Wednesday, November 30: “Strange Is Just the Beginning”
Psalm 119: 19, 20: “I am a stranger in the earth, do not hide Your commandments from me. My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times.” I’ve known a few people who were crushed over a crush that didn’t work out, I’ve known some who were crushed when they didn’t get a job they had applied for, I even know some folks who were crushed when their favorite TV program was cancelled. But crushed over God’s word being hidden? I think we’re talking canonization territory here. No wonder this psalmist is a stranger in the earth; he’d be strange anywhere! But seriously, can we claim to have this same passion over the Word of God? Perhaps it would be better if we did …
Tuesday, November 29: “Failure or Victory?”
1 Thessalonians 2: 1: “For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain.” Really? Acts 17 shows us that Paul and his team spent only three weeks in Thessalonica, and were doing pretty well, when a riot was provoked and they had to flee, leaving all the newbie believers. Sounds like one big sayang to me. But much to Paul’s surprise, upon sending Timothy to check on the Church he found that they were doing well in their faith, and more worried about him than he about them. Sometimes God has a way of taking those things we count as failures and turning them into our “hope, joy, and crown,” and an “example to all.”
Monday, November 28: “White Christmas” (With apologies to Bing Crosby, Michael Buble, and a thousand others)
Isaiah 1: 16-18: “Wash and make yourselves clean ... Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. `Come now. let us reason together,’ says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Bing Crosby never sang about this part. But you can have this White Christmas wherever you are, even in a tropical climate! Washing ourselves in the fountain of his Blood (Zechariah 13: 1) and turning from our wicked ways brings to us salvation from our sins. Since the big day is now less than a month away, here’s wishing you all a White Christmas!
Saturday, November 26: “Missed it!”
Luke 19: 42: "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes." What things are Jesus talking about? The same things God had been pleading for from the people since Eden, since Sinai, since Shiloh, since Jerusalem: Obedience, faith, love. This day, the Day of the Lord, had come to Israel, and they didn’t believe. As Isaiah had prophesied, they did not see or hear (Isaiah 6: 9-10), and in disbelieving the Word of the Lord, they reaped much conflict and devastation, rather than peace. As we saw Wednesday, peace only comes when we believe God’s Word!
Friday, November 25: “Change is Here!”
Zechariah 14: 4, 8, 10: "The Mount of Olives will be split in its middle by a very large valley … Living waters will flow out of Jerusalem … The land will be changed into a plain." If we’re reading Zechariah, Advent must be near! (Next week, in fact) As one of the most Messianic of all the prophets he is quoted quite a bit in the Book of Revelation, and read often in Advent and Lent. Here he uses typical prophetic language: describing the new Kingdom of the Messiah in terms of de-creation. Don’t look for all these things to happen literally, it is just a prophet’s way of saying, “Things will be way different when the Messiah comes.” And he was (and is) right.
Thursday, November 24: “Repetitious”
Psalm 132: 11: “The Lord has sworn to David, a truth from which He will not turn back; ‘Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne.’” If something is repeated in Scripture, especially in the Old Testament, you can know it is very important. This promise of God to King David is found in 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Psalm 89, and here in Psalm 132, among numerous other places. These passages are also quoted in several New Testament sermons. Why are these words so important? Because they do not just refer to King Solomon, but to Jesus Christ Himself, who fulfilled every word and promise to David and the entire Jewish race. Through Christ they become our promises as well.
Wednesday, November 23: “Path to Peace”
Psalm 119: 165: “Those who love Your law have great peace, and nothing causes them to stumble.” If you’re not really sure that God’s Word is true and right, you will not stand up for it when the pressure is on. Perhaps that is why the Word has been so attacked in the last few centuries, as it has been called irrelevant, out of date, a lie, and just plain wrong. But there is no peace like the peace of accepting God’s Word for what it is; for what this psalmist spends 176 verses here trying to convince us it is: a Light, the Truth, God’s Way, and the power of God for salvation. Unless you understand and accept that, you will never have true peace in your heart.
Tuesday, November 22: “Powerful Faith”
Luke 18: 42: “And Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.’” How did Bartimaeus’ faith make him well? For sure, like townmate Zaccheus, he had heard of some who had been touched and healed by Jesus. Maybe this caused him to believe in Christ’s power to change things. But faith is more than mere belief. Faith must be expressed: by works, as St. James says, (James 2: 18) or, according to Habakkuk, by living (Habakkuk 2: 4). Faith came alive in Bartimaueus as he cried out to Jesus without stopping, even though commanded by the disciples themselves to do so; just as it did in Zaccheus when he climbed the tree. Living faith, faith alive, brought sight to the blind and new life to the sinner. '
Monday, November 21: “You’ve Given Me My Phortion”
Galatians 6: 2, 5: “Bear one another’s burdens … for each one shall bear his own load.” Is it just me, or does St. Paul seem a little balimbing here? First he says help others, then he says to let them deal with life alone. Well, not really. St. Paul’s word for burdens is “baros”, which simply means weight. Sometimes the weight of our lives gets heavy, and helping each other with those burdens is a practical application of love. But when he says load he uses the Greek word “phortion”, which is the same word Jesus used when He said “My burden is light.” It is our portion, the lot assigned to us; and since it is light, no one else should or could do it for us.
Saturday, November 19: “Who Are You Praying To?”
Luke 18: 11-13: "The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to Heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’" How can we tell the difference between praying to God and praying to one’s self? One effective method is the pronoun count. The Pharisee used five first person singular pronouns (“I”, for those who graded “C” or lower in English class) and referred to God but once. The tax-gatherer mentioned himself and God one time each. Perhaps we can learn something from this …
Friday, November 18: “Blessed Outcome”
James 5: 11: "Behold, we count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful." What outcome of Job have we seen? After his time of great tribulation and loss, where everyone from street kids to his wife lost respect for him (Job 19: 17-18), a period of time never quantified in scripture (maybe weeks, maybe months, maybe years), he received from God double the amount of his former riches, which were more than considerable in themselves. Have patience, children of God!
Thursday, November 17: “Right Down the Line”
Psalm 105: 9-10: “The Covenant which He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac. Then He confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting Covenant.” No man lives to himself, nor does any generation. God started with Abraham, then moved on to Isacc, Jacob, then to all Israel. The current generation is not the end of it all, just as the previous one wasn’t. Neither will be the next. We must expand our paradigm.
Wednesday, November 16: “Ambition is Good - Sometimes”
James 3: 16: “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” Ambition in itself is not a bad thing; without it, little would ever get done in this world. It’s what you are ambitious for that matters. St. Paul says we should make it our ambition to live a quiet and peaceable life (1 Thessalonians 4: 11). Great advice, how do we do that? St. James, ever practical, tells us how. To avoid evil and disorder, eliminate selfish ambition and jealousy. Then your good ambition, a peaceful and quiet life, will be attained.
Tuesday, November 15: “Harsh, or What?!”
Luke 17: 8, 10: “'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me until I have eaten and drunk; and afterward you will eat and drink … When you do all the things which are commanded you, say, “We are unworthy slaves.”’” Let me get this straight: the slave works in the field all day, then has to come into the house, cook a meal, clean himself up, serve his master, then profess the good news that he is an unworthy slave. Does this seem fair? Someone call DOLE! But the true meaning of the word translated ‘unworthy’ is actually ‘unprofitable’; and yes, we are all unprofitable. We were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6: 20); and that price was the blood of God’s only Son (Acts 20: 28). Are you going to turn a profit for God on that? Don’t think so! If there’s no profit, that’s the definition of unprofitable.
Monday, November 14: “Earth-shaking Verse”
Habakkuk 2: 4: “Behold, as for the proud one, his soul is not right within him; but the righteous will live by his faith.” This is the verse that reformed the Church and changed history. But we only know the last part of it, the final thirty percent; while it is the unknown first part that gives it its full meaning. It compares the proud - he whose life is centered on himself - with the righteous, whose life is lived by faith. In so doing, Habakkuk defines a life of faith - a life centered on God, rather than self. This is Habakkuk’s and Paul’s (Romans 1: 17) true message.
Saturday, November 12: “Turnabout!”
Joel 3: 16: "And the Lord roars from Zion and utters His voice from Jerusalem." Here the beauty of the Book of Joel is completed. Earlier in chapter two the Lord uttered His voice before an army tasked with judgment and destruction. Now, His purpose of restoration complete, He utters His voice from Jerusalem as the refuge and stronghold for His people. And when will this day be? Remember what Peter proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost: “This is that!” (Acts 2: 16) God’s work of restoration comes to us through His Holy Spirit, and through Him, He will accomplish that work in us!
Friday, November 11: “Good Thing, Perfect Gift”
James 1: 17, 18: "Every good thing and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights … in the exercise of His will He brought us forth." Verse 17 is well-known among Christians, but how often do we follow with v. 18, as St. James did? He mentions goodness and perfection coming down from God, then says that He brings us forth. We, God’s children, are the good things, the perfect gifts, the firstfruits among His creatures. Wow, are we ready to receive that? Are we ready to live up to that? (See Colossians 4: 12, Philippians 3: 15)
Thursday, November 10: “Make Up Time”
Joel 2: 25: “Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” The second chapter if Joel is quite eclectic! It begins by describing a great and fearsome army. It is the army of the Lord, but its purpose is not to destroy His enemies, but to bring judgment to His wayward people. Then comes the good news: it’s not too late for His children to repent and avert this devastation. And here in this third portion of the chapter God promises the restoration of what was previously lost. The vindication of God is real, but so is His promise: In the end, His people will never be put to shame!
Wednesday, November 9: “Put Up or Shut Up!”
Psalm 82: 1, 2, 8: “God takes His stand in His own congregation; He judges in the midst of the rulers. How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked? Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You Who possess all the nations.” Finally the elections are over. Hard-fought victories have been won. Well, not to burst the bubbles of the victors, but they are reminded in this Psalm of what God expects of them now, and Who’s really in charge. Now we see: who can act out their promises?
Tuesday, November 8: “Unsavory Salt”
Luke 14: 34: “Therefore salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?” Salt exists for one thing: to bring out the best in other foods. It does not stand alone; you won’t find a dish of salt on the menu of any fine restaurant. The Christian life is like that. We exist not for ourselves, but for the sake of others. This is our cross. This is the cost of discipleship. This is our savor. Anything less is not really Christianity.
Monday, November 7: “Silly Excuses”
Luke 14: 17-18: “At the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is ready now.’... The first said, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it … Another one said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out. Please consider me excused.’” Inspecting a new piece of property. Trying out new farm equipment. Sounds like valid reasons to be excused, right? But at the dinner hour? Who does that? How can you see the property, or plow, in the dark? At the dinner hour we eat dinner, especially if we have been invited to a great banquet such as the Eucharist. We may think our excuses for declining Christ’s invitation are clever, but was the head of the household placated?
Saturday, November 5: “House for the Future”
Psalm 23: 6: "Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house lf the Lord forever." Whenever we read this verse we must remember: David was proclaiming something that, for him, did not yet exist. "The house of the Lord" was built numerous decades after he wrote this Psalm. This shows us two things: on one plane, the greatness of David's faith and hope in God, and on a deeper plane, the understanding that the house of the Lord is more than a mere building. As we learn in the New Testament, the house of the Lord is us.
Friday, November 4: “The God/Man Speaks”
Luke 13: 34: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!" These are not the words of a sometimes visitor to Jerusalem for the last twenty years. These are the words of Jerusalem's eternal Shepherd, the One who chose her from all the cities of Israel, Who protected her from the Philistines and the Assyrians and everyone in between. These are words that reveal their speaker as more than just a man called Jesus, but as the One eternally begotten from the Father, the second Person of the Trinity. These words could only have been spoken by God Himself, and that is exactly Who Jesus is.
Thursday, November 3: “In or Out?”
Luke 13: 23, 29: “And someone said to Him, ‘Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?’ And He said to them … ‘They will come from east and west, and from north and south, and will recline at the table in the Kingdom of God.’” Often much attention is paid to v. 24 of this passage: "Many will seek to enter and will not be able." But the question posed to Jesus is about salvation, not doors, and His answer is that people will come from all over to share in the Kingdom of God. Rather than a passage of exclusion, the focus is about inclusion, to a much greater degree than many people realize.
Wednesday, November 2: “The Definitive Case of Irony”
Ecclesiasticus 43: 30: “When you praise the Lord, exalt Him as much as you can; for He will surpass even that. When you exalt Him, put forth all your strength, and do not grow weary, for you cannot praise Him enough.” This is one of the most charismatic verses in the Bible, and yet the typical Charismatic does not believe it is part of the Bible. What can you say? “Exalt Him as much as you can” anyway!
Tuesday, November 1: “Saints Alive!”
Hebrews 11: 32, 12: 1: “For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jepthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets … Therefore , since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us ….” Remember, a witness is not just someone who sees something, but one who sees and tells others what they saw. On this day we let the saints tell their story, which is as it should be. Have a happy and meaningful All Saints’ Day!