and perplexity among everyone. "And all were amazed and perplexed." But the perplexity gave way to two very different responses. Some seriously asked, "What does this mean?" Others (in verse 13) mocked and leaped to a naturalistic explanation: "They are filled with new wine."

This is the caution: whenever revival comes—whenever the Holy Spirit is poured out in extraordinary power—this division happens in the Christian community. Some genuinely inquire as to what this is, and test all things, and hold fast to what is good. Others stand outside and mock and write off the enthusiasm as merely human, "They are filled with new wine."

There are some signs today that we are in the first stages of a genuine, widespread awakening. Not the least of which is the undying desire and prayer in the hearts of so many of us at Bethlehem that God would rend the heavens and come down and revive his church and empower us for the final thrust of world evangelization. If this is true, what we need very much is discerning, expectant, open hearts that say, "What indeed is this?" and then listen for a biblical answer" (emphasis added).
 (By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.orgRead entire...)
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.

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Works of God

"Jesus Healing the Blind Man"
by El Greco - 1570

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 9:1-23

TO CHEW ON: "'I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.'" - John 9:4

Jesus' works are on display all through the gospels. Our reading today describes one: the healing of a man with congenital blindness.

A short exploration of Jesus' works reveals some interesting things that relate even to us:

[Works: ergon means toil occupation, enterprise, deed, task, accomplishment, employment, performance, work, labor, course of action. "The miraculous accomplishments and deeds of Jesus are works of God implying power and might" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1460.]

  • Jesus' works encouraged John the Baptist in prison (Matthew 11:2-3)
  • Jesus rebuked the cities which had witnessed His works but hadn't repented. Witnessing His works demanded a response from onlookers (Matthew 11:20).
  • One of Jesus' works was an amazing ability to teach (Matthew 13:54; Mark 6:2).
  • Jesus' works caught the attention of the secular world (Mark 6:14).
  • Jesus' works inspired praise to God in onlookers (Luke 19:37).
  • Jesus' works proved that God had sent Him (John 5:36; 10:25; 14:11).
  • In our reading today, Jesus alludes to the fact that the time for doing His works is limited. Someday (when the night arrives) no one will be able to work.
  • Jesus makes the startling prediction that "'...he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do because I go to My Father'" - John 14:12.

Did you get that last? Believers—you and I if 'believer' describes us—are empowered to do what Jesus did. Think of all the categories of miracles—healing the sick, multiplying food, teaching, raising the dead. Jesus said these would be our works.

And they are...

I think of the miracles that missionaries often describe. Here, for example, is a story of God multiplying food: "Miracle Macaroni." I think of the wise teachers that have influenced my life through their writings, podcasts and in-person sermons. Though I relate strongly to John the Baptist who gained encouragement from news of Jesus working elsewhere, God has promised the power to do His works through all of us. May it be so!

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be a conduit of You doing Your works through me today. Amen.

MORE: Modern miracles

Marilyn Skinner, co-founder with her husband Gary of the Watoto Church in Kampala, Uganda tells the story of an incident early in their missionary career.  This was when bands of men roamed Kampala's streets, looting, stealing, raping, and killing.

One night when Gary was away and she was alone in the house with her young children, the watchman they employed tapped at her window.

"Mama, they have cut the electricity," he said.

At first she was not overly concerned as this happened often. But when the guard came back a few minutes later and whispered, "Mama, they are here, and there are many," she knew the situation was grave.

"Run for your life or they'll kill you," she told the watchman. Then she piled every piece of movable furniture in front of the simple wooden door and huddled with her kids in the bedroom. For three hours they listened as the men banged on and kicked at the door, demanding entrance.

"Don't think I wasn't scared," she said. "I was terrified, and I prayed the whole time. They never got in!"

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.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, March 28, 2014

The aroma of a life

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ephesians 5:1-20

TO CHEW ON: "And walk in love as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us as an offering to God for a sweet-smelling aroma." Ephesians 5:2

For someone who loves perfume as much as I do, Ephesians 5:2 resonates. Here Paul calls Jesus' death a "sweet-smelling aroma." This aroma (euodia) metaphor has its roots way back in the Old Testament, and drifts, as smells do, through to the end of the New.

We find God's reaction to Noah's sacrifice after the flood described in terms of smell: "And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma" - Genesis 8:21. In many more places the writers described sacrifices as aromas. A ram offered in Exodus 29:18 was called "a sweet aroma, an offering made of fire." Loaves of bread burned were "..a sweet aroma to the Lord" - Exodus 29:25. (See also Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17; 2:9; 3:5 etc.)

In our reading today Paul hearkens back to this aroma of sacrifice when he says that Jesus is to us "an offering to God for a sweet-smelling aroma" - Ephesians 5:2. In other words, the aroma of Jesus' death as a sacrifice in our stead satisfied God.

In 2 Corinthians Paul extends the aroma metaphor to the way we live our lives. He says the scent we exude (by how we live and what we say) communicates a message to those who have trusted Christ and to those who haven't:
"For we are the sweet fragrance of Christ [which exhales] unto God, [discernible alike] among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing:    
 To the latter it is an aroma [wafted] from death to death [a fatal odor, the smell of doom]; to the former it is an aroma from life to life [a vital fragrance, living and fresh]" 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 - Amp.

This life-aroma picture is pretty powerful, especially if we add to it that Old Testament aroma of sacrifice (bringing to mind, for example, verse like Romans 12:1: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God..." - NKJV).

In another place, Paul calls the material gifts of the Christians from Philippi "a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:18).

And finally, in Revelation, the prayers of the saints are compared to incense—the aroma-producing substance burned in celebrations of worship throughout the Bible (Revelation 5:7-9 and 8:3-5).

Whether we love actual perfume, or don't, these pictures of the perfumed life apply to all of us. I ask myself, is my life a fragrant sacrifice which pleases God? Do I spread the aroma of the gospel? Do I pray?

PRAYER: Dear God, I want my life to be a pleasing aroma to You and those around me. Please make me aware of areas in me that are foul smelling. Amen.

MORE: Sense of smell

The ability to smell is a wonderful part of our physical makeup. Here are some facts about this sense:

  • Everyone has his or her own unique odor-identity or "smell fingerprint."
  • A woman's sense of smell is keener than a man's.
  • Our sense of smell is least acute in the morning; our ability to perceive odors increases as the day wears on.

These facts about our sense of smell from the Sense of Smell Institute - Fun Facts with Professor Nosetradamus page (no longer online).

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.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, March 27, 2014


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 23:1-6

TO CHEW ON: "The Lord is my shepherd..." Psalm 23:1

The beautiful Psalm 23 picture of the Lord as our shepherd is fulfilled in Jesus. He is:

The Good Shepherd
In John, Jesus is the One who gives His life for His sheep, knows His sheep and is known by them. They hear His voice and follow Him. He gives them eternal life and they will never perish. No one can take them out of His hand - John 10:11-28.

The Resurrected Shepherd
In Hebrews the resurrected Jesus is pictured as the shepherd who has the power to work in us the life that pleases Him (the sanctified life). "Now may the God of peace, who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep...make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight..." - Hebrews 13:20-21.

The Returning Chief Shepherd
In 1 Peter Jesus is the shepherd who returns to give us our reward -"And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away" - 1 Peter 5:4.

All this shepherd talk is most comforting and reassuring — unless we'd rather not be shepherded. In our individualistic society, where we're encouraged to set our own goals and live by our own lights and standards, the picture of being a sheep, directed by a shepherd is hardly appealing. For though a shepherd gives security to the sheep, he also sets limits. The sheep can't just wander off wherever they like, but must follow him, coming in and going out when he says it's time to do so. Going to the pasture he chooses. Getting pulled back from places that look interesting but that he knows will prove to be dangerous.

Are we willing to be shepherded by Jesus today? To go in and out, here and there according to His agenda? To take advantage of this offer of God-care that goes all through life and into eternity?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this beautiful picture of You as my shepherd. Help me to be a proper sheep, leadable and compliant to Your direction. 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.

Bible Drive-Thru

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Does God like the look of your heart?

"The youngest one was out keeping the herd"
From "L'ancien testament",  Lucile Butel illustrator

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Samuel 16:1-23

TO CHEW ON: "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" 1 Samuel 16:7

The Oscar Awards are a big night for appearance-driven Hollywood. After award night, social and mainstream media is full of comments about what people wore, how they handled themselves, who was well-spoken and who not. I wonder what God would have said to Samuel about that affair.

Actually, Samuel himself was prone to judge by appearances, thinking surely Jesse's handsome son Eliab must be God's choice, or Abinadab, or Shammah. But no. Each good-looking man was passed over until there were none left and Samuel had to get Jesse to call young David from sheep-herding.

What was the secret of David's heart that made it acceptable to God? Paul refers to this incident in Acts 13 where he says, "He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said 'I have found David the son of Jesse a man after my own heart, who will do all my will'" - Acts 13:22).

It was the willingness to do, the obedience factor, that God valued in David, and the disobedience in Saul that caused God to reject him (1 Samuel 15:20-23).

It is still an essential ingredient God looks for in people. Obeying God:
  • is the key to prosperity and success (Joshua 1:8).
  • is the basis on which we call God our God (Jeremiah 7:23).
  • is our pass into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21).
  • gives us the privilege of being part of God's family (Luke 8:21).
  • trumps our loyalty and obedience to people (sometimes even the laws of the land) (Acts 5:29).
  • demonstrates that we love God (2 John 1:6).

Every time I read this story, I come away asking, What would be God's verdict on my heart? What about yours?

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to see myself as You see me. Also, please give me insight into others and a heart that values the things that You value above outward appearances. Amen.

MORE: "To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice" - Keith Green

Bible Drive-Thru

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Let it be to me...

"The Annunciation" - RosettiTODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 1:26-38

TO CHEW ON: “‘For with God nothing shall be impossible.’ Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to Your word.’ And the angel departed from her.” Luke 1:37-38

“Let it be to me according to Your word.” To me these words of sweet surrender typify this thoughtful Galilean teenager. An angel has just told her God favors her. That favor will result in her becoming pregnant with the very Son of God. But what a spot for a soon-to-be-married young woman to find herself in!

"The Annunciation"
by Dante Gabriel Rosetti 1828-1882

Mary asked one question: “How can this be, since I do not know a man.” I can’t help but think that dozens of others came to her after the angel left: What about my reputation? Won’t my life be in danger when people find out I’m pregnant? What about Joseph? No doubt the simple faith that had her utter the words, "Let it be to me according to Your word" in the first place, buoyed her up through the confusion of the following weeks and months.

God, in His own way and time, took care of each concern so that when Jesus was born, He had a responsible caring, committed earthly father in Joseph. As for Mary’s reputation–well, Joseph took care of it to the extent he could. As for people thinking ill of her (and there probably were some), that’s the risk one takes when one is a "maidservant of the Lord."

Has God ever come to you with a word (rhema) that seems as impossible as Gabriel’s to Mary? Perhaps you’ve been given a promise about your kids, or a work commission that seems far beyond your ability and totally out of sync with your circumstances. At the time it came, and still, you may be asking, “How can this thing be?”

Let Mary’s final words be your resolve and testimony as you wait for God’s promise to be fulfilled: “Let it be to me according to Your word.”

PRAYER: Dear God, please nourish in me a faith that is as simple and implicit as Mary’s, where I trust You to work things out because “With God (You) nothing will be impossible.” Amen.

MORE: The Feast of the Annunciation

Today the church celebrates the Feast of the Annunciation – when we recall Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she will mother of the Son of God.

The liturgy of this day begins with this collect:

"Pour your grace into our hearts, O Lord, that we who have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ, announced by an angel to the Virgin Mary, may by his cross and passion be brought to the glory of his resurrection; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen."

Liturgy for this day.

Biber - Rosary Sonata #1: The Annunciation
"The Rosary Sonatas"
I. The Five Joyful Mysteries
Sonata No. 1 for violin and basso continuo "The Annunciation"

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

Monday, March 24, 2014

A nobleman's faith

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 4:43-54

TO CHEW ON: "Jesus said to him, 'Go your way, your son lives,' So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way." John 4:50

Last night I couldn't sleep, so I grabbed my Kindle and spent an hour or so with Andrew Murray (a bundled collection of his writings I began reading long ago but haven't gone back to for quite a while).

When I came to this morning's Bible reading and discovered I had just read, last night, Murray's exposition of the very story that came up today, I couldn't help but think his thoughts are something I should share here. Thus, many of the ideas below come from this South African saint (All quotes are from The Master's Dwelling in Devotional Classics: The Andrew Murray, George Muller Colection - Kindle locations 3207 − 3275).

In typical fashion, Murray identifies teaching points in the story:

"Let me point out to you the three aspects of faith which we have here: first faith seeking; then faith finding; and then faith enjoying. Or better still: faith struggling; faith resting; faith triumphing."

  • Faith seeking/struggling:
This Gentile nobleman walked six or seven hours from his dying son at Capernaum to Cana in Galilee. He came on hearsay (Jesus' first miracle - changing water to wine - happened at Cana). He didn't have the faith of the centurion, who demurred when Jesus offered to go to his house, saying His word was enough. This man repeated twice his desperate invitation for Jesus to come to his house.

  • Faith finding / resting:
Jesus met the nobleman where he was, even with his imperfect faith, assuring him, "Your son lives." But that was enough for him. He was content and went home.

About this, Murray makes this telling little observation:

"When God gives me a promise, He is just as near me as when He fulfills it. That is a great comfort. When I have the promise, I have also the pledge of the fulfillment."

  • Faith enjoying/ triumphing:
We know the story, how the man's servants met him, told him his son was better and he, checking on the time of the improvement, discovered it was at the exact time he was talking to Jesus. He could have dismissed the healing by rationalizing it away as coincidence. But instead, he took it as Jesus' direct answer to his prayer.

"He believed with his whole house. That is to say, he did not only believe that Christ could do just this one thing, but he believed in Christ as his Lord. ... If there had been a division among the people of Capernaum, and thousands of them had hated Christ, this man would still have stood on His side. He believed the Lord...He took up his position as a believer in Christ; and his wife, his children, his servants—he gathered them all together and laid them at the feet of Jesus."

How does this story relate to me, two thousand years later? How do I come to Christ and how does He come to me?

Murray answers:

"He comes to me in His precious word, and just as He said to the nobleman, 'Go thy way home, thy son liveth,' so Christ comes to me today and He says, 'Go thy way, thy Saviour liveth.' "Lo, I am with you always.' 'I live and you shall live also.' 'I wait to take charge of your whole life. Will you have me do this? Trust to me all that is evil and feeble; your whole sinful and perverse nature—give it up to me, and I will take care of it.'"

Murray's explanation of this story has me asking several questions:

- Do I, do we, come to Jesus with our problems?
- Do we take His word at face value?
- Do we acknowledge His answers as miracles, or explain them away as coincidences?
- Do we let His miracles (little or big) convince us that we should put Him on the throne as Lord, like the nobleman did? Or after a crisis, do we go back to living the same self-directed way as before?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Your presence in my life, by Your Word and by the Holy Spirit. Help me to see and acknowledge where You are working. May these things build my faith and fuel my loyalty to You.

MORE: More from Andrew Murray:
"If you want power in your house, if you want power in your Bible class, if you want power in your social circle, if you want power to influence the nation, and if you want power to influence the Church of Christ, see where it begins. Come into contact with Jesus in this rest of faith that accepts His life fully, that trusts Him fully, and the power will come by faith to overcome the world; by faith to bless others; by faith to live a life to the glory of God. Go thy way, thy soul liveth; for it is Jesus Christ who liveth within you."

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.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The gift of a godly leader

Hur and Aaron hold up Moses' hands - Jan Lievens engraving (1627-1630)
Hur and Aaron hold up Moses' hands - Jan Lievens engraving (1627-1630)

 TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 17:1-16

TO CHEW ON: "So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek…" Exodus 17:10

Here, in verse 10 of today's reading, we have the first mention of Joshua in the Bible. He leads Israel into war against Amalek. Perhaps he distinguishes himself in some way so Moses puts him in charge. Or maybe God just tells Moses who the commander should be.

That day the Israelites win the battle against Amalek, though not because of their military skill. It's an entirely supernatural victory (Exodus 17:11-13).

From this point on Joshua (son of Nun of the tribe of Ephraim) keeps cropping up in Israel's story.
  • He becomes Moses' devoted servant accompanying him up Mt. Sinai and attending him at the tent of meeting (Exodus 24:12-13; 33:11).
  • He is one of the spies sent from Kadesh to view the land. Only Caleb and he return with an encouraging, faith-filled report (Numbers 13:8,16; 14:6-30).
  • God picks him as Moses' successor, describing him as "'...a man in whom is the Spirit'" (Numbers 28:18-23).
  • His leadership begins with three supernatural events:
1] The dividing of the Jordan River so the people can walk across (Joshua 3:14-17).
2] The appearance of the Angel of the Lord, who gives him detailed instructions for battle (Joshua 5:13-15; 6:2-5).
3] The defeat of Jericho (Joshua 6:12-21).
  •  The only blot on his career, that I can find, is his attempted conquest of Ai. He plans that attack but never consults God. The story of that devastating defeat is in Joshua 7.
  • From that time on he seems to make steady progress, conquering the nations of Canaan (Joshua 11:23;12:24), and dividing the land amongst Israel's tribes (Joshua 23:4).

If Moses chooses Joshua because of some observable strength, I wonder what it is. I love Joshua's long and humble apprenticeship. He spends 40 years as Moses' understudy and never once in that time does he make a move to take over from him. Once Israel enters Canaan, his wise and godly leadership is God's gift to the people.

Our leaders are also God's gifts to us—though we don't often see it that way. I love what Leslyn Musch says in a commentary at the end of Exodus:

"Uphold the leaders God has placed over you. Walk alongside them, pray for them, encourage them when they are tired, and offer to help in practical ways. Doing so honors the Lord and helps to fulfill His purposes" - Leslyn Musch, Truth-In-Action-Through Exodus, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 131.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for pastors and church boards, mayors and councils, members of legislatures and parliaments, congressmen and senators, premiers, prime ministers, and presidents. Help me to pray for leaders rather than criticize them. Amen. 


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

Bookmark and Share

Monday, March 17, 2014

Baby King

"The Magis" by Isabella Colette

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Chronicles 17:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "And I will establish him in My house and My kingdom forever; and his throne shall be established forever." 1 Chronicles 17:14

It's hard to see a king in a newborn baby. But that's what the angel told Mary her Son would be:
"'He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end'” - Luke 1:32-33.
The angel's words echo what God said to David in our reading today. Though the promise of David's established kingdom was fulfilled in the near term by his son Solomon and descendants, the long-range fulfillment of that forever kingdom finds its fulfillment in Jesus:

Psalm 2:6-8
“Yet I have set My King
         On My holy hill of Zion.”
         “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 89:35-37
Once I have sworn by My holiness;
         I will not lie to David:
 His seed shall endure forever,
         And his throne as the sun before Me;
 It shall be established forever like the moon,
         Even like the faithful witness in the sky.”  Selah  

Do we think of Jesus as our king? In our attempts to make Jesus accessible, perhaps we have glossed over the fact of His identity as a sovereign ruler. Human royalty can only be approached according to protocol. Does the respect and dignity with which we would enter the presence of a human king impact our relationship with Him?

The wonderful thing is that we are part of His household—His kingly line. The writer of Hebrews tells us "But Christ as Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of hope firm to the end" - Hebrews 3:6.

Do we conduct ourselves as the King's children, with the awareness that we are representatives of His dynasty. Are we confident in His power? Do we live with hope in His ultimate victory?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I want my relationship with You to be based on reality. You are in truth a King. Help me to keep that in mind as I approach You. Help me to live a life that reflects my royal lineage. 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.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, March 14, 2014

Attitude check

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Numbers 21:1-9

TO CHEW ON: "Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way." Numbers 21:4

Have you ever noticed how one little choice of bad attitude leads to the next and the next until you've worked yourself into a full-blown funk? That seems to be what happened to the Israelites in today's reading.

They have just conquered King Arad, destroying all the cities of his small kingdom south of Canaan. Perhaps the Israelites expected to enter Canaan from that point. Instead God led them on a detour away from the promised land. That understandable disappointment may have sparked their initial complaints.

They began with an attitude that is common—at least to me: discouragement—"discouraged" is also translated "impatient" (Amp, NIV, NLT), "depressed" (Amp), "irritable and cross" (Message).

Their complaints followed the usual format:
- against leadership: "the people spoke against God and against Moses."
- against conditions: "There is no food and no water and our soul loathes this worthless bread."
- had the typical faithless tone: "Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness?"

God's response—sending poisonous snakes among them—may have seemed harsh. But it certainly got their attention. The remedy, Moses erecting a bronze snake to which the bitten looked and were cured, foreshadowed God's final blow to sin through Jesus on the cross (John 3:14-15).

I ask myself, am I struggling with a seeming innocuous negative attitude today? Discouragement, impatience, irritability in my situation may seem like a harmless, even typical response to irritations, disappointments, and difficulties. But it is just such common attitude choices that got the Israelites into trouble way back in the wilderness and still easily trip us up today.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to guard my attitudes. I want to nip my faithless bent in the bud before it blooms its toxic flowers of complaining, unbelief and depression.

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

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Unwavering faith

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 4:13-25

TO CHEW ON: "And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God." Romans 4:19,20

This description of Abraham's faith reminds me of Jesus talking about children. "...of such is the Kingdom of Heaven" He told the disciples (Matthew 19:14).

When daddy makes a promise children don't need to know how it's going to come to pass. They trust, not because they see how the promise will be fulfilled but because of who makes it.

It's the adult in us that wavers ("doubtingly questions"-Amplified) at the promise of God when circumstances are at odds with what He has said. It's easy with our adult logic, realism, cynicism to nourish unbelief.

Abraham here goes one step farther when he even gives glory to God as if the promise has already been fulfilled. In this way he strengthens his faith for the seemingly impossible promise that he and Sarah will have a baby.

What promises are we waiting for God to make good on. If He has indeed given them, let's be childlike in our faith and strengthen any wavering by praising and glorifying God as if they were already fulfilled.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to trust You like a child, looking to You and not circumstances as I continue to claim the promises You have made to me. I praise You ahead of time for bringing them to pass. 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.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

God's ledger and faith

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 4:1-25

TO CHEW ON: "Now to Him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." Romans 4:4-5

Paul is here trying to convince the Christians at Rome (his readers) that the gospel is really a matter of faith not works. He does it by using Abraham (their genetic and faith father) as an example. Quoting Genesis 15:6 ("Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness") he pictures God as a paymaster who keeps accounts.

["Accounted" = "logidzomai" which means numerically to count, compute, calculate, sum up. Metaphorically to consider, reckon, reason, deem evaluate, value. Logidzomai finalizes thought, judges matters, draws logical conclusions, decides outcomes, and puts every action into a debit or credit position - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1554]

Paul says it was Abraham's belief that was accounted (reckoned, computed) to him for righteousness. If it had been his works (keeping the law) God would have owed him. But that's not what "accounted" in Genesis implies. Rather, it says that Abraham's righteous standing came purely because God extended grace, calculating him righteous on the basis of his faith. It was a deposit made, not on the basis of anything Abraham did but solely on the basis of his faith.

That's why circumcision (the physical sign of God's covenant, complied with in obedience to Moses' law) wasn't/isn't the determining factor (Romans 4:9-12). And it's also why Paul says later (much to the consternation of those who trust in their standing as Abraham's offspring) that Abraham is "the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also" (Romans 4:11b). In other words, Abraham is the faith father of believing Gentiles too.

What does this have to do with you and me? Everything if we're at any level trying to earn our way into God's favor. Oh, it's easy to give head assent to the fact that salvation is a gift we don't deserve and can't earn. But how easily, too, the barter ethic that says there must be something we can or should do to earn God's favour takes over, at least in our hearts.

A footnote commentary on this passage sums it up so well:

"Many human attitudes such as love, joy, patience, courage and mercy can be somewhat worked up by our own effort. But faith occurs when we cease trying to do something by our own efforts and trust someone else to do it for us. Faith is the one attitude that is exactly the opposite of trusting ourselves. Apparently this is why God decided that faith should be the attitude of heart by which we obtain salvation" - Wayne Grudem (notes on Romans) New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1555.

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to live in the truth of my helplessness to save myself by anything I do. Thank You for the free gift of salvation that I get by simple faith. 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.
Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Kept through trouble

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 121:1-8

TO CHEW ON: "The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore." Psalm 121:8

Though a quick read-through of this Psalm may give us the impression that life with God is insulated and lived "on flowery beds of ease," it doesn't really say that at all. Because every positive statement the psalmist makes argues back to an implied niggling worry that is altogether familiar:

We fear that help won't come; we will slip; God will miss something; He won't keep us; we'll faint in the heat or lose heart in the night; we'll succumb to evil; our life will end badly after all.

Eugene Peterson says in his commentary on this psalm:

"No literature is more realistic and honest in facing the harsh facts of life than the Bible. At no time is there the faintest suggestion that the life of faith exempts us from difficulties....On every page of the Bible there is recognition that faith encounters troubles" A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, p. 42.

Though this psalm does't promise a problem-free life, it does promise:
- God will be right there with us in our problems (Psalm 121:2,4).
- He controls their extent; their limits are in His hands (Psalm 121:3).
- He will send us protection and relief in them (Psalm 121:5,6).
- He preserves us through them (Psalm 121:7,8).

Peterson again:

"The Christian life is going to God. In every going to God Christians travel the same ground that everyone else walks on, breathe the same air, drink the same water, shop in the same stores, read the same newspapers...
The difference is that each step we walk, each breath we breathe we know we are preserved by God, we know we are accompanied by God, we know we are led by God; and therefore no matter what doubts we endure or what accidents we experience, the Lord will guard us from every evil, He guards our very life" - A Long Obedience p. 45 (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear God, I lay out before You the problems of my day. Help me not to be transfixed by their bigness but to focus on how secure I am (even as I ride them out) with You beside me, behind me, in front of me, over me, under me, in me. 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.

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Staring down temptation

by Alexandre Bida, 1874.

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 4:1-11

TO CHEW ON: "But He answered and said, 'It is written Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:4

What a chilling situation Jesus found Himself in: "...led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." Then, after a 40-day fast, in a weakened state and without the fortification of a full belly, the devil confronted Him at His point of greatest vulnerability—physical hunger.

Jesus fended off Satan with Scripture. How did He do it? The Scripture He used was from Deuteronomy 8, where Moses was interpreting the desert experience to the Israelites. Notice that Moses was also talking in the context of physical hunger:

"So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" - Deuteronomy 8:3 NKJV.

Jerry Bridges in his book Trusting God Even When Life Hurts comments on this passage:

"The 'word' in this passage is not the word of Scripture but the word of God's providence. God wanted to teach the Israelites that they were dependent upon Him for their daily bread. He did this, not by incorporating this truth into the law of Moses but by bringing adversity in the form of hunger into their lives..." (Kindle Location 1831).

Interestingly, the NASB translation bears this out. It renders Deuteronomy 8:3: " does not live by bread alone but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord."

So Jesus was reminding Satan (when Satan implied that as the Son of God, He shouldn't have to endure hunger - vs. 3) that God can be trusted even in the providences He sends.

In regard to the use of Scripture to fend off temptation, the word Jesus used for 'word' is rhema. A sidebar article in my Bible explains about the two words used for the Word of God: rhema and logos:

["Rhema is "That which is said or spoken, an utterance, in contrast to logos which is the expression of a thought, a message, a discourse. Logos is the message, rhema is the communication of the message. In reference to the Bible, logos is the Bible in its entirety; rhema is a verse from the Bible. The meaning of rhema in distinction to logos is illustrated in Ephesians 6:17 where the reference is not to the Scriptures as a whole, but to that portion which the believer wields as a sword in the time of need" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1294-5.]

It seems Jesus was essentially saying two things to counter Satan's temptation to provide for His own hunger:
  • By quoting Scripture He was saying that Scripture was/is the final authority on the way things are.
  • By quoting the Deuteronomy passage, He let Satan know that He lived secure in God's providence, where there was no room for self-pity and an insistence on His rights.

We can follow Jesus' example when we encounter temptation. We can have a teachable attitude in our circumstances, letting them drive us to God (instead of giving way to complaining, self-pity, or an insistence on our rights). We can also cut those temptations down to size with words from the Bible that are appropriate to the specific temptation.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to have Jesus' presence-of-mind when I meet with temptation. Help me to be spiritually astute enough to know what's going on and to withstand temptation using Your example of trust and thrust. Amen.

MORE: On temptation
"Do not forecast where the temptation will come, it is the least likely thing that is the peril....Do not be morbidly introspective, looking forward with dread, but keep alert; keep your memory bright before God." 
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, April 19th reading.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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." (

Bookmark and Share

Saturday, March 08, 2014


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 5:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." Romans 5:8-10

Yesterday we left Adam and Eve cowering in the trees. No longer did they look forward to meeting with God. The guilt of their disobedience had made a rift between God and them.

Romans 5 talks about how Jesus' death healed that rift by reconciling humanity to God. Reconciliation is just one of many meanings of Christ's death. The grand list below is from the book Lectures in Systematic Theology by H. C. Thiessen, pages 321-329.

"The Meaning of Christ's Death":

1. It is vicarious. "Vicarious suffering is suffering endured by one person instead of another, i.e. in another's place" - p. 321. Jesus' death was a substitute for our (Isaiah 53:5,6).

2. It is satisfaction in that;
  • It satisfies the justice of God. "God rightly exacts the penalty of a broken law. He cannot free the sinner until the demands of justice are satisfied. Christ's death freely satisfied those demands" - p. 324.
  • It satisfies the law of God.
  • It is involved in atonement. To make atonement means literally to cover over so as not to be seen. In Leviticus 6:2-7 we find the means of individual atonement. Leviticus 4:13-20 describes the means of national atonement for national transgressions. In each case a ram acts as the substitute for the sinner(s). The ram's death covers over the guilt of the real criminal, making it invisible to God's eyes. Jesus, in His death, becomes our ram of atonement.
  • It is involved in propitiation. Propitiate means to appease. The Bible often speaks about the wrath of God. Jesus' death appeased God's wrath - Romans 5:9.
  • It is involved in reconciliation. "Closely connected with the idea of propitiation is the thought of reconciliation. The two ideas seem to be related to each other as cause had effect: Christ's death 'propitiated' God, and as a result He is 'reconciled' - Romans 5:10." - p. 327

In plain words:

"In sinning, Adam turned his back upon God. Then God turned His back upon Adam. Christ's death has satisfied the demands of God and now God has again turned His face toward man. It remains for man to turn round about and face God. Since God has been reconciled by the death of his Son, man is now entreated to be reconciled to God" - p. 327-8.

3. It is ransom. It represents the payment of a ransom price - Matthew 20:28. ("This ransom is not paid to Satan ... but to God. The debt that requires cancelling is due to God's attribute of justice; Satan has no legal claim against the sinner" - p. 328).

I don't know about you, but all this makes me say WOW! Only God could have conceived and executed such a grand, all-encompassing, love-and-justice-driven way to heal our rift, to get us together with Him again.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for dying for me. Forgive me for when I have looked lightly on Your death. Help me to live, facing You in 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.

Bookmark and Share

Friday, March 07, 2014

Shame and hiding

Eve and Adam - painting by Phillip Ratner

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 3:1-15

TO CHEW ON: "And they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden." Genesis 3:8

 Yesterday's reading with its idyllic scene of Adam and Eve in sweet companionship with each other and God is ripped apart by the entrance of sin. Adam and Eve's eating the fruit of the Knowledge-of-Good-and-Evil tree did a lot more than set them in the direction of death. One thing that happened was an immediate urge to hide.

This urge grew out of guilt and shame.
[guilt: The fact or condition of having committed an offense, especially a willful violation of a legal or moral code,
shame: a painful sense of guilt or degradation caused by consciousness of guilt or of anything degrading, unworthy or immodest...a state or condition of regret, dishonour or disgrace."]

So they went from "naked and unashamed" (Genesis 2:25) to hiding their bodies from each other and hiding themselves from God.

Throughout the Bible we discover a similar urge to hide in the presence of guilt over having committed sin. It was often accompanied by drastic results which impacted more people than just the ones who sinned:
  • Achan took spoil from Jericho, hid it in his tent and as a result 36 men were killed in the battle with Ai before he was discovered. Then he and his family paid the price (Joshua 7).
  • Gehazi, Elisha's servant, tried to hide the fact that he had taken Naaman's gift, offered earlier to his boss. He ended up with leprosy (2 Kings 5:20-27).
  • We smile at the irony of the Israelites secretly building "high places" for idol worship. "High places"! And they thought God couldn't see? (2 Kings 17:9).

David, whose hiding episode included adultery and murder, got it right when he asked, rhetorically in Psalm 139, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?" and answered, in effect, nowhere (Psalm 139:7-12).

I ask myself, am I keeping secrets from God? One sign that I may be is a reluctance to meet with Him (just like Adam and Eve). For I have found that when such is the case and we do get together, He invariably puts His finger on my supposed secret.

If we're not sure, we can pray the prayer David prayed at the end of Psalm 139:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
         Try me, and know my anxieties;
 And see if there is any wicked way in me,
         And lead me in the way everlasting."

If God exposes concealed sins, Psalm 32:5 is the perfect way to deal with them:
"I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.  Selah  

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to realize the futility of trying to hide things from You. Help me to recognize "secret sins," to acknowledge and confess them, and to deal with any interpersonal fallout. 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.

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Our setting according to God

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 2:4-25

TO CHEW ON: "This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created; in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens." Genesis 2:4

When a science fiction writer sets out to spin her tale, she describes early on in the story the setting, letting us observe her made-up universe and explaining its rules. In some ways our reading today does that for our home — the earth. We find at least seven foundational pillars that hold up and explain, according to God, the way life on earth came about and functions best:

1. God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 2:4).

2. God formed man and gave him life (Genesis 2:7). Out of the lowliest, commonest part of creation — dust — God shaped him and intimately "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."

3. God gave man work — a purpose for living as the keeper of a garden (Genesis 2:15).

4. God set boundaries for human behaviour — an opportunity for man to exercise his will to obey and live or disobey and die (Genesis 2:17).

5. God created animals and charged Adam with the task of naming them (Genesis 2:19,20). This implies a human precedence over the animal kingdom. We're not the same. For example, killing an animal is not murder, like killing a human being is.

6. God made woman and Adam recognized her as his "comparable" (Genesis 2:22, 23). "'Comparable to him' denotes complementarity. The needed help is for daily work, procreation, and mutual support through companionship" - Russell Bixler, notes on Genesis,  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 7.

7. God established marriage (vs. 24).
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother..." Leave tells us there is a change of priorities here. Mom and Dad (Mom-in-law, Dad-in-law) are no longer the focus of this relationship.
"...and be joined to his wife..." They are to be joined in passion and permanence.
"...and they shall become one flesh." One flesh implies sexual union, conceiving children, being spiritually and emotionally intimate, and living with each other in the same way one does with one's blood family of birth.

These pillars have been under attack from the first Eden days ("Then the serpent said to the woman, 'You shall not surely die.'" - Genesis 3:4) till now. However, ignoring or flaunting any one of them in belief and behaviour does, I think, put us on a wrong track and cause our lives to be out-of-kilter with the way God designed us to work best.

The challenge for us is to stand firm on God's order of things in spite of society's clamouring against aspects of it, like the questioning of God's existence, the fact that He is the creator, the existence of an objective moral standard, the eternal implications of disobeying God, and the sanctity of marriage, to name a few.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for laying out our setting so clearly. Help me to stay focused on the way You say things are and not be distracted or swayed by the world's arguments against Your order. 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.

Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Hypocrisy test

Jesus teaching His disciples
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 6:1-21

TO CHEW ON: " 'For where you treasure is, there your heart will be also.' " Matthew 6:21

We have, in our reading today, a good way to test where our hearts (and thus our treasure) is. Jesus talks about three things—spiritual things—and two ways in which we can do them. Done one way they gain us points with people. Done another they get God's attention:

Perform good deeds
We can broadcast that we're about to do or have done such a thing to gain a reputation for generosity. Or we can do our deeds (such as giving to the poor) so secretively we're scarcely aware of it ourselves.

We can pray long flowery prayers in public and so gain a reputation for piety, or pray secretly where no one but God sees us.

We can make a point of broadcasting our practice by going around wan and unkempt or carrying on as usual, spruced up and attractive, albeit hungry.

In each case, Jesus commends the secretive action and condemns the showy one because at the root of the showy one is a desire to impress, not God but other people.

In our day, showing off our piety is no less a temptation and just as hypocritical. And so the next time I (you?) am tempted to slip a self-congratulatory bit into conversation, framed in spiritual language  something like: "Thousands are reading my books and I am humbled that God would use me in this way," or "I am blessed to be able to give millions to my church" or "I spend most of the day in the word and prayer,"* I need to check myself. Why do I have the urge to say things like this? Could it be that I want a little praise for myself? That the ministry, speech, and action part for my life isn't only for God at all but to amass a little earth treasure in the form of a good reputation for me?

*All made-up statements, by the way.

Dear God, my heart is deceitful and creative in thinking of ways to draw attention to myself instead of doing things purely for You. Please forgive me and alert me to when I'm tempted to do this. Amen.

MORE: Ash Wednesday

Today is the day the church celebrates Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. The "ash" part of the day comes from the practice of painting, with ash, the form of a cross on the worshiper's forehead. The ash is a symbol of repentance. In Bible times, actions to do with ashes were a symbol of grief, remorse, and repentance. 

The liturgy for Ash Wednesday begins with this Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. 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.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Day

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Joel 2:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "For the Lord gives voice before His army,
for His camp is very great;
For strong is the One who executes His word.
For the day of the Lord is great and very terrible;
Who can endure it?" Joel 2:11

Have you noticed how, in the Bible, writers see all aspects of life through the lens of God at work? Not only plentiful rain and good crops are seen to come from Him, but also natural disasters and plagues? In our reading today Joel predicts one of these: a plague of locusts. It is sent to discipline and punish the wayward Israelites with the purpose of turning them back to God.

In poetic language Joel paints a picture of this army and then, in verse 11, merges the prediction of the imminent plague with a future "day of the Lord." A footnote in my Bible explains it as "...that future day when the Lord Himself shall lead His armies against the nations and accomplish His judgments; a day when even the natural universe recoils" Jerry Cook, notes on Joel,  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1164.

The "day of the Lord" or "the last day" or "the great day" appears often in the Bible. It is:
  • A day when God will execute kings (Psalm 110:5).
  • A day when the proud will be humbled (Isaiah 2:12).
  • A day when heaven and earth will shake (Isaiah 13:13).
  • Called a "day of Jacob's trouble" — meaning persecution of the Jews? — "But he (Jacob) will be saved out of it" (Jeremiah 30:7).
  • A day when the normal means of escape (like paying money) won't work (Ezekiel 7:19).
  • A day when even the cycles of day and night are overcome by disaster (Joel 2:31).
  • A day that is near (Zephaniah 1:14).
  • A day that is hot (Malachi 4:1).
  • A day of judgment that is earned (Romans 2:5).
  • A day that we live to avoid. Joel advises:

"'Now therefore,' says the Lord,
'Turn to me with all your heart
....rend your heart, and not your garments;
Return to the Lord your God
For He is gracious and merciful
Slow to anger and of great kindness;
And He relents from doing harm" - vs. 12-13.

We don't need to fear the "day of the Lord." We can believe in Jesus and trust Him and His blood to plead our case before God. We can commit ourselves to Him, knowing that He will keep what we have entrusted to Him (our very lives) until that Day. As Paul puts it: "...for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day" - 2 Timothy 1:12.

PRAYER: Dear God, Your judgments are fearful. Thank You for sending Jesus who took the blow of Your wrath toward sin for me. Help me to never lose sight that You are a God of judgment as well as a God of love. Amen.

MORE: Locust plagues.

Footnotes in my Bible explain some of the natural phenomenon that accompany a plague of locusts (All info from the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, pages 1163 and 1164).

Joel 2:2: "like morning clouds spread over the mountains" refers to the bright reflection of the sun on the wings of the swarming locusts. Bright glimmers of light dancing off the wings of the myriad of locusts literally turn the sky to a yellow, fog-like texture...a day or more before the creatures actually arrive.

2:2: "a day of darkness" - swarms so thick the sky is turned black as night.

2:3: "a fire devours" - describes a literal fire which often accompanies locust swarms.

2:4: "like the appearance of horses" - The head of a locust looks a lot like a horse.

2:5: "Noise like chariots...noise of a flaming fire" - Locusts when running and flying have a clicking rattling sound. When they eat they can sound like a stubble field on fire.

More on locusts:
"An Insect's Alter Ego"
"The Reach of the Desert Locust" - all from the Nasa Earth Observatory Site


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.

Bookmark and Share

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...