Monday, October 31: “What All Saints’ Day Is Really All About”
Psalm 34: 4: “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Seems like a great scripture for Halloween, doesn’t it? And maybe that was the intention. But even more so, it was intended to be the Psalm reading for the Eve of All Saints’ Day. If you still wonder why this is still a Feast in the Church calendar, one of the top seven most important, in fact, a look at this psalm will help you understand what the day is supposed to convey and celebrate; beginning with the first verse, “I will bless the Lord at all times.” Not the saints, but the Lord. Look at the whole psalm and see how powerfully it speaks to tomorrow’s Feast!
Saturday, October 29: “Michael Kors Can’t Top This!”
Luke 12: 33: “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in Heaven, where no thief comes near, not moth destroys.” Jesus did not say, “Make yourselves money”, but purses. Isn’t this interesting? Because many of us spend most of our time trying to make ourselves money. We don’t have to make ourselves money because God is our Provider. If we make ourselves money, we are just counterfeiters. We are to make ourselves purses, which become an unfailing treasure. How’s that? Simple: money spent on our needs has served its purpose, and it is gone; but the money that we give for service of others, for the good of the Kingdom and the sake of the Gospel, endures forever.
Friday, October 28: “Apocryphal Wisdom, Part III”
Ecclesiasticus 34: 21-22: “The bread of the needy is the life of the poor; whoever deprives them of it is a man of blood. To take away a neighbor’s living is to murder him; to deprive an employee of his wages is to shed blood.” If you wonder if God is concerned about government corruption, let this verse be your answer. When elected or appointed officials plunder from public funds earmarked for poverty relief, He considers it murder. To take away a person’s ability to earn is the same. To withhold the wages of a hired man is like shedding his blood in His sight. So yeah, God cares.
Thursday, October 27: “I Thought There Were Three Bears, Not Four …”
Revelation12: 10: “Now the salvation, and the power, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them before our God day and night.” One thing we can get from this verse: Accusation and the Kingdom of God are in direct opposition to each other. Salvation and power and divine authority are more in evidence when the pointing finger is done away with (Isaiah 58: 9), and forbearance is the order of the day! (Ephesians 4: 2)
Wednesday, October 26: “What Keys Do You Hold?”
Luke 11: 52: “Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered.” Did you ever try to open a door with the wrong key? It’s very frustrating, because it just won’t work! That is the frustration those lawyers, the false teacher’s of Jesus’ time, put on everyone. As St. Paul later warned his protégé Timothy, “Avoid the opposing arguments of what is falsely called ‘knowledge’” (1 Timothy 6: 20) - in other words, the wrong key. How can you tell the right key from the wrong one? First of all, who says it is the key of true knowledge? Is it just a lawyer, a self-professed “expert” in the field, or is it the Church, the “Pillar and foundation of the truth”? (1 Timothy 3: 15)
Tuesday, October 25: “Lips of Grace”
Psalm 45: 2: “You are fairer than the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.” The actual rendering of the word translated “upon” is the word “through”. Truly, grace is poured upon the world through the words spoken by Jesus Christ, the One to Whom this psalm ultimately refers; so God has blessed Him forever, exalting Him to sit at His right hand as King throughout eternity. Jesus reigns over all!
Monday, October 24: “A Little Sarcasm to Begin the Week …”
Ecclesiasticus 19: 10: “Have you heard a word? Let it die with you. Be brave! It will not make you burst!” My, my, isn’t the son of Sirach in rare form this morning? But it’s true: those who can face snarling lions and lunging cobras; who eat their business adversaries for breakfast and crush their political enemies at the polls, go all to pieces when a little word of chismis gets between their ears. Such temptation! They can hardly wait until they can find another pair of ears to share it with. But as was said before, “Never repeat a conversation, and you will lose nothing at all.” (v. 7) How many of us can live that?
Saturday, October 22: “Unwelcome Disturbance”
Psalm 42: 5, 11; 43: 5: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” The sons of Korah tell here a story of disappointment, oppression, and unfulfilled desire; but three times they turn and realize how unnecessary and inappropriate these things are. Our spiritual lives may have ups and downs, but God is still our God. Relax, you shall again praise Him!
Friday, October 21: “Apocryphal Wisdom, Part II”
Ecclesiasticus 11: 20: “Stand by your covenant and tend to it, and grow old in your work.” The 21st century has proven catastrophic for this verse, hasn’t it? Does anyone today care about covenant, whether it be between marriage partners, business partners, or God and man? Does anyone plan to stay with the company that trained them, and does any employer plan to be loyal to their older employees who have spend their lives in service to the company? But stop and analyze: has society improved with the implementation of this covenant-less approach?
Thursday, October 20: “God for President?”
Ecclesiasticus 10: 4: “The government of the earth is in the hands of the Lord, and over it He will raise up the right man for the time.” Elections and such things are fine and dandy, but remember that they are all just instruments in God’s hand to bring into office the man whom He deems to be right for the times. In times of blessing He provides a man who will be a blessing, and in times when a people have spurned the Lord … well, you get the idea. The key point is, whatever a nation’s political system, God is in charge of it, whether those who think they are in charge realize it or not.
Wednesday, October 19: “What Made Jesus Happy?”
Luke 10: 21, 22: “I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You hid these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to babes. No one knows Who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows Who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” The wise and intelligent know many wonderful things, but the most important knowledge is the knowledge given to babes, the knowledge of the Father and the Son. This is the knowledge that made Jesus rejoice in Spirit, and erupt in praise to the Father. This is not knowing about God, but knowing God, in the biblical sense of the word. Lord Jesus, may you will to reveal the Father to us!
Tuesday, October 18: “Song of the Saints”
Revelation 7: 12: “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.” This utterance comes from the mouths of all God’s redeemed saints. When compared with the praise coming from the musical combo consisting of the four living creatures joined by myriads of angels (Revelation 5: 12), we find, in a different order, six identical items, and one difference: the heavenly creatures ascribe to God riches, while the saints offer thanksgiving. We earthly creatures blessed with His salvation are ever thankful for it, but as for riches, what in that realm can we give to the God Who created and owns all things?
Monday, October 17: “Pick Me Up Before You Go-go” (With apologies to Wham)
Luke 9: 51: “And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem.” Isn’t Luke leaving something out here? There is a little matter of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, not to mention Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, and all the events of Holy Week; but Luke fast forwards to the ascension as the reason for the trip to Jerusalem. The same thing happened at the Transfiguration, where Jesus talked with Moses and Elijah not about these things, but His “departure” (Luke 9: 31). In other words, His ascension. This was the “joy set before Him”(Hebrews 12: 2), for the sake of which Jesus endured the cross. Perhaps we should take this event in His life more seriously, for St. Luke obviously does.
Saturday, October 15: “Sudden Ending”
Acts 28: 30-31: “And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters, and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the Kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.” And that’s the end of the Book of Acts. Isn’t that a strange place to end it? Where’s the rest of St. Paul’s story? Did he ever get his trial before Caesar? Did he get out of jail? What was next? Why end the story here, Luke? Well, with his entry into Rome St. Paul received the fulfillment of every promise the Lord had given him. The Book of Acts records a total of 6 times where St. Paul received a vision of Jesus Christ or his representative (angel, etc.) giving him direction or promises, plus much leading from the Holy Spirit and various prophets. Each and every one of these were fulfilled, the last being the one in Acts 23: 11, where the Lord Jesus told him, “Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also.” With the fulfillment of this promise, the book ends. Can we believe that the book of our lives will not close until we, too, receive the fulfillment of every promise from God?
Friday, October 14: “Apocryphal Wisdom”
Ecclesiasticus 1: 20-21: “To fear the Lord is the root of wisdom, and her branches are long life; the fear of the Lord drives away sins, and where it abides, it will turn away all anger.” Despite what the Hulk and other comic book heroes espouse, the son of Sirach here affirms that anger is not your friend, and the wise reject it entirely. In his view, anger is for dummies!
Thursday, October 13: “Don’t Forget Who You Are”
Luke 9: 25: “For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?” When Matthew and Mark quote this teaching of Jesus they use the phrase “lose his soul” (Matthew 16: 26, Mark 8: 36), while Luke here says “loses or forfeits himself. Luke’s usage shows a giving up of one’s nature, rather than simply losing one’s salvation. At issue here is more than Heaven or hell; According to Jesus, a focus on self-interests can lead to the loss of one’s identity as a child of God. When that happens is not hell, whatever you perceive it to be, sure to follow?
Wednesday, October 12: “Circumstances Make Bad Leaders”
Acts 27: 13, 14: “When a moderate south wind came up they weighed anchor and began sailing … but before long there rushed down a violent wind, and the ship was caught in it.” Even though St. Paul had warned those in charge of the ship that a voyage would be disastrous, they chose to believe the professional sailors rather than the voice of God. At first circumstances seemed to justify the sailors, but unlike the Word of the Lord, circumstances can change …
Tuesday, October 11: “Sailor/Prophet”
Jonah 1: 4, 5: “There was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up. … But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down, and fallen sound asleep.” Who does this remind you of? Remember Jesus, asleep in the stern while the storm raged on the Sea of Galilee? People give Jonah a hard time, but he often shows more understanding of God than other, more respected prophets. And after all, he was the only sign of Jesus’ resurrection given to that generation (Matthew 12: 39).
Monday, October 10: “Special Case”
Psalm 2: 2: “… The rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Anointed.” Thirty-nine times in the Hebrew Old Testament the word mashiach (messiah, meaning anointed) appears, referring to everything from kings to prophets to priests. Only three times, here in the second Psalm and then twice in Daniel, is the word capitalized, indicating that the translators deem it as relating to Jesus Christ. Why? Because only here in Psalms is “His Anointed” also referred to as His Son, begotten of the Lord (v. 7). Here and elsewhere, David had an insight that none before or after him could match.
Saturday, October 8: “Hidden Treasures”
Micah 5: 2-3: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.” Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel.” By the time of the Nativity of Jesus, verse 2 of this passage had long been recognized as prophesying the Messiah (Matthew 2: 5-6). What they didn’t recognize was the significance of the following verse, which reveals how the Gentiles will come to God through the Messiah’s ministry. How many treasures are hidden in God’s Word, just waiting to be uncovered by those who will seek them!
Friday, October 7: “Got Your Ears On, Good Buddy?” (With apologies to “BJ and the Bear”)
Luke 8: 8b-10: “And as He said these things He would call out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’ And His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable might be. And He said, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the Kingdom.’” This statement of Jesus seems a bit odd, until you see that it is a listening and understanding issue rather than an auditory one. At first the disciples did not understand, as evidenced by their question. But the promise of the Lord was that at some time they would. This parable shows us the key to hearing: To listen to the Word with an open and focused heart. Then understanding (and fruitfulness) will follow.
Thursday, October 6: “A Church by Any Other Name …”
Acts 24: 5, 14:"We have found this man a real pest … and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes … According to the Way which they call a sect do I serve the God of our fathers ….” While Jesus was called “the Nazarene” seven times, including once by Himself (Acts 22: 8, see memo from October 7), He never called His Church “the Nazarenes,” and certainly not a sect, for the name Nazareth has a note of disrespect innate within it (John 1: 46). The disciples themselves tended to call the Church “The Way” (Acts 9: 2, 19: 9, 19: 23, 22: 4, 24: 14, 24: 22) based on Jesus’ statement in John 14: 6. This word is indeed a good title for the Church, for it teaches, shows, and lives a life acceptable to God: His Way, His economy known as the Kingdom of Heaven.
Wednesday, October 5: “Too Outspoken?”
Micah 2: 6: “’Do not speak out,’ so they speak out. But if they do not speak out concerning these things, reproaches will not be turned back.” Currently certain political leaders are accused of being too outspoken. “Love covers,” their opponents say. That’s true, on one side of it. But if corruption is always covered, guilt before the Lord remains. I don’t know if those uncovering the participants in the drug trade ever read Micah 2: 6, but whether they know it or not, they are working to get the reproaches against our nation turned back. Sounds kinda like God’s work, doesn’t it?
Tuesday, October 4: “The Right Address”
Psalm 122: 1-2: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.” So you wanna go to the house of the Lord? Great call. But know this: to be at the house of the Lord, you have to be in Jerusalem. In other words, the Church. Sometimes we hear things such as, “I love Jesus, but I don’t really care for the Church.” Well, Jesus is the one Who chose to build His house in the New Jerusalem. (the Church) It’s an ordinance for all God’s people to go there. Throughout Israel’s history there were altars and idols at Bethel, Gibeon, Samaria, Dan, and numerous other places - but the Lord never told anyone to worship there. Only in Jerusalem. Only in the Church that He is building compact together.
Monday, October 3: “No Truancy Allowed!”
Luke 6: 40: “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” Notice Jesus’ use of the word ‘everyone’. Not ‘most’, ‘many’, or ‘your average Joe’. This means that every believer is either a teacher or a pupil, and the unchanging goal of a teacher is to turn his pupil into a teacher who will find his own pupil. It is called discipleship, and in case you haven’t noticed, it’s the focus of the Holy Spirit in these days; a focus to which every Church, every Christian, must respond.
Saturday, October 1: “Oh, Wiseguy, Eh?” (With apologies to the Three Stooges)
Psalm 107: 43: “Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things; and consider the lovingkindnesses of the Lord.” Give heed to what things? In the previous verses of this psalm its anonymous author identifies four groups who have gotten into trouble, and were healed and delivered when they turned to the Lord. Then he reminds his readers of how our very environment is under the control of the Lord, responding to our obedience or disobedience; all for the purpose of returning us to Him. Wisdom sees all of this as His lovingkindness, and the wise honor Him for it.
Friday, September 30: “Hometown Blues”
Acts 22: 8: “And I (Paul) answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, Whom you are persecuting.’” Seven times in the Book of Acts Jesus Christ is called Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus the Nazarene; this time from His own mouth. There are several reasons for this: To designate Him from all the other Jesus’s in Judea at that time, to stress His human Nature, with a hometown as any other man would have, and to identify Himself with rejection, just as Nazareth was (John 1: 46, Psalm 2: 1-3, Psalm 118: 22, Luke 24: 25-26, etc). This title, like all the other Names of Christ, helps us to understand Who Jesus is.
Thursday, September 29: “Waiting Game”
Hosea 5: 15: “I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me.” Sometimes we “wait on the Lord” - and wait … and wait … and wait - unaware that He is actually the One Who is waiting for us. As long as we pridefully assume innocence and fail to seek Him, our relationship with Him goes nowhere. Thankfully, God loves us too much to allow things to remain like this, and employs an underappreciated ally - affliction - to break the stalemate. Then comes the revival! (Hosea 6: 1-3)
Wednesday, September 28: “Equal Opportunity Diner”
Luke 5: 31, 32: “And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” Does this mean that Jesus doesn’t eat with righteous people? Of course not; He dined with Pharisees numerous times (as in 7: 36 and 14: 1, for example). His point was that the Pharisees cared little for the conversion of sinners, preferring to let them remain in their misery. (The Pharisaical idea of conversion as pointed out by Jesus in Matthew 23: 15 was to convert a righteous Gentile into a righteous Jew.) Jesus sought (and seeks) to raise every person to the higher path of the Kingdom of God, and if eating with them helped attain that goal, then pass the chicken, please!
Tuesday, September 27: “Be Glad - and That’s an Order!”
Psalm 97: 11-12; Ps 100: 2: “Light is sown like seed for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. Be glad in the Lord, you righteous ones … Serve the Lord with gladness.” When God demands from us gladness, it’s not just one of those “put on a happy face” charades. He can expect gladness from us because He has sown it in our hearts. To refuse to be glad is to deny His work in us; gladness is a natural result of an upright heart.
Monday, September 26: “First Call”
Luke 5: 10: “And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.’” Simon Peter is known for a lot of things - some good, some not so good. But before he was called as apostle, or prophet, or pastor/teacher, or even the first pope, he was called to catch men; or as we call it today, to the ministry of evangelism. And in this he is no different from the rest of us … Maybe we cannot preach on the first Pentecost, or be the first to preach to the Gentiles, but we can share Jesus with the “fish” whom the Lord places in our lives.
Saturday, September 24: “If at First You Don’t Succeed …”
Acts 4: 39: “And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately arose and waited on them.” When someone is sick, what do you do: anoint them with oil, pray for them, or rebuke the sickness or spirit? Jesus did all three at one time or another, plus other things like put mud made from His spit on people’s body parts. With Him, while the methods may have varied, one thing was consistent: Jesus healed them all! For us, if one way doesn’t work, try another. Keep on until you find what is working at that moment. Oh yeah, you can listen to the Holy Spirit, too.
Friday, September 23: “What a Difference a Day Makes!”
Esther 8: 1-2: “On that day King Ahasuerus gave the house of Haman, the enemy of the Jews, to Queen Esther; and Mordecai came before the king. And the king took off his signet ring which he had taken away from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai.” Imagine - on the very day the enemy plans destruction, God brings deliverance to His people and devastation for His foes. We see this with the Assyrians (Isaiah 37: 33-37), Herod and Peter (Acts 12), and the greatest example of all, Calvary. This is the principle of Armageddon (Revelation 16: 16) and Gog and Magog (Revelation 20: 7-10). The Lord is not in the habit of losing battles.
Thursday, September 22: “Friends of Friends”
Acts 19: 13: “But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the Name of the Lord Jesus, saying, ‘I adjure you by Jesus Whom Paul preaches.’” One of the first things you learn on Facebook: friends of friends are not always your friends. A lot of grief has come from sharing things with those you don’t really know. Just ask the seven sons of Sceva: knowing about Paul, who knew Jesus, was a long way from knowing Jesus. If you want to really know Him, it will take more than an account on Instagram or Twitter!
Wednesday, September 21: “The Two Most Dangerous Letters”
Luke 4: 3, 7, 9: “And the devil said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.’ … ‘Therefore if you worship before me, it shall all be yours.’ … If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here.’” The devil loves to make you question yourself, or, as he did with Eve in Eden, question God. While faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11: 1), it has nothing to do with things doubted. This is why we are frequently encouraged to have confidence and trust in God at all times (Psalm 62: 8; 1 John 4: 17).
Tuesday, September 20: “One-time, All-time”
Psalm 78: 15-16: “He split the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths. He brought forth streams also from the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.” At times the Lord gives “gushers”, big blessings that meet big needs. But we must not let these blind us to His streams, constant sources of provision that sustain us day by day. He is the provider of both, oceans and rivers. Jehovah Jireh, indeed! (Genesis 22: 14)
Monday, September 19: “Hopelessly Devoted” (With apologies to Olivia Newton-John)
Acts 18: 5: “Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.” As a tentmaker Paul could make good money, but as such he could only minister the word on the Sabbath. So, knowing both how to abound and how to be abased, (Philippians 4: 12) he would focus on preaching whenever he could. God is looking for those today who are similarly devoted to the word, not distracted by ear-tickling philosophies or self-centered values; those who know that only the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1: 16). Will He find such a one in you?
Saturday, September 17: “Salty Paul”
Acts 17: 16: “Now while Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was beholding the city full of idols.” Yeah, first-century Athens had a lot of idols - but so does twenty-first century Athens, and twenty-first century Manila, and twenty-first century Hong Kong, and twenty-first century Anytown, USA. But are we as sensitive to these idols of mammon, leisure, self-gratification and all the rest, as St. Paul was? Sensitive enough to be provoked? Or has our sensitivity to Jesus become dulled? “Salt is good, but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again?” (Mark 9: 50)
Friday, September 16: “No Gold Medals for Mudding”
Psalm 69: 14: “Deliver me from the mire, and do not let me sink.” Mire presents a real problem - you can’t swim in it. Michael Phelps sinks just like a desert-dweller seeing water for the first time. The only place to go is down, and without help, that’s just what you’ll do. Do you have enemies or situations like that? Unconquerable? The Lord’s lovingkindness is good, His compassion is great, and He will not hide His face from you. You need not sink, except into His arms of love and mercy.
Thursday, September 15: “Package Deal”
Acts 16: 31-34: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house … and he was baptized, he and all his household … and he rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.” For those of you who are the sole believers in your families or households, don’t let time or pressure steal this promise from you. You and your household shall be saved! You may see no way, but all things are possible with God.