Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Passages

Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 5, 6, 10, 11; Jonah 1:1-17a; Acts 26:24-27:8; Lk 8:26-39

Lord, hear my words, my groaning lament; I pray to You, my King and my God.  In the morning, I prepare a sacrifice for You, and watch.  You are holy; no wickedness, no evil can be near You.  Boastful ones cannot abide in Your sight; You hate all who do evil.  You destroy liars and abhor the bloodthirsty and deceitful.  I will enter Your house through Your abundant, steadfast love; I worship in awe of Your holiness and might.  Lord, lead me in and into Your righteousness; make a straight path for me to follow You Home.  Let the wicked face the consequences of their sins and idolatries, their rebellion against You.  And let all rejoice who take refuge in You; defend us, so that we who love Your Name may exult in You.  Cover us with Your favor as with a shield.  Help me abide the wait as I long for You to vindicate and deliver me.  I cannot praise You from Sheol; there is no worship from one who is dead.  Let all workers of evil depart from me!  YHWH hears and accepts my prayer, and He will deal with my enemies.  Lord, draw near; let the arrogant be caught in the traps they have devised for others; let the godless face their desolation.  They deny God and fear no adversity; they smirk and plot; they crush the helpless and expect no divine retribution.  Rise up, Lord; let holy judgment fall on those who deny You and abuse Your creatures and creation.  Nations rise and fall, but YHWH rules forever!  Let God hear the cries of the meek; let Him strengthen their hearts and vindicate the fatherless and oppressed, so that mortals of the earth may strike terror no more.  YHWH tests righteous and wicked alike; He hates those who love violence.  The upright will behold His face; the wicked will suffer coals of fire and brimstone!

YHWH's word came to Jonah son of Amittai: 'Get up and go to Nineveh and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.'  But Jonah ran the other way--to Joppa and a ship bound for Tarshish.  ThenYHWH hurled a great wind, and stirred a mighty tempest in the sea, so that the ship Jonah had boarded was in danger of breaking up.  The mariners tried to lighten the ship; meanwhile, Jonah was asleep in the steerage.  The captain roused and interrogated him, and the crew cast lots to discover the cause of their hardship.  The lot fell on Jonah, and he fessed up: 'I'm a Hebrew, fearer of YHWH, the God of heaven, Maker of earth and sea alike.'  They all realized their predicament was the result of Jonah's flight from God, as he had confessed as much to them.  They asked him what they should do, and he told them, 'Throw me overboard; then the sea will quiet for you.'  They tried to avoid this solution, but the storm worsened; at last, they acknowledged God's right and authority.  In the end, they cast Jonah into the raging seas, and the sea grew quiet again.  Seeing this, the men feared YHWH exceedingly and offered a sacrifice to Him and made vows accordingly.

Paul had spoken in his own defense before King Agrippa and the Roman Porcius Festus.  Festus thought that Paul was insane.  But Paul denied this: 'I speak the sober truth; King Agrippa knows what I'm saying.'  And he addressed the king:  'King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets?  I know you believe!'  The king temporized: 'In a short time, do you think to make me a Christian?'  Paul replied, 'Long time or short, I would to God that you and all who hear me today might become as I am--expect for these chains.'  Festus, Agrippa and his queen Bernice withdrew and conferred: 'This man is doing nothing deserving death or prison.  He could have been released, had he not appealed to Caesar.'  And so Paul sailed for Rome, accompanied by Dr. Luke, author of Acts, among others, including the Macedonian Aristarchus from Thessalonica.  Paul was one of several prisoners in custody under Julius, a centurion of the Augustan Cohort.  Their ship passed through Sidon, then in the lee of Cyprus to Myra in Lycia, where they transshipped to an Alexandrian vessel bound for Italy.  With difficulty from bad weather, they came upon Fair Havens, a port near Lasea.  

Jesus also was on the waters, and He calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee, enabling his vessel and companions to arrive safely in the territory of the Gerasenes on the eastern side of the lake.  As Jesus stepped from the boat, He was accosted by a Gerasene man possessed by demons.  He had long lived naked, among the tombs.  The spirits threw him down before Jesus, and spoke loudly:  'What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?  I beseech You, don't torment me!'  Jesus had already commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man; it had often seized the man; he had been kept under guard, in chains, but he broke the bonds and the demon drove him into the desert.  Jesus asked: 'What is your name?'  The reply: 'Legion, for we are many,' since many demons had entered the man.  They begged Jesus not to send them into the abyss, but rather into a large herd of pigs feeding on a nearby hillside.  Jesus gave this permission, and the demons came out of the man and entered the swine.  Consequently, the entire herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake, and drowned there.  Seeing all this, the herdsmen fled into the city and countryside, reporting what had happened.  Then people went out to see what had happened; they found Jesus and the man now freed from the demons, sitting dressed, at Jesus' feet, and in his right mind.  They became frightened, and the witnesses recounted told the newcomers how the formerly-possessed man had been healed.  Then all the Gerasenes asked Jesus to depart from them, for they were seized with a great fear.  So Jesus got into the boat to sail away.  The man whom Jesus had exorcised begged to remain with Jesus; but He sent the man away, saying 'Go back to your home and tell how much God has done for you.'  And he did that, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.  


Wednesday, October 4, 2017

His power perfected in my weakness

Wednesday, October 4, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 101, 109, 119:121-44; 2 Ki 18:9-25; 1 Cor 8:1-13; Mt 7:13-21

David wrote: I will sing of loyalty and justice to You, O Lord.  I will heed the blameless way.  God, when will You come to me?  In my house, I'll walk with integrity, setting nothing base before my eyes.  I hate the works of those who fall away; let that pattern not cling to me.  Let perversity of heart remain far from me.  May I know nothing of evil.  I will destroy those who slander secretly; I will not endure the haughty and arrogant.  I will favor the faithful, and we will dwell in the land of promise together.  My ministers will be those whose walk is blameless.  No one practicing deceit will abide in my house; no liar may remain in my presence.  Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked--starting with whatever is ungodly in myself, cutting off evildoers from YHWH's holy city.  Let holy God speak, for I am slandered by wicked and deceitful mouths.  They attack me without cause and beset me with words of hate.  They return accusation and hatred, even as I love them.  So I leave these betrayers in God's hands and judgment; let the consequences of their transgressions come upon them by His holy hand.  Let their curses fall back on them; may they be saturated with their own malice.  As for me, Lord God, deliver me, I pray.  I am poor and needy; my heart is stricken; I am shaken off like a locust, weak in the knees, gaunt to extremes.  My accusers scorn me and wag their heads at me.  YHWH my God, help me!  Let Your blessings overrule their curses; make Your servant glad and put my assailants to shame.  And I will praise YHWH alone and amid the multitudes.  For our God stands at the right hand of the needy, to save them from those who would put them to death.  I have done right, Lord; don't abandon me to my oppressors.  My eyes grow dim as I watch for Your salvation.  According to Your steadfast love, O Lord, deal with me; give me godly understanding that I may know Your testimonies.  I love You and Your commands above all else, and direct my ways accordingly.  Your testimonies are marvelous, and my soul rejoices to keep them.  Unfolding Your word brings light, and I long for Your commandments.  Be gracious to me, as to all who love Your name.  Steady my steps according to  Your great and precious promises; let no iniquity have dominion over me.  Shine Your face on me, Your servant; I weep as humans ignore Your law.  You Are righteous, O Lord, and your judgments are right, appointed in faithfulness and justice.  Zeal consumes me when Your foes forget Your word.  Your promise is well tried, and I love it; I am small and despised, but Your commandments are my delight.

In the fourth year of Hezekiah's reign, the Assyrian king Shalmaneser besieged Samaria.  Three years later, the city fell to his siege, and Assyria carried the Israelites away to Halah, and along the Habor river, the river Gozan, and other cities of the Medes.  This was the consequence of Israelite disobedience and failure to keep God's covenant--they neither listened nor obeyed.  In the fourteenth year of Hezekiah's reign, Sennacharib, now Assyrian ruler, conquered all the fortified cities of Judah.  Hezekiah sued for a settlement; Sennacharib demanded 300 talents of silver and 30 of gold; Hezekiah gave him all the silver in the Lord's house and in the king's house, too.  He stripped the gold from the temple doors and doorposts.  The Assyrian king sent emissaries, the Tartan, the Rabsaris, and the Rabshakeh, leading a great army against Jerusalem.  They called for the king, and Eliakim, the household executive and Shebnah, the royal secretary, and Joah ben Asaph, the royal recorder, came before them.  The Rabshekah addressed them and dictated Sennacharib's terms:  'Egypt cannot help you, nor will YHWH your God.  My master offers 2000 horses, if you can find riders for them--but you have no cavalry and no chariots.  It is YHWH Himself who has directed me to go up against this land and to destroy it.'

Paul addressed questions from the Corinthian Christians:  Concerning food offered to idols, all possess knowledge; however, knowledge puffs up while love builds up!  Those who imagine that they know something do not yet know as they ought.  But God knows those who love God.  An idol, so-called, has no real existence.  There may be so-called gods on earth or in the heavens--and there are many such--yet for us there is one God, the Father, from Whom are all things and for Whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus the Messiah, through Whom are all things and through Who we exist.  Not everyone knows these things.  As a result, some with weak conscience feel guilty when they eat meat that has been offered to an idol; this defiles their conscience.  Neither food nor abstinence will commend us to God.  Just take care than in your liberty you do not cause the weak to stumble.  Your example may cause someone to eat food offered to an idol.  As a result of your knowledge, this weak person is destroyed--a brother or sister for whom the Messiah died!  And if you thus sin against your brothers and sisters and wound their weak conscience, you are sinning against the Messiah.  If food causes my brother or sister in Christ to fall, I will never eat meat, lest I cause them to fall.

As He approached the end of His sermon on the mount, Jesus said: Enter God's kingdom by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who go that way are many.  The gate is narrow and the way hard that leads to life, and few find and follow that.  Beware of false prophets; they come in sheep's clothing, but inwardly, they are ravening wolves.  Know them by their fruits--no grapes on thorn bushes, no figs from thistles!  Sound trees bear good fruit; evil fruit comes from bad trees.  And every tree that does not bear good fruit is felled and burned.  Thus, you can know a prophet's quality by their fruits.  Not every person who says to me 'Lord, Lord!' will enter the kingdom of heaven--only those who do the will of My Father in heaven.




Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Kingdom living in a fallen world

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 94, 97, 99; 2 Chron 29:1-3, 30:1-27; 1 Cor 7:32-40; Mt 7:13-21

God of vengeance, shine forth!  Render judgment to the proud.  How long should the wicked exult?  They pour forth arrogance and boasting; they crush Your people, YHWH, and afflict Your heritage.  They slay widow and sojourner; they murder orphans, proclaiming, 'God doesn't see; the God of Jacob does not perceive.'  Listen, dullards and fools:  The One Who planted the ear can hear; He Who formed the eye can see.  The One Who chastens nations, chastises; God Who creates knowledge and is humankind's Teacher knows mortal thoughts: they are but a breath.  YHWH, the mortals whom You chasten is blessed, as are any whom You teach from Your law, to give them respite from trouble until the day of final judgment for the wicked.  YHWH will never forsake His people, not abandon His heritage.  He will bring justice to he righteous, and the upright in heart will follow His ways.  If YHWH had not been my help, I would soon have dwelt in profound silence.  When I have thought my foot was slipping, You upheld and sustained me, Lord!  When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul.  The wicked and mighty among humans frame mischief by statute; they condemn the innocent to death.  But YHWH Is my strong, the Rock of my refuge.  God will bring back on the wicked their own iniquity; He will wipe them out.  So let earth rejoice!  Righteousness and justice are foundations of His kingship.  Heavenly beings proclaim God's righteousness; mortals behold His glory.  Idolaters are put to shame; God's disciples hear and rejoice at Your judgments, O God.  You, YHWH, Are the most high, exalted far above all other 'gods.'  YHWH loves those who hate evil and keeps His saints alive, delivering us from the hand of the wicked.  Light dawns for the righteous, joy for the upright in heart.  Let us give thanks to His holy name!  Holy Is He, Mighty King, lover of justice, maker of equity.  Let us worship at His footstool.  Moses, Aaron and Samuel were among His priests; God forgave them, delivered them, preserved them.  Let us worship YHWH, for He Is holy.

King Hezekiah sought to restore worship of YHWH in Jerusalem, opening and repairing the very doors of God's temple there.  He declared to all Israel and Judah that they should gather to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem, at God's house there.  Their first Passover was delayed, celebrated in the second month, for lack of consecrated priests and because of the time needed for the people to assemble.  Hezekiah's message: 'People of Israel, return to YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that He may turn again to the remnant who have escaped from Assyrian captivity.  Don't be like your faithless, stiff-necked ancestors.  Yield yourselves to God; come to His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, that His fierce anger may turn from you.  Doing this, you and your community and your children will find compassion with our captors.  YHWH your God Is gracious and merciful; He will not turn away from you, if you return to Him.'  Few from Asher, Manasseh or Zebulun heeded this message, humbling themselves and journeying to Jerusalem.  Judah and its princes, however, responded as one, wholeheartedly, obeying the word of the king.  A great assembly gathered in the second month in Jerusalem.  They removed the idolatrous altars from the city, casting them into the Kidron valley.  They killed the Passover lamb on the fourteenth day of the second month.  Priest and Levites, stung to shame, sanctified themselves, and began bringing burnt offerings into the Lord's house, and following the priestly offices as Moses had detailed them.  The Levites killed sacrificial lambs for many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar and Zebulun who had not cleansed themselves.  Hezekiah had prayed for them:  'The good YHWH pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, YHWH, the God of his fathers, even though not observing the sanctuary's rules of cleanness.'  YHWH heard and granted Hezekiah's prayer, and healed the people.  The people kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread with great joy, and the Levites and priests praised YHWH ceaselessly, singing to the Lord with all their might.  King Hezekiah encouraged the Levites, and the festival proceeded for seven days.  Then the whole assembly agreed to continue the feast and celebrations for another seven days!  The king provided a thousand bulls and seven thousand sheep for sacrifice, and the princes added another thousand bulls and ten thousand sheep!  All rejoiced; there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem since the time of Solomon; and the prayers of priests and Levites for the people came to God's holy habitation in heaven.

Paul counsels the Corinthian Christians:  I want you freed from anxiety.  A man unmarried focuses on the affairs of the Lord and how to please Him, while a married man is concerned about worldly affairs and pleasing his wife.  A single girl or woman focuses on pleasing the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit, while married women are anxious about pleasing their husbands and the cares of the world.  For your own benefit, chaste singleness has great advantages.  But if one is engaged and feels strong passion and deep conviction to behave properly toward his fiancee, let them marry--it is no sin.  But anyone firmly established in heart, without constraint and under control, does well to remain unmarried: he who marries his betrothed does well, but he who refrains from marriage does better.  A wife is bound to her husband while both live; if her husband dies, a woman is free to marry, only in the Lord.  But in my judgment, she is happier if she remains a godly widow.  And I say this with the confidence that I have the Spirit of God.

As He continued His sermon on the mount, Jesus said:  Don't judge, lest you be judged; the judgments you pronounce on others will be applied to you; the measure you give, is what you'll get.  You claim to see the speck in another's eye, but you fail to notice the log in your own eye.  Hypocrite!  Take the log from your own eye--clear your own account; then perhaps you'll see clearly enough to take the speck from your brother's eye!  Don't share what is holy with dogs; don't throw your pearls to swine; it's likely they'll trample your pearls into the muck, then attack you.  Keep on asking, and what you ask will be given to  you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  Everyone who asks, receives; all who seek, find; and to everyone who knocks, God will open the Way.  Consider yourselves:  if a man's son asks him for bread, he won't give the boy a stone, will he?  If one's child asks for a fish, who would give their child a serpent instead?  So consider: if you, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!  So: whatever you wish that people would do to you, do so to them; for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Elements of right judgment

Thursday, August 24, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 131-35; 2 Sam 19:1-23; Acts 24:1-23; Mk 12:28-34

Lord, I focus on things at my own level, not those too great and marvelous for me.  I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child near its mother's heart.  Our hope, as always, is in the Lord.  Let God be Judge, and do not turn me away.  God is altogether faithful and righteous.  He has chosen Zion as His resting place and the sprout of Jesse, the son of David, to be His Messiah, Whom God will crown with glory and might.  How pleasant it is when brothers and sisters live in unity; in this God blesses human life for ever.  Let all who serve and worship YHWH lift our hands and praise the Lord of glory, Maker of heaven and earth.  YHWH Is good, supreme above all other gods, Maker and Master of creation.  He has chosen and delivered His people Israel, that through them, He may bless all peoples. Your Name, O Lord, endures forever.  All other objects of worship are mere idols, man-made trinkets; and those who worship idols become like them.  So let God's people praise YHWH--Aaron's children and Levi's offspring.  Let all that has breath praise our God!

Jonathan warned David when Saul planned to kill him.  He tried to praise David and bring his father to another viewpoint--and Saul relented, saying 'As the Lord lives, David shall not be put to death.'  So Jonathan brought Saul and David together again.  When war sprang up between Israel and Philistia, David went to battle and defeated his king's enemies.  But an evil spirit 'from the Lord' came upon Saul, and he took up his spear and tried to impale David with it.  David eluded the attack and escaped.  David's wife Michal, warned him against her father's murderous intent, and David fled through a window and escaped.  She delayed the king's discovery of his absence, and then told her father that David had threatened her life, to assure her assistance in his escape.  David fled to Samuel at Ramah, and together they journeyed to Naioth in Ramah. Receiving word of this, Saul sent three groups of messengers in turn to take David prisoner; each group was overtaken by the Spirit of God and failed in their hostile mission; then Saul himself journeyed to Naioth in Ramah, but he also was overtaken by God's Spirit, stripped off his clothing, and lay naked, exposed and powerless for a day and a night.
 
When assassins threatened his life, Paul had been sent with armed escorts from Jerusalem to Felix in Caesarea. Five days later, Paul's accusers arrived, representatives of the high priest Ananias, with the lawyer Tertulllus as their spokesman.  Tertullus charged Paul as an agitator and 'ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes,' who had profaned the Temple.  The Jews sent from Ananias affirmed these charges.  The governor then directed Paul to respond.  He made his defense cheerfully--he had gone to Jerusalem and the temple to worship; he had disputed with no one.  Paul affirmed that 'according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets.'  He shared with his accusers a confident hope in the resurrection of the just and unjust. 'So I keep my conscience clear before God and man.'  He had come to offer alms to support the Jews.  He was falsely accused 'by some Jews from Asia,' who 'ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, if they have anything against me.'  Paul claimed he was accused because of his position concerning the resurrection of the dead.  Felix delayed his verdict, and kept Paul in custody, granting him some liberty and the care of his friends in attending to his needs.

A Jewish scribe overheard Jesus disputing the Sadducees over the resurrection.  The scribe asked Jesus, 'Which commandment is the first of all?'  And Jesus quoted the Shemah 'Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God is One!  And you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength'  'And,' Jesus continued, 'the second is this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." No commandment is greater than these.'  The scribe agreed: 'You are right, Teacher; truly you said that He Is one and there is no other god but He; and to love Him with all the heart, and understanding and strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself--is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.'  Jesus saw that the man spoke wisely, and said to him, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.'  And after that, no one dared to question Jesus further.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Abide as God commands and enables

Monday, August 7, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 89, 2 Sam 13:23-39; Acts 20:17-38; Mk 9:42-50

Ethan the Ezrahite wrote: YHWH, I will sing of Your steadfast love forever; I will proclaim Your faithfulness to all generations.  You swore a covenant with David and his house, to build his throne for all generations.  Let the heavens join in praising You; no heavenly being is like YHWH!  Lord, You rule heavens and earth; You rule the raging, chaotic seas; You crush every enemy, including chaos and rebellion.  You tower over all creation; Your throne sits upon foundations of righteousness and justice; steadfast love and faithfulness go before You!  Blessed are the mortals who shout Your praise; our well-being is from our King, the Holy One of Israel.  You chose David, a king after Your own heart; You made him highest mortal king on earth.  You have established his line forever, as You promised.  You allow human idolatry and sin to bear their consequences--death and exile, not least.  But You sustain David's line with the incarnation of Your own Son, Jesus.  Blessed be YHWH for ever!

David's ambitious son Absalom invited David and all David's other royal sons to be his guests at a sheep shearing.  David declined, but consented to his other sons attending at Absalom's invitation.  At the gathering, Absalom had his servants murder his half-brother Amnon, in vengeance for Amnon's rape of Absalom's sister Tamar.  After the murder, all the surviving princes scattered.  Word was brought to David that Absalom had murdered all the other royal heirs, but David's nephew Jonadab assured the king that only Amnon was dead, as the result of his rape and shaming of Tamar.  The other sons gathered to David, and they all mourned together.  Meanwhile, Absalom fled into Geshur for three years, while David, recovering from Amnon's loss and accepting its inevitability, grieved the absence of his son Absalom.  

Paul was bound in haste for Jerusalem, determined to reach the city before Pentecost, if possible.  He called for the elders of the church in Ephesus to meet him at Miletus, where Paul addressed them: 'You know how I lived among you from my first day in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility, with tears, and withstanding the trials that befell me due to plotting among the Jews.  I never shrank from forthrightly proclaiming anything to your profit; I taught in public, house to house, testifying to both Jews and Gentiles concerning repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus the Messiah.  Now, look:  I am headed to Jerusalem, bound in the Holy Spirit, now knowing what will befall me there--except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and affliction lie before me.  I do not account my life of any value, even to myself, if only I may fulfill the course God has laid before me, the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus the Messiah, to testify to the gospel of God's grace.  Now behold: I know that all of you, among whom I have preached the kingdom, will see my face no more. Therefore, I testify to you today: I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I never shrank from declaring to you God's entire counsel.  Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock concerning whom the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with the blood of His own Son.  I know that after my exodus, fierce wolves will come among you, not sparing the flock.  From among your own will arise men speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves.  So be alert, remembering that for three years I never ceased night and day to admonish everyone with tears.  Now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified.  I coveted no one's gold, silver or apparel; you know for sure that I earned my support with my own hands, and supported also all who worked and traveled with me.  In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, recalling the words of the Lord Jesus: "It is more blessed to give than to receive."' Paul then knelt and prayed with them all; and they wept and embraced and kissed the apostle.  Their sorrow was deepest over his statement that they would see him no more.  At last, they brought Paul to his ship.  

Jesus told His nearest disciples: 'Whoever causes one of the little ones who believes in Me to sin would be better off if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea. Likewise, if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better to enter life maimed, than with two hands to go to hell.  If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off; you are better off alive and maimed than, with two feet, to be thrown into hell.  If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; better for you to enter God's kingdom with one eye than to keep both eyes and yet be thrown into hell. where the worms never die and the fire is not quenched.  Everyone will be salted with fire.  Salt is good, but if its savor is lost, you cannot restore its seasoning power.  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.'  

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

God's Word brings reconciliation

Wednesday, July 5, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 119:145-76; 128-30; 1 Sam 12:1-6, 16-25; Acts 8:14-25; Lk 23:1-12

With my whole heart, I cry: YHWH, answer me.  I will keep Your statutes; save me, that I may observe Your testimonies.  I rise before dawn; I cry for help; I hope in Your words.  I watch through the night, that I may meditate on Your promises.  In Your steadfast love, YHWH, hear my voice; in Your justice, preserve my life.  Those who persecute me ignore Your law, and draw near with evil purpose.  You, O God, are even closer, and You are ever faithful; all Your commandments are true.  You have testified that Your testimonies are eternally valid.  Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget Your law.  Redeem me, Lord; give me life as You have promised.  Salvation is far from the wicked who ignore Your statutes.  Great is Your mercy, YHWH; give my life according to Your justice.  Though I have many persecutors and adversaries, I cleave to Your testimonies.  The faithless disgust me, who do not keep Your commands.  In Your steadfast love, preserve my life, since I love Your precepts so dearly.  All Your words are true' Your righteous ordinances endure forever.  My heart is in awe of Your word, though princes persecute me without cause.  I rejoice at Your word like one finding great treasure; I do Your commands and hope for salvation.  Let my cry come before You, YHWH; give me understanding that matches Your word.  My lips will pour forth Your praise; I will sing of Your word, for all Your commandments are right.  I choose Your precepts, so stand ready to lift me up, God.  I long for Your salvation, and Your law is my chief delight.  Let me live, to praise You; let Your ordinances be my help and stay.  I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek me out, God, for I do not forget Your commandments.  Blessed are all who fear and obey our God.  He makes our labor fruitful and provides our daily bread.  He makes our wives fertile and fills our homes with children.  May YHWH bless us from Zion; may we witness the prosperity of Jerusalem.  May we look upon our grandchildren.  And let God's peace rest on Israel!

After anointing Saul, Samuel addressed all Israel: 'Behold, I heard you and have made a king over you; he walks before you now.  I am old and gray.  If you bear me any accusation, make it now, before God and His anointed.  If I am guilty, I will set right my offenses.' The people replied, 'You have done nothing wrong.'  And Samuel answered, 'The Lord is witness, and so is His anointed one, that I have not offended you.'  And the people agreed.  The prophet continued: 'Now watch what YHWH will do before you all.  Today is wheat harvest day, isn't it?  I will call upon YHWH to send thunder and rain, to show you how great is your wickedness in asking YHWH for a human king.'  And this all came to pass, so that the people greatly feared YHWH and Samuel, His prophet.  The people begged him, 'Pray for us to the Lord your God, that we may not die for our sins.'  And the prophet answered, 'Fear not; you have done evil, but don't turn aside from following YHWH; serve Him with all your heart, turning from vain things which cannot profit or save.  YHWH will not cast His people aside, to protect His name, because He has chosen you as His own people.  Far be it from me, that I should sin by ceasing to pray for you; I will pray, and also instruct you in the way you should go.  Only fear YHWH and serve Him faithfully with your whole heart.  If you persist in wickedness, you will be swept away, both you and your king.'

The deacon and evangelist Philip was having great success in Samaria; and when the Jerusalem apostles heard of this, they sent Peter and John to them, that the converts might receive the Holy Spirit.  When the apostles laid hands on the converts, the Spirit was given them.  Seeing this, Simon Magus, the Samaritan mage, offered money, hoping to purchase the power to dispense the Holy Spirit.  Peter replied, 'May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God's sovereign gift with money!  You have no part nor lot in this matter; your heart is not right before God.  Repent this wickedness and pray the Lord for forgiveness of the intent of your heart.  I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.'  Simon answered, 'Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing you have said may come upon me!'  When the apostles had testified and spoke the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the Lord's gospel in many villages along their route.

His accusers brought Jesus before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate and began to accuse Him: 'We found this man perverting our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, say that he himself is Messiah, a king.'  Pilate asked Jesus, 'Are you the king of the Jews?'  Jesus replied, 'You have said so.'  Pilate said to the chief priests and the mob with them, 'I find no crime in this man.'  But the Jews were adamant: 'He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee to this very spot.'  Hearing this, Pilate inquired whether Jesus was Galilean; learning that Jesus was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him over to Herod.  This pleased Herod greatly, for he had wanted to meet Jesus and see Him do some miracle.  Herod interrogated Jesus at length, but received no answer, while the chief priests and scribes stood by vehemently accusing Jesus.  Herod and his soldiers treated Jesus with contempt and mocked Him; then, arraying Jesus in gorgeous apparent, Herod returned Him to Pilate.  The Roman and Hasmonean leaders became fast friends that day, who had been at enmity previously.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mortals waver; God is steadfast

Friday, June 29, 2017 - Devotions: Ps 102, 107:1-32; 1 Sam 9:1-14; Acts 7:17-29; Lk 22:31-38

YHWH, hear and answer my prayer; don't hide from me in times of distress; please answer speedily when I cry out to You.  My days pass like smoke in the wind; my bones burn like a furnace; my life withers; I forget to eat--I'm like a lone vulture in the wilds, an owl in a desert, a bird alone on a housetop.   Only enemies call out, and only to deride and curse me.  My diet is ashes; my drink is my own tears.  In Your righteous indignation, You have discarded me.  But You, Lord, are enthroned for ever; Your Name endures to every generation.  Have pity, Lord, on Your holy city, Your bondservants and worshipers.  Let the nations fear the Lord; and let the Lord build up Zion and come to her in glory.  God, hear the prayers of the destitute; do not despise our supplication.  Let those who come after me take note: YHWH looks down from heaven upon the wretched of the earth; He frees prisoners, pardons those sentenced to death.  So let mortals declare God's Name, and worship Him alone; let those in Jerusalem praise our God together.  God has broken my native strength, so that my only hope is in Him.  The earth and heavens He created may perish, but God endures for ever.  Lord, the children of Your servants will dwell secure, and their posterity will be established before You!
     Let us thank God, Whose steadfast love endures forever.  Let His redeemed declare it, whom He has ransomed from trouble and gathered from every corner of the earth.  Some rambled in desert wastes; God heard their cries and delivered them, providing water and leading them to cities:  He feeds the starving, gives water to the thirsty, and fills all with good things!  Others were moored in darkness, prisoners in affliction, bound in irons.  Their hearts quavered, and they fainted in hard labor, destitute and hopeless.  When they cried to YHWH in their trouble, He delivered them; He brought them out from darkness into His marvelous light; He broke their bonds asunder.  Let them thank YHWH for His steadfast love and mighty acts of compassion.  And some were sick because of sin; they loathed food; they languished near to death.  In their trouble, they cried out to YHWH, and He heard and delivered them from destruction; He sent forth His word and healed them.  Let them join in thanking God for His steadfast love and works of deliverance.  Let them give up sacrifices of thanksgiving and tell of God's deeds in songs of joy.  And some descended seaward in ships; they saw God's hand on the face of oceans and seas--the wind and waves came near to overwhelming them.  Their courage melted; they reeled and staggered like drunks, at their wits' end.  Then they cried out to YHWH, and He stilled storm and seas; He brought them peace and guided them to their safe harbor.  Let them thank YHWH for His steadfast love and wondrous works; let the great congregation extol and the elders praise our God.

When the Israelites begged God for a human king, He obliged them, sending Samuel to anoint the tall, comely son of Kish named Saul.  Kish's donkeys went missing, and he sent Saul to find them.  They searched high and low without success, then visited the man of God, Samuel, whom God had directed to anoint Saul as 'prince over My people Israel.'

The deacon and evangelist Stephen was falsely accused before the Jewish council, and gave his defense--an eloquent review of Israel's history before God--that enraged the authorities, who had him stoned.  During his remarks, Stephen said, 'The people multiplied in Egypt, until a pharaoh arose who knew nothing of Joseph.  He feared the Israelites, and sought to weaken or destroy them, by decreeing that every newborn male should be killed at birth.  Moses was born at this time, a beautiful child whom God preserved, so that when he was exposed, the pharaoh's daughter adopted him and raised him as her own son, so that Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of Egypt, and waxed mighty in words and deeds.  When he was forty, he was moved to visit his brethren, the descendants of Israel, and he witnessed an Egyptian oppressing a Hebrew, and Moses killed the Egyptian and hid his body in the sand.  The next day, Moses again visited, and sought to make peace between two quarreling Israelites.  But the offender thrust Moses aside, saying, 'Who made you a ruler over us?  Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptiain yesterday?'  Hearing this, Moses fled and became an exile in Midian, where he fathered two sons.

In the Upper Room, at Jesus's Last Supper, He addressed Peter:  'Simon, Simon, look!  Satan has demanded to have you [referring to all the apostles], that he might sift you all like wheat.  But I have prayed for you [singular--Peter alone], that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, you will be able to strengthen your brothers and sisters.'  Peter claimed he was ready to die with Jesus, but Jesus knew better:  'I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this coming day, until you hae denied three times that you know Me.'  Jesus reminded the apostles that when He had sent them out as missionaries, they took nothing and lacked nothing.  'But now,' He said, 'Take your purse and your bag, and if you lack one, sell your mantle and buy a sword.  I Am about to fulfill the scripture that says, "He was numbered among the transgressors"--for what has been written about Me is coming now to its fulfillment.'  They answered, 'Look, Lord: we have two swords.'  And Jesus said, 'It is enough.'