Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Spirit we want

Tree of Jesse - Artist unknown
Tree of Jesse - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 11:1-10

"The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord." Isaiah 11:2

The rich Spirit of the Lord—that Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge "and of the reverential and obedient fear of the Lord" (AMP) rests on the Jesse branch (Isaiah 11:1). That would be a descendant of David, who was a son of Jesse. We understand this prophecy to be of Jesus.

As we read this list, His early wisdom comes to mind:
"And the Child grew and become strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him" - Luke 2:40.

When His ministry commenced, we recall the visible descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at His baptism - Matthew 3:16.

Throughout Jesus' life, Godly qualities were lived out in Him. My Thompson Chain Bible has a longer (than the Isaiah 11) list of qualities that typified the Spirit of Christ:
  • Divine - Isaiah 11:2
  • Wise - Isaiah 11:2
  • Just and Fearless - Isaiah 11:4.
  • Faithful - Isaiah 11:5.
  • Tender - Isaiah 40:11
  • Quiet - Isaiah 42:2
  • Gentle - Isaiah 42:3
  • Persevering - Isaiah 42:4
  • Liberating - Isaiah 61:1
  • Saving - Isaiah 63:1
  • Compassionate - Matthew 9:36
  • Meek and lowly - Matthew 11:29
  • Longsuffering - Luke 9:55-56
  • Forgiving - Luke 23:34
  • Zealous - Acts 10:38
  • Loving - Ephesians 5:2

The exciting thing is that when we become His children, He gives us the same Spirit: "The Spirit of truth … He dwells with you and will be in you" - John 14:7.

His Spirit is life-giving - Romans 8:11.

He guides and leads us - Romans 8:14.

He opens up truth to us and gives insights into the future - John 16:13.

His Spirit gives wisdom (what is needed to enact all the other qualities) that is not only theoretical but also practical. I love how my Bible's notes on wisdom includes this sum-up:
"Biblical wisdom unites God, the Source of all understanding, with daily life, where the principles of right living are put into practice" - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 888.

And so we are brought back to earth with convicting passages like this one from James that describes what Jesus' heavenly wisdom does not and does look like:
"But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above but is earthly, sensual, demonic …. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" - see all of James 3:13-18.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to recognize worldly versus the heavenly wisdom of the Spirit of Jesus. Quicken my will toward instant obedience of Your Spirit's voice. Amen.

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

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

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Who will you put on today?

T-shirt with stencil "Jesus Lives Here"
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 13:1-14

TO CHEW ON: "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts." Romans 13:14.

Here Paul sums up for readers two simple (and vast) instructions about living a Christian lifestyle. They are as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago.

1. "Put on the Lord Jesus Christ…"
The image is of clothing oneself. Clothes serve many purposes. They protect us from the elements. They cover our intimate parts, providing modesty and dignity. They also define us by the styles and fabrics we choose to wear. Paul tells these Roman Christians to dress in Jesus.

  • Way back in the Old Testament, Job makes this statement that underlines clothing's protective and defining aspects: "I put on righteousness and it clothed me; My justice was like a robe and a turban" - Job 29:14.
  • Paul speaks of the rite of baptism as something that initiates that putting on and declares it to the world - Galatians 3:27.
  • A mind renewal is also involved. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, describes how they must "…put off … the old man … and be renewed in the spirit of your mind that you put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness" - Ephesians 4:17-24. Colossians 3:9 also talks about this renewal.

2. "…make no provision for the flesh to fulfill its lusts."

[Provision - pronoia is forethought, planning, making preparation for, providing for.]

In other words, Paul tells these Christians and us, not to make plans to sin.

  • Just don't do it says Peter - 1 Peter 2:11.
  • "Walk in the Spirit (another way of describing Step 1 above) and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" - Galatians 5:16.

Two steps that are so simple and yet they involve a lifetime of practice, of putting off and putting on.

Who are you, who am I wearing today? If it's Jesus, let's not be sullying those clothes with plans to sneak into our day some old-clothes thought or habit.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help me to put on You and to be aware of my sneaky side that still wants to make provision for sinful thoughts and actions. Amen.

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

Different routes to the same destination

Jesus calls Philip & Nathaneal - William Hole
Jesus calls Philip & Nathaneal - William Hole
TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 1:43-51

TO CHEW ON: "The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, 'Follow me.'" John 1:43

It's interesting to note how Jesus picked and called His disciples.

Andrew and another unnamed disciple (perhaps John, the writer) were attracted to Him by the testimony of their original rabbi, John the Baptist (John 1:35-37). When they asked Jesus where He was staying, His "Come and see" was invitation enough for them to leave John and follow Jesus.

The following day Jesus went in search of Philip.

Philip recruited his friend Nathaneal (also called Bartholomew) to be Jesus' follower.

It seems the four fishermen (Andrew, Simon [Peter], James and John) may have made their decision to become serious followers in stages, for we see them back fishing. Then one morning after a fruitless night on Galilee followed by a Jesus instigated miraculous catch, they finally "forsook all to follow Jesus" (Luke 5:1-11).

After that Jesus saw Matthew (Levi) at his tax-collecting station. When Jesus invited him to be a disciple, Matthew immediately left all to follow Jesus (Luke 5:27,28).

Still today Jesus finds and calls us in a variety of ways. Some encounter Him through the words of a teacher or preacher. Others are introduced to Him seemingly without human intervention through visions, dreams, and the Bible. Some come through the testimony of friends. Many make the decision to follow Him in stages and over a period of time. Still others decide in an instant.

Let's remember and be encouraged by this variety as we continue to pray for our unsaved family members and friends. Just because they aren't coming to God in the way we did or in the way we expect them to doesn't mean that God isn't involved in their lives, busy drawing them to Himself in ways tailored just to them.

Dear Jesus, thank You that Your call to discipleship is unique and personal. I believe You are at work in the lives of those I love who have yet to respond to You. 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.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

What's the name of your god?

Micah Foretells Christ -   JOLLAIN, Gérard
Micah Foretells Christ - Gerard Jollain
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Micah 4:1-5:1

TO CHEW ON: "For all people walk each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever." Micah 4:5

Micah's thoughtful little statement in our focus verse is as true now as it was in 700 B.C. In our culture we don't worship idol statues, but we do each have a god and we demonstrate who it is  by our lives (or as Micah says it, "we will walk each in the name of his god").

Wealth, power, attention (how many followers we have on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, etc.), praise, a gorgeous home, a well-toned body, career, recreation — all these and more can be gods (one of the definitions of god: any person or thing made the chief object of one's love, interest or aspiration").

A little overview of some Bible references to false gods helps us understand them, and the process and folly of worshiping them.

1. They are impotent (Jeremiah 10:5) and inferior to the God who can create (1 Chronicles 16:26).  Though they may appear attractive and powerful, someday their fate will be that of the Philistine god Dagon in the presence of the ark  — broken and in pieces on the floor (1 Samuel 5:4).

2. The work of one's own hands can be a false god (Isaiah 2:8). Though Isaiah was referring to worshiping idol statues that people had carved, we readily, and I think correctly, identify such worship with putting supreme value on ourselves and our own achievements (Secular Humanism), a prevalent value in our society today.

3. False worship may draw us into some strange activities (Ezekiel 21:21).

4. Who/what we worship is a choice we make. We make that choice by who or what we serve. We can't have two masters at once (Matthew 6:24). We choose to worship something or someone other than God when we ignore His commands (1 Kings 18:18). It is also possible to turn from God, back to the things we served before (Galatians 4:8-10).

5. Refusing to bow down to the gods of our culture may make us stand out and could even prove dangerous (Daniel 3:12-18).

6. But we can decide for God. Let's affirm, with Paul, "yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live." (1 Corinthians 8:6).

Or, as Micah says it:

"We will walk in the name of the Lord our God."

PRAYER: Dear God, in the crush of life, when my mind is so easily taken up with all that I need to do,  help me not to make a false god out of anything, even ministry and Christian service.  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.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Pictures of peace

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 2:1-5

TO CHEW ON: “He shall judge between the nations,
And rebuke many people;
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
Neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah 2:4

The picture of peace Isaiah paints here, of weapons being softened and hammered into tools for farming, expresses the longing in many a human heart. I can only imagine how the citizens of Aleppo and Mosul would welcome such a thing.

The theme of a coming time of peace runs through the prophets’ writings. I’m quoting the passages today, so this post is a bit long, but I think you'll be thrilled at the beautiful pictures of peace here.

There are prophecies of peace coming as a consequence of fearing and honoring God:

  • Psalm 46:9,10:
'He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
 He burns the chariot in the fire. 
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!'

  • Psalm 72:5-7 - a psalm-prayer of Solomon:
"They shall fear You
As long as the sun and moon endure,
Throughout all generations. 
"He shall come down like rain upon the grass before mowing,
Like showers that water the earth. 
In His days the righteous shall flourish,
And abundance of peace,
Until the moon is no more."
  • Psalm 85:9,10
"Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him,
That glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth have met together;
 Righteousness and peace have kissed."
  • Psalm 147:11,14:
"The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him,
In those who hope in His mercy…

"He makes peace in your borders,
And fills you with the finest wheat."

There are prophecies of the possibility of peace associated with the kingdom of the Child:
  • Isaiah 9:6,7:
"For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end
  • Isaiah 11:1,6-9 (the pictures of peace here also resemble the distant, end-time peace of Isaiah 65 below):
"There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots…

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them
"The cow and the bear shall graze;
Their young ones shall lie down together;
And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 
"The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole,
And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den
"They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea."
  • Isaiah 33:17,20
"Your eyes will see the King in His beauty;
They will see the land that is very far off…

"Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts;
Your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet home..."
  • Zechariah 9:9,10:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey. 
"I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
And the horse from Jerusalem;
The battle bow shall be cut off.
He shall speak peace to the nations;
His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.’"

And there are prophecies that look forward to a  seemingly distant, end-time period of peace.

  • Isaiah 2:1-5 - Our reading of Isaiah 2:1-5, which begins: "Now it shall come to pass in the latter days..." would be in that category.
  • Isaiah 65:11,25:
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind….

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
The lion shall eat straw like the ox,
And dust shall be the serpent’s food.
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,”
Says the Lord."
  • Micah 4:1,4
"Now it shall come to pass in the latter days
That the mountain of the Lord’s house
Shall be established on the top of the mountains,
And shall be exalted above the hills;
And peoples shall flow to it….

"But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree,
And no one shall make them afraid;

For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken."

But is there any hope for peace now? Well, yes. Paul gives Timothy some down-to-earth advice about peace in the present in 2 Timothy 2:1,2:
"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men
"for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence."

PRAYER: Dear Father, our beleaguered world longs for the pictures of peace painted by Bible writers, to become reality. Help me to do all I can now to bring peace to my little corner of time and space. Amen.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Working for the real boss

"Best Boss Ever" on mug
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ephesians 6:5-24

TO CHEW ON: "Obey them (earthly masters) not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart." Ephesians 6:6

Though Paul's instructions are addressed to slaves, I believe they are applicable to workers of any kind—those of us who work as employees, as freelancers, and as volunteers.

The qualities of God-pleasing workers that Paul lists are obedience, respect / fear, sincerity, integrity (working hard even when supervisors aren't watching), and wholeheartedness. They were to exercise all of these as if God were one's actual boss (because He is; He is the one who doles out the ultimate and eternal wages).

I find this straightforward and practical teaching for us. Personally, it means I should put as much effort into these blog devotions that I write for free as I put into an article I hope to publish for pay. I need to give myself as wholeheartedly to my housework as I do to a volunteer job I do at church.

Living as if God were our real boss in every endeavor helps us view all work, even lowly jobs like cleaning a toilet, in a whole new light.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me internalize the reality of You as my real boss in each job of my life's work. Amen.

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures quoted in this meditation are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Harmonious family relationships

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 5:21-6:4

TO CHEW ON: “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22

In marital relationships the fashion has changed. Nowadays if you say the word “submit” when you’re talking about how a wife should relate to her husband, some would have you wash your mouth out with soap. A wife submitting to her husband is considered so yesterday—no, not even yesterday, so archaic!

[The word translated “submit” comes from the Greek hypotasso. It means “to arrange under, subordinate, subject, put in subjection, subject oneself, obey, submit to one’s control; yield to one’s admonition or advice.”] Nothing ambivalent about that!

In fact Paul has something (controversial to modern ears) to say to every member of the family:

Wife: Submit to your husband as to the Lord. Be subject to (same “submit” word)  your own husband in the same way the church is subject to Christ, deferring to him as your head* like the church defers to Christ as its  head (Ephesians 5:22-24).

[*Head: kephale: literal head, where the loss of the head destroys life; metaphorical - anything supreme, chief; of persons: master, lord; of husband in relation to his wife; of Christ, the Lord of the husband and of the church.]

Husband: love your wife like Christ loved the church in a selfless, giving way, to the same extent that you love and care for yourself, working for her well-being, beauty, and purity (Ephesians 5:25-29).

As a couple: leave your parents’ home and become joined and intimate as a new entity - Ephesians 5:31.

 Children: Obey your parents, honor them (which comes with a promise of well-being and longevity) - Ephesians  6:1-3.

Fathers: Don’t provoke [parorigizo - rouse to wrath, provoke, exasperate, anger] your children. Bring them up, and train them to know and obey the the Lord - Ephesians 6:4.

As old-fashioned as this advice may sound, can you imagine our society if everyone lived by it? God’s design for marriage and the family is to reflect His sacrificial love to us and our submission to Him. It might be out of modern favor but I don’t know of any modern model for the family that sounds more harmonious and functional (but difficult to live out in one's own strength).

PRAYER: Dear Father, I need  faith that You know best and Your power to live these things in my imperfect, everyday life. Amen.

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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Live alert for THE DAY

earthquake-shaken house
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 21: 25-38

"'But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and the Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth.'" Luke 21:34,35

I live on the earthquake-prone west coast of Canada where we haven't had a significant quake since 1700. Thus it's easy for us to get complacent about earthquake preparedness. But the BIG ONE is on its way, assure the experts. It's just a matter of time.

Jesus, here, is using a similar warning tone as He talks about the signs of the times, the end of the age and the big one—the event for which they should be expectant.  The big one is THE DAY. He describes it earlier—the climax of all manner of social, political, and natural upheaval:
"'And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with great transcendent and overwhelming power and all His  kingly glory, majesty, and splendor'" - Matthew 21:27 AMP.

Stay alert in expectation of THE DAY, Jesus tells His followers. Don't get caught in the snare of its unexpectedness. He lists ways they and we can be distracted ("overburdened and depressed—weighed down" - Amp):

1] With "carousing":  we'd call it partying and having a good time ("… the giddiness and headache and nausea of self-indulgence…" vs. 34 - AMP).

2] With "drunkenness": when we get drunk we dull our senses with mind-numbing, mood-altering alcohol. Could we also include in this category other activities designed to take the edge off life's harsh realities—things like compulsive shopping, overeating, spending endless hours online?

3] With the "cares of this life": That would be the concerns of everyday living: "… worldly worries and cares pertaining to the business of this life" - AMP.

To prepare for the BIG ONE in the earthquake department we are reminded often to have kit of emergency food, water, medical supplies and batteries ready, and a plan for how we will link up with family members should it happen when we're in different places.

Jesus tells us how to prepare for THE DAY:
"'Keep awake then, and watch at all times, that is be discreet, attentive, and ready, praying that you may have the full strength and ability and be accounted worthy to escape all these things … and to stand in the presence of the Son of man'" - Luke 21:36 AMP.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me not to be distracted from watching world events in the context of Your predictions. Help me to stay spiritually alert and be in communication with You often about these things and my role in them.  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, November 19, 2016

Beloved Son

Image: pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 20:9-26

TO CHEW ON: ‘Then the owner of the vineyard said,”What shall I do? I will send my beloved son…”’” Luke 20:13

In the parable of the Wicked Vinedressers (Luke 20:9-16)—which the chief priests and scribes recognized as a parable against them—Jesus called the son that the king finally sent, in the king's words my beloved son.”

If we are at all familiar with the Bible, flags will go up at that expression. We’ve heard it before.

  • The prediction that God would send a Son occurs as early as Psalm 2:7:
“I will declare the decree:
The Lord has said to Me,
‘You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.
The Messiah that Isaiah predicted was described in offspring terms:
“And now the Lord says,
Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant,
To bring Jacob back to Him,
So that Israel is gathered to Him-  Isaiah 49:5.
"Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief.
When You make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand - Isaiah 53:10.

  • When Jesus arrived, God the Father said it publicly at His baptism:
“And suddenly a voice came from heaven saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” - Matthew 3:17 (also Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).
He said it again on the Mount of Transfiguration:
“‘This is My beloved Son. Hear Him’” - Luke 9:35 (and Peter recalled the experience in 2 Peter 1:17-18).
  • In confronting the Jewish religious leaders, who were so offended by His claims they sought to kill Him (as in our reading as well) Jesus said it plainly to them: 
‘For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself does’” - John 5:20.

As we approach the Advent season when we focus on the expectation and fulfillment of God sending His Son, I am particularly moved by the adjective “beloved.” This was no robotic, mechanical gift from cold, distant God but a tearing apart of His very self as He entrusted His Beloved Son to Earth’s murderous gardeners; entrusted Him to what He knew would happen, indeed what had to happen in order to restore sinful man back to relationship with Him.

It's a gift that makes it possible for us to say with Paul:
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” - Colossians 1:13.


PRAYER: Dear Father, as a parent I understand how beloved a child is. That You would send Your Son Jesus to be treated as He was and sacrificed for me is hard to comprehend, but wonderful. Thank You! Amen.

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

Friday, November 18, 2016

Under whose authority do we live?

 Jesus' authority extended over nature. 
(Image from Standard Bible Story Readers Book 2 
Used with permission)

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 20:1-8

TO CHEW ON: “Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and scribes together with the elders confronted Him and spoke to Him saying, ‘Tell us by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is it who gave You this authority?’” Luke 20:1,2

The religious leaders were justified, in their own minds, to challenge Jesus’ authority. As this IVP New Testament Commentary article points out:

“He has had no official training. He comes from Galilee, an area not known for its religious instruction or anything else of stature (John 7:52). He has never sat under a rabbi. Where does his authority come from? How can he justify the things he has been doing? This is really a fundamental question for the entire gospel (Luke 4:32,36; 5:24; 9:1; 10:19)” - IVP Commentary accessed through BibleGateway.com.

Jesus’ answer with another question was right in line with the back-and-forth discussion style of the day. (“This style of disputation was popular in the ancient world. It was designed to show who could ask the wiser question and expose the weaknesses in the opponent” - IVP Commentary).

His question (’The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men?’) accomplished several things:
- It equated the authority of His ministry with the authority of John the Baptist’s.
- It revealed the religious leaders as unwilling to believe that either John or Jesus came from God.
- It put them in a dilemma (Luke 20:5,6)
- It silenced them for now (but they would be back - Luke 20:19-22).

The claims of Jesus’ authority are still an issue today, to unbelievers and believers alike.

To unbelievers, His words, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:7) are an affront to the human spirit, which is quite happy with its state.

To believers, His words: ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily,and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it ‘“  (Luke 9:23,24) show how demanding living under His authority will be.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, when Your authority challenges my self-will, help me not to play mind games but to be honest with myself and deal with heart issues. Amen.

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Our lives—a witness to the heavens

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 3:1-21

TO CHEW ON: “To the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:10

Paul describes God’s wisdom in three ways. He calls it “the unsearchable riches of Christ,” “the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God,” and “the manifold wisdom of God” - Ephesians 3:8-10.

Focusing on the last one, manifold (polypoikilos) means much, varied, many-coloured. “The word pictures God’s wisdom as much varied, with many shades, tints, hues, and colourful expression” - Dick Mills, “Word Wealth,” New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1649.
I take this wisdom to include:
- God's wisdom on display in the amazing complexity of creation and the natural world.
- God’s intervention to save humankind from sin by sending Jesus to die and be resurrected. This includes all of redemptive history from the Old Testament to the modern-day church.
- God’s working in the large and small details of our lives. Who of us hasn’t experienced or heard stories of amazing coincidences and situations fitting together in ways that shout: “There’s a wise planner behind this!”?

What I find curious about the sharing of this wisdom by the church is who the target is—the “principalities and powers in the heavenly places.”

Why do they need to hear this?

The Zondervan Study Bible says of these powers:
“Can refer to good or evil spiritual powers. Beholding God’s wisdom as displayed through the church leads good angels to glorify God since they ‘long to look’ into God’s redemptive plan (1 Peter 1:12). Evil powers, on the other hand, are reminded that God’s plan of uniting all things under Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10) has decisively begun and that their defeat is imminent (1 Corinthians 15:24)” - Zondervan Study Bible, Kindle Location 273,978 (emphasis added).

What excites my imagination in this is the largeness of God’s plan. It’s bigger than we know or imagine. And you and I are part of it. Something as simple as being obedient to pray for someone has the potential to ricochet throughout the universe!

PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to understand better the “unsearchable riches of Christ,” the “mystery hidden in God” and your “manifold (many-sided, colourful) wisdom” and to live a life in sync with these things. 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.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Life "presenced with Divinity"

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 2:1-10

TO CHEW ON: “But God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” Ephesians 2:4,5

Today’s reading in Ephesians reminds me of a book I’m reading. Biblical Ethics / The Moral Foundations of Life / The Philosophy of Sin by Oswald Chambers is a collection of talks, addresses, and lectures Chambers gave at various times and places from 1909 to 1917.

I find his words a wonderful elaboration on the themes touched on by Paul here: the need for us to die to the old self and to live the new Holy Spirit-dependant “alive together with Christ” life God has “prepared beforehand for us” (Ephesians 2:5,10).

  • Christians are unhappy if “They are not at one with the principle that unites them”; if they are not “Christians at heart.” Chambers describes halfhearted Christians as carrying their beliefs like a headache and because they can’t chop off their heads they can’t get rid of the headache -  Kindle Location 514.
  • When dealing with sinful tendencies, we starve those things in ourselves: “It is absurd to say, pray about them; when once a thing is seen to be wrong, don’t pray about it, it fixes the mind on it; never for a second brood on it; destroy it by neglect - KL 731 (emphasis added).
  • But we’re only human. How can the ideal that Paul describes be true of us?  Chambers takes this realistic approach: “No one is constituted to live a pure, divine life on earth; we are constituted to live human lives on earth, presenced with Divinity” - KL 798 (emphasis added).
  • I love that—“presenced with divinity.” Chambers talks more about realizing that state: “Am I willing that the old disposition should be crucified with Christ? If I am, Jesus Christ will take possession of me and will baptize me into His life until I bear a strong family likeness to Him. It is a lonely path, a path of death, but it means ultimately being presenced with Divinity” - KL 1241 (emphasis added).
  • We can all probably relate to the tug-of-war between the self-directed and Spirit-directed life implied in how Chambers describes God handling the backtracking we easily revert to: “As soon as you begin to forecast and plan for yourself, God will break up your program—He delights to do it—until we learn to live like children based on the knowledge that God is ruling and reigning …” - KL 1342 (emphasis added).
  • Such surrender doesn’t happen without a struggle.When the Holy Spirit emancipates my personality, no attention is paid to my individuality, to my temperament or to my prejudices; He brings me into oneness with God entirely when I am willing to waive my right to myself and let Him have His way. No individual gets there without a crisis, a crisis of a terrific nature in which he or she goes to the death of something” - KL 1350 (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear Father, may these be more than words and ideas on the page. Please help me to realize in practical, everyday experience the “alive together with Christ” life—a life "presenced with Divinity." Amen.

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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Divine Lawyer

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 21:1-19

TO CHEW ON: “‘Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist.’” Luke 21:14,15

Here Jesus gives advice to the disciples on how to prepare themselves for being arrested and interrogated for their faith in Him. This bit snags my attention: '… settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer.’

Jesus’ advice goes against every instinct I have. If I was arrested and anticipating being questioned about my faith, my tendency would be to review my doctrine and apologetics textbooks, have my Romans Road scriptures at my fingertips, refresh my mind on how to make a logical and convincing argument, etc.

But the compelling defence Jesus describes (‘… all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist…’) comes a different way than through memory, intellect, or reasoning power. Our reading in Luke doesn’t name the source of this wisdom but in another place Jesus refers to it (Him) specifically.

‘Now when they bring you to the synagogue and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what to say.’” Luke 12:11,12.

Jesus speaks more about this divine ‘Lawyer’ in John 14-16.

‘But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to remembrance all things that I said to you’” - John 14:26.

‘If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you’” - John 15:7.

‘… And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment’” - John 16:8.

Two further thoughts:

1. Maybe a greater dependence on the Holy Spirit is also a wiser, more effective way of sharing the gospel with friends and family than some of the rote methods we’ve been taught.

2. Waiting for the Holy Spirit to supply our words, takes work too—the work of refusing to worry and substituting worry with dependence on and obedience to the Holy Spirit at all times and in all situations.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for Holy Spirit, Your wisdom and words, that are appropriate and come with convicting power, available to 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.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Four reasons to stay the course

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Malachi 3:13-4:6

TO CHEW ON: "'Your words have been harsh against Me,' says the Lord,
'Yet you say, "What have we spoken against You?"
You have said, "It is useless to serve God;
What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance
And that we have walked as mourners,
Before the Lord of Hosts?"'" Malachi 3:13-14

Have you ever thought - what's the point of living for God? Does God even know that I alter my lifestyle to please Him? Does He care? That seems to have been the thinking of Israel, especially of the faithful few that resisted the nation's general backsliding during Malachi's time.

We don't have to understand all the prophetic details in God's reply to catch the gist of encouragement to His disheartened followers. Let's listen in and get hope for our lives from the four reasons He gives them to stay the course.

1. You are remembered.
"So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who feared the Lord
And who meditate on His name." Malachi 3:16

How comforting to know that God writes about us in His book. One can't help but think of other references to such books — the book of our days from Psalm 139, or the Book of Life with our names written in it, mentioned in Revelation.

2. You are His treasure.
"They shall be Mine," says the Lord of hosts
On that day when I make them my jewels." Malachi 3:17

Treasure (segullah) means personal property, special treasure. My Bible explains: "Malachi 3:17 speaks of the people God will regard as His 'jewels.' Man's treasure is material objects, but consistently in Scripture, God's treasure is human beings" ("Word Wealth" - New Spirit Filled Bible [NSFLB], p. 262).

3. You will get justice.
"Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him." 3:18

This is a reassurance to those of us tempted to question God's fairness while unbelieving friends and neighbours prosper even as they flaunt behaviours that our consciences won't allow. "Sometimes believers tend to be spiritually nearsighted. We face the same temptation today as did God's people in Malachi's day; the temptation to look at ungodly circumstances around us and question God's integrity and character. We must not mistake God's patience for apathy" ("Truth-In-Action Through Malachi - NSFLB, p. 1274).

4. You will be healed.
"But to you who fear my name
The Sun of Righteousness shall arise
with healing in His wings." Malachi 4:2

Healing (marpe) means restoration of health, remedy, cure, medicine, tranquility, deliverance, refreshing. "Salvation is God's rescue of the entire person, and healing is His complete repair of that person" - NSFLB p. 1273.

God's eternal vision sees eternal outcomes. So let's stay the course of loyalty to Him, knowing that the outworking of all that comes our way is good.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for these assurances for those who are Yours. Help me to live my life with this eternal perspective in mind. Amen.

MORE: "When He Cometh"

The song "When He Cometh" is based on Malachi 3:17. William O. Cushing wrote it in 1856 and George F. Root wrote the music in 1866. Cyberhymnal tells an interesting story about it with a Canadian connection.

Hear it sung at a Gaither gathering with Joni Erickson Tada in this YouTube rendition.


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

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Tithing: a practice that's blessed

Give in the old way or in the new!

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Malachi 3:1-15

TO CHEW ON:"'Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,'
Says the Lord of hosts,
'If I will not open for you
the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.'" - Malachi 3:10

Do you tithe? By tithe I mean give 10% of your income to God.

I know some people argue against tithing, saying that it is a form of legalism hearkening back to Old Testament times. However, I believe that it is a practice that carries on for us today (supported by Jesus in Matthew 23:23), and that when we give in such an accurate and consistent way, we benefit.

Three blessings of tithing are mentioned in today's Malachi reading:

1. Tithing supports the church (Malachi 3:10). Malachi phrases it "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse / That there may be food in my house..." Our tithes brought to the churches where we worship and are spiritually fed (the 'storehouse') means that they will flourish as headquarters for spreading the Gospel in our communities.

2. Tithing is grounds for God's blessing (Malachi 3:10). What sweet words from Him! Who of us wouldn't welcome an open heaven, and so much blessing we couldn't contain it?

3. Tithing frustrates Satan (Malachi 3:11). God says through Malachi, "I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes." For Judah He would do it in a very practical way by blessing crops and causing a bountiful harvest to the extent that she would gain an international reputation as "blessed" and known to be a "delightful land" (Malachi 3:12). Rebuking the devourer for us could be God's blessing and protection in a myriad ways from preserving our property, to keeping our machines from breaking down, to prospering us at work, to keeping our clothes from wearing out (the way God blessed the Israelites when they trekked through the desert during the exodus - Deuteronomy 8:4; 29:5; Nehemiah 9:21).

Of course our primary motive in tithing shouldn't be to get a blessing. As a sidebar article in my Bible explains:
"Nothing will keep a wise believer from tithing and giving, but he or she will never be found to tithe or give offerings just to get something in return. ... Do not be afraid to prove God with your giving; He is God and He will stand the test every time" - Oral Roberts in "God's Giving Plan Begins With Tithing," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1272.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this clear teaching about accurate, systematic giving. Help me to understand how this is a spiritual as much as a monetary matter. Amen.

MORE: Is tithing needful for salvation?
If you are looking for arguments against tithing, you’ll find lots online. There are a multitude of books and articles that insist on things like tithing was only for the support of the priests (descendants of the tribe of Levi who had no land) and the poor, that it was only given as agricultural produce (never money), that Jesus’ mention of it (Luke 18:12) means nothing for us because He was speaking in a time before His death when the law was still in effect, and more.

My position is:
  • Tithing is not required. It is not necessary for salvation. We are under grace.
  • Tithing is a good place to start when figuring out what part of my income/substance I should give. When I tithe, I am reminded that all I have really belongs to God. Some challenge tithing of other things as well, like one’s time.
“The old covenant required 10 percent. The new covenant does not specify a percentage, nor do we. However, the new covenant admonishes people to give what they can, and tithing still provides an instructive point of comparison” - read all of “Is Tithing Required in the New Covenant?”
  • Paul talks about how ministers of the gospel deserve to be supported by those who benefit from their ministry (1 Timothy 5:18). In the Old Testament that support came from the tithe. Tithing seems like a good practical solution to support the “house” but, again, it is not a law or requirement.
  • Because the New Covenant is so much better than the old one, why limit oneself to giving only one tenth? That’s the point John Piper makes on this 7-minute audio file where he answers: “Is Tithing Commanded for Christians?

***********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

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Till Alzheimer's do us part?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Malachi 2:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "Did he not make them one with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth." Malachi 2:15

Pat Robertson's answer to the question of what to do when a spouse has Alzheimer's sent shock waves through the audience of the 700 Club show. "He should divorce her and start all over again," he said. "Since Alzheimer's is a kind of living death," he went on, "divorce and remarriage wouldn't be violating the marriage vows of being faithful 'till death do us part.'"

Dr. Robert McQuilkin did the opposite. When this theologian's wife took ill, he stayed faithfully at the side of his wife of 40 years to the extent of quitting his job so he could provide around-the-clock care. He cared for her until she died--a total of 25 years.

Sickness is one of many reasons we could find, if we're looking, to rationalize breaking our marriage vows. But the Bible is clear that marital separation should be a rare thing. Here are some things the Bible says about the marriage bond:

  • Husbands are to love their wives as themselves and as sacrificially as Christ loved the church, while wives are to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:25,28, 33; Colossians 3:19).
  • Wives of unbelieving husbands should stay with them, hopefully winning them to belief by their outer and inner beauty (1 Peter 3:1-4).
  • Our prayers may be hindered by marital strife (1 Peter 3:7).
...and there's no expiry date on any of these.

PRAYER: Dear God, my heart goes out to people whose spouses are ill with dementia or any debilitating condition. Help me to find no crack in my resolve to be true to my husband, no matter what. Amen.

MORE: This story in more depth

ABC News story "Pat Robertson Says Alzheimer's Makes Divorce OK"

"Living By Vows" by Dr. Robert McQuilkin (download pdf of the article)

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

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Praying for city transformation

Vancouver, B.C. (Pixabay.com)
Vancouver, B.C. (Photo: Pixabay.com)

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Thessalonians 3:1-18

TO CHEW ON: “Finally brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1

Do you pray for your community and city? How?

A sidebar article in my Bible links 2 Thessalonians 3:1 with the thought of praying for transformation of the communities and cities in which we live:

“In 2 Thessalonians 3:1 God’s Word reveals His desire for His work to advance everywhere in the way it had advanced in Thessalonica. We have the authority of the Scriptures to pray boldly for the gospel to “run swiftly and be glorified” just as it was in that city the Holy Spirit impacted long ago” - David Bryant, “How to Pray for Your Community,” New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1695.

Bryant goes on to suggest two things on which to base our prayers for our communities and cities:

1. We can pray that our cities and communities will be impacted like Bible cities were. Bryant simply lists Bible city names in his article. I’ve looked up the references that tell the stories of the cities he lists:
- Nineveh:
Jonah preached God’s warning of destruction. The people believed en mass, which led to the king believing too and a time of city-wide fasting, mourning, and repentance - Jonah 3:4-10.
- Jerusalem:
People in Jerusalem were amazed to hear the gospel in their own language at the coming of the Holy Spirit. They were “cut to the heart” and believed, 3,000 in one day. This continued for a time - Acts 2:5-7, 37-41, 4:33; 5:12-16.
- Samaria:
When the disciples were scattered from Jerusalem by persecution, Philip went to Samaria and preached, with city-wide results - Acts 8:4-8.
- Lystra:
When Paul healed a lame man, the whole city was in an uproar thinking Paul and Barnabas were gods come down. This receptivity gave Paul a brief opportunity to explain the gospel to the crowd - Acts 15:8-18.
- Philippi:
The stir Paul created when he exorcised a demon from a girl who told fortunes landed him and Silas in prison. The earthquake that set them free brought the jailer and his family to faith and caused the city magistrate to release them - Acts 16:16-34.

2. That there will be a full activation of God’s love among believers in our communities - 2 Thessalonians 3:5.

On the agenda for the Greater Vancouver area, where I live, is the March 3-5, 2017 Festival of Hope crusade with Franklin Graham.

What potentially spiritually impacting events are scheduled for your communities and cities?

Let’s pray for these events, that through them God will bring city- and community-wide transformation, and will nourish an activation of love among us Christians.

Dear Father, I read about these city movements and long for them in my time and place. You know we need them in our communities beleaguered with crime, drugs, poverty, and homelessness. Please work community-wide today like You did in the past. 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.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Authority over spirits

“Jesus casts out an unclean spirit” 
Engraving by Bernard Picart, published 1728

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 4:31-44

TO CHEW ON: “Then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves saying, ‘What a word is this! For with authority and power He commands the unclean spirits and they come out.” Luke 4:36

Our society’s reaction to occultic phenomena is mixed. On one hand there is a fascination with the paranormal. (For example, stories involving occultic and paranormal themes have been a recent popular trend in young adult fiction.)  On the other hand, most psychiatrists and psychologists would pooh-pooh the possibility that some people with mental disorders could be experiencing demonic oppression or possession.

Jesus wasn’t ambivalent about the reality of dark spirits. He acknowledged their existence by speaking to them. He commanded they come out of those they tormented, often forbidding them to speak of Him and who He was. He had authority (exousia) over them.

The whole of Luke 4 is an interesting study in Jesus’ authority. In today’s reading He is recognized as an authoritative teacher. He takes authority over demons. And He commands sickness to leave a woman’s body. At the beginning of the chapter is the account of Jesus’ authority encounter with Satan after His 40-day fast.

Jack Hayford says in a sidebar article about this passage:

“Here we see the Adversary as administrator of the curse on this planet, a role he has held since man’s dominion was lost and forfeited at the Fall. Because of this, Jesus does not contest the Devil’s right to make that offer of this world’s kingdoms and glory, but He pointedly denies the terms for their being granted. Jesus knows He is here to regain and ultimately win them, but He will do so on the Father’s terms, not the Adversary’s. Still, the present world systems are largely grounded by the limited but powerful and destructive rule of the one Jesus calls “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30).” New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1394.

However, we don’t need to be intimidated. For Jesus, who demonstrated His authority over Satan while on earth, lives in us now by the Holy Spirit. As John reminds us, quoting Jesus' words:  “'You are of God, little children, and have overcome them (every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh), because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.'” 1 John 4:1-4

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for demonstrating Your power over Satan when You were on earth. Help me to live with Your authority in this Satan-administered world. Amen.

MORE: Spirit of the Rainforest is a powerful modern story of demon spirits and their reaction to Jesus. In my review of it you will find the testimony of a shaman and his account of how his spirits reacted when he visited his brother-in-law who had accepted Christ.

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

Friday, November 04, 2016

Twice Son of God

Family tree
Family Tree (Image: Pixabay.com)
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 3:23-38

TO CHEW ON: “Now Jesus Himself ... being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph … the son of Adam, the son of God.” Luke 3:23,28.

What strikes me as I read this genealogy of Jesus, tracing His line from His “supposed” earthly father Joseph to Adam, is the last phrase: “the son of God.” Talk about a double-edged conclusion!

As a descendant of Adam He was the son of God as the created human being is the descendant of its creator. But He was also the Son of God in the sense of being part of the trinity and a direct Son of God (John 3:16).

There are two genealogies of Jesus. If we compare this one to the one in Matthew (Matthew 1:1-16) we find many differences. Bible scholars have suggested several possible solutions to this (these below found in the IVP Testament Commentary, accessed through Bible Gateway):

1. Matthew traces Joseph’s line while Luke traces Mary’s.

2. There are different ways of tracing Joseph’s line. Matthew’s is the natural line, Luke’s the royal line (and some think it’s the other way around). This assumes some Levirate marriages (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).

3. Mary had no natural brother so was an heiress  to Heli (or Eli), who adopted Joseph as a son.

The bottom line is, the Bible doesn’t tell us or give real evidence for any of the above explanations. But the IVP Commentary does state beautifully the intent of this Luke genealogy:

“Jesus has a claim to the throne through David and is related to all humankind through Adam. He has the proper roots to be God's promised one. He has the right heritage to inherit this ministry of deliverance. His roots extend to David, Abraham and Adam. God has carefully designed his plan. There are no historical surprises in Jesus. Ultimately all humanity is a unit, and Jesus is concerned with more than deliverance of the tiny, elect nation of Israel. With him comes realization of the Old Testament hope for that nation, but bound up in him also is the fate of all people” - IVP Testament Commentary on Luke 3:23-38 (emphasis added).

Jesus’ double sonship gives verses like the ones below context and clout:

“When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I called My Son’” - Matthew 2:14,15.

“And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’” - Matthew 3:17.

‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God’” - John 3:16-18.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, You are the Son of God in two ways and for that, and Your death in my stead, this human daughter of God is forever grateful! 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.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Scarcity versus Abundance

The curious house - Photo © 2016 by V. Nesdoly

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 6:37-49

‘Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.’” Luke 6:38

On our daily walk, hubby and I pass a curious house. For a long time it appeared empty—perhaps marked as a tear-down. Then one day someone moved in. We saw interesting changes: murals painted on the facade, the front yard made into a sawdust walk bordered with lawn ornaments. Stuff accumulating in the yard and driveway: mattresses, lawn furniture, bicycle parts, vehicles. We concluded it had become the home of hoarders.

One of the speakers at our church’s Wednesday morning women’s meeting spoke of hoarding. Some points from the notes I took that morning;
  • Sin caused us to become hoarders.
  • Hoarding begins with the assumption of scarcity—we fear there won’t be enough.
  • We can live with a scarcity mentality not only toward material things but also toward relationships:
- I don’t have enough time for people.
- I am not enough.
- If I get too involved I will lose my identity.
- With hoarding there is also an element of secrecy. We hide things away. We keep to ourselves.

But Jesus here challenged His listeners—and us—to live an entirely different way—with an abundance mentality, with hospitality, an open hand, as conduits of His abundance. Then, He says (and I like to think of this as one of the “laws of gravity” of the Kingdom of God), we will receive back, not only the quantity we’ve given but “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.”

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me, through open-handed, hospitable living and giving, to prove Your law of abundance in my life. 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.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The new normal?

Image: Pixabay.com
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 6:17-36

TO CHEW ON: “‘Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man’s sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.’
” Luke 6:22-23

As I write this the U.S. is still in the thick of the run-up to the election. Recently Megyn Kelly on Fox News broke an item relevant to people of faith. It’s a Wikkileaked 2011 email chain between the high-ups of one of the candidate’s organization and John Halpin from the Centre for American Progress.

Speaking of Robert Murdoch (CEO of Fox News) and the News Corp Chairman Robert Thomson raising their children Catholic, Halpin says: “'They must be attracted to the systemic thought and severely backward gender relations.'”

To which Jennifer Palmieri, Clinton’s Communications Director replies: “'I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable, politically conservative religion—their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.'”

On Kelly’s show, Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council characterized these critics: “'They believe that people who actually want to live by their faith are backwater people. [They see religion as a] glorified social club—if you want to live your life according to [Scripture] you’re going to be in trouble with Hillary Clinton’” (read entire article).

Now I know people of faith get insults like this thrown at them all the time these days. But when they come from the highest officers of the person who wants to lead the U.S., Christians are justified in taking notice.

To most of the world, this is a non-story (it certainly wasn’t near the top of my news feed but buried deep in the topic of “Christianity” and only because I’ve selected “Christianity” as an area of interest on Google News). But for Christians it's notable for another reason. Isn’t the attitude exhibited toward believers here exactly what Jesus predicted—one of hatred, exclusion, reviling and mocking (Luke 6:22)?

Rather than being dismayed, maybe we should take His advice and “'...leap for joy...'” over this typical treatment as we anticipate the verdict of the One who really matters (Luke 6:23).

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, in countries where, up till now, faith in You and God has been accepted, even appreciated, it’s impossible not to notice the change in attitude. Please help me to remain unshaken in my faith, and true to Your example in my reactions to hatred reviling, exclusion, and mocking. Amen.

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

Tuesday, November 01, 2016


Candlelight Vigil - Photo: Pixabay.com
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Luke 6:1-16

“Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles.” Luke 6:12,13

Yesterday I mentioned the vigil that some churches hold on the evening before this day, All Saints Day (called an All Saints Vigil). Today we see Jesus keeping vigil.

[Vigil: wakefulness maintained for any reason during the normal hours for sleeping; a watch or period of watchful attention maintained at night or other time; a devotional watching or keeping awake, during the customary hours of sleep.]

The instances in the Bible of people keeping vigil illustrate some of the times we might be prompted to keep vigil ourselves.

  • When we’re facing something we fear.
Jacob was awake and alone all night before he was going to meet Esau again. This was many years after Esau had threatened to kill him. Was he still holding murder in his heart? Then Jacob wasn’t alone any more - Genesis 32:24.

  • When we’re spiritually troubled.
Samuel was “grieved” and “cried to the Lord all night” after God told him that He had rejected Saul (1 Samuel 15:11).

  • Just because…
Maybe praise and prayer fills our minds all day and wakes us at night as it does the psalmist in Psalm 55:17 and Psalm 119:62. I like to think, too, that when we are wakeful for no particular reason—just can’t sleep— that can be interpreted as an invitation to prayer—a mini-vigil you might say.

  • When we’re about to make an important decision.
Choosing twelve disciples from His larger number of followers seems to be what preoccupied Jesus during His vigil in our reading - Luke 6:2,13.

  • When we’re in trouble.
Paul and Silas in jail in Philippi were still praying and singing at midnight when an earthquake set them free - Acts 16:25,26.

  • When someone else is in trouble.
Jesus begged the disciples to keep vigil with Him on the night before His arrest. We all know that sad story of how the disciples couldn’t stay awake (Matthew 26:36-46).

So, next time we’re on the eve of something fearful, or a big decision, or  are burdened by our own or someone's problem, or just can’t sleep, let’s consider spending those wakeful night hours in prayerful vigil.
PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to see night wakefulness as an invitation to keep vigil. Amen.

MORE: All Saints' Day

Today the church celebrates All Saints' Day .

The Christian Almanac says about this day: "In the earliest years of the church, so many martyrs died for their faith, Christians set aside special days to honor them.  ... Originally celebrated on May 1, the festival in commemoration of all the saints was eventually moved to November by Pope Gregory IV as a time of remembrance of all those who had suffered persecution for their faith" - The Christian Almanac, p. 642.

The liturgy for this day begins with this prayer:
"Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. 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.

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