Daily Archives: September 17, 2019

September 17 God’s Undying Love

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12:5–11

Key Verse: Hebrews 12:5

And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him.”

Have you ever doubted God’s love for you? In times of crisis, we are often tempted to blame God, or to accuse Him of instigating our pain.

Oftentimes, believers feel that God is punishing them for a sin they may have committed. It is important to understand the difference between punishment and discipline. Punishment is God executing His judgment upon the wicked. Discipline is God’s correction of His children in order to protect them from further disobedience and harmful consequences.

You may wonder how God can discipline us and love us at the same time. The answer lies in Hebrews 12:5–6. Because God loves you, He wants to bless you with opportunities to grow in faith. As your faith increases, your trust in Him will increase, and your life will show the evidence of maturity.

If you feel that you are experiencing a period of discipline from God, do not resist it. God wants to use you in a mighty way. First, He must file away the rough spots in your life. Trust Him and be assured of His undying love as He shapes you into a beautiful vessel that He can use.

Father, I fear discipline, yet I know I cannot become who You want me to be without it. I give You my heart. I trust You to govern it as only a loving parent would.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2006). Pathways to his presence (p. 272). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

September 17 Your Time

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:15–17

Key Verse: Psalm 90:12

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Time is life and how you spend it. It is the sum of your accomplishments and memories. Are you satisfied with your time management, or do you feel as if your schedule for the day, the week, the month is already filled with obligations of a career or commitments to others?

You can change. You can manage time without its managing you. Like Moses, you can ask God to teach you to number your days, that you may present to Him a heart of wisdom (Ps. 90:12).

Begin with setting goals and priorities. What are your gifts and talents? What has God called you to do with them? How can you take small steps to reach them? This winnows out the insignificant and forms a mental picture of the essentials.

If necessary, find a space of a day or so to think soberly about where you have been and where you want to go. Pray, read, ponder, and write down what God impresses on your heart. Commit yourself to spend time daily with God. Doing that in itself may seem burdensome at first if your schedule is harried. However, you will find the time as God grants insight and prudence for your varied agenda.

Getting the big picture helps connect the daily dots of appointments, meetings, interruptions, and assorted duties. Time will become your ally, not your enemy.

O God, teach me to number my days. Help me manage time wisely. Let it become my ally instead of my enemy.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (1999). On holy ground (p. 272). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

September 17 Burden Bearing

Scripture reading: 2 Corinthians 1:1–5

Key verse: 2 Corinthians 1:5

As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.

When you see someone struggling with large packages, what is your first thought? Of course, you have the natural urge to give him a hand. You wouldn’t just stand there empty-handed and watch him flounder around and drop things.

What happens, though, when you know someone who is hurting emotionally or struggling under a burden that isn’t tangible? That’s much more difficult to assess. You wonder whether the person even wants your help or whether it would be right for you to get involved.

The essence of burden bearing is not problem solving. You don’t have to fix things for the other person; you simply need to come alongside him and show you care. That’s true encouragement. In fact, the person may be more open to your words if he knows you are approaching him in love instead of correction.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor. 1:3–4).

When you see someone hurting, don’t be afraid to offer comfort and compassion. The Lord will show you what to do from there.

Lord, help me reach out to others today to demonstrate comfort and compassion. Make me Your hands extended to a lost and hurting world.[1]

[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 272). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

God Says it…That Settles it? — Gentle Reformation

I’m sure many of us can recall the couple-decade old bumper stickers which read, “God says it, I believe it, that settles it”. Or perhaps fewer of us still remember the gospel recordings of 40+ years ago of Christian performers singing some variation of the same slogan. While bumper-sticker theology and cheesy Christian music of yesteryear isn’t exactly the highest hanging fruit on the theological tree, unfortunately the typical response to this Christian catchphrase still makes the rounds in reformed and evangelical churches today. When the, “God says it, I believe it, that settles it” cliché is trotted out in our churches, we typically hear the just as tired rebuttal of: “God says it…that settles it! Whether I believe it or not doesn’t change the fact”. Case closed, right? Bumper sticker theology soundly silenced with slightly longer bumper sticker theology. (Maybe we just need to reduce the font size so it’ll all fit?)

Now truth be told, I must admit that I too am guilty of using the very same reductionistic argument in an adult church-school class or two in the past—and ashamedly, I believe it may have even made it into a sermon at one point! But can’t we do better? Doesn’t the Bible speak with greater precision, beauty, and delight than mere duty? Is there more to be said than “God said it, and that settles it?”

Surely the scriptures speak with an authoritative voice, and that speaking is definitive. After all, Jesus tells a parable to his disciples in Luke 17 which is about a servant who is required to do all that the master commands, concluding with the statement, “So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:10). Additionally, Jesus summarizes our love for him as an obedient love when he says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And if we can rightly be referred to as God’s slaves (Romans 6:22), will be welcomed into his glorious rest as faithful servants (Matt. 25:23), and are called upon to obey “because it is right” (Eph. 6:1, 2 Thes. 1:3), then surely there is a place for appealing to mere duty. But what I am advocating for in this post, and what the scriptures certainly advocate for throughout their pages, is a more robust rationale for our obedience than bare command.

God regularly calls us to be selflessly-oriented and others-focused. While this too could be folded into obedience (Jesus’ words in Matt 22:39 about the greatest commandment come to mind: “And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself”), it instead grounds our obedience in something more than compulsion. God calls us again and again to examine our motive, ensuring we are seeking to glorify him and serve others – he is providing for us a “more excellent way” than duty: love (cf. 1 Cor 12:31). Love for our God, and love for our brothers and sisters. We are called to obey, but with a greater intention in mind than simply doing as we “ought” to do.

Not only has God provided us with a purpose for our obedience to him, he has also supplied an end or a goal of that obedience. A life lived according to God’s revealed will is regularly described as producing good fruit – fruit such as a harvest of “righteousness and peace” (e.g. Hebrews 12:11 and James 3:18). The obedient life has a telos, an end; and that end is a good and glorious one!

Do we find ourselves obeying because we must; like the compelled and constrained child strapped into his carseat but who is still proverbially “standing on the inside”? Or do we seek to obey our God because we know what kind of person we want to be? Conforming our lives to the pattern of God’s law produces an upright character, against which their is no law (see Psalm 119:7, cf. the fruit of the Spirit, particularly Gal. 5:23). The desire to be found after the pattern of his character is far more glorious than simply “doing what we’re told”.

Finally, God has not commanded us to obey as a tyrant, seeking for his followers to obey his arbitrary will. Not only is his law a reflection of his character he calls us to imitate (1 Peter 1:16), but he has provided what a life designed as blessed looks like. The abundant life (John 10:10) is the life lived in willing and glad subjection to God’s truth.

A Robust Ethic
The ethic offered in the Scriptures by our all-wise Lord is far more nuanced than, “Because I said so!” (even if at times insolence needs to be silenced; see Romans 9:20). While it is true that he speaks as Lord in his word, and not as one merely holding out to us just one of many possible opinions; he does so in a way that is beautifully attractive and robust. He calls us to obey, as one who delights in doing the will of our Father; because it is right; because it brings blessing to others; because it produces the good fruit of peace; because it conforms us to Christ-like character; and because it is the life well-lived. God calls us to obey, but unlike stressed-out parents in a moment of weakness, he does not snap at us with the simple retort: “because I said so…and that settles it!”

via God Says it…That Settles it? — Gentle Reformation

Saudi Arabia and Iran Careen toward Conflict | Frantzman at Jerusalem Post

by Seth Frantzman
The Jerusalem Post
September 15, 2019


Originally published under the title “Saudi-Iran Careen toward Potential Conflict.”

Less than 24 hours after a major attack by at least 10 drones or cruise missiles on key Saudi oil facilities, the rhetoric in the Middle East is heating up, and the region appears to be on the brink of conflict.

After US President Donald Trump spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said there was “no evidence” the large attack came from Yemen.

This now means that Saudi Arabia, which is investigating how the attack happened, is positioned to defend itself, but must choose wisely how.

Continue reading article>

Seth Frantzman, a writing fellow at the Middle East Forum, is the author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East (2019), the op-ed editor of The Jerusalem Post, and a founder of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.

Snowden book ‘violates CIA & NSA non-disclosure agreements’ – US lawsuit | RT USA News

The US government has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, alleging that his newly-published memoir ‘Permanent Record’ violates nondisclosure agreements he signed with the CIA and NSA.

The civil lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, claims that Snowden violated these agreements by not sending a draft of the book to the spy agencies for review – and presumably redaction – before publication. It also alleges that the whistleblower’s public speeches on “intelligence-related matters” violated the agreements.

Rather than pull the book from the shelves, the government wants to pocket all the earnings from its sale.

Also on rt.com

Paris’ justice minister backs accepting Snowden, who floats taking refuge in France

“Intelligence information should protect our nation, not provide personal profit,” said Zachary Terwilliger, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This lawsuit will ensure that Edward Snowden receives no monetary benefits from breaching the trust placed in him.”

The CIA and NSA subcontractor shot to prominence in 2013, when he leaked classified documents revealing massive domestic and global spying programs by the NSA and its ‘Five Eyes’ allies.

Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then to Russia, where he has been repeatedly granted short term asylum, on the condition that he avoid carrying out any activities against US interests.

The US charged him under the antiquated Espionage Act, and if convicted, Snowden could face 30 years in prison. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, the whistleblower-in-exile said that he would return to the US, but only if he believed he would receive a fair trial.

“I’m not asking for a parade. I’m not asking for a pardon,” he told CBS News. “What I’m asking for is a fair trial. And this is the bottom line that any American should require.”

Snowden insists that he never took an oath of secrecy, but an oath to defend the Constitution “from all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

Precluding a return to the US, Snowden has applied for asylum in France. The request found favor with the country’s Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, who said over the weekend that France should stick “to our strong principles on immigration,” meaning that “we must accept asylum seekers.” French President Emmanuel Macron’s office later disavowed her remarks, however.

Source: Snowden book ‘violates CIA & NSA non-disclosure agreements’ – US lawsuit

If You Want to Understand the Constitution, Read Your Bible — Pulpit

[The Philadelphia Inquirer] As Constitution Day draws near, it’s worth remembering not only our founding charter, but also an often-overlooked source of its ideas.

The Bible.

Yes, the United States was founded during an age of Enlightenment when rationalism was, for some elites, in the ascendency and revelation was relegated to the sidelines. And yes, the founders drew inspiration from multiple sources, including British constitutionalism, Enlightenment liberalism, and classical and civic republicanism.

Yet, the Bible remained the most accessible and authoritative text in 18th-century America, and no work was referenced more frequently than the Bible in the political deliberations that led to independence and produced new national and state governments.

If we miss or dismiss the Bible’s contributions to the American constitutional tradition, we distort our understanding of the nation’s bold experiment in republican self-government and liberty under law.

Not all founders revered the Bible as divine revelation, but even the skeptics among them considered it useful in framing new constitutional republicans. Notwithstanding their diverse backgrounds and personal religious beliefs, the founders valued the Bible for its insights into human nature, civic virtue, social order, political authority, the rights and duties of citizens, and other concepts essential to framing a new political society.

There was, in particular, a consensus that the Bible was essential for nurturing the civic virtues that give citizens the capacity for self-government in a republic. For this reason, both John Adams and John Dickinson called the Bible “the most republican book in the world.”

Some founders also saw in Scripture political and legal models they believed enjoyed divine favor and were worthy of emulation.

The U.S. Constitution reflects a political vision informed, in part, by the Bible and contains features familiar to a Bible-reading people. Although it is difficult to establish definitively that constitutional provisions were derived from specific biblical passages, the lineage of selected constitutional principles can be traced back to biblical concepts that had previously found expression in western legal tradition, especially in the English common law, as well as in colonial laws and customs.

The Constitution’s basic design, defined by the separation of powers and checks and balances, reflected an awareness of original sin and the necessity to guard against the concentration or abuse of government powers vested in fallen human actors. This biblical anthropology was expressed in the Constitutional Convention, when James Madison said, “The truth was that all men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.”

To continue reading, click here.

[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Daniel Dreisbach and was first published at the Philadelphia Inquirer]

via If You Want to Understand the Constitution, Read Your Bible — Pulpit

September 17, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

27. My tabernacle … with them—as foretold (Ge 9:27); Jn 1:14, “The Word … dwelt among us” (literally, “tabernacled”); first, in humiliation; hereafter, in manifested glory (Rev 21:3).[1]

The Source of Israel’s Renaissance (37:26–27)

Now the attention returns to Yahweh, the source of Israel’s renewal, who hereby promises to make a new (renewed) covenant with Israel. The declaration modifies the standard formula for covenant making with two significant if familiar qualifiers. The first, covenant of peace (bĕrît šālôm), derives from 34:25–31, where Ezekiel had expounded on the gloriously harmonious relations it effects among all parties in the deity-nation-land association. The second, eternal covenant (bĕrît ʿôlām), stems from Lev. 26:4. This expression, which is found in other prophets as well, speaks of both the chronological durability of Yahweh’s commitment and its inviolability. The latter places the “covenant of peace” into the same category as other eternal covenants: Noachian (Gen. 9:12), Abrahamic (Gen. 17:7), Mosaic (Exod. 31:16; Lev. 24:8), Davidic. Does Ezekiel envision a new covenant, or the renewal of one of these? If the latter is correct, which of these covenants is restored? Ezekiel provides his own clues to the answer.

First, the content of the covenant is defined by the familiar covenant formula, “I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Second, as a corollary to the covenant Yahweh will give to them [the land of Israel] (ûnĕtattîm). Without an adverbial modifier ûnĕtattîm appears to be a truncated form of the land-grant formula, forms of which appear in connection with the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants. Significantly, in three of the four occurrences of the covenant formula in Ezekiel it is accompanied by Yahweh’s promise to restore the nation-land tie.124 Third, Yahweh will multiply the nation, an expression that alludes to the promise to Abraham to multiply his descendants as the stars of the sky, the grains of sand on the seashore, and the dust of the earth. Fourth, Yahweh will establish his own residence in the midst of the nation. That this statement represents the climax of Ezekiel’s vision of Israel’s great new day is evident from: (1) the semipoetic parallelistic construction; (2) the assurance of the promise’s durability and irrevocability with the key word ʿôlām; (3) the repetition of the theme in the expanded recognition formula in v. 28; (4) the later resumption of this subject with the most detailed discussion in the entire book (chs. 40–48). Fifth, in a previous reference to the “everlasting covenant” (16:60–63), Yahweh had spoken of “remembering” (zākar) his covenant made with his people in their youth; this reference suggests a preexistent entity. Sixth, Ezekiel’s vision of the restoration is always presented in terms of past realities and past experiences. The original exodus from Egypt provides the paradigm for the new exodus from among the nations.

The terms of the covenant made at Sinai thus provide the background not only for Israel’s judgment but also for the hope of restoration. Built into the original Mosaic covenant was the prospect that Yahweh would not forever reject his people. Indeed, the present complex of promises bears a striking resemblance to Lev. 26:1–13, a text that has figured often in Ezekiel’s oracles. Here the prophet also anticipates nothing less than the fulfillment of Deut. 4:30. From the context of dispersion among the nations, the Israelites will learn that Yahweh, their God, is a compassionate God. He will neither fail them nor destroy them utterly. The basis of the nation’s eternal hope is Yahweh’s eternal, immutable covenant with the ancestors.

Yahweh’s residence is identified by two expressions, which reflect opposite dimensions of the divine character. miqdāš, Ezekiel’s favorite designation for the sanctuary (5:11; 8:6; 9:6), from qdš, “to be holy,” highlights the holiness of the residence and reflects the transcendent nature of the one who dwells within. miškān, residence, from šākan, “to reside, dwell,” occurs only here in the book with reference to the house of God (cf. 25:4, used of human dwellings). This expression reflects the immanence, the condescending presence, of God. In Exodus it is often associated with the ʾōhel môʿēd, “tent of appointments,” which symbolized Yahweh’s desire for regular contact with his people. Ezekiel’s combination of nouns and prepositions is paradoxical. The sanctuary is in their midst, among (bĕtôk) the people; the residence or dwelling place is over (ʿal) them. The latter may have been influenced by the image of the kābôd of Yahweh, which resided over (šākan ʿal) the tent of meeting (Exod. 40:35). Like the promise of land, so the promise of the divine presence among his people is often associated with the ancient covenant formula (cf. Exod. 29:45–46). Ezekiel’s statement expresses Yahweh’s definitive rejection of any threat ever to abandon his people again, as he had in 586 B.C., and as was so graphically portrayed in the temple vision of chs. 8–11.[2]

37:27–28 My dwelling place shall be with them. The oracle’s conclusion emphasizes the centrality of God’s presence to the renewed people, the greatest of all blessings by far. The “dwelling place” (Hb. mishkan) recalls the wilderness tabernacle. The sanctuary (Hb. miqdash; see v. 26) points rather to the temple, in particular the renewed temple, which will occupy Ezekiel’s attention in ch. 44.[3]

Vers. 26, 27.—With the people thus gathered (ver. 21), united (ver. 22), purified (ver. 23), and established under the rule of Messiah (ver. 25), Jehovah makes a covenant of peace (see on ch. 34:25; and comp. Ps. 89:3), further characterized as an everlasting covenant; or, covenant of eternity (see on ch. 16:60; and comp. Gen. 17:7; Isa. 55:3; Jer. 32:40); which guarantees the continuance between him and them of undying friendship, conjoined with the bestowment on his part and the enjoyment on theirs of the highest social and religious blessings. First, national existence and secure possession of the soil. I will place (literally, give) them, either to their land, as in ch. 17:22 (Smend), or to be a nation (Keil), or perhaps both (Kliefoth). Next, steady increase of population—I will multiply them (comp. ch. 36:37; Lev. 26:9). Thirdly, perpetual residence of Jehovah amongst them, I will set (or, give) my sanctuary (mikdashi, conveying the idea of sanctity) in the midst of them for evermore (comp. Lev. 26:11); my tabernacle (mishkani, the idea being that of residence or dwelling) also shall be with them; or, over them—the figure being derived from the elevated site of the temple, which overhung the city (Ps. 69:29), and intended to suggest the idea of Jehovah’s protecting grace. That this promise was in part implemented by the erection of the second temple in the days of Zerubbabel may be conceded, and also that Ezekiel himself may have looked forward to a literal restoration of the sanctuary; but its highest realization must be sought for, first in the Incarnation (John 1:14), next in God’s inhabitation of the Church through the Spirit (2 Cor. 6:16), and finally in his tabernacling with redeemed men in the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:3, 22). The last blessing specified is the intimate communion of God with his people, and of them with him—Yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. This, which formed the kernel of the old covenant with Israel (Lev. 26:12), became the essence of the new covenant with the Israel of the restoration (ch. 11:20; 36:28; Jer. 30:22; 31:33; 32:38; 8:8; 13:9), but only attained to complete realization in the relation of Christian believers to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 6:16).[4]

[1] Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 611). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Block, D. I. (1997–). The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 25–48 (pp. 419–421). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1560). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Ed.). (1909). Ezekiel (Vol. 2, p. 268). London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.

Court Rules that Christians Don’t Have to Provide Slave Labor to Homosexuals — Pulpit

Making someone provide a service or labor to those who they don’t want to work for is called slavery. It’s a bad thing. Realizing that in a “free country” you aren’t obligated to work for anyone who demands it, the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that Christian artists can’t be forced to make homosexual wedding invitations against their conscience.

via Court Rules that Christians Don’t Have to Provide Slave Labor to Homosexuals — Pulpit

CNN Proposes You Keep Your ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ to Yourself | Breitbart News

Many atheists and agnostics have a negative reaction to prayers said for them, CNN reported Monday, so Christians should probably keep them to themselves to avoid offending others.

Source: CNN Proposes You Keep Your ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ to Yourself