Thursday, August 31, 2017

4 reasons for hardening of the hearteries

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Romans 11:1-18

stony heart
TO CHEW ON: "What then? What the people of Israel sought so earnestly they did not obtain. The elect among them did, but the others were hardened, as it is written: 'God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see, and ears that could not hear to this very day.'" Romans 11:7,8 NIV

When Paul speaks here about the Israelites being "hardened" and their "spirit of stupor,"  he's hearkening back to several references in the Old Testament that speak of a similar dullness.

Moses describes the Israelites' spiritual hardness when they are about to enter Canaan. Their minds don't understand, their eyes don't see, and ears don't hear despite the miraculous way God has cared for them during their 40-year wilderness wander - Deuteronomy 29:4.

Three prophets make a similar charge. Isaiah talks about Israel's "calloused' hearts" (Isaiah 6:9,10). Jeremiah calls them "foolish and senseless" (Jeremiah 5:21).  Ezekiel identifies an attitude of rebellion behind their spiritual hardness (Ezekiel 12:2). 

Though here in Romans Paul brings up this topic primarily to explain how Israel's spiritual state opened the door of salvation to the Gentiles, I see in the description of Israel's hardness of heart a yellow light for all believers, Jews or Gentiles. I believe we can become similarly blind, deaf, calloused, hardened, dull, and stuporous. Some ways:
  • When we fail to see and be grateful for the way God is caring for us as the Israelites did in the wilderness.
  • When we don't allow the spiritual truths of God's word penetrate our hearts ("...ever hearing but never understanding; ever seeing but never perceiving" - Isaiah 6:9).
  • When we make up or own way to come to God as Paul here implies Israel had done ("What the people of God sought so earnestly they did not obtain" - Romans 11:7. "Having failed to obtain the right standing with God, they had sought by their own efforts, they have been hardened..." - Wayne Grudem, commentary on Romans, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, Kindle location 260,148).
  • When we allow rebellion to creep in
Do we sense in ourselves some hardening of the hearteries (like the physical hardening of the arteries, where blood flow to the heart becomes impeded, even blocked ending in death)? Let's ask God for healing of sight, hearing, and a restoration of sensitivity to Him. He can do it!

 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh - Ezekiel 36:26.

PRAYER: Dear God, please tenderize my heart. Soften it towards You and the things that matter to You. Amen.

All Scripture quotations 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.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Would Jesus call your words satanic?

"Get thee behind Me, Satan" - by James Tissot
"Get thee behind Me, Satan" - by James Tissot

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 16:21-28

TO CHEW ON: "Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to you!' But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind Me Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God but the things of men.'" Matthew 16:22,23

What a shock Peter must have felt when Jesus called him "Satan" and described his words as an offense (trap). Perhaps he thought, But Jesus, I was only trying to encourage You and draw You from these pessimistic thoughts about death.

Jesus, however, recognized the oily tone, the sneaky lie in Peter's words. (Compare what Peter said to what the serpent said to Eve way back: "'You shall not surely die…'" - Genesis 3:4.) Jesus scolded him for being unmindful of the things of God while mindful of the things of men. What are those things?

A word the Bible uses for the "things of men" is "carnal." Some things that characterize the carnal mind are:
  • Preoccupation with this life - Psalm 49:11.
  • Unwillingness to acknowledge God or bow to Him - Romans 1:28; 8:7.
  • Living by our intellect alone - Ephesians 4:17.
  • Pursuing different forms of spirituality - Colossians 2:18.
  • Allowing the outlook of the world to taint and sully our thoughts and consciences - Titus 1:15.
  • In Peter's case here it was denying the necessity of Jesus' death and resurrection—a temptation to abort God's plan of salvation.

Jesus told Peter he should be mindful of the "things of God." What are those things? They include:
  • Preoccupying ourselves with God's word—what it says and how we can live it out - Joshua 1:8; Psalm 119:99.
  • Recognizing and being thankful for God's "lovingkindness" - Psalm 48:9.
  • Viewing ourselves realistically and through eyes of faith - Romans 12:3.
  • Taking our thoughts in hand; directing them along routes of what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, praiseworthy - Philippians 4:8.
  • For Peter the things of God in this situation would have been to hear what Jesus was saying, and grasp the necessity of God's big plan and Jesus' role in it. With these insights he might have been better prepared for what was coming.

As I compare my thoughts and words with the two lists, I see that I often have a carnal, Satan-influenced mindset. Oh to recognize the difference and avoid these traps of thought that too often exit my mouth in words!

PRAYER: Dear God, please show me today where I am living by the "things of men." Help me to steer my focus toward the "things of God." 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, August 29, 2017

An evil mother's influence

Herodias - Artist unknown
Herodias and her daughter - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 14:1-12

"So she, having been prompted by her mother, said, 'Give me John the Baptist's head on a platter.'" Matthew 14:8

If a closet full of new gowns, a shiny chariot, or spirited horse popped into Herodias' daughter's head when Herod said she could have whatever she wanted, they would never materialize. For her mother told her to ask for John the Baptist's head and the girl listened to her mother!

Eeeuw!  I wonder what that did for the girl's ability to sleep without nightmares. I wonder what kind of woman she grew up to become.

Like wives have the power to influence a husband spiritually, so mothers (and fathers) influence their children. Some examples from the Bible:

  • Moses' mother Jochebed must have influenced Miriam well, for Miriam was the one who suggested to Pharaoh's daughter that she get Jochebed as a nurse for baby Moses.
  • Samuel's instant obedience when he heard who he thought was Eli call his name was, I would suggest, the result of early training by Hannah.
  • Of Ahaziah the king of Samaria and the son of Ahab and Jezebel it was said, "He did evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother - 1 Kings 22:52.
  • Timothy, who became Paul's assistant, had a grandmother and mother to thank for launching him on the path of faith - 1 Timothy 1:5.

Let's take seriously our power to influence our children. Let's face the fact that our requests of them, our actions, and example will bear fruit. If we ask our kids to tell the person on the phone we're not home when we are, if we sample food in the grocery store without paying, if we gossip behind peoples' backs, or whatever, we're telling our kids it's okay to lie, steal, slander…

The classic advice in Proverbs bears out a parent's or caregiver's life-long influence:
"Train up a child in the way he should go
And when he is old he will not depart from it." - Proverbs 22:6

PRAYER: Dear God, help us as parents and grandparents to be aware that we are being watched, listened to, and copied; that our influence can change the course of a 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.

Monday, August 28, 2017

God's conundrums

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 11:2-15

TO CHEW ON: “And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, ‘Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ 
‘... blessed is he who is not offended because of Me’” Matthew 11:2,3,6

Why do you suppose John sent disciples to Jesus asking if He were the “Coming One” in the context of all the “works” he was hearing about? Do you suppose it was a subtle way of reminding Jesus—Hey, I’m here in prison. I could use one of those works right about now?

Jesus didn’t come through with a prison escape, though. Instead He made this curious statement: 'Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.'"

Why would John be offended (skandalizo from which we get scandalized: "to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey")?

Perhaps because what happened here (or didn’t happen) didn’t make sense to him?  The ways of God often don’t make sense to us either. The couple on the mission field have to return when their children are diagnosed with autism. At the peak of his career, a gifted musician gets cancer and dies. A young wife and mother suffers a stroke, becomes brain damaged, and needs 24-hour care in an institution.I’m sure you could name more. It’s quite possible you’ve experienced one of these God conundrums.

I love how Oswald Chambers riffs on this theme:

“We are not taken up into conscious agreement with God’s purpose, we are taken up into God’s purpose without any consciousness at all” - Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, August 3 reading).

“As long as you think there is something in you He cannot choose you because you have ends of your own to serve; but if you have let Him bring you to the end of your self-sufficiency, then He can choose you to go with Him to Jerusalem, and that will mean the fulfillment of purposes which He does not discuss with you” - Chambers, Op. Cit, August 4 reading.

His call is to be in comradeship with Himself for His own purposes… If we have a purpose of our own, it destroys the simplicity and the leisureliness which ought to characterize the children of God” - Chambers, Op. Cit, August 5 reading (emphases added).

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to avoid becoming offended when Your ways don’t make sense to me. Teach me to trust You in every circumstance. 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, August 27, 2017

It costs to fight for life

Shiphrah and Puah allow male
children to live

Shiphrah and Puah allow male children to live - Exodus 1:17
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Exodus 1:15-2:10

TO CHEW ON: "But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive." - Exodus 1:17

Imagine the anguish and soul-searching these women must have wrestled with when they heard Pharaoh's command to kill each male Israelite baby on delivery. With all their instincts and training shouting "Live!" I wonder if they, for even a moment, considered obeying Pharaoh's demonic order?

There's no doubt Pharaoh and his law sparked a smoulder of fear within them. But there was One they feared more: "... the midwives feared God..."

["Feared - yare'means to fear, be afraid of someone or something, to stand in awe of something or someone possessing great power; to revere someone. ... The fear of God is not a terror that He is against us or will strike without cause or warning. Rather, the fear of the Lord produces wise, healthy actions, as in the present reference; the midwives were more afraid of angering God by destroying innocent babies than they were of disobeying Pharaoh" - Dick Mills & David Michaels, "Word Wealth - Feared," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 78.]

I can't help but see the similarities between the situations of these midwives and people who work in the medical profession in Canada. Here the practice of abortion is widespread with no law against it regardless of how far along the mother is.

Canada has also passed right-to-die legislation, so people can request that their life be ended.

I would suggest we are well on our way down a proverbial "slippery slope."  With state-paid-for medical costs rising, it's easy to foresee the day when it will be the law to abort any child that could be a potential drain on the medical system while the pressure to euthanize those that are becoming too expensive to maintain (the elderly, those with disabilities) will be overwhelming.

And so the question comes to us who are in these situations, indeed, to people in any place where convictions clash with the state's rules: Who do we fear more, Pharaoh or God?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for the example of these Hebrew women who feared You to the extent of putting their careers and lives in jeopardy. Help me to fear You above any human custom or law. Amen.

MORE: LifeCanada

An organization which has taken on the task of fighting for and educating on the Pro-Life position is LifeCanada. From their "About" page:

"LifeCanada was established in 2000 to operate as a national association of local and provincial educational pro-life groups across Canada in order to promote the value of human life, to serve our members, and to advocate for the most vulnerable members of society."

Check out their "Articles" for news and opinion on life and death issues in Canada.

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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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Living well in the big picture

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Exodus 1:1-14

TO CHEW ON: “And Joseph died, all his brothers, and all that generation. But the children of Israel were fruitful and increased abundantly, multiplied, and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them …
And they (Egyptians) made their (Israelites) lives bitter with hard bondage—in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor” - Exodus 1:6,7,14

Our reading today continues telling the story of Jacob’s family in broad strokes. Two short verses (Exodus 1:6,7) take us through over 400 years of time: “The book of Exodus is a continuation of the Genesis account, dealing with the 430-year development of a family group of 70 into a large nation” - J.C. Tollett, study notes on Exodus, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 77.

The Israelites had, for all intents and purposes, become Egyptians. Or at least they had lived in Egypt long enough to identify that way. But God had other plans for them, plans hinted at in a promise made to Abraham centuries earlier (Genesis 15:18). And so began the discomfort of hard labor and slavery for Israel, that would eventually dislodge them permanently from Egypt.

The tricky thing about living in time is we don’t understand the times we’re in and the significance of day-to-day events as we’re living them. “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards” - Søren Kierkegaard.

Like the oppression of the Egyptians no doubt vexed and puzzled the Israelites, so many happenings in our time vex and puzzle us too. We won’t know, in the near term, the significance of the 2016 American election of Donald Trump as president of the U.S. or the recent defeat of a long-governing political party in my province. Only time will tell how current events affect history.

But we take comfort in knowing that history never gets away from God. As He declared through Isaiah:
Remember the former things of old,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure,’

Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man who executes My counsel, from a far country.
Indeed I have spoken it;
I will also bring it to pass.
I have purposed it;
I will also do it. - Isaiah 46:9-11 (my emphasis)

We can also, pray and trust God for wisdom to understand and live well during our short span of years on earth. Let's aspire to have the reputation of the "Sons of Issachar" in David's army who were known as those "who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do" - 1 Chronicles 12:32.


Dear God, thank You that You know the end from the beginning and will bring about the things You have purposed. Please give me insight into my time and wisdom to live well in it. 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, August 24, 2017

The call of His presence

Philip: "We have found Him..." John 1:45
TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 1:35-51

TO CHEW ON: Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, ‘What do you seek?’ They said to Him, ‘Rabbi,” (which is to say when translated, Teacher), where are you staying?”
He said to them, ‘Come and see.’
They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (Now it was about the tenth hour)” John 1:38,39

John’s gospel starts out telling the story of Jesus quite differently from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. There is no record of His birth. There is no mention of the 40 days of fasting in the desert that culminated in His temptation. We don’t see Him preaching in Galilee, calling the disciples from their boat, or teaching in the Caperaum synagogue

We do see him with John the Baptist who identifies and baptizes Him, and then on the next day, as Jesus walks by, speaks of Him to two of his own disciples - John 1:36.

On their own initiative those disciples follow Jesus who turns out to be a man of mystery and few words: “'What do you seek?… Come and see.'”

I like what the IVP Commentary says about this aspect of John 1:

John puts a great emphasis on Jesus' almost mysterious silence...
Jesus in John appears as one hidden and aloof. These first disciples, therefore, are characterized by initiative and willingness to examine claims they have heard concerning this silent one. Most importantly, they are not put off by his silence, nor do they seek to break it. Rather they are humbly receptive, seeking only to be where Jesus is staying….

…here at the outset John gives us a glimpse of the enormous depths of silence that lay behind all that Jesus does. Jesus is fully engaged in his historical circumstances, but he is not centered in them nor controlled by them. …

These disciples, who will shortly be so full of words, opinions and activity, are characterized at the outset by a desire for the presence of Jesus more than for answers to questions. Their immaturity will become evident immediately, but the crucial issue in discipleship is not whether we are mature but whether we desire to come and see and then abide in the divine presence, the only source of eternal life and growth in grace and truth (IVP Commentary on John 1:35-51 accessed through - emphasis added.

Nathanael illustrates this desire so beautifully. He goes from skepticism about this Man, that his friend is so high on, to outright worship in a heartbeat (John 1:46,49). What brings about the change?

The Bible doesn’t clearly tell us. But we infer from Jesus' and Nathanael’s back-and-forth that Nathanael recognizes Jesus is supernatural from His personal knowledge of a specific moment (“under the fig tree”) and what it meant to him.

I would submit that that is often the way Jesus still calls us to himself… not with many words but in the stillness of personal encounters that tell us He sees us, knows our deepest secrets and invites us to be with Him.

Dear Jesus, help me to hear You over the noise of everyday life and live in Your presence. Amen.

MORE: Feast of St. Batholomew

Today the church celebrates the Feast of St. Bartholomew (another name for Nathanael).

The liturgy for the day begins with this prayer:
Almighty and everlasting God, who gave to your apostle Bartholomew grace truly to believe and to preach your Word: Grant that your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; 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.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Unifiers, not dividers

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Psalm 132:1-134:3

“Behold how good and pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

Psalms 132,133, and 134 are all Songs of Ascents—Jewish liturgy of pilgrimage. Pilgrims to Jerusalem, on their way to celebrate the thrice-yearly feasts (spring: Feast of Passover; summer: Feast of Pentecost; autumn: Feast of Tabernacles) would sing these fifteen songs (Psalm 120-134) as they ascended to the city—the high point of Palestine. How fitting that the second-last, Psalm 133, was a reminder to them to get along.

Eugene Peterson, in his chapter about this psalm in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, makes the point that the moment we confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour, we become a member of the Christian church even though we never attend one physically or attach our names to the membership roll of one formally. “We can no more be a Christian and have nothing to do with the church than we can be a person and not be in a family” - Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience, p. 175. In other words, church is to Christian what family is to person.

How then, do we get along with our church siblings? Peterson lists some ways we might live in this community of faith. Who are you on his list?

  • Some run away from it and pretend that the family doesn’t exist.
  • Some move out and get an apartment… from which they return to make occasional visits.
  • Some would never dream of leaving but cause others to dream it for them, for they are always criticizing what is served at meals, quarrelling with the way the housekeeping is done, complaining that the others in the family are either ignoring or taking advantage of them.
  • Some determine to find out what God has in mind by placing them in this community … learn how to function harmoniously and joyously, develop maturity that shares and exchanges God’s grace, even with the nuisances - Peterson, Op. Cit., p. 176 (formatting and emphasis added).

If we’re not there already, let’s work to be in that last set. Let’s be unifiers, not dividers.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to be a family member who doesn’t think of myself first but who works for the good of others and the body. 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, August 22, 2017

Cooperating with God

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 15:21-39

TO CHEW ON: “And He took the seven loaves and fish and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples, and the disciples gave to the multitude. So they all ate and were filled…” Matthew 15:36,37

Where did this multiplication of bread and fish take place? In Jesus’ hands or in the baskets and trays of the disciples?

The Bible doesn’t say. But I imagine Jesus giving each disciple a similar small amount of fish and bread. It may have looked puny, inadequate to feed a dozen let alone hundreds. Then they started passing it out and they passed it out and passed it out … and it never ran out! I imagine that multiplication occurring when the bread and fish were in the disciples’ hands (for they wouldn’t have been able to carry a receptacle loaded with food enough for hundreds!)

I can imagine my reaction if I had been one of those disciples, getting my portion to hand out: “But this small amount is ridiculous. How many will this feed? These hungry people will beat me up when some get fed and others don't …”

Of course the disciples didn’t say anything like that. They had been with Jesus through enough emergencies to realize He was dependable to come through. And His work through them kept happening:

“And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, confirming the word through accompanying signs and wonders” - Mark 16:20.

God in His wisdom continues to use people to accomplish His work with Him:"
"For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building” - 1 Corinthians 3:9.

“We then as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” 2 Corinthians 6:1.

I love how the Blackabys, in the book Experiencing God, challenge us to put this principle into practice:
“God never asks people to dream up something to do for Him. We do not sit down and dream what we want to do for God and then call God in to help us accomplish it. The pattern in Scripture is that we submit ourselves to God. Then we wait until God shows us what He is about to do, or we watch to see what God is already doing around us and join Him” Henry & Richard Blackaby, Claude King, Experiencing God p. 34.

“Every conversation with God has limitless possibilities attached to it, because He is 
‘able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.’ - Ephesians 3:20” - Ibid, p. 89 (emphases added).

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to work with You. Help me distribute what is in my hands and trust You to use it in the needed way. 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, August 19, 2017

"... in whom is the Spirit of God"

Pharaoh & Joseph - Artist unknown
Pharaoh & Joseph - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 41:-25-52

TO CHEW ON: "And Pharaoh said to his servants, 'Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?'" - Genesis 41:38

The answer to Pharaoh's rhetorical question—'No we can't find another man like this'—led to Joseph rising in one day from a prisoner to Pharaoh's assistant. Pharaoh recognized there was something different about this man. He identified it as "the Spirit of God" (some scholars say that the correct translation should be "the spirit of a god").

The possibility of God's Spirit living in people is a theme that runs through both Old and New Testaments.

  • The prophet Ezekiel promised it for help in keeping God's laws - Ezekiel 36:27.
  • Like Joseph, Daniel's ability to tell the meanings of dreams came from the Spirit of God - Daniel 4:8.
  • Jesus called Him the Spirit of truth who dwells with and in disciples - John 14:17.
  • Paul talked about how we can overcome the carnal nature through the Spirit's indwelling presence - Romans 8:9.
  • The Spirit helps us to do the good we know we should - 2 Timothy 1:14.
  • He teaches us - 1 John 2:27.
  • In fact, He lives in us. We are His "temple" - 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19.

What an awesome privilege to welcome into the home of our feeble, failing bodies the Spirit of the living God. Let's meditate on, claim, and live in this amazing truth as we go through this day!

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for making possible this way of experiencing You. Help me not to quench or inhibit Your work in my life through Your Spirit today.  Amen.

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

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Friday, August 18, 2017

Who gets the glory?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 41:1-24

TO CHEW ON: "So Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, 'It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh an answer of peace'" - Genesis 41:16

Joseph had no illusions about where he got his unusual wisdom and insight into dreams. "It is not in me," he told Pharaoh plainly. "God will give Pharaoh an answer."

He reminds me of another dream interpreter. The young exile Daniel had a similar ability to interpret dreams. When he came before King Nebuchadnezzar to not only interpret his dream but to tell him what he had dreamed in the first place, Daniel too reflected the glory back to God:

"...There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days..." Daniel 2:28.

When we experience success, how easy it is to accept praises and compliments never giving a thought or word to deflecting the glory back to God. Let's follow the example of Joseph, making it very clear that God is the source of any wisdom, or insight or special skill. Let's give Him the glory and not take it for ourselves.

PRAYER: Dear God, please forgive me for accepting praise for myself when it rightfully belongs to You. Help me to habitually give You glory for the abilities and successes You have made possible. Amen.

MORE: God delights in His glory
"...God's own glory is uppermost in His own affections. In everything He does, His purpose is to preserve and display that glory. To say that His own glory is uppermost in His own affections means that He puts a greater value on it than on anything else. He delights in His glory above all things. ...

This is the same as saying: He loves Himself infinitely. Or He Himself is uppermost in His own affections. A moment's reflection reveals the inexorable justice of this fact. God would be unrighteous (just as we would) if He valued anything more than what is supremely valuable. But He Himself is supremely valuable. If He did not take infinite delight in the worth of His own glory, He would be unrighteous. For it is right to take delight in a person in proportion to the excellence of that person's glory" - John Piper, Desiring God, p. 41-43.
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.

Subscribe to my newsletter. Next one coming September 1st, with book recommendations and author news.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Perfect timing

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 40:1-23

TO CHEW ON: "'But remember me when it is well with you, and please show kindness to me; make mention of me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house' .... Yet the chief butler did not remember Joseph but forgot him." Genesis 40:14-23

I can just imagine how overjoyed Joseph must have been at this opportunity to interpret the dream of Pharaoh's butler who would soon return to the king's service. Can't you see him in the days after the butler has been reinstated, watching the comings to the prison and thinking — One of these people will be for me. Any hour now a messenger will come from Pharaoh to give me a chance to prove my innocence.

But day after day no one came. It was soon clear that the butler had forgotten all about Joseph. In fact, he languished in prison for two more years until Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret. Then the butler remembered Joseph (Genesis 41:1,9-13).

However, as we read the remainder of the story, it's easy to see how perfect God's timing was.

Trusting God's timing is still a challenge for us today. When answers to prayer are long delayed, when nothing happens and nothing happens and nothing happens, even when we unaccountably forget things we have no business forgetting (as the butler did), we can remind ourselves of the story of Joseph. We can trust God's ability to orchestrate the circumstances of our lives, as He did Joseph's, with precise and perfect timing.

PRAYER: Dear God, You know the things I am eager to see change. Please help me to wait patiently for You to work in Your way and at just the right time. Amen.

MORE: In His Time
- Words and music by Diane Ball, sung by the Maranatha Singers.

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, August 16, 2017

Principles of success

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 39:1-23

TO CHEW ON: "The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man..." Genesis 39:2

Who of us doesn't want to be known as successful? However, if what happened to Joseph happened to us—we were sold as slaves and then lied about and put in prison—we would probably feel anything but successful. So how did Joseph earn that label?

His success came despite confusing and unfair circumstances. It was not measured by education, favor or rank (though that would come later) but by the way all he set his hand to flourished. Under his management Potiphar's household was more prosperous than ever before. When he was thrown into prison, his trustworthiness, good sense, and administrative talents soon caught the eye of the jail keeper and gave Joseph favor with him.

The writer of Genesis attributes all his success to God: "Then the Lord was with Joseph.... The Lord caused all that he did to succeed.... The Lord blessed the Egyptian's house for Joseph's sake.... But the Lord was with Joseph ... and gave him success...And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed" - Genesis 39:2, 3, 5, 21, 23.

Several principles of God-initiated success are on display in this passage:

1. God-ordained success is not dependent on or measured by our rank or position. Joseph was a successful servant and prisoner. I think we could say that the success that comes from God is available to us whatever our education or lack of it and wherever we find ourselves (at home, in a coffee shop, on the construction site, in the classroom, office or church, or wherever.)

2. God's blessing on our lives may be reflected in the success of those we work for. Potiphar's household reaped the benefits of having Joseph around.

3. A big element of God-initiated success is favor. Joseph gained the favor of the jail keeper. There are many other Bible characters who gained the favor of the powerful people in their lives: Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah are some.

4. God-ordained success is not, finally, about us but about furthering God's bigger purposes. Joseph eventually achieved even greater success when he was installed as one of the most powerful men in Egypt. But it wasn't to feed his own ego but so he could preserve his people, the Hebrews, God's covenant people, the family line from which Jesus would come. When our motivation is to honor God and further His cause on earth, we are good candidates for the kind of God-driven success that Joseph experienced.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this encouraging story of Joseph. I would love for my life to be a visible testimony of divine blessing and success so that Your honour and glory are furthered as a result of it. Amen.

MORE: Success - what's my role?

We know we don't just sit around and wait for God to drop success into our laps. Joseph was an unknown quantity when he arrived in Pharaoh's jail. He must have done something, demonstrated some initiative, shown some quality of ambition or energy or willingness to be busy in order for the jail keeper to entrust him with responsibility in the first place.  Below are links to three articles on Michael Hyatt's blog that talk about some rubber-hits-the-road elements of success.

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.


Don't miss out! Get book tips on great books to read and my author news. The next newsletter coming September 1st. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Breaking the bondage of confusion

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Isaiah 61:1-11

“… And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.” Isaiah 61:7

Today, as I read amazing Isaiah 61, verse 7 jumps out at me:
“Instead of your shame, you shall have double honor,
And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.
Therefore in their land they shall possess double;
Everlasting joy shall be theirs.”

I’d like to focus especially on one snippet of verse 7: “And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.”

Isaiah wrote this (entire chapter) to a nation that would spend many years in exile. This prophecy in the immediate spoke to them of a time they would again live in their own land.

A few word definitions:

“‘Shame’ and ‘dishonor’ describe the experience of the Babylonian exile of the sixth century” - Reformation Study Bible (accessed through

“Confusion” (kalimmah) is also translated humilation, disgrace, reproach, shame, dishonor, insult, ignominy.

“Portion” (cheleq) means one’s share, part, territory, one’s possession

To the exile, this prophecy spoke of a time when they would come out of the confusion or “humiliation” (NAS) of being exiled outsiders to again owning and rejoicing in their own “portion” or possession of land.

One of the reasons this verse speaks to me at this time is that in our western society, one of our most precious possessions, our gender norms and sexual identity, are under attack. New theories that claim our birth sex means nothing and that we can decide whether we are wishing to identify as male or female on any given day, are being instituted and upheld in society at large. Of special concern to me is that these new theories are now mandated instruction and practice in the schools—whether religious or secular.

This is leading to the need for new pronouns in our dictionary to address those who feel they are neither a “he” nor a “she,” genderless bathrooms, changes on official forms to accommodate those who don’t want to be identified with their biological sex—in other words, a whole lot of confusion.

This is especially troublesome for children who are now to be taught this new fluid sexual identity theory as truth. Who, if they question their birth sex as defining their gender identity are being encouraged to experiment with living as the other sex and in some cases given puberty blocking medications* (drugs that may make them sterile).

As a Christian who lives by the principles of the Bible, I see this gender identity confusion as only one more evidence of the “Has God indeed said...?” rebellion first sown in the human heart way back in Eden (Genesis 3:1). For God has indeed said “…male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27) and has made His position on sexual relations between genders and gender identity clear in passages like Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:27 and Deuteronomy 22:5.

Male and female is how He made us. This is not some cruel edict from a stern, unfeeling deity. It’s wisdom. It’s love. Living as a male or female, according to our physical biology is how we work best. We’re only asking for trouble when we defy the way we were wisely and lovingly created (see Romans 1:24-27).

So Isaiah 61:7 gives us the hopeful assurance that Jesus (who declared this passage was speaking of Him as the One who can bring liberty to the captives - Isaiah 61:1 compare Luke 4:17-21) can also set free from from this. Instead of the bondage of confusion over whether we, our children, and grandchildren are and should identify as the gender we were born, we can rejoice in our portion (our possession of a sure male or female identity).

Let’s pray this for and over ourselves, our children, and grandchildren in these days, as we are forced to navigate this tsunami of lies and confusion.

PRAYER: Dear Father, I pray for the children of this generation. Deliver them from confusion. Help them to recognize this theory as the lie that it is. Please help us as those who believe You created us wisely and well to know how to express Your loving intentions toward all people. Amen.


*Additional reading about puberty suppression from The New Atlantis:
Growing Pains: Problems with Puberty Suppression in Treating Gender Dysphoria

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, August 13, 2017


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Psalm 105:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron; until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him." Psalm 105:19

The "his" and "he" referred to in the verses above is Joseph. What is the psalm-writer talking about when he says "...until what he had said came to pass"? I believe it was those outrageous dreams of Joseph's which we read about in Genesis 37:

"Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold we were binding sheaves in the field and behold my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf....Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me..." Genesis 37:6-9.

During his days as a slave in Potiphar's house and later as a prisoner, I wonder if Joseph ever thought back to those dreams and wondered — What was that about? His situation couldn't have been farther from what his dream predicted.

However, there was action toward the fulfillment of those dreams all through that time. The psalm-writer alludes to what was happening behind the scenes. God was testing Joseph.

It's interesting that the psalmist doesn't say that circumstances tested Joseph, or Potiphar and the jailer tested Joseph but "the word of the Lord tested him," telling us that these circumstances had God's knowledge and permission. They issued as "the word of the Lord," that same creative force that brought the worlds into being (John 1:1-3).

Joseph's response to this testing was positive. With faithful dependability he passed every test. Then on one day that began like every other, the test was over (Psalm 105:20-22). And of course, when his brothers came from Canaan seeking food, the fulfillment of his dreams came true in living color before his eyes.

Your current situation may also be far from what you feel God has promised you for your future. Viewing the unpleasant, difficult, and unfair things in your life as God's tests may help you gain courage, inspiration and the hope to keep going.

Joseph's story shows too, how completely and radically God can turn things around in a short while once the test is over. So don't be fooled or disheartened by appearances.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this glimpse behind the scenes of the way You work in human lives. Please help me to pass the tests You bring my way today. Amen.

MORE: The test of waiting

You may find my article "In the Waiting Room" helpful if your test is waiting...and waiting... and waiting some more


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, August 12, 2017

Storm—a faith adventure

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Matthew 14:22-36

TO CHEW ON: “But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves for the wind was contrary.” Matthew 14:24

Here are some interesting details to note about this story:
  • Jesus “made” (NKJV) or “directed” (AMP) His disciples to get into the boat and precede Him to the other side (Matthew 14:22).
  • Jesus stayed behind to pray. It was during prayer He must have sensed the disciples were in trouble (Matthew 14:23).
  • The disciples were no doubt stressed, anxious, and busy fighting the wind and waves. The boat might even have been out of control, seeing how it was  in the “middle of the sea,” “tossed,” and the “winds were contrary” (Matthew 14:24).
  • However, it wasn’t until almost morning (the “fourth watch” is between 3 and 6 a.m.) that Jesus came to them (Matthew 14:25).
  • When He came, He encouraged Peter to risk, rather than react with caution (Matthew 14:29).

This incident impresses several things on me.

1. Since Jesus “made” or “directed” the disciples into that boat and then let the trouble go on for a while before coming to them, perhaps we can conclude that facing that storm was His plan for them. And perhaps storms and trouble are also part of God’s plan for us—a preparation for our continuing earthly life or destiny in eternity?

2. Jesus sensed they were in trouble during His prayer time. Has it ever happened to you that as you are praying, a name, face, or memory of an old friend or acquaintance comes to mind? Could that be a supernatural nudge that they have a need and we should intercede for them?

3. When Peter kept His eyes on Jesus, he had faith that helped him do the impossible. Let’s take from that that when Jesus is with us in the storm, we too can step out and risk rather than pull back in caution. My Bible’s study notes express it well:
He gives His followers the power to follow Him, even in adversity, and encourages adventurous discipleship” - J. Lyle Story, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1317.

Dear Jesus, thank You that You know about my storms and that they are under Your control. Help me to view them as faith challenges and adventures. 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, August 11, 2017

How to have beautiful feet

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Romans 10:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!'" - Romans 10:14,15

This passage tells us some foundational things about the gospel (good news).
1. Its content is simple. To be saved (that would be saved from eternal separation from God) all we need to do is call on Jesus.

2. We nail it down with our words. This faith (calling on Jesus) works together with our confession (speaking about our faith) to cement God’s work in our hearts.

3. The gospel is for any- and everyone. Race or ethnic background is no consideration.

4. God needs and uses people to spread it.

Has it ever struck you that the feet of the gospel spreaders are called beautiful, and not their mouths? This says something about the importance of spreading the gospel far and wide.

Though not all of us may be sent to do this in a physical, cross-the-ocean kind of way, we can still all have a part in Operation Beautiful Feet.
  • We can support the ones God calls to go physically – with money, prayers, and thoughtful service when they return on furlough (like supplying a place to live, vehicle etc.).
  • We can support organizations that translate and distribute the Bible to peoples around the world (like Wycliffe, and our national Bible Society).
  • We can now go virtually. With the internet, distance and boundaries have all but disappeared. Web sites proclaiming the gospel abound. (Over the 2+ years my children’s devotional has been running, for example, people from dozens of countries have visited. If you write a blog, I’m sure you’ve had the same experience.)
  • Of course, no matter how much we feel “sent” to stay home, there’s nothing stopping us from taking the good news next door, across the street, across town – using our beautiful feet to reach our neighbors.

I ask myself, how have I done in the beautiful feet department? How have you? As we work together, we can accomplish the beautiful feet goal: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” Romans 10:18

PRAYER: Dear God, please make me more aware of my responsibility (and privilege) to share the gospel wherever I am and by whatever means I have. Amen.

“Shout to the North” by Delirious

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, August 10, 2017

We are God's puzzle pieces

Image: Pixabay

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Romans 9:19-33

“But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ “ Romans 9:20

Sometimes these Bible Society readings gain weight by juxtaposition. Today’s reading, about God’s sovereignty, coming after yesterday’s story of Joseph’s brothers selling him to Ishmaelite traders who happened along at the perfect moment, is one such.

I can imagine Joseph, at the time, wondering what he had done to deserve such a fate. It wasn’t his fault that he’d been born to Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife. He couldn’t stop the puzzling dreams that came to him at night. And who could resist retelling them in the hope that someone could explain what they meant? He was just trying to be a good son when he went in search of his brothers, and now this?!

Years later, he had insight into where it was all going, and why and who:
“But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. ...  And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; ...” - Genesis 45:5-7 (emphasis added).

The same may be true for us someday—or not. In fact, we may never in this life understand the whys and wherefores of the twists and turns our lives have taken or been kept from taking. Someday, though, in eternity if not here on earth, I believe like Joseph we will understand how the bits and pieces of our lives fit into the picture of the “riches of His glory” - Romans 9:23
"For now [in this time of imperfection] we see in a mirror dimly [a blurred reflection, a riddle, an enigma], but then [when the time of perfection comes we will see reality] face to face. Now I know in part [just in fragments], but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known [by God]" - 1 Corinthians 13:12 AMP (emphasis added).

PRAYER: Dear Father, please help me to trust You with life circumstances I don’t understand, and that You will make my life an enhancement of Your glory. 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." (

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The crafty gene

Joseph sold - Artist unknown
Joseph sold - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 37:21-36

"So they took Joseph's tunic, killed a kid of the goats, and dipped the tunic in the blood. Then they sent the tunic of many colors, and they brought it to their father and said, 'We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son's tunic or not?'" Genesis 37:31,32

The dysfunction in Jacob's family continues. To the list of favoritism, jealousy, boasting, and hatred, today we can add craftiness (deceit). Jacob's deceitful gene had not skipped his sons.

By selling Joseph not only did they rid themselves of an annoying, boastful tattletale brother, but they did it without human blood on their hands and made a little coin to boot. Lying to Jacob by implying  that Joseph had been killed by an animal absolved them of all blame.

Craftiness runs through the Bible.
  • The first cunning creature was the serpent (and we know who was embodied in that crafty creature) - Genesis 3:1.
  • Jacob, the father of these sons, had tricked his twin brother Esau out of his birthright and blessing (Genesis 27:16, 35).
  • When Joshua began conquering Canaan, the Gibeonites, a neighbouring tribe, tricked him into signing a peace treaty with them (Joshua 9:1-27).
  • The chief priests, scribes and elders "… plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him" - Matthew 26:4; Luke 20:23. However, Jesus was not take in by the attempts of the religious leaders to trick Him into saying something that would get Him in trouble with the Romans (Luke 20:23).
  • In Paul's letter to the Christians in Ephesus, he explains that one of the reasons for gifts in the church is to grow Christians to maturity so they will no longer "… be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine and by trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting" - Ephesians 4:14 (emphasis added.

Though the craftiness of Jacob's sons may fascinate us, the scriptures above alert us to its satanic origin.

Let's be aware of who sows crafty thoughts and tendencies within us. Instead of crafty, let's aim to be the kind of person Jesus described to His disciples: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, harmless as doves" - Matthew 10:16.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to be alert to crafty tendencies within me and the fact that they are a form of deceit and lying. 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, August 08, 2017

The spiritually alert parent

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Genesis 37:1-20

TO CHEW ON: “And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.” Genesis 37:11

Jacob made more than one mistake as a parent. A glaring one was to show preference for Joseph over his other sons. It caused envy and jealousy among the siblings.

Joseph’s brash boasting about his dreams didn’t help. When he told his brothers about their wheat sheaves bowing down to his, they came to hate him. After a second dream, which he told his brothers and his father, even his doting dad rebuked him. But then Jacob did something right. He “…kept the matter in mind.”

This reminds me of Mary, mother of Jesus and her reaction to the unusual happenings around Jesus’ birth when she “Kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” - Luke 2:19.  Again when she saw his obvious giftedness in understanding and expressing spiritual truths at twelve, she “kept all these things in her heart” - Luke 2:51.

As parents and grandparents, one of the things we want most for our offspring is that they find their purpose in life. One of the ways we do that is to watch and then keep in our minds and hearts what we see of their gifts, strengths and weaknesses, and how God is at work in them. I believe this also involves praying into and over these things as we think about how to give them direction.

In his inspiring book Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions, George Barna shares this bit of advice on how we give such direction.

“What can you do to help the youngsters with whom you have contact discover God’s purpose for their lives? As you explore their personality, spiritual gifts, passion, intellectual capacity, physical abilities, character traits and resonance with particular biblical characters and stories, funnel that knowledge toward guiding them to a clear idea of the role that has been reserved for them in God’s army. Encourage them to feel neither arrogant nor disappointed by that role. No calling is better than any other, and if it is God’s calling for them, then it is perfect for them" - George Barna, Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions, p. 66.

Dear Father help me to be a watcher, to observe and pray into the young lives around me and then encourage them in the dreams you have planted in them. 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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