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________________________________________________________________________ Institute for Creation Research, PO Box 2667, El Cajon, CA 92021 Voice: (619) 448-0900 FAX: (619) 448-3469 ________________________________________________________________________ ||||||||| |||||||| |||||||||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| ||||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| ||||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| ||||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||||||||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| |||| ||||||||| |||||||| ||||| ________________________________________________________________________ June, July, August Summer 1993 "DAYS OF PRAISE" ________________________________________________________________________ Daily Bible Readings and Devotional Commentaries Copyright (c) 1993 by I.C.R., Santee, California 92071 EDITOR: Henry M. Morris CO-EDITOR: John D. Morris MANAGING EDITOR: Donald H. Rohrer ASSISTANT EDITOR: Ruth Richards ELECTRONIC EDITOR: Donald H. Barber ________________________________________________________________________ "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air ..." (Genesis 1:26)." Introduction to DAYS OF PRAISE Greetings from your friends at the Institute for Creation Research. This little booklet comes to you with a prayer for a joyous summer season. In the past few years God has sent numerous opportunities our way, and we are thankful. But with the blessing come additional work loads for all of us here at ICR, and we find it difficult to meet the growing demand. In spite of time pressures, producing this daily devotional Bible study booklet has remained a privilege. It has become one of the most well-received aspects of ICR's ministry, with nearly a quarter of a million copies being printed each quarter. The reason for its popularity is, no doubt, its unique nature. Each daily contribution we call a "devotional Bible study," and many readers tell us they use these studies as the basis for Sunday school lesson or sermon preparation, in addition to daily devotions. We are thankful for the various ways in which God is using them. We provide "Days of Praise" free to all who want them, as our ministry to the worldwide body of Christ, but lately have found that we need help in defraying the cost. Any help you can give us would free up funds to more fully meet other ministry needs, but please don't in the least feel any obligation. We gladly will continue to send "Days of Praise" to all who desire it. That's our privilege. But any tax deductible gift would be much appreciated. KBC Kenneth B. Cumming, Ph.D. CJH Mrs. Connie J. Horn PGH Paul G. Humber, M.S. HMM Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. JDM John D. Morris, Ph.D. DER David E. Rush, M.S. NPS Norman P. Spotts, D.D. ________________________________________________________________________ June 1, Tuesday THE ELECT OF GOD "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth" (Romans 8:33). The doctrine of election is a key doctrine of Scripture, but it is also controversial, so any discussion of it should, mostly, let the Scriptures speak for themselves. The Greek and Hebrew words for the "elect" are the same as for the "chosen," and it is clear that whenever the elect are mentioned, it is God, not man, who has done the choosing. For example, Christ elected the twelve to be His apostles, of His own volition. They are called, in fact, "the apostles whom He had chosen" (Acts 1:2). The Scriptures also speak of "the elect angels" (I Timothy 5:21) and even of Christ Himself as being the "chief cornerstone, elect, precious" (I Peter 2:6). Most often, however, the term is applied to those who have been saved through faith in Christ and His substitutionary death, and they are said to have been "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4). Having been chosen, these elect ones are then, in the fullness of time, drawn to Christ. As He said: "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him;" and He also said: "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:44,37). Finally, to make it crystal clear who does the choosing, Jesus said: "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit" (John 15:16). None of this eliminates our individual responsibility to "make (our) calling and election sure" (II Peter 1:10), but the grand purpose of this great doctrine is simply this: "Base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, ... that no flesh should glory in His presence" (I Corinthians 1:28,29). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 2, Wednesday MARRIAGE AND FOOD: TWO GOOD THINGS "Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving by them which believe and know the truth" (I Timothy 4:3). Paul, in his instruction to his younger disciple, Timothy, knew that "in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (v.1). Timothy had to be warned and prepared for this, as do we. The message could not be ignored, for Paul had received it from the Holy Spirit, who had spoken "expressly" on these matters (v.1). Certainly we are in the "latter times," and the message applies to us. In addition to "speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscienceseared with a hot iron" (v.2), we will recognize these false teachers by two of their doctrines (among others described elsewhere in Scripture). We can look for a false show of spirituality or appearance of piety and self-denial--in this case "forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats." In both cases, however, to teach or believe so is to deny the clear teaching of Scripture, for both were created by God for His glory and our proper use, and are intrinsically good. Marriage (Genesis 1:28; 2:18; 2:24) was one facet of God's "very good" (1:31) design. "Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled" Hebrews 13:4). Furthermore, He created food to provide nourishment for mankind; first plants (Genesis 1:29; 2:16) then flesh (9:3). Everything He created, if in its proper use, is "good" (I Timothy 4:4) if "received with thanksgiving" (v.3) and "sanctified by the Word of God and prayer" (v.5). Vows at a wedding and a word of thanks before meals: Thus we can enjoy Him, His creation, and His provision. JDM ________________________________________________________________________ June 3, Thursday WITH MY WHOLE HEART "With my whole heart have I sought thee" (Psalm 119:10). The heart is that which thinks, wills, feels, and acts. It is the seat of our intellect and our emotions. If the Lord is in control of this innermost place, there is victory; if not, defeat. It is no wonder that Jesus said, "thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart" (Matthew 22:37). Six times in Psalm 119 David mentions the "whole heart." These references reveal: (1) His crying heart. "I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD" (v.145). "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:17). (2) His obedient heart. "Yea, I shall observe it (the law of God) with my whole heart" (v.34). "I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart" (v.69). "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee" (v.11). (3) His seeking heart. "Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart" (v.2). "With my whole heart haveI sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments" (v.10). The prophet Jeremiah also understood that God rewards the true seeker. "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with allyour heart. And I will be found of you" (Jeremiah 29:13,14). Those who seek still find (Matthew 7:7,8). "For he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him"(Hebrews 11:6). (4) His praying heart. "I intreated thy favor (literally face) with my whole heart" (Psalm 119:58). Coming to God face to face and beseeching Him to answer prayer is a marvelous privilege opened up for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. May we ever take advantage of our access into the holiest of all. "For through Him (Christ) we both have access by one spirit unto the Father" (Ephesians 2:18). NPS ________________________________________________________________________ June 4, Friday CHILDREN IN HEAVEN "And (David) said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me" (II Samuel 12:22,23). The death of a loved one is always a time of great sorrow, but the death of a beloved child is perhaps the keenest sorrow of all. Nevertheless,for the Christian believer, we "sorrow not, even as others which have no hope" (I Thessalonians 4:13). Our text verse makes it clear that, when a child dies (even one born of a sinful relationship such as this child of David and Bathsheba), that child goes to be with the Lord in heaven. Jesus said: "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14). Heaven is thus a place where there are many "little children." Their inherited sin-nature never yet has generated acts of willful sin, and their maker is Himself "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), so they are safe in Him. Although there are few specific Scriptures on this subject, what we do know, both from the love of God and the Word of God suggests that the souls of all little children are with the Lord in heaven, not only those from loving Christian homes, but also those who died in early childhood (and even before birth) from every time and place since the world began. There they, along with all those who were saved by personal faith in Christ and are now awaiting the resurrection, will receive new bodies when Christ returns to Earth. The old and lame will be young and strong again, and the children will grow to perfect maturity, for all will become "like Him" (I John 3:2). "God shall wipe away all tears" (Revelation 21:4), and all will say: "As for God, His way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 5, Saturday TREASURE IN HEAVEN "Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth" (Luke 12:33). The Lord Jesus frequently warned us against trying to accumulate wealth here on Earth. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth," He said. Rather, "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven" (Matthew :19,20). In our text above, He even says to sell what we have and give it away. To the rich young ruler, He said: "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven" (Matthew 19:21). God's Word cannot contradict itself, however, so this teaching must also be balanced against a man's responsibility to "provide ... for his own, and especially for those of his own house" (I Timothy 5:8). Similarly, "the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children" (I Corinthians 12:14). We are also encouraged to "give to him that needeth" (Ephesians 4:28) and to sow "bountifully" as "a cheerful giver" (II Corinthians 9:6,7). Such instructions imply that by faithful labor in the vocations God has given us, we shall have the wherewithal to do such things. Ananias and Sapphira were punished, not for retaining part of their possessions for their own needs, but rather, because they lied about it (Acts 5:1-10). Our giving should be done "with simplicity"--that is, with "singleness" of heart (Romans 12:8). All we have is of the Lord, and should be used in ways that honor Him, in accord with His Word and His providential leading. We should provide judiciously for the needs of those dependent on us, but our own personal needs and wants should be kept minimal, so that more can be used in His service and to meet the needs of others. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 5, Sunday THE DECEPTION OF EVE "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression" (I Timothy 2:14). Genesis 3 begins with those fateful words, "Yea, hath God said?" This is our first glimpse of Satan in the Bible, although Scripture teaches that he already had been at his work of deception in the heavenly realm, where a third of the angelic host followed him in rebellion against God. His own pride deceived him into believing he could be "like the most High" (Revelation 12:4; Isaiah 14:12-15), and he, in turn, used the same tactic, "ye shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5), on Eve. Note that Eve, as the first woman, created by God's own hand, was perfect. She and Adam enjoyed a world pronounced "very good" by the Creator, where sin had not entered. In reality, Eve threw away all that she hoped to gain when she disobeyed God. All her needs had been satisfied in the provision and fellowship of her Creator. After she and Adam disobeyed, they "surely" did die (Genesis 3:4). All that she hoped to possess was taken from her altogether, and she and Adam were banished from the garden. The spiritual knowledge she hoped to gain became a knowledge of evil--a terrible sense of her own guilty disobedience toward the loving Creator, the penalty for which was spiritual death and separation from God. Eve may have been the first, but certainly not the last, to be deceived into throwing away that which is hoped to be gained. Whether it be for physical gratification, esthetic pleasure, or intellectual pride,millions still reject the Creator and are, like Eve, "without excuse" Romans 1:20). But Eve, in her final recorded testimony (Genesis 4:25), indicates that she looked forward to that promised "seed," her Savior, and the Savior of all who, though guilty as she, trust Him for salvation. CJH ________________________________________________________________________ June 5, Monday AN ANOINTING MEMORIAL "There came unto Him a woman having an alabaster box of very preciousointment, and poured it on His head, as He sat at meat" (Matthew 26:7). Mary of Bethany, Martha's sister (Luke 10:39), was prompted to give Jesus a very precious gift. It was a box filled with spikenard ointment (John 12:3). She broke the box and poured the oil over Jesus' head while He sat eating at the home of Simon, the leper. Breaking the box was necessary probably because it was sealed to keep the oil pure and unfermented. Unfortunately, the disciples, especially Judas (John 12:5), didn't understand the gesture, and complained to Jesus that it was wasteful. Jesus reflected on the act and the response, and then spoke of it as a "good work" (Matthew 26:8-10). Jesus went on to interpret the significance of the good work, explaining that the poor would always be a part of society, but His physical presence would not. In addition, there was a very special implication to the act: She did it for my burial" (v.12). Indeed, there were only a few days left before the opportunity for such physical expressions of love would no longerbe possible. Perhaps the greatest lesson to be learned by this loving act was that even small acts of love and concern will have long-lasting effects."Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her" (v.13). What can be said for sacrificial giving to the cause of Christ? First, that He should be the focus of our attention in all that we do; second, that we should give our best to Him in gifts and service; and lastly, that our love for Jesus can result in good works that have eternal fruition. KBC ________________________________________________________________________ June 8, Tuesday QUOTH THE DOVE, "FOREVERMORE" "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" (Revelation 1:18). A familiar American poem by Edgar Allan Poe has the haunting refrain "Quoth the Raven, `Nevermore.'" It deals with sadness, death, and orlornness. The reader is somehow left with the impression that death in he end may win. Conversely, our text, recorded long before by the apostle, contains a message of hope, triumph, eternal life, and joy. The Spirit, in Scripture, is compared to "a bodily shape like a dove" (Luke 3:22). Jesus told His disciples that the same Spirit would "bring all things to (their) remembrance, whatsoever (He) said unto (them)" ohn 14:26). John, "in the Spirit," heard the words uttered by Jesus and recorded them. The word of the fictitious raven need not prevail. Instead, the words of Jesus, written down by one inspired by the heavenly Dove, abound with truth. They echo throughout the corridors of time: "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore . . ." (text verse). Jesus, speaking to living people, once said, "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life" (John 5:40). Mere earthly existence is not life, according to Jesus. Life is knowing the Father and the Son personally (John 17:3), and it is the Spirit who raises spiritually dead people to life. The connecting link is faith. We must bow our hearts in repentance and faith, and pray: "Creator Jesus, you own me, but I've really messed up. I'm sorry. I need you to save me from sin, death, and hell. Only your blood shed for sinners on Calvary's cross can wash me pure. Please be my Savior. I come to you for life and trust you alone to give me life for evermore. You said, `. . . him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out' (John 6:37). I come to you, Jesus. Be my Lord--`for evermore.'" PGH ________________________________________________________________________ June 9, Wednesday CONTINUAL CHRISTIAN LIVING "But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of" (II Timothy 3:14). Christianity is not to be a hit-and-miss, start-and-stop affair. One of the great outward proofs of a true believer is that he continues in the faith. "If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel" (Colossians 1:23). Continuance shows the reality of true faith in Christ; discontinuance shows the opposite. "Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the Word, by and by he is offended" (Matthew 13:21). Continuance should also be evidenced in one's prayer life. "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving" (Colossians 4:2). The Bible is constantly exhorting us to "pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17). As God's servants, we must also continue in the work. Nehemiah is a great example of this: "Yea, also I continued in the work" (Nehemiah 5:16). Opposition, persecution, and hardship were on every side, but he continued. Hudson Taylor summed up prayer and work in the following way: "We seldom pray for the extra-ordinary, the limitless, and the glorious. There are three steps in God's work: first--impossible; second, difficult; finally--done!" The Christian must also continue to witness. Paul preached to King Agrippa in Acts 26:22: "Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great." Grace carries with it an obligation to tell others. The Gospel is still good news. May we continually spread it abroad! As someone once said, "The problem with the word `gospel' is that God's people are under the devil's `spell' instead of the Lord's `go!'" NPS ________________________________________________________________________ June 10, Thursday OUTWARD APPEARANCES "But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature: because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart" (I Samuel 16:7). Man does, indeed, look on the outward appearance. This has always been true, but never more so than in these latter days, even among evangelical Christians. There is very little emphasis in the Bible on such things, however. As far as dress and adornment are concerned, Paul said: "I will therefore that ... women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works" (I Timothy 2:8-10). The same principle surely would apply also to men. With respect to physical conditioning and development, the following is almost the only reference in the Bible: "Bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things" (I Timothy 4:8). The apostle Paul himself, probably the most effective and fruitful Christian of all, was a man of most unimpressive appearance (II Corinthians 10:10). "I was with you in weakness," he reminded them, but nevertheless it was "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (I Corinthians 2:3,4). There is nothing wrong, of course, with physical beauty or athletic prowess, unless they center attention on self rather than Christ, but it is the "inner man" of the heart, where true strength and beauty should be sought. Therefore, as Jesus said: "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). The Lord looks on the heart, and so should we. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 11, Friday PROPHETS FROM THE BEGINNING "That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation" (Luke 11:50,51). God's true prophets have been persecuted from the beginning. Abel, son of Adam and Eve, was the first, according to Jesus, for his blood was shed by Cain "from the foundation of the world." A "prophet," in Biblical terms, was a man who proclaimed inspired words from God (not necessarily predictions of the future, but words inspired by the Holy Spirit--note I Peter 1:10,11; II Peter 1:19-21). Evidently Abel was speaking God's own words to Cain when the latter slew him in jealous wrath. The Zacharias mentioned is probably "Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest," who was stoned when he prophesied againstthe people under King Joash (II Chronicles 24:20-22), for he was the last prophet actually mentioned in the Old Testament as having been slain for his testimony. Thus the period encompassed by the Lord's statement was the entire Old Testament period, "from the foundation of the world" to the coming of Christ. The same experience awaited most of the prophets who wrote the New Testament Scriptures. Thus does the world react to God's inspired Word! There is another important truth in this passage. The blood of God'sprophets began to be shed "from the foundation of the world," not just beginning almost five billion years after the foundation of the world, as modern evolutionists allege! This is striking confirmation that the world was made from start to finish in six literal days. See also Mark 10:6; Acts 3:21; etc., for similar incidental confirmations of this truth. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 12, Saturday THE LIVING AND THE WRITTEN WORD "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1). The Holy Scriptures and the person of our Lord Jesus Christ are so inseparably bound together, that whatever calls into question the integrity and authority of one, correspondingly affects the other. Let us not be guilty of saying that the written Word and the incarnate Word are in all aspects the same, but the Bible clearly reveals Christ as "the Word ... made flesh, (who) dwelt among us" (John 1:14). "And His name is called The Word of God" (Revelation 19:13). In carefully worded arguments, Christ, time and again, called attention to the fact that the teachings of the Old Testament Scriptures were actually teaching about Him. "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. ... For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:39,46,47). "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31). Therefore, those who diligently search the Scriptures find in them sufficient testimony to Christ, and where there is faith in the witness of Scripture, there will be faith in Christ and His words. But if men reject the testimony of Scripture, they will not even be convinced by His miraculous resurrection from the dead. Christ claimed that all of Scripture pointed to Him. On the road to Emmaus, He taught that all three popular divisions of the Old Testament traced one progressive Messianic revelation. To understand the New Testament, we must know the Old, for both tell the same story, each amplifying the other. They are forever inseparable. JDM ________________________________________________________________________ June 13, Sunday NO MORE FEARS "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee" (Psalm 56:3). "The only thing to fear is fear itself." This is a nice platitude, but it is altogether pointless without trust. There is no antidote to fear except trust in one who is able to deliver us from the thing we fear. The first mention of fear in the Bible is significant. Adam said to God, "I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid" (Genesis 3:10). Indeed, one should be afraid when he has ignored or rejected God's Word, for "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). The same warning is given in the Bible's final reference to fear. "But the fearful, and unbelieving, ... shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death"(Revelation 21:8). In contrast, note the last mention of fear in the Old Testament and the first in the New, both speaking of the entrance of the Son of God into the world. "But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings" (Malachi 4:2). "Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: ... She shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:20,21). Thus, the remedy for the fear of man or anything else is the true fear of the Lord. "I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears" (Psalm 34:4). He has already endured everything we could ever fear, even death itself, that He might "deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:15). Therefore, since "the LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 14, Monday OUR BANNER "We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the LORD fulfill all thy petitions" (Psalm 20:5). Today has been designated as a day to give special honor to our country's flag. Of course, it is not so much the flag itself which deserves honor, but that which it represents. To "honor" the flag is to affirm one's loyalty to the country. Conversely, to mock or abuse the flag makes a statement about one's lack of patriotism. While loyalty to one's country is proper, since nations and governments are ordained and established by God, the Christian has a dual citizenship and loyalty. His primary allegiance must be to his Lord and Savior. As in our text, "in the name of our God we will set up our banners," or flags. As David penned these words, he was in trouble and needed help. But not to worry: "Now know I that the LORD saveth His annointed; He will hear him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand" (v.6). David's allegiance was well placed. In the day of adversity, "some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright" (v.7,8). No help will be truly efficacious except His. "The LORD hear thee in the day of trouble ... defend thee. ... Send thee help ... strengthen thee. ... Remember all thy offerings ... accept thy burnt sacrifice. ... Grant thee according to thine own heart ... fulfill all thy counsel ... fulfill all thy petitions" (vs.1-5). A "banner [flag]" raised in His name deserves our "honor and loyalty [salute]." "The name of the God of Jacob defend thee" (v.1). JDM ________________________________________________________________________ June 15, Tuesday CREATION IN PRAISE OF GOD "For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands" (Isaiah 55:12). Every now and again, the Biblical writers were so lifted up in spirit as they contemplated the glory of God and His great works of creation and redemption that they could sense the very creation itself singing out in happy praises. "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Psalm 19:1) is one of the most familiar of these divinely inspired figures of speech, but there are many others. "Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: ... Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. ... Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together before the LORD; for He cometh to judge the earth" (Psalm 98:4,7,8,9). Often, these praises are in contemplation of God's final return tocomplete and fulfill all His primeval purposes in creation, as in the above passage. This is also true in our text, which looks forward to a time when "instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: And it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off" (Isaiah 55:13). And this all points ahead to the eventual removal of the great curse which now dominates creation because of man's sin (Genesis 3:14-19). For the present, "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8:22). One day, however, the groaning creation "shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption" (Romans 8:21). Therefore, "let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; ... Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice" (Psalm 96:11,12). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 16, Wednesday GOOD IS THE WORD OF THE LORD "Then came Isaiah the prophet unto king Hezekiah, and said unto him, What said these men? And from whence came they unto thee? And Hezekiah said, They are come from a far country unto me, even from Babylon" (Isaiah 39:3). Hezekiah, King of Judah, was righteous before the LORD, but shortlybefore the event described in our text, Hezekiah was "sick unto death" (38:1). Isaiah came to him to say, "Set thine house in order: for thou shalt die" (38:1). But Hezekiah prayed unto the Lord not to die and was heard. His health was restored, and he lived another fifteen years. As a result of this sickness, the surrounding nations learned of his grave illness and at least one, Babylon, sent an emissary to Judah out of concern for his well being. In Hezekiah's gladness, he took the visitor on a tour of all the treasures of the house--"precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices" (39:2). However, this became another step in the fulfillment of prophecy, for when the King told Isaiah that he had shown the Babylonians all the treasures, Isaiah, speaking for God, foretold that all these things would be "carried to Babylon" in captivity (39:6). This would be a fulfillment of God's judgment spoken of back in Deuteronomy 28:49: "The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth." Hezekiah could have felt used by these well wishers, but his faith in God was great. "Good is the word of the LORD which thou hast spoken. ... There shall be peace and truth in my days" (39:8). Well, isn't that just the point? There are going to be ups and downs in each person's life and in the history of man. But what counts is what we are and do here and now for God, and how we respond to circumstances that bring truth and peace in our days. KBC ________________________________________________________________________ June 17, Thursday NEITHER WINE NOR STRONG DRINK "For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15). Although the Bible never commands total abstinence from alcohol for Christians, it is increasingly being recognized that alcohol is the most widely abused and dangerous drug of all--causing more fatal accidents and injuries, more broken homes, more sexual promiscuity, more job absenteeism, and more disease than cocaine or any other drug. Yet it is widely promoted socially and increasingly is being accepted even among evangelical Christians. But the example of John the Baptist is worth considering. The angel Gabriel testified that He would be "great in the sight of the Lord" and then added that he would "drink neither wine nor strong drink," implying a connection between the two. Indeed, Christ called John the greatest man who had ever lived up to that time (Matthew 11:11)--that is, greater than even Abraham, Moses, or Daniel! Then, the very same verse says that John would "be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb," and he is the only man of whom that was ever said. Again there seems to be a connection, for no one could simultaneously drink wine or strong drink and also be filled with the Spirit. The apostle Paul also warned concerning this conflict when He said:"Be not drunk [literally, `begin to be drunk'] with wine ... but be filled [that is, `be continually being filled'] with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18). Drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation may be permissible for Christians, but that does not make it right. "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient" (I Corinthians 6:12). At least in John's case, being great in God's sight and being filled with the Spirit were closely associated with abstinence from alcohol. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 18, Friday OUR MINISTRY TO ANGELS "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10). There is "an innumerable company of angels" in heaven (Hebrews 12:22) who serve as "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who hall be heirs of salvation" (Hebrews 1:14). At the same time, it is instructive to realize we also have a ministry to the angels. Despite their great power and knowledge, angels are not the "heirs of salvation" themselves, and so will never personally experience that peculiar type of love and fellowship which we share with our Lord and Savior. Nevertheless, as personal beings with the free will to reject their role as God's servants if they choose, they are intensely interested in our salvation. "Which things the angels desire to look into" (I Peter 1:12). In addition to serving for the protection and guidance of individual believers, apparently certain angels are also assigned by God to serve Christian congregations functioning corporately, especially in true local churches. Paul mentions the observing presence of angels in the Corinthian church (I Corinthians 11:10), for example. In His letters to the seven representative churches, Christ addressed the individual angels of each church (Revelation 2:1, etc.). That these are heavenly angels (not human pastors) is evident from the fact that the word "angel" is used 65 other times in Revelation, and always refers to real angels. Finally, the words of our text for the day give a special incentive for our lives, for there we are reminded that it is through God's dealings with "the church" that His holy angels are able to learn for themselves "the manifold wisdom of God." HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 19, Saturday THE HIGHER WAYS "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). God's thoughts and ways are by no means equivalent to man's. How, then, can we hope to understand those things which He has communicated to us in His Word? To be sure, God has not told us all He knows, but what He has provided is sufficient for our faith, and He has also given clues as to the nature of many things we can only fully know in eternity. We know enough now to trust Him for the things we can't verify. But the aspect of Scripture that sets it apart from all other "religious" writings is that its truths are surrounded by and based on historical and scientific facts that are verifiable. The fact that we find Scripture to be accurate wherever it can be checked, gives us reason to believe that those teachings which we can't check are accurate as well. What are some of God's favorite object lessons? Certainly His creation is one. A God who can call something into existence which didn't exist before can do anything. "Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things" (Isaiah 40:26). Another standard is God's deliverance of Israel from Egypt. "According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I show unto him marvelous things" (Micah 7:15). Yet another is the second regathering of Israel in the last days. "The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from ... all the lands whither He had driven them" (Jeremiah 16:15, cf., v.14). The final great guarantee that He will work on our behalf is the fact of the resurrection. "His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead" (Ephesians 1:19,20). Make no mistake! God is capable of solving any problem we have. And what's more, He wants us to know it! JDM ________________________________________________________________________ June 20, Sunday CHILDREN AND FATHERS "And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). The book of Proverbs contains many admonitions regarding child-rearing methods. We find that an improperly disciplined and rebellious child will bring untold heartache to his or her parents. "A foolish son is the heaviness of his mother" (Proverbs 10:1). "A fool despiseth his father's instruction" (15:5) for "He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: And the father of the fool hath no joy" (17:21). But things can be even worse: "A foolish son is the calamity of his father" (19:13). "He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach" (19:26). Such wanton selfishness may so twist a mind that a son even "robbeth his father or his mother" (28:24). The writer of Proverbs knew that "the rod and reproof give wisdom" (29:15), a truth restated in our text. Paul states that we are to "bring them up in the nurture (literally `chastening' or `discipline') ... of the LORD" reflecting the same ideas as "rod" in Proverbs 29:15. Proper training of children includes a set of rules enforced by rewards and punishments. Children need established limits and to be assured of the joys of acceptable behavior. Paul also advised the use of "admonition," which is similar to "reproof," and has to do with proper verbal teaching. We must both train and instruct our children properly. They must learn discipline and reasoning. Of course, in all of this, we must be careful to "provoke not (our) children to wrath," thus fomenting rebellion. May God give us the wisdom to strike this delicate balance, thereby raising a God-honoring and God-loving heritage. JDM ________________________________________________________________________ June 21, Monday THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL "So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more: And the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, the Holy One in Israel" (Ezekiel 39:7). This wonderful name of God was often used during the days of the later kings of Judah. It occurs three times in the book of Psalms (Psalm 71:22; 78:41; 89:18) and then no less than 27 times in Isaiah. The name then occurs three more times (Jeremiah 50:29; 51:5; Ezekiel 39:7), with the final one being our text above. This unusual pattern can be written, sequentially, as 3 + 33 + 3 = 33, perhaps reflecting a divinely ordained design to suggest the Holy Trinity. The strong emphasis on this particular name during the later period of Judah's kingdom, probably was because of the prevalent unholiness of the nation during those years, finally culminating in the captivity of Judah itself. God stressed again and again that He was the Holy One, and that "Ye shall be holy; for I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44). This theme is prominent in most of the 33 passages where this majestic name is used, but it is especially emphasized in its final occurrence, as recorded in our text. The context of this latter passage is the prophesied invasion of Israel by "Gog, the land of Magog" who will "come up against my people of Israel ... in the latter days" (Ezekiel 38:2,16). At that time, says the Lord, "there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel; ... and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD" (Ezekiel 38:19,23). Then, at last, His people will never pollute His holy name any more and "the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward ... for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 39:22,29). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 22, Tuesday DAVID'S BEDSIDE COMMAND "So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David" (I Kings 2:10). About 1000 B.C., King David, second ruler over the unified nation of Israel, died in his capital city of Jerusalem. After about 70 years of life, including 40 years of ruling (seven years over Judah and 33 years over both Judah and Israel), David went "the way of all the earth" (2:2). However, this event was surrounded by anything but a peaceful scene. At the news of David's failing condition, his oldest son at that time, Adonijah, took the initiative to proclaim himself to be king. And because his father didn't challenge him in this (1:6), Adonijah gathered a court of supporters and invited a select group of followers to his coronation. Nathan, the prophet, and the mighty men who belonged to David were not called. What followed was David's last victory over his enemies. Nathan spoke to Bathsheba, Solomon's mother, and she spoke to her husband David. The woeful story was told how even as they spoke, Adonijah's court was proclaiming "God save king Adonijah" (v.25). David, in spite of his age and condition, still could take command. He reassured Bathsheba that Solomon would reign after him. Then he gathered his faithful leaders and instructed them what to do. Solomon was to ride to a second coronation site on David's own mule. Nathan was to anoint Solomon king over Israel, after which he would sit on the throne in David's stead. All this took place from David's deathbed. "And the king bowed himself upon the bed. And also thus said the king, Blessed be the LORD God of Israel, which hath given one to sit on my throne this day, mine eyes even seeing it" (1:47,48). David was a man after God's own heart who would fulfill His will (Acts 13:22). KBC ________________________________________________________________________ June 23, Wednesday, ALL THINGS WELL "And were beyond measure astonished, saying, He hath done all things well: He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak" (Mark 7:37). Jesus, indeed, "hath done all things well." One strong evidence of His deity is this very fact. No matter how carefully we study His deeds, we can find no flaw in any of them--no deficiency, nothing He should have done differently, or left undone. He never had to apologize or express regrets, as we often at least ought to do. He was always master of every situation. Peter said that He just "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him" (Acts 10:38). The same would apply--perhaps even more emphatically--to His words. He never had to speculate or equivocate: "And they were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes" (Mark 1:22). Jesus never guessed about anything or merely expressed an opinion, as we frequently do. He never suggested a "possible" interpretation. Everything He taught was with absolute authority, for He was (and is) the very Word of God (John 1:1,14). His words occasionally were harsh and judgmental, when dealing with hypocrisy and false teaching (e.g., Matthew 23:29-33) but more often were kind and forgiving. In fact, "all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth" (Luke 4:22). Even hardened soldiers, sent to arrest Jesus, returned empty-handed, for, as they said: "Never man spake like this man" (John 7:46). Indeed, "His word was with power" (Luke 4:32). He was "Jesus of Nazareth ... a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people" (Luke 24:19). In fact, He was more than a man; He was the perfect man, and the only-begotten Son of God! HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 24, Thursday CREATION AND THE CONSTELLATIONS "Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south" (Job 9:8,9). The book of Job is the oldest book in the Bible. It is not surprising therefore, that it contains a number of references to creation and the flood, for these great events were still relatively fresh in the thinking of Job and his contemporaries. The first of these creation references in Job is our text above, and it is remarkable that it centers especially on the stars and their constellations. Still another constellation is mentioned in Job 26:13: "By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens; His hand hath formed the crooked serpent." Finally: "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? Or canst thou guide Arcturus with his sons? Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven? Canst thou set the dominion thereof in the earth?" (Job 38:31-33). The term "Mazzaroth" actually means the twelve constellations of the Zodiac. Thus God not only created the stars but arranged them in star groupings that could be used for "signs and for seasons" (Genesis 1:14). Since God does nothing without a holy purpose, we can be sure that these sidereal signs were not to be used as astrological signs. God's Word, in fact, forbids the practice of astrology (e.g., Isaiah 47:12-14). The constellations must all in some way have testified of the coming Savior. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Corinthians 4:6). Before the Scriptures were given, the testimony of God's primeval promises had somehow been written indelibly in the heavens, for those in Earth's earliest ages who had eyes and hearts to see. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 25, Friday DECEPTION--A STEP TO DEATH "And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: And the woman spoke to Saul, saying, `Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul'"(I Samuel 28:12). It was the night before Saul's death, and the Philistines were at hand. Furthermore, the Lord had departed from Saul (I Samuel 28:16) and already David had been anointed (I Samuel 16:13) the next king. Samuel, as judge and prophet, had anointed Saul as King (I Samuel 10:1) in response to the people's desire for a king (v.19). But Saul disobeyed by not utterly destroying the Amalekites and their livestock (15:9). For this grievous disobedience, Samuel had to tell Saul of the impending end of his reign. What he told Saul bears on our study verse above. "For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the Word of the LORD, He hath also rejected thee from being king"(v.23). With that backdrop, we come to the unbelievable plight of one utterly broken by the hand of the Lord. Saul's forces are to fight the Philistines once more. Samuel is dead (I Samuel 25:1); the Spirit of the Lord has departed from Saul (I Samuel 16:14); and David has already been anointed to take Saul's place as king. Saul, in desperation, searches out a witch to bring back Samuel from his grave to advise him as to what he should do, but Samuel confirms the defeat of Israel and the death of Saul and his sons on the following day (28:18,19). What shame had come upon God's appointed king; yet this is the same fundamental plight which God gives to all who disobey His Word. On the other hand, to those who heed it--to those who obey His Word and keep His covenant: They "shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people" (Exodus 19:5). KBC ________________________________________________________________________ June 26, Saturday CONFIRMATION OF THE GOSPEL "Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace" (Philippians 1:7). The gospel, of course, embraces all the truths concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ, from creation to consummation. Since these truths have been under Satanic attack throughout all the ages, it is vital that thegospel both be defended against its enemies and confirmed in the hearts and minds of its friends. The word for "defense" (Greek apologia) is the same as "answer" in IPeter 3:15, where we are commanded to "be ready always to give an answer ... a reason of the hope that is in you." The word for "confirmation," on the other hand, is essentially the same as "established," or "stabilized," as in Colossians 2:7: "Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith." Thus the saving gospel of Christ--from its foundation in genuine creationism to its consummation in His coming kingdom--is both to be defended against false teaching and established as truth. These two aspects correspond in general to apologetics in defending the faith and Christian evidences in establishing the faith. This is not merely a job for certain theological or scientific specialists, however. All believers need to be "partakers" of this grace (lit. "convinced co-participants"). Real "partakers" do not just go along for the ride, but are firmly committed and fully comprehending supporters. However, both those who lead out in such a work, as well as those who are "partakers," are exhorted to do so in grace! "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Colossians 4:6). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 27, Sunday EPAPHRAS "There salute thee Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus"(Philemon 23). The few bits of information we can glean about Epaphras make us want to learn more. Not only did Paul call him "my fellow prisoner," as in our text, but also "our dear fellow servant" and "a faithful minister of Christ" (Colossians 1:7), as well as "a servant of Christ" (Colossians 4:12). He had been a member of the church at Colosse ("one of you," 4:12) and had eventually become associated with the apostle Paul in his ministry in that region. He had brought word to Paul concerning the church while Paul was a prisoner at Rome, and had somehow, probably as a direct result, been imprisoned there himself. He had brought a most encouraging testimony about the church to Paul, assuring him that the Lord "bringeth forth fruit" in Colosse, testifying oftheir "faith in Christ Jesus" and "love in the Spirit" (Colossians 1:6,4,8). Paul, in turn, sent word to the Colossians "that he hath a great zeal for you" (Colossians 4:13) Even though he was now in prison, he was "always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" (Colossians 4:12). Epaphras was a faithful witness and minister, strong in faith, great in zeal, fervent in prayer, loving in spirit, and willing to suffer for his faith. According to tradition, he later became a pastor at Colosse and eventually was martyred there. That's about all we know about Epaphras, that great hero of the faith, but his life would surely be an inspiration if we knew it all; and it will be a joy to meet him in the age to come--as well as a host of other faithful believers who have served the Lord in various times and places through the ages. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 28, Monday ALLEGORIES IN SCRIPTURE "Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar"(Galatians 4:24). This verse is often used as a justifying proof text for allegorizing Biblical narratives. Here Paul is saying that the ancient conflict between Abraham's wives, Hagar and Sarah, the mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, respectively, was a spiritual allegory, depicting the conflict between law and grace. Many of the early church fathers indulged in such an allegorical approach to Scripture, attempting to harmonize Christianity with Greek hilosophy. Modern theological liberals often do the same thing whenever modern scientific philosophy seems to conflict with a Biblical narrative. The most important example is the story of creation in the very first chapter of the Bible. The allegorical interpretation of this record denies its historicity, but tries to retain its supposed "spiritual" message by finding a devotional application in its narratives. Similarly, the record of the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 is explained away as an allegory of the yielding of "every man" to temptation. However, the only narrative actually called an allegory in Scripture is the one mentioned in our text. In fact, this is the only time the word for "allegory" (Greek allegoreo) is used in the Bible at all. It is significant that Paul's use of the word does not suggest in any way that the story of Hagar and Sarah was not real history. There are numerous other references to Abraham, and at least three to Sarah, in the New Testament, and all clearly treat them as real persons. This Biblical example, therefore, tells us that, if we draw allegorical applications from its historical records, it can only be on the basis that the events themselves really happened. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 29, Tuesday JESUS THE BIBLE TEACHER "And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:44,45). On the day of His resurrection, the Lord Jesus had given a wonderful session of Bible teaching to two of His followers on the road to Emmaus. "Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the thing concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). Later that same evening, Jesus appeared to the eleven apostles and the other disciples, probably in the upper room, and gave a similar study to all of them together, as summarized in our text above. We can learn much from our Master Teacher concerning how we also should teach the Bible, for it was He, through "the Spirit of Christ" (I Peter 1:11), who in effect wrote the Bible in the first place. Note in both cases, for example, that the whole Bible speaks of Christ in prophecy, or type, or in other ways. Note also that He began with the writings of Moses, which means first of all the account of creation and primeval history which is the foundation of all the rest. It is evident, too, that He regarded "all the Scriptures" to be of divine authority, which "must be fulfilled," either at His first coming or His second coming. He believed implicitly in plenary inspiration of the Bible, as well as the miracle of fulfilled prophecy. Finally, even in the case of these closest followers, it was essential that the Holy Spirit "open their understanding" if they were really to "understand the Scriptures." All who would hope to be teachers of the Word today should teach as He taught, for He is our teacher. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ June 30, Wednesday ALL RIGHTS RESERVED "And blessed be thy advice, and blessed be thou, which hast kept me this day from coming to shed blood, and from avenging myself with mine own hand" (I Samuel 25:33). Abigail was the wife of Nabal, the churl who selfishly slighted David and his men. She prevented David from punishing Nabal and it is instructive to note David's blessing upon her, in particular the phrase, "avenging myself with mine own hand." David was, however, avenged, for "it came to pass about ten days after, that the LORD smote Nabal, that he died" (I Samuel 25:38). Paul teaches us to "avenge not (our)selves, but rather (to) give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19). God reserves and retains the right to avenge. Nabal's shepherds had been guarded by David's men, but when the time came to be recognized as protector, David and his men were rebuffed by Nabal and sent away. In capsule, this is a picture of Christ, our Deliverer and Protector being rejected, and then God, in righteousness, judging the rejector. It is Christ who was "once offered to bear the sins of many" (Hebrews 9:28), who "by His own blood ... entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (v.12). He then is the "righteous judge" (II Timothy 4:8), and those who reject Him will, as represented at evil Babylon, be given "the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath" (Revelation 16:19). "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life," but "he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:16,36). In His sovereignty, God has reserved all rights to vengeance on those who reject the salvation that He, in His own great love, reserved the right to purchase. CJH ________________________________________________________________________ July 1, Thursday WITH CHRIST Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:2,3). The apostle Paul, looking forward to the time when we shall "ever be with the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:17), wrote: "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you"(Philippians 1:23,24). The fact is, however, that we can be "with Christ" even while still abiding in the flesh, as Paul himself emphasized. This is the great principle called positional truth. "Positionally," we are already "with Christ," for that is where God sees us and how He relates to us. He has "raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6). Before we could be raised up with Christ, however, we first had to die with Him. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" (Galatians 2:20). God even saw us as buried with Christ when He was buried, and this is the great truth symbolized in our baptism. "We are buried with Him by baptism into death" (Romans 6:4). "Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more" (Romans 6:8,9). He died for us, so our deserved death became His substitutionary death, and His victorious resurrection becomes our own unmerited deliverance from death in eternal resurrection life. This is our position now, and our assured everlasting possession then, for we are with Christ, who "dieth no more." This truth is not only a wonderful doctrine, but as we see in our text, a real incentive for godly living. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 2, Friday REJECTION AT HOME "Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house" (Mark 6:4). A town will give great honor to a "home-town boy" if he makes good in athletics or the entertainment world. But if he becomes known as an influential Christian, the home-town folks usually are embarrassed about it. Jesus Himself experienced this. He grew up in Nazareth, and it was there that He had "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52). When He returned to Nazareth, however, after the early days of His ministry, "as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read" (Luke 4:16). He was already recognized there as proficient in the Scriptures, and they had heard tales about His miracles, so the invitation to speak was natural, but there were certain mumblings. "Is not this the carpenter's son?" they said. "Whence then hath this man all these things?" (Matthew 13:55,56). At first, "all bare Him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth" (Luke 4:22). But then, as He applied a key prophecy to Himself, and rebuked them for their unbelief, they "were filled with wrath" and tried unsuccessfully to slay Him (Luke 4:28,29). Neither did His brethren believe in Him" (John 7:5), and only His mother was with Him when He was crucified (John 19:25). As David had written prophetically, "I am become a stranger unto my brethren ... for the zeal of thine house hath eaten me up" (Psalm 69:8,9). Perhaps those Christians who have been rejected by their family and former friends can identify with Jesus when He said: "For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother" (Mark 3:35). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 3, Saturday FREE TO CHOOSE "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15). In our major universities, the dominant theories of man's behavior are deterministic. The only question being debated seems to be how much behavior is determined by heredity (genes) and how much by the environment. The pervasiveness and power of determinism are fully rooted in mechanistic, atheistic evolution. For if evolution is accepted, we must proclaim it the "creator" of our minds and thoughts, as well as of our bodies. It is commonly taught that every thought we have--every feeling of love, hate, fear, joy, purpose--can all be reduced to chemical processes of the brain, which is itself a product of blind and purposeless evolution. There is only one way out of this bleak picture--one the universities usually don't consider--that of supernatural creative intervention. True freedom, that is the freedom to choose, comes as a gift of God. Everyone possesses this gift, and God desires that we use this gift to choose rightly--to choose life. "I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: Therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19). Some, of course, use their gift to choose against God: "For they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD" (Proverbs 1:29). To sum up, if we had evolved, this feeling of freedom we have would be illusory; but we have not evolved, and this feeling of freedom we have is true freedom, given by God. Let us determine to use it as He wills, and choose Him, and life. DER ________________________________________________________________________ July 4, Sunday OUR SOURCE OF FREEDOM "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). Freedom of choice is a gift God gives to all men. However, after we decide to follow God and accept His gift of grace for salvation, we soon find that we are often too weak to choose what we know to be right.Unless we have the ability to do what we ought to do, instead of merely what we want to do, then we are not fully free. Paul agonizes, "for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. ... For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members"(Romans 7:15,22,23). But Paul doesn't leave us hanging; he shares the answer. The answer is the Lord Jesus, the One whom God sent "to preach deliverance to the captives ... to set at liberty them that are bruised ... (to make us) free from the law of sin and death" (Luke 4:18; Romans 8:2). Most of the founding fathers of our country were Christians and nderstood Jesus to be the origin of freedom. Even those who were not Christians seemed to recognize God as the ultimate giver of freedom. That's why, together, they could say: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are ... liberty. . . ." They were able to proclaim this bold Declaration because they had, as they wrote to the earthly king who would soon declare war on them, "a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence." So then, all freedoms, whether free will, political freedom, or the ultimate freedom of Christ, come from God. But many in our country today seem to worship freedom while ignoring its Author. This is another form of worshiping the creation but not the Creator, and is idolatry. We must remember that, if we are "free indeed," it is because the Son has made us free. DER ________________________________________________________________________ July 5, Monday ARE YOU STILL FREE? "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (II Corinthians 3:17). Any infantry officer knows that the most important part of any successful operation is the "consolidation" phase. After the objective has been taken, the natural inclination is to relax, but well-trained troops know they must immediately dig in and prepare for counterattack. Gains that are not consolidated will soon not be gains after all. As Christians, our battles are not, of course, against "flesh and blood" but against "spiritual wickedness," for which we need to put on "the whole armor of God" to do combat (Ephesians 6:12,13). As we gain freedom in certain areas of our lives, we must fortify, protect, and nourish that freedom, or it can be lost once again. To do this, we need to recognize what we are now, "being made free from sin, and become servants to God" (Romans 6:22). We are not set free to do whatever we want, but whatever God wants. "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more ... ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake ... only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another" (I Corinthians 9:19; II Corinthians 4:5; Galatians 5:13). The Christian idea of freedom is to become God's slave in the hope of hearing Him one day say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21). Gaining freedom--and consolidating it--is therefore a continual process, accomplished by being a servant in God's army. "If ye continue in my Word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:31,32). "I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts" (Psalm 119:45)--the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:21). DER ________________________________________________________________________ July 6, Tuesday THE FIRE OF GOD'S JUDGMENT "For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God"(Deuteronomy 4:24; also, Hebrews 12:29). God uses His fire either to purify and cleanse the believer (blessing) or to bring devastating judgment upon the world of sinners. We need to focus here on God's consuming fire of judgment. It all began in Genesis. Adam and Eve were barred from the tree of life by "a flaming sword which turned every way" (3:24). Next, "the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire" (19:24). In Egypt,"there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail, very grievous" (Exodus 9:24). Nadab and Abihu offered "strange fire before the LORD ...and there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them" (Leviticus 10:1,2). In Korah's uprising, "a fire from the LORD consumed" them (Numbers 10:35). Elijah prayed fire down from heaven in I Kings 1:10,12. Malachi predicted a future day of burning (4:1). In the New Testament Jesus spoke very graphically about going into "hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched!" (Mark 9:43). He also told of a rich man who died and was "tormented in this flame" (Luke 16:24). One day Jesus will have to say to those who reject him, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41). The apostle Paul wrote that Jesus would come "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God" (II Thessalonians 1:8). Jude mentioned, "others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire" (v.23). John wrote, "and whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:15). From Genesis to Revelation the Bible cries out, the hard but necessary word, "FIRE!" "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation" (Hebrews 2:3). NPS ________________________________________________________________________ July 7, Wednesday FEAR OF WITNESSING "And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus" (Acts 4:18). Every Christian knows that he or she should witness for Christ, but most are very reluctant to speak in His name very often. The most obvious reason for this hesitancy is fear. Sometimes we may be actually forbidden, as were the apostles, to teach of Him, but their courageous answer was: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29), and so they prayed: "Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy Word" (Acts 4:29). More common than fear of physical persecution, however, is fear of ridicule, or loss of prestige or position. Such fear is out of character for real Christians, "for God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (II Timothy 1:7). If we love the Lord and those for whom He died, we must learn to conquer our fear of men. One of the saddest rebukes that could come to a Christian is the indictment lodged against those believers who, because of their high position, refused to take an open stand for Christ: "Among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God" (John 12:42,43). How often do modern professional and business men--even theologians --compromise their stand for Christ and His inerrant Word because of fear of peer pressure in what should be their spheres of influence and testimony. May God give us the courage of Paul. "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ," he wrote, "for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" (Romans 1:16). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 8, Thursday THE DAILY CROSS "And He said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me" (Luke 9:23). This same conversation and challenge is also recorded in Matthew 16:24 and Mark 8:34, except that only Luke included the term "daily." Except for one brief reference in Matthew 10:38, this conversation marks the first explicit reference in the Bible to the practice of crucifixion, and it apparently assumes that the disciples were already well aware of this typically Roman method of execution. "Taking up the cross" referred to the usual requirement that each condemned man haul his own cross to the place of execution. Jesus knew that He would soon have to be doing this Himself (John 19:16,17). Christians sometimes use this phrase without appreciation of its true meaning, thinking of some burden, such as sickness or poverty, as "the cross" they must bear. Such things can be serious problems, of course, but they are not instruments of execution, such as a cross. In effect, the Lord was telling His disciples that following Him must mean nothing less than a daily willingness to die for Him, if need be. As Paul would say: "I am crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20); "I die daily" (I Corinthians 15:31). Many disciples have, indeed, suffered martyrdom for Christ's sake, but all should at least be willing to deny themselves each day. "Taking up the cross" does not necessarily mean dying as Christ did, but it does mean consciously dying each day as "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts" (Galatians 5:24), and they gladly affirm this testimony: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 9, Friday THE UTTERMOST PARTS OF THE EARTH "Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" (Psalm 2:8). This colorful and comprehensive phrase, usually translated "ends of the earth," occurs no less than thirty times in the Old Testament and five in the New. The verse in our text is God's promise to His Son (v.7), and it appears again and again. For example: "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth" (Psalm 72:8). "Now shall He be great unto the ends of the earth" (Micah 5:4); "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD" (Psalm 22:27). This divine Son, whose future dominion will extend to the uttermost parts of the earth, is also the Creator of the ends of the earth. "Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in His fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son's name, if thou canst tell?" (Proverbs 30:4). He who both created and will ultimately regain all the ends of the earth will also be their judge. "The LORD shall judge the ends of the earth; and He shall give strength unto His King, and exalt the horn of His anointed" (literally, Messiah; I Samuel 2:10). For the present, however, He is still "despised and rejected of men" (Isaiah 53:3), both as Creator and as coming King, by all the nations of the world. Nevertheless, He has provided "salvation unto the ends of the earth" for all who will receive Him (Acts 13:47), and He has both. commanded and prophesied that His followers must be "witnesses unto me ... unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The great message we carry from Him is: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth" (Isaiah 45:22). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 10, Saturday REACH OUT "Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints" (Philemon 5). Here Paul is writing to a beloved Christian brother, Philemon. It is a message that bonds their hearts and quickly seals the oneness they know and feel in their Lord. But this written letter is just a manifestation of a persistent prayer relationship that has been going on continuously for some time--"I thank my God, making mention of thee always in my prayers" (v.4). How many are in our own prayers continually, for whom we are thanking God for bringing into our lives? For many, sweet are the times when we call to memory the fragrance of past fellowship, and write those notes of endearment that keep the bond of the past alive. Yet the messages have become more historical in content about family and recreation, and less about the "victories in Jesus." What has happened in us that we feel ill at ease writing about our faith, that it may become effectual (v.6)? Is it that "every good thing which is in (us) in Christ Jesus" (v.6) has become dull and ineffectual? Are we dry and empty and without recent victories to keep our faith alive? Are our circumstances routine and humdrum so that even reading God's Word is a chore, or even worse, a bore? Just when we reach the bottom, we receive that love letter that rejuvenates our great joy and consoles our love by the sender's love. And as that letter, or note, or card, or call comes our way, "the bowels of the saints are refreshed by thee, brother" (v.7). More to the point, though, is, what will the message say? Will it contain mere platitudes, or truly lift up our spirit because it brings a testimony of radiance--the "love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus"? KBC ________________________________________________________________________ July 11, Sunday ONE GOD "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD" (Deuteronomy 6:4). This great verse has been recited countless times by Israelites down through the centuries, setting forth their distinctive belief in one great Creator God. The Jews had retained their original belief in creation, handed down from Noah, while the other nations had all allowed their original monotheistic creationism to degenerate into a wide variety of religions, all basically equivalent to the polytheistic evolutionism of the early Sumerians at Babel. But along with its strong assertion of monotheism, there is also a very real suggestion that this declaration, with its thrice-named subject, is also setting forth the Triune God. The name, "LORD," of course, is Yahweh, or Jehovah, the self-existing One who reveals Himself, while "God" is Elohim, the powerful Creator/Ruler. "Jehovah our Elohim is one Jehovah" is the proclamation. A number of respected Jewish commentators have acknowledged that the verse spoke of a "unified oneness," rather than an "absolute oneness." The revered book called the Zohar, for example, even said that the first mention was of the Father; the second one the Messiah; and the third, the Holy Spirit. The key word "one" (Hebrew achad) is often used to denote unity indiversity. For example, when Eve was united to Adam in marriage, they were said to be "one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). Similarly, on the third day of creation, the waters were "gathered together unto one place," yet this gathering together was called "Seas" (i.e., more than one sea; Genesis 1:9,10). Thus, Israel's great declaration should really be understood as saying in effect: "The eternally omnipresent Father, also Creator and Sustainer of all things, is our unified self-revealing Lord." HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 12, Monday BEFORE THEIR TIME "The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart: and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come" (Isaiah 57:1) How tragic it seems when promising young Christian men or women are cut off "before their time." Even more painful is the sudden death of a child, before there was ever the opportunity for it to grow up at all. Yet the Christian believer can be confident that such events do not occur before God's time, for He "worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" (Ephesians 1:11). We know that God loves us, because He sent His own beloved Son to die for us. Therefore, "we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). It may well be that God has allowed the righteous to perish and the merciful to be taken away, in order to spare them from "the evil to come," either increasing tribulation in the world, or perhaps the further growth of incipient sin in their own lives. It may be that their "untimely" departure "to be with Christ which is far better" (Philippians 1:23) will be used of God to lead others to Christ and salvation. It also should give their loved ones greater incentive to learn more of God's Word and its gracious promise, as well as to forsake sin in their lives. In those situations where death seems to have been hastened because of zeal for the Lord, their loved ones can rejoice that the martyr's "crown of life" (Revelation 2:10) is awaiting them. Other reasons may exist which we cannot understand now, "for who hath known the mind of the Lord?" (Romans 11:34). But we do know that even parrow "shall not fall on the ground without your Father" (Matthew 10:29). We may not fully understand now, but He does all things well. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 13, Tuesday A MATTER OF LOYALTY "And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched. But the children of Belial said, How shall this man save us? And they despised him" (I Samuel 10:26,27a). Saul had just been put forward to the people by Samuel, as their new king. There was instant acceptance. "All the people shouted, and said, God save the king" (v.24). At that point, a division arose among the men of Israel. One group, whose hearts God had touched, became immediately loyal and faithfully followed Saul. Our experience is much the same. If our hearts have been touched by the Lord, then we should be loyal followers of Christ and of those whom the Lord has raised up to lead us. Paul said, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1). The second group of men in this story does just the opposite. These individuals would not even give Saul an opportunity to prove himself before they began to gripe and complain, saying, "How shall this man save us? And they despised him" (v.27). Unfortunately, even among God's people today, disloyalty and division can persist in churches, in schools, and even on the mission field. This ought not to be. "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (I Corinthians 1:10). "For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?" (I Corinthians 3:3). "Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them" (Romans 16:17). May our loyalties and allegiances be ever with those whose hearts God has touched. NPS ________________________________________________________________________ July 14, Wednesday THE LIMITED KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father" (Mark 13:32). This verse has always been difficult to understand. If Jesus was God, how could He be ignorant of the time of His second coming? Indeed He was, and is God, but He also was, and is, man. This is a part of the mystery of the divine/human nature of Christ. In the gospel record, we see frequent evidences of His humanity (He grew weary, for example, and suffered pain), but also many evidences of deity (His virgin birth, His resurrection and ascension, as well as His perfect words and deeds). He had been in glory with the Father from eternity (John 17:24), but when He became man, "in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren" (Hebrews 2:17), except for sin. As a child, He "increased in wisdom and stature," like any other human (Luke 2:52). Through diligent study (as a man), He acquired great wisdom in the Scriptures and the plan of God. After His baptism and the acknowledgment from heaven of His divine Sonship (e.g., Matthew 3:16,17), He increasingly manifested various aspects of His deity, but He still remained fully human. With respect to the time of the end, this depends in some degree on human activity. For example, He said that "the gospel must first be published among all nations" (Mark 13:10), and only God the Father could foresee just when men will have accomplished this. Although the glorified Son presumably now shares this knowledge, in His self-imposed human limitations, He did not. In no way does this compromise His deity. In our own finite humanity, we cannot comprehend fully the mystery of the divine/human nature of Christ, but He has given us more than sufficient reason to believe His Word! HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 15, Thursday MOSES AND ELIJAH "And, behold, there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias: Who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem" (Luke 9:30,31). This is a mysterious passage. Peter, James, and John watched in awe as Christ was "transfigured" before them as Christ had promised (9:2). But how could Moses and Elijah be there? Moses' body had been buried by God in an unknown tomb in Moab some 1500 years before, and no resurrection had yet taken place (Deuteronomy 34:5,6; I Corinthians 15:22,23). Elijah had been taken alive into heaven in a chariot of fire over 900 years previously (II Kings 2:11). The fact is that this whole experience was a remarkable vision! Jesus said, after it was over: "Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead" (Matthew 17:9). Although they had just been awakened out of sleep (Luke 9:32), the disciples knew this was not a dream. All three had seen it together and "were sore afraid" (Mark 9:6). This vision of the future kingdom was for the disciples' encouragement (and for ours, as well), for the Lord had just been warning them of His coming death, as well as the cross which they, themselves, must take up to follow Him (Luke 9:23). The kingdom of God would come on Earth, in all its future power and glory, but first, He must die and rise again, and they must be His witnesses of these things. But when He did return in glory, there would be two groups of people sharing His glory with Him: Moses, representing the resurrected saints, and Elijah, the "raptured" saints. "The dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: And so shall we ever be with the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:16,17). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 16, Friday WHAT THE CREATOR REQUIRES "And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul?" (Deuteronomy 10:12). In the final weeks before his death, Moses gathered the people of Israel together for a final look back at God's miraculous provision for the nation and a restatement of the Law. He repeated the Ten Commandments, and reminded them of their supernatural origin (chapter 5). He charged them to remember the Law and to pass it on to their children, for God, Himself, had entrusted it to them (chapter 6). He insisted that they utterly destroy the enemies of God in the land, for their holy and special status as the people of God would be in jeopardy if they didn't (chapter 7). The longest section of the speech consisted of a command to remember their unique history: how God had supernaturally intervened for them on so many occasions (vs. 8:1-10:11). Finally, Moses brought them to a time of commitment, charging them, in our text, to fear, obey, love, and serve the "LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul." Even the commandments were "for their good" (v.13); they were not merely petty or malicious. In fact, throughout the lengthy lecture, Moses had several times adjured the people to love their LORD with their entire being (see vs. 6:5; 7:9; 10:20; 11:1,13,22). And why not? "Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD's thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is" (10:14). The God who placed His sovereign mark on Israel (v.15) deserved their total devotion, obedience, and service. Does not the Creator God, who has done so much more for us than He did even for Israel, deserve our total devotion, obedience, and service? JDM ________________________________________________________________________ July 17, Saturday THE TRANSFIGURATION "And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: And His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light" (Matthew 17:1,2). This remarkable transfiguration of Christ was shown to the three disciples so that they could actually "see (Him) coming in His kingdom" (Matthew 16:28), as He will do someday, when He returns to Earth "in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30). This would ever afterward be an unforgettable experience which would strengthen the disciples for their critical future ministry. James would become the first martyr, but his brother, John, would survive to bear the testimony far and wide for almost seventy more years. "And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father" (John 1:14). Peter also wrote of the amazing event: "For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to Him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount" (II Peter 1:17,18). It is therefore very significant that the word "transfigured" (Greek metamorphoo) is also applied to Christian believers in II Corinthians 3:18: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed (read `transfigured') into the same image from glory to glory."That is, as we behold the glory of Christ in the mirror of the Scriptures, we, ourselves, are spiritually being metamorphosed into His own image. The marvelous transformation will be completed when He does come again and "change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body" (Philippians 3:21). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 18, Sunday SEVEN MOUNTAINS "His foundation is in the holy mountains" (Psalm 87:1). It is fascinating to study God's selection of several key mountains to mark key events in human history. Mount Ararat was the first great mountain of Scripture, where God's Ark of safety would rest (Genesis 8:4). Then, when the first nations failed and God had to form a new nation, it was on Mount Moriah that Abraham passed the great test with his son, Isaac,and became "the father of all them that believe," testifying that "in the mount of the LORD it shall be seen" (Romans 4:11; Genesis 22:14). When the time came for God's Law to be revealed, "the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai," and gave Moses "upon Mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God" (Exodus 19:20; 31:18). "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion," where the holy city was built and where Christ will reign in the great age to come. For God has promised concerning Christ: "Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion" (Psalm 48:2; 2:6). Insignificant in size, but preeminent in importance, is the small hill outside Jerusalem that has come to be called Mount Calvary. There a "stone was cut out of the mountain" which "became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth" (Daniel 2:45,35) when Christ died there and conquered death. He arose from the grave and then ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives, to which, one day, He shall "so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11). Finally, in the new earth, "every mountain and hill shall be made low" (Isaiah 40:4), and the only mountain will be "a great and high mountain," the beautiful city of God, towering "twelve thousand furlongs" (Revelation 21:10,16) over the fruitful plains of the eternally new earth below. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 19, Monday CAPTAIN OF OUR COURAGE "And the LORD, He it is that doth go before thee; He will be with thee, He will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed"(Deuteronomy 31:8). In the closing chapters of Deuteronomy, the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua is recorded. "Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee" (Joshua 1:7). Joshua could have said with confidence, "God Himself is with us for our captain" (II Chronicles 13:12) as did King Abijah when he "prevailed" (same word as "courage") over King Jeroboam who had "forsaken" God's commandments. Joshua's courage was based on the fact that God was with him. So long as he obeyed God's commandments, his adversaries would in reality be the adversaries of God, and were not to be feared. He was not to be "dismayed" by the enemy. His sacred trust, to be protected and defended, was "the law," the commandments of God. The battle was not his, however; it was, and still is, the Lord's. Joab, captain of David's mighty men, charged his troops: "Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth Him good" (II Samuel 10:12). Joshua, Joab, and many others have found courage in the fact that God does all things well! The word "courage" is only used once in the New Testament, when Paul saw his brethren and "took courage" (Acts 28:15). But the concept is a strong thread woven throughout the Scripture for our instruction. The "captain of (our) salvation" (Hebrews 2:10) has promised, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly (courageously) say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Hebrews 13:5,6). CJH ________________________________________________________________________ July 20, Tuesday THE GOOD PART "But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:42). The two sisters, Mary and Martha, both loved the Lord Jesus and wanted to please Him. Jesus also loved them (John 11:5) and apparently was an occasional guest at their home in Bethany. Martha evidently felt that activity and service were pleasing to the Lord (and these, indeed, are good and important), whereas Mary simply "sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His Word" (Luke 10:39). To Martha's surprise and chagrin, Jesus said that Mary had chosen the "good part"--a part more important even than service and food. Long, long before, the patriarch Job, whom God had said was "a perfect and an upright man" with "none like him in the earth" (Job 1:8), had also chosen that good part. "I have esteemed the words of His mouth," Job said,"more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12). We today can sit at Jesus feet and hear His Word only by reading and meditating on the Scriptures. Important as our daily responsibilities may be to meet our material needs and those of our families, we should make priority time available for this "good part." The same surely applies especially to Christian leaders. They may have many important tasks to perform in the service of God, but it is still more important for them to take time to "hear His Word" in the Scriptures. The unknown psalmist who wrote the grand 119th psalm had learned this truth: "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. ... How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding" (Psalm 119:97,103,104). We today have a higher privilege than Job, or the psalmist, or even Mary, for we have all the Scriptures! If we truly desire "that good part," the Lord will surely provide the time, as He did for Mary. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 21, Wednesday BREAKING BREAD "And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body" (Matthew 26:26). This is the first of twelve specific references to the "breaking of bread" in the New Testament, each reminding the participants of Christ's sacrificial death. Although Paul had not been present at the last supper, He had evidently received a special revelation concerning it. "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which He was betrayed (literally, `while He was being betrayed') took bread: And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me" (I Corinthians 11:23,24). Similarly, drinking of the cup recalled to them His shed blood. All of this helped them remember and appreciate the great reality of eternal life imparted to them through His death, for He had said, "Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life" (John 6:54). For a while, after His resurrection and their empowering by the Holy Spirit, "they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house" (Acts 2:46), seem to have combined each day this remembrance of the Lord's supper with their own evening meals. Sometime later, it seems to have been "upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread" (Acts 20:7). There is no specific instruction in Scripture as to how often this breaking of bread should be observed, but when it is observed, the implied actions of "discerning the Lord's body," giving thanks to Him for His sacrifice for us, and "judge(ing) ourselves" (I Corinthians 11:29,31) are far more vital than the physical act of eating the broken bread. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 22, Thursday SETTLE IT "Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer: For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist" (Luke 21:14,15). How many times have we thought or even said aloud, "I wish I had said that?" Our verses today are like that, only there is one big difference. We, too, can speak that appropriate word, and it will come out just right. This rightness is because the message, while it forms in our minds (hearts) and emanates from our lips, originates from God. The "I" of verse 15 is further explained in Matthew 10:19,20: "But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. ... For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." And in Mark 13:11, "for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost." What a formula for being right all the time! We should let the Author of all Truth speak through us. This is probably the fastest way to approach Solomon in all his wisdom. The setting for these powers, however, is one of persecution of the saints. It was an assurance by Jesus to His disciples that when they were confronted by adversaries they were to settle down, not get stirred up. They were to empty their minds of strategies, and not meditate on a great rebuttal. Testimony to the lost is like that. It takes a committed Christian, submitted to the Lord, knowledgeable in the Word, and available to be used at a moment's notice to make a difference in someone else's life. John 14:26 reads: "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." KBC ________________________________________________________________________ July 23, Friday LIVING IN THE REAL WORLD "For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (Isaiah 65:17). People often think they are being practical when they place material values ahead of spiritual, emphasizing that we have to "live in the real world." The fact is, however, that we are not living in the real world at all, but in a world that is dying and will soon be gone. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever" (I John 2:17). This is not even the world that God created, for that world was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Because "sin entered into the world, and death by sin"(Romans 5:12), therefore, "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8:22). In fact, this world is not even as it was soon after God's curse, for "the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (II Peter 3:6). The present, post-Flood world is now under the dominion of Satan, who is "the prince of this world" (John 12:31) and of "all the kingdoms of the world" (Matthew 4:8). The Lord Jesus Christ came to "deliver us from this present evil world" (Galatians 1:4). As our text says, this world shall not even "be remembered, nor come into mind." It "shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God" (Romans 8:21). Therefore, we must "be not conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2). We must "live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ" (Titus 2:12,13). In the meantime, our true citizenship, if we have been born again in Christ, is in the real world to come, and we are His ambassadors to an alien land (II Corinthians 5:20). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 24, Saturday RECLAIMING DINOSAURS FOR JESUS "Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee. ... He moveth his tail like a cedar. ... His bones are like bars of iron" (Job 40:15,17,18). Every creature that was ever made was made by Jesus (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; etc.). Jehovah Jesus, therefore, may be thought of as the one doing the talking in today's text. Scripture directly applies OldTestament Jehovah passages dealing with creation to the "Son" (Hebrews 1:8,10-12; cf. Psalm 102:25-27), and Jesus Himself admonished disciples for being so slow to connect Him with the Old Testament (Luke 24:25-27). Secularists believe dinosaurs became extinct long before the first man ever came on the scene and seemingly use fossil remains and fanciful reconstructions of these awesome creatures to instill doubt into unsuspecting minds. The creature depicted in Job 40, however, is described as "the chief of the ways of God" (v.19). Small-tailed hippopotamuses do not seem to fit this title; dinosaurs, with cedar-like tails, do! If Jesus was talking about dinosaurs, then "chief" (even "rex") makes sense. Moreover, Job knew about these creatures--they and man lived at the same time. These creatures should mentally be connected with their Creator, and parents should teach children to make the connection. If artists deserve credit, then Jesus, as the Creator who called into being these great creatures which the artist depicts, should receive the greater praise. Behold the bones of these creatures in museums! They were made like "bars of iron," but they too, like the foundations of the earth, "shall wax old as doth a garment." The Creator who "laid the foundation of the earth" "remainest. ... Thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail" (Hebrews 1:11,12). PGH ________________________________________________________________________ July 25, Sunday, GOD WITH US "And Adam knew Eve his wife and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD" (Genesis 4:1). Here is Eve's testimony concerning the first child born to the human race. To understand it, we need to recall God's first promise: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: (He) shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel" (Genesis 3:15). These words, addressed to Satan, promised that the woman's "seed" would destroy Satan. Thus, that seed would have to be a man, but the only one capable of destroying Satan is God Himself. Eve mistakenly thought that Cain would fulfill this promise, and when he was born, she testified: "I have gotten a man--even the LORD" (literal rendering). Over three millennia later, essentially the same promise was renewed to the "house of David," when the Lord said: "Behold, (the) virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:13,14). The definite article reflects the primeval promise that the divine/human Savior, when He comes, would be born uniquely as the woman's seed, not of the father's seed like all other men. His very name, Immanuel, means "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). He is "the Word ... made flesh" (John 1:14). While questions have been raised about the precise meaning of almah (Hebrew word translated "virgin"), there is no question in the New Testament:"Behold, the virgin (Greek parthenos, meaning `virgin,' and nothin else) shall be with child" (Matthew 1:23). "When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman" (Galatians 4:4). "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 26, Monday REPORTING ON THE PARABLES "And He began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country" (Mark 12:1). This parable of the vineyard had an obvious meaning, for even "the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders" to whom He was speaking (Mark 11:27) "knew that He had spoken the parable against them" (Mark 12:12). The same parable and the events surrounding it are reported in Matthew 21:33-46 and Luke 20:9-16. But there is another question that has been raised about this parable, as well as all the other parables that have been reported in two or more different gospels. That is, if the Bible is inerrant in its very words, as Jesus taught (e.g., Matthew 5:18; John 10:35), then why did the writers often vary in their reporting of the words of the parable? It should be remembered, however, that Jesus probably spoke in Aramaic, whereas the written accounts were in Greek. Furthermore, two of the writers (Mark and Luke) were not present at the time, so would have to obtain their accounts from someone who was there (e.g., Luke 1:1,2). Flexibility in translation and reporting is always possible with different translators and different reporters. The doctrine of divine inspiration of the Scriptures (II Timothy 3:16), however, applies not to the process, but to the result. The Spirit of God was free to use the writer's own research, vocabulary, and style in reporting an event, so long as there were no factual errors or irrelevancies in the final result. In fact, such minor differences often give greater depth and credence to the reported event, since they help in proving that the different writers were not in collusion, but simply telling of a real event from different perspectives. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 27, Tuesday IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL "Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hathdone for my soul" (Psalm 66:16). The Bible clearly teaches that "the soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). Romans 3:23 teaches that "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." We are left, then, with an insurmountable condition concerning our souls. "I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul" (Psalm 142:4). Our eternal soul is our single most valuable possession: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36,37). It is God "in whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind" (Job 12:10) who cares for our soul. "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). "For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever: That He should still live for ever, and not see corruption" (Psalm 49:8,9). The redemption of our soul cost the "precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (I Peter 1:19). The soul that disregarded the Old Testament guidelines for the Passover (portraying Christ's atonement for the sins of the whole world) was "cut off" (Exodus 12:15). But "we are not of them who draw back into perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul" (Hebrews 10:39). For we "were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of (our) souls" (I Peter 2:25). "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits" (Psalm 103:2). It is well with my soul because of what He has done for my soul. CJH ________________________________________________________________________ July 28, Wednesday THE PRICE OF SPARROWS "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your father" (Matthew 10:29). This fascinating bit of first-century pricing information, seemingly so trivial, provides a marvelous glimpse into the heart of the Creator. Of all the birds used for food by the people of those days, sparrows were the cheapest on the market, costing only a farthing for a pair of them. In fact, they cost even less in a larger quantity, for, on another occasion, Jesus said: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?" (Luke 12:6). The "farthing" was a tiny copper coin of very small value, so that a sparrow was all but worthless in human terms. And yet the Lord Jesus said that God knows and cares about every single sparrow! God had a reason for everything He created; each kind of animal has its own unique design for its own intended purpose. Modern biologists continue to waste time and talent developing imaginary tales about how all these multitudes of different kinds of creatures might have evolved from some common ancestor, but they would really be better scientists if they would seek to understand the creative purpose of each creature, rather than speculating on its imaginary evolution. The better we comprehend the amazing complexity and purposive design of each creature, the better we realize the infinite wisdom and power of their Creator. Then, all the more wonderful it is to learn that their Creator is our Father! He has placed them all under our dominion, and we need to learn to see them through His eyes, if we would be good stewards of the world He has committed to us. We can also thank our heavenly Father that we "are of more value than many sparrows" (Matthew 10:31). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 29, Thursday WHOM THEY PIERCED "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10). For centuries now, Jewish scholars have pondered the meaning and interpretation of this verse, and as one might imagine, there have been many varied interpretations. Since they cannot allow admission that they themselves pierced Jehovah, some have applied it to the nation of Israel, with its persecutions in mind. But to resolve the issue the question must be answered, "Who is this `whom,' who has been pierced?" Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word translated "whom" is simply the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph and Tau, elsewhere denoting completeness and transcendency. Next, consider the fact that the primary name for God in Scripture, Jehovah, conveys a similar thought, although difficult to translate. Evidently the name Jehovah communicates, among other things, the all-encompassing and ever self-existing nature of God. These two thoughts come together when our text for the day is quoted in Revelation 1:7,8. "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. Even so, Amen. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." It is as if Jehovah Himself is asking the question: "Do you doubt whom it is you pierced? I am the Aleph Tau, the Alpha Omega, Jehovah the Almighty, the beginning and the ending of all things." JDM ________________________________________________________________________ July 30, Friday BE SURE "But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). Most things in this life are uncertain; nevertheless, there are some things about which we can be absolutely sure. Just as God warned Adam that if he disobeyed His Word, he would "surely die" (Genesis 2:17), so He warns us that we can be sure our sins will ultimately be exposed. "The foundation of God standeth sure" (II Timothy 2:19). On the other side of the coin, we can also be sure of God's mercy and faithfulness, and we can be sure of the truth of His Word. "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place" (II Peter 1:19). We also can be sure of His promised salvation. "Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast" (Hebrews 6:19). Thus we can, through faith and patience, show "the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end" (Hebrews 6:11). Finally, we can be sure that our Lord Jesus, who came once to die for our sins, will come back again to complete His work of redemption and reconciliation. The very last promise of the Bible consists of His gracious words: "Surely I come quickly" (Revelation 22:20). However, each of us must first make sure that we believe His sure word and have appropriated this sure hope. "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ"(II Peter 1:10,11). We can be sure that our sins must be judged, but we also can be sure of His forgiveness, if we believe His sure promises and receive His sure salvation. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ July 31, Saturday TOUCH NOT MINE ANOINTED "And (David) said unto his men, the LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD's anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD" (I Samuel 24:6). These words have been widely misappropriated in later times as a warning to any who would presume to question or rebuke an erring pastor or other Christian leader. In the theocracy of Israel, there were three groups of men specially chosen by God and then anointed for their offices--prophets, priests, and kings--and God indeed "suffered no man to do them wrong" (Psalm 105:14). However, all three offices were completely fulfilled in Christ. The Levitical priesthood has been abolished, and Christ is our eternal high priest. The prophetic office ceased with the completion of the Scriptures, and Christ has inherited David's throne forever. As far as New Testament anointing is concerned, this is now accomplished in every true believer. "Now He which ... hath anointed us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts" (II Corinthians 1:21,22). No longer are we dependent on special instruction and guidance from priests and prophets, for we have the written Word of God, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. "The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him" (I John 2:27). Christians can, and should, learn and grow spiritually from godly teachers of the Word and faithful pastors of the flock, but all-- leaders as well as learners--must continually be subject to correction from God's Word, "neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock" (I Peter 5:3). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 1, Sunday THE SUFFERING AND THE GLORY "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you" (I Peter 5:10). The sufferings of Christ have been chronicled in many portions of Scripture: "I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair" (Isaiah 50:6). "His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men" (Isaiah 52:14). "All my bones are out of joint. ... My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death"(Psalm 22:14,15). But God, after Christ was "made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death," has "crowned (Him) with glory and honor"(Hebrews 2:9). "For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect (complete, finished) through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10). We who are "born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (I Peter 1:23) have "received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15). "Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (I Peter 4:13). Christ must "needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead" (Acts 17:3) to "(take) away the sin of the world" (John 1:29), and we, by faith, as children of God and joint-heirs with Christ, "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body" (II Corinthians 4:10), but "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18). CJH _______________________________________________________________________ August 2, Monday WHEN MESSIAH CAME "Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times" (Daniel 9:25). This remarkable prophecy, given through the angel Gabriel to Daniel the prophet, actually predicted the date of the coming of Christ nearly 500 years in advance. From the announcement to the coming of "Messiah the Prince," there would be 69 "weeks" (literally "sevens," meaning in this context "seven-year periods"). That is, Messiah would come as the Prince 483 years after the commandment was given to rebuild Jerusalem. There is some uncertainty about the exact date of the decree, as well as the exact length of these prophetic years, but in each calculation the termination date is at least near, or in some, exactly the time when Christ entered Jerusalem to be acknowledged as its promised king. However, Gabriel's prophecy went on to say: "And after (the) threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off" (Daniel 9:26). That is, although he would come as promised, instead of being gladly crowned as king, He would be slain. Since the 483-year period terminated long ago, it is clear that Messiah must already have come, and then been put to death at that time. The terms of this remarkable prophecy have been precisely fulfilled in Jesus Christ alone, and no one coming later could have done so. It is no wonder that He wept over Jerusalem, pronouncing her coming judgment, "because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation" (Luke 19:44). We, like He, should weep and pray for Israel. Yet, in God's omniscient planning, "through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles" (Romans 11:11), and in this we can rejoice. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 3, Tuesday NOT THIS MAN "Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber" (John 18:40). This is the attitude of the world toward its Creator and Redeemer. Jesus Christ "was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not" (John 1:10,11). "Not this man!" they cried, and still cry today. "We will not have this man to reign over us" (Luke 19:14). Even in a nation founded as a Christian nation, the name of Jesus Christ is banished from the schools, ignored in the halls of government, and blasphemed on the streets. And whom will they choose instead of "this Man?" Then they preferred (Luke 23:19). Today, they idolize the atheist Darwin, or the robber Lenin, or the revolutionary Mao, or the murderer Hitler, or any one of a thousand anti-Christs, but they will not have Christ. What, then, will they do with Christ? "Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him" (John 19:15) was the cry even of the religious leaders during His life here on earth, and it is little different today. "Ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you" proclaimed Peter (Acts 3:14). "The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against His Christ" (Acts 4:26). The rejection of Christ today is often more subtle, but it is just as real. Rulers, industrialists, scientists, educators, and commentators all say, in deed, if not in word, that "(they) will not have this man to reign over (them)" (Luke 19:14). "But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name" (John 1:12). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 4, Wednesday ON HIS SIDE "Ye shall not fear them: for the LORD your God He shall fight for you" (Deuteronomy 3:22). As the people of Israel stood on the banks of the Jordan River facing the Promised Land, they were also facing some difficult times. Ahead of them were well-established kingdoms, fortified cities, and even giants in the land. Their enemies were experienced warriors, while the Israelites, every reason to fear, but Moses taught differently. He claimed that God would fight for them; there was no need for fear. Indeed, there was plenty of evidence of this in Israel's exodus from slavery in Egypt, their victories over enemies along the way, and God's providence for them in the wilderness. Abraham Lincoln was once asked if he felt that God was on his side, to which he responded that it had never occurred to him to ask, but he constantly asked himself if he was on God's side. And that is the key! If we are on God's side, He will fight for us. He will not fight for us if we are involved in an improper cause. We must be about the carrying out of His will. If we know we are on His side, we have every right to expect Him to fight for us, and no right at all to be afraid. "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord" (II Timothy 1:7,8). "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father" (Romans 8:15). Our lives and efforts should be a constant testimony "that all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever" (Joshua 4:24). JDM ________________________________________________________________________ August 5, Thursday RELATIVE HATRED "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). These seem like strange, even shocking words, coming from the Lord Jesus Christ as they do. It is obvious, however, that He is not urging hatred of one's relatives here, but rather is referring to hatred in are relative sense--relative to one's love for God and His will, that is. Jesus has commanded us to "love thy neighbor" (Matthew 22:39), and even to "love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44), so it is certain that He expects us to love our families. But love for God must be paramount. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind" (Luke 10:27). There are some cases, however, when, in so loving the Lord, "a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matthew 10:36). Happily, such cases are the exception, but, if ever such a choice has to be made, the one who would truly be Christ's disciple must follow Him at all costs. For, as Jesus went on to say, "whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27). Even in such unfortunate cases, we are still commanded to "honor thy father and mother" (Ephesians 6:2), and to "provoke not your children to anger" (Colossians 3:21). The Lord Jesus has left us the example. Though His mission was long rejected by His human family (John 7:3-5), He remained patient with them, while at the same time placing God first. "For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother" (Mark 3:35). Eventually His mother was found among His disciples (Acts 1:14), as were at least two of His brothers (I Corinthians 9:5). Thus genuine love for God will often find itself reflected later in the love of one's family for Him as well. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 6, Friday THE BLINDNESS OF ISRAEL "What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded" (Romans 11:7). One of the saddest aspects of our world is the blindness of Israel. Even the Orthodox Jews, who strongly affirm their belief in the Old Testament Scriptures, seem unable to see what the Scriptures clearly show, that their Messiah has come and gone. In the first book of the Torah, we read: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between His feet until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" (Genesis 49:10). Ancient Jewish commentators agreed that Shiloh was another name for Messiah, but this very fact should prove to modern Jewish expositors that Messiah has already come, for the scepter (the symbol of national leadership) did depart from Judah, very soon after Jesus was crucified. King David was the first descendent of Judah to attain the scepter of leadership among the tribes of Israel, and the divine promises were clear that Messiah would be in David's lineage. That Jesus' legal father, Joseph, and human mother, Mary, were both in that lineage was shown in the genealogies of Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38, respectively, both of which were written when the genealogical records in the Temple were still intact. No one at that time ever questioned their validity, in spite of intense opposition by the Jews to the claims of Jesus and His disciples, that He was the Messiah. In 70 A.D., the records and the Temple were destroyed, so that no later claimant to the title could ever prove his right to the throne. Messiah had come, and was slain, so the scepter departed from Judah until He comes again. It is certain that Jesus was, indeed, the Jews' promised Messiah, and we should pray that God will soon open their eyes to see and believe. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 7, Saturday THE FIRSTBORN OF EVERY CREATURE "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature" (Colossians 1:15). A widespread cultic heresy based on this verse claims that Jesus Christ was not eternal, but merely the first being created--perhaps an angel--before becoming a man. Note, however, that the verse does not say He was the "first created of every creature," but the "first born of every creature." In fact, the very next verse says that "by Him were all things created" (v.16). He was never created, for He, Himself, is the Creator. "All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made" (John 1:3). He is "born" of God, not "made," the "only begotten Son" of God (John 3:16). "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John 1:18). The eternal Father is omnipresent, and therefore invisible, inaudible, inaccessible to the physical senses. The eternally existing Son is the "image" of the invisible Father, the One who declares, reveals, embodies His essence. Although He is always "in the bosom of the Father," yet He is eternally also "the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person" (Hebrews 1:3). He is the eternal, living Word, which was "in the beginning with God" (John 1:2), and which "was God" (John 1:1). Thus the phrase, "firstborn of every creature" in our text, can be translated literally as "begotten before all creation." The eternal inter-relationship of the Persons of the Godhead is beyond human comprehension in its fullness, and the terms, "Son" and "begotten" are the best human language can do to describe it. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, is the only begotten, eternally generated, Son of the Father, forever shining forth as the image of the otherwise invisible God. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 8, Sunday PEACE INITIATIVE "And if the Son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again" (Luke 10:6). Christ sent His seventy disciples out to witness "into every city and place" (v.1), but before they left, He gave them some instruction about what to do under various circumstances. One guideline was to test the reception of a home, by saying, "Peace be to this house" (v.5). If the disciples felt at peace, they were to stay and receive the hospitality given. If not, then they were to shake even the dust of the city from their being (v.11) and proceed along to a new destination. The word "peace" is translated from eirene in Greek, or shalom, in Hebrew. It refers to wholeness or completeness in the inner parts of man, with need of nothing else, and should characterize each of us, as believers. "Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you" (II Corinthians 13:11). Still, there is more to this situation than simply a greeting and overnight stay, for within the verbal probe at the door, is a spiritual sensing of the receptivity to the gospel. These men went out two by two to preach the gospel of Christ, telling of His character and mission. The message they had was one of spiritual peace with God through acceptance of the work of Jesus--"the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you" (v.11). Their message and mission were urgent, and could scarcely be wasted on those who were not interested. Many times it is difficult to detect the presence of God's Spirit in the heart of another. Here is one instrument--using man's spirit of peace--to find God's spirit of peace in the midst of those who are tender for the message of salvation. Reconciliation and fellowship follow. "He that heareth you heareth me" (v.16). KBC ________________________________________________________________________ August 9, Monday A SONG IN THE DARKEST NIGHT "And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives" (Mark 14:26). Here is a verse which surpasses all understanding, for it tells how our Savior joined in singing a psalm with His disciples just before going out into the darkest night of the soul which anyone would ever experience. There He would meet the fierce blasts of the wicked one trying to slay Him before He could even reach the cross. "This is your hour, and the power of darkness" (Luke 22:53), He would soon be saying to the arresting party accompanying Satan-possessed Judas, with his kiss of death. But before that, He must struggle with Satan and the powers of evil, and even with His own human soul, as He began to taste that terrible cup. "For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red ... but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them" (Psalm 75:8). This is the cup which He must drink, if He would bear God's holy wrath on the sin of the whole world, as He had come to do. No wonder, in the garden, He "began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy." Soon He would say: "My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death" (Mark 14:33,34). The words speak of stunned astonishment and intense mental distress; sorrow so great as to kill Him even in the garden, had not an angel come to strengthen Him (Luke 22:43). Three times He prayed earnestly that He might somehow be spared the terrible cup that He was beginning to drink. Yet He could pray, "Thy will be done" (Matthew 26:42). "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11). And He could even sing on the way to shame and spitting, scourging and suffering like no one else would ever know, and then He would die for our sins on the cross. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 10, Tuesday THE HONEST APOSTLES "(We) have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the Word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God" (II Corinthians 4:2). One of the most futile and foolish arguments of unbelievers is to accuse the New Testament writers of trying to foist off tales of a supernatural Christ on gullible people. The writings of these men contain strong condemnations of all dishonesty and deceit, and it is impossible that they could simultaneously engage in such a gigantic conspiracy as this would demand. Paul's claim in our text, for example, would be the worst sort of hypocrisy in such a case. Peter said: "Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word" (I Peter 2:1,2). John warned: "All liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone" (Revelation 21:8). But the clinching proof of their honesty and sincerity was their willingness to suffer for their testimony. Paul said: "Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor, working with our own hands: Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat; we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day" (I Corinthians 4:11-13). All the apostles and writers of the New Testament (except John, who also suffered severe persecution throughout his long life) eventually died as martyrs for their faith, and it is incredible that they would have suffered and died for a message they knew to be a lie. We can have complete confidence that the New Testament records are honest reports of sincere and godly men. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 11, Wednesday THE LIVING WORD "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His lory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). This is the great verse of the Incarnation, declaring to us that the Creator of all things, the eternal Word of God (John 1:1-3) actually became a man, being "made flesh." Since this verse and the following verses unequivocally refer to "Jesus Christ" (v.17), there is no legitimate escape (though many have tried) from the great truth that the man called Jesus of Nazareth was the great God and Creator, as well as perfect Man and redeeming Savior. Furthermore, He has assumed human flesh forever, while still remaining fully God. He is Immanuel, "God with us" (Matthew 1:23). He is not part man and part God, or sometimes man and sometimes God, but is now the God-Man, fully and eternally true God and perfect Man-- man as God created and intended man to be. See also Philippians 2:5-8 and I John 4:2,3. When He first became man, He "dwelt among us" for a while. The word "dwelt," however, is actually the Greek word for "tabernacled." As in the tabernacle (or "tent") prepared by Moses (Exodus 40:33) in the wilderness, the glory of God in Christ dwelled on Earth for a time in a "body" prepared by God (Hebrews 10:5). We also "beheld His glory," says His beloved disciple, John. The Greek word for "tabernacle" (skene) is a cognate word to shakan (the Hebrew word for "dwell"), both being related to what has come to be known as the shekinah glory cloud that filled the ancient tabernacle (Exodus 40:34). Eventually, when the Holy City descends out of heaven to the new earth, then "the tabernacle of God" will forever be "with men," and He will "dwell with them" and "be their God" eternally (Revelation 21:3). Thus God's "Living Word" is now and always our living Lord! HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 12, Thursday LOVE OR LUST "My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: that thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge" (Proverbs 5:1,2). The entire fifth chapter of Proverbs concerns the use or misuse of the highest function of our physical bodies. Under the sovereign control of God, a man and woman have been granted the ability, through their union, to create an eternal soul with the ability to accept or reject God, eternal life, and forgiveness. The contrast in this chapter is between the usage of this God-given function in lust or love, adultery or fidelity. Verses 3 through 6 provide insight into the character of promiscuity, which includes deception (v.3), and sorrow (v.4). Psychologists have long recognized that many prostitutes ply their trade out of a hatred for men, purposefully and conscientiously destroying their companions (v.5). The solution, of course, is to stay away. Don't play with fire! Avoid any opportunities to be enticed (v.8). The results, of course, of yielding to temptation would be that we would lose our youthful vigor (v.9), our wealth (v.10), our health (v.11), our self esteem (vs.12,13), and even our lives are in danger (v.14). On the other hand, married love is a beautiful thing (vs.15-20), providing health, companionship, joy, and satisfaction. "Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth" (v.18). Remember, none of this is done in secret. "The ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He pondereth all his goings" (v.21). We should stay away from any involvement in sin, for sin entraps us (v.22), and we keep going back. Men die for lack of instruction, or lack of obedience to the instruction they have (v.23). This leads to great folly, and, in the end, total shame and destruction. JDM ________________________________________________________________________ August 13, Friday PLEASURES AT GOD'S RIGHT HAND "Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11). The 16th Psalm contains the Bible's first reference to the resurrected Christ at the "right hand" of His heavenly Father, and this is important, for there are 20 other such references that follow this one. "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Psalm 110:1). This latter verse is quoted no less than five times in the New Testament (Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42; Acts 2:34; Hebrews 1:13). Then there are seven references to Christ being at God's right hand in Paul's epistles (Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2), and seven in other books of the New Testament (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62; 16:19; Luke 22:69; Acts 7:55; Acts 7:56; I Peter 3:22). Lastly, "(Jesus Christ) is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him." It is noteworthy that the first reference speaks of Christ's great joy at God's right hand, the last, of His great power there. One additional activity there is mentioned: "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Romans 8:34). In there in this present age (note Hebrews 7:25; I John 2:1,2; etc.). Soon He will become God's strong right hand of power, manifested until all His enemies become His footstool, and we, His people, are taken up to be with Him (I Thessalonians 4:17). Then we shall enjoy with Him the pleasures and fullness of joy at God's right hand forevermore. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 14, Saturday SPIRITUAL DETOURS "There are eleven days' journey from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir unto Kadesh-barnea" (Deuteronomy 1:2). Detours, when we get off the main road, can be frustrating and timeconsuming. Yet in the spiritual life, God seems to allow us to be detoured. One of the longest detours of all time happened to the children of Israel in the wilderness. What should have taken them eleven days to enter the Promised Land turned into a forty-year detour in the desert. That detour was due to their deplorable lack of faith in God's conquering power. On the other hand, there were those who may have thought they were being detoured by God, but who later found they were on God's perfect road of blessing all along. Consider: 1) Moses was detoured into submission. Those forty years in the wilderness tending sheep were not a waste, but actually a training ground for tending Israel later on. The desert experience took all the trust in the arm of flesh out of him (Exodus 3,4). (2) Paul was detoured into learning. "I went into Arabia, ... Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem" (Galatians 1:17,18). Those years were good for Paul, so that he might learn of Christ and be trained for service. (3) Philip was detoured from many, to one. He went from winning multitudes, to winning one man, the Ethiopian eunuch; from a great revival to a singular witnessing experience. The Lord is interested in each soul (Acts 8:26-39). (4) Enoch and Elijah were detoured into heaven (Genesis 5:24; II Kings 2:11). But what a joyous detour! Is today the day we will experience the same? "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly in the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 1:11). NPS ________________________________________________________________________ August 15, Sunday PREACHING THE RESURRECTION "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all" (Acts 4:33). There are multitudes today who believe that Christ's resurrection was a "spiritual" resurrection, insisting that the idea of a dead body returning to life after three days in the grave is completely unscientific and impossible. This was not what the apostles preached with great grace and great power, however. They would hardly have been excited about any kind of spiritual resurrection, since everyone--both Jews and the pagan Gentiles--believed in life after death. If that was their message, no one would have doubted, and no one would have cared. Even when the disciples saw the resurrected Christ, they first "supposed that they had seen a spirit" (Luke 24:37). Christ even had to urge them to "handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39). When the disciples finally became convinced of His bodily resurrection, they were quickly transformed into courageous evangelists, willing even to die in support of their glorious message of salvation. The resurrection was, indeed, contrary to scientific law and all human experience, and this very fact proved to them that their Lord was Himself the divine Lawgiver and author of all human experience. All other founders and leaders of human religions, ancient or modern, are themselves subject to death, but He alone has triumphed over death. Only the Creator of life can conquer death, and the resurrection proves that Jesus Christ is Creator, as well as Savior. Therefore, when we today, like the apostles of old, proclaim the resurrection of Christ, we know that His name is above every name, and this enables us also to witness with great power, in great grace. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 16, Monday WHO'S RICH? "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and onto many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition" (I Timothy 6:9). When it comes to material wealth, it is good to remember that "The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up" (I Samuel 2:7). Rather than encouraging man to pursue wealth, the Bible contains strong warning against the deceitfulness of riches. "For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (I Timothy 6:10). It is not what a man possesses that tunes his heart, but his attitude toward those possessions (many or few). Who then is rich? In Genesis 14:22, Abraham said, "I have lift up mine hand unto the LORD, the most high God, the possessor of heaven andearth." The word "possessor" comes from a root word meaning to create. As Almighty Creator, God has the right of ownership of heaven and earth. Yet, when He came to earth, He said to a scribe one day, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay His head" (Luke 9:58). As He hung dying on the cross, the soldiers at His feet gambled for His clothes, and He was buried in a borrowed tomb. From the world's perspective, He owned nothing, but this could not change the fact that He was, and is, the Possessor of heaven and earth. As Christians, we are "children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:16,17); but "the eyes of (our) understanding need to be enlightened; that (we) "may know what is the hope of His calling, and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe" (Ephesians 1:18,19). CJH ________________________________________________________________________ August 17, Tuesday FLESH AND BONES "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39). One of the speculations of modern liberals who deny the resurrection is that the disciples saw some kind of apparition, or even were having hallucinations, when they "thought" they saw Jesus alive after His death. But a supposed "hallucination" is never seen by an entire group of people at the same time, as Jesus was seen, again and again. Jesus Himself answers those who say it was a "spiritual" resurrection. His spirit never died, so His spirit could not be resurrected. At first the disciples did, indeed, think they were seeing His "ghost," but then He showed them the scars of the spikes that had pierced His hands and feet, and he also ate part of a fish and a honeycomb before them (Luke 24:37,40,42). They could no longer doubt the reality of His bodily resurrection. It is sobering to realize that He will always bear those scars, even in His glorified body. The Scripture says that, when He comes again, "they shall look upon me whom they have pierced" (Zechariah 12:10). "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him" (Revelation 1:7). It is also significant that Christ did not use the more common phrase, "flesh and blood" when He spoke to the disciples, but "flesh and bones." His blood had been shed on the cross as the price of our redemption (I Peter 1:18,19). In our own future resurrected bodies which shall be like His (I John 3:2; Philippians 3:21), blood will no longer be needed. Blood is essential now for "the life of the flesh is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11), but in that day "the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (I Corinthians 15:52), to be like Him forever. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 18, Wednesday THE LIVING SAVIOR "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Romans 10:9). There is a popular Christian song whose chorus ends with these words: "You ask me how I know He lives; He lives within my heart." This may sound spiritual, but this is not how we know He lives! We are saved because He died for our sins and then rose bodily from the tomb, triumphant over sin, death, the curse, and Satan, alive in His glorified body, forevermore. It is this which we must believe in our hearts and confess with our lips. For Him to rise bodily from the grave means that He is nothing less than God, the very Creator Himself. It is only because of who He is that He could do what He did, and this is what we must believe in our hearts. There are people who believe that Buddha lives in their hearts, or the spirit of "the gods" indwells their hearts, or even that "the Christ" is in their hearts, but "the heart is deceitful above all things" (Jeremiah 17:9). We can believe many things, and feel many things that are not so. We know Jesus Christ is a living Savior, not because we feel His presence in our hearts, but because He rose from the grave on the third day and "shewed Himself alive after His passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days" (Acts 1:3). The gospel of our salvation does not rest on our feelings, nor on someone's teachings, but on the objective, proven, certain facts of history. Jesus Christ is alive, whether anyone feels Him living in their hearts or not, and He is at this moment bodily in heaven, at the right hand of the Father (e.g., Romans 8:34). "Wherefore, He is fully able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 19, Thursday HIS OWN PLACE "And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen, That he may take part of this ministry and apostleship, from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place" (Acts 1:24,25). The last three words of this passage have profound significance. Although Judas had walked with Christ and the other apostles for three years, he was out of place there all that time. It took the traumatic events of the final week of Jesus' ministry to reveal his true character. At death, each of us will go to his own place, whether heaven or hell. If a person has found the company of Bible-believing, Bible-living Christians uncomfortable in this life, and feels more at home with theBible-doubting, God-ignoring majority, then his own place will surely be with them in the future life. Such a person would be more miserable in heaven than in "his own place." The tragic words of the Bible's final chapter are these: "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Revelation 22:11). An artificial profession of belief, like that of Judas, will not change one's basic character. Sooner or later, that person will be found altogether out of place. "The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire" (II Peter 2:22). Yet a true change of heart, through genuine faith in Christ, will change our eternal residence, as well, for then God "hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son" (Colossians 1:13). There is, indeed, a wonderful "place" which Christ has gone to "prepare" for all those who truly desire to be with Him in His place! (John 14:2). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 20, Friday GOD'S QUICKENINGS "Quicken thou me according to thy word" (Psalm 119:25). God's word is the ultimate source of quickening for the believer. The theme of Psalm 119 is the word of God. Eleven times the psalmist asks God to quicken him; that is, to revive or give him life by means of His word. "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12). (1) Quickening produces restoration: "My soul cleaveth unto the dust:quicken thou me according to thy word" (v.25). (2) Quickening produces comfort: "This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me" (v.50). "I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy word" (v.107). Truly, it is the word of God that brings comfort in all our afflictions. (3) Quickening produces deliverance: "Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word" (v.154). The quickening power of God in salvation has already "delivered us from the wrath to come" (I Thessalonians 1:10); from Satan, "that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" (Hebrews 2:14,15), and from the world (Galatians 1:4). (4) Quickening produces guidance: "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way" (v.37). Rather than turning aside into empty ways, we should allow God to guide us in the paths of righteousness. (5) Quickening produces resolve: "I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me" (v.93). "Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness" (v.159). How wonderful it is to know that the Holy Spirit quickens us through the word He authored so that we can face any obstacle on our pilgrim journey. NPS ________________________________________________________________________ August 21, Saturday SPIRITUAL GENETICS "Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all" (Romans 4:16). Paul very skillfully explains the means by which the Gentile and Jew become justified by the faith of Abraham. In this chapter, he explains, point by point, the logic that leads to the conclusion that Abraham is the spiritual father of both the Jew and Gentile, because the heirship had nothing to do with physical seed (children) or the practice of circumcision. Instead, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness" (v.3), without works (v.4), before the rite of circumcision was instituted (v.11). Here, then, is a remarkable revelation of an inheritance pattern unknown to Mendelian genetics. Mendel, as an Austrian monk, worked out the basic principles by which natural seeds cause inheritance of traits. The offspring of the plant crosses that he made depended upon the genetic traits inherited from the parents, whereas the offspring of God's promise to Abraham are characterized by the trait of belief, or faith. This trait leads to the forgiveness of iniquities and the covering of sins in a person's life (v.7). What in the world is this all about? To the humanist, there is no inheritance in one's life apart from the natural transmission of genes. With the child of God, there is more. One's physical life and spiritual life can be transformed by the willing acceptance of God's promises (Genesis 15:6; 17:4). Sin in a person's life is a practice that has been permitted to emit from a person's heart (mind) (Romans 1:28; 8:7; Ephesians 4:17; Jeremiah 4:14). Acceptance of Jesus' shed blood covers our sins and makes us heirs of our "father" Abraham. KBC ________________________________________________________________________ August 22, Sunday BURIED WITH HIM "Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4). The burial of Christ after His death was extremely important for two reasons: First, it assures us that His death was a physical death and that His resurrection was a bodily resurrection. Secondly, His burial-- like His death and resurrection--has profound doctrinal and practical significance for the believer's individual life. All this is pictured, as our text points out, by the ordinance of baptism, displaying symbolically the death of Christ for sin and the death of the believer to sin, then the burial of the corruptible body of flesh (which, for all but Christ, returns to dust in accordance with God's primeval curse). And finally, the resurrection, demonstrating Christ's eternal victory over sin and death, and, in the case of the believer, the beginning of the new life in Christ. The same truth appears again in Colossians 2:12: "Buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead." Although these are the only New Testament passages where the doctrinal implications of Christ's burial are specifically mentioned, the spiritual truths taught thereby permeate all the Scriptures. If our old bodies of sin are--at least positionally--already in the grave, then it is altogether grotesque for them still to be walking around in sin. "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (Romans 6:5). We shall (not "should," as wrongly rendered in our text) walk in newness of life, triumphant daily over sin through the implanted resurrection life of our Savior. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 23, Monday A LITTLE FLOCK "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). The world tends to measure success by size, and this seems generally true in the Christian world as well. The most "successful" churches are considered to be those with the largest congregations, or the largest budgets, or the greatest number of converts baptized each year, or some other quantitative index. But this is not God's criterion. At the judgment seat of Christ, "the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (I Corinthians 3:13). Not how big it is, but of what sort it is! Quality, not quantity, is the criterion. Christ's encouraging words to the "little flock" were given towards the end of an extended warning against the desire to accumulate wealth. "Take heed, and beware of covetousness," He had said (Luke 12:15), speaking to His small group of followers. He was their Shepherd, and would provide the needs of His "little flock." Christ's warnings against individual covetousness evidently apply also to group covetousness. A church, or any other Christian organization, needs continually to guard against the desire to be impressive in the eyes of the world. The cities of Christendom exhibit many ornate cathedrals and temples that are now mostly empty and spiritually dead. The Lord Jesus promised an "open door" to the little church at Philadelphia, because it had "little strength" and had "kept (His) word" (Revelation 3:8), but threatened to "spue ... out of (His) mouth" the tepid church at Laodicea, which was boasting that she was "rich, and increased with goods" (Revelation 3:16,17). Not every "little flock" has kept God's Word, nor has every big flock become lukewarm, but Christ's words serve as both warning and encouragement. The greater blessings of the coming kingdom have been promised to the faithful "little flock." HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 24, Tuesday IMMORTAL, INVISIBLE, GOD ONLY WISE "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen" (I Timothy 1:17). Many of the grand old hymns of the faith consist of the actual words and phrases of Scripture, either repeated verbatim or paraphrased and collected around a doctrinal theme. Such is the case for the stately hymn, "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise," where we find, almost in list form, the attributes and character of God. In each of the next four days, we will focus our attention on one of its four verses, and through them to our great God and His nature. Immortal, invisible God only wise, In light inaccessible hid from our eyes, Most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, Almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise. Obviously, much of the source for this first verse comes from the benediction in our text above. God is both eternal, and immortal. "I AM THAT I AM" (Exodus 3:14) He called Himself. Later we read that the Immortal One died but rose from the dead and now "ever liveth to make intercession for (us)" (Hebrews 7:25). Daniel called Him the "Ancient of Days" and described Him with great splendor and brilliance (Daniel 7:9-14). Paul called Him "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords: who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach into; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen" (I Timothy 6:15,16). Note Daniel's testimony of praise: "Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are His, And He changeth the times and the seasons: He removeth kings, and setteth up kings: ... and the light dwelleth with Him" (Daniel 2:20-22). JDM ________________________________________________________________________ August 25, Wednesday THE UNRESTING GOD "Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of His understanding" (Isaiah 40:28). The second verse of the mighty hymn, "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise," continues with a listing of some of His attributes. Of course, the full list of His attributes as recorded in Scripture, would be very long, but many of them are pieced together here in this verse in a way which emphasizes God's mighty works on behalf of His creation and us, His children, and His utter self-sufficiency and power. Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, Nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might; Thy justice like mountains high soaring above, Thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love. As revealed in our text, God's power is inexhaustible; He needs neither rest nor refreshment. He is not like the impotent Baal, "peradventure, he sleepeth" (I Kings 18:27), unable to hear and unable to answer. God needs nothing from us. "Who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto Him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen" (Romans 11:35,36). He never wastes His energy nor His actions. "For ever, O LORD, thy Word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89). Several thoughts in the hymn are echoed by David's praise to his Lord. "Thy mercy, O LORD, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast. How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings" (Psalm 36:5-7). JDM ________________________________________________________________________ August 26, Thursday NAUGHT CHANGETH THEE "For all flesh is like grass, and the glory of men as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever" (I Peter 1:24,25). What comparison can be made between the unchanging, eternal, Creator of life and frail, temporal man? Verse three of the beautiful hymn, "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise," makes such a comparison, or rather, such a contrast. To all, life thou givest to both great and small; In all life thou livest, the true life of all; We blossom and flourish as leaves on a tree, And wither and perish--but naught changeth thee. As in nature today, life comes only from life, and in the beginning, the living Creator imparted life to otherwise inanimate chemicals. To the plants and non-conscious animals, He gave only biological life; but to the creatures, from the smallest to the greatest, He gave true life (i.e., breath, blood, and consciousness); and to men, His image. As Creator, He needs nothing from His creation: "Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things" (Acts 17:25). Furthermore, "In Him we live, and move, and have our being" (v.28). But the creation was distorted by sin, and now death reigns over all life, "like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth" (Psalm 90:5,6). But God lasts forever. "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God" (Psalm 90:2). He doesn't change. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Hebrews 13:8). And, as we see in our text, neither does His Word change. JDM ________________________________________________________________________ August 27, Friday FATHER OF GLORY, FATHER OF LIGHTS "I saw also the LORD sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face. ... And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts" (Isaiah 6:1-3). The fourth and concluding verse of the hymn "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise," continues to recognize the majesty of our great God. His splendor is so great that even the angels must hide their eyes from the brightness, as we see in our text, while they adoringly praise His purity. Great Father of glory, pure Father of light, Thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight; All praise we would render; O help us to see 'Tis only the splendor of light hideth thee! All light and life, as well as all good things, come from God. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). He is not only the "Father of lights," dispelling each "shadow," He is the "Father of glory." Paul prayed for you and me: "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened" (Ephesians 1:17,18). As with the hymn writer, we need His help to fully see and praise Him. Thus in one hymn, we are reminded that God is immortal, invisible, wise, light, blessed, glorious, the Ancient of Days, almighty, victorious, unresting, unhasting, unwanting, not wasteful, mighty, just, life, unchangeable, the Father of glory, the Father of light, and adored by angels. Furthermore, He dwells in splendor, deserves our praise, rules in might, provides goodness and love, gives life, and enlightens our understanding. JDM ________________________________________________________________________ August 28, Saturday SOWING AND SLEEPING "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption" (I Corinthians 15:42). When a believer's soul and spirit leave the body and return to the Lord, it is significant that the New Testament Scriptures speak of the body, not as dead, but as sleeping. For example, Jesus said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep" (John 11:11). This state is not "soul sleep," as some teach, for "to be absent from the body (is) to be present with the Lord" (II Corinthians 5:8). The body is sleeping--not the soul. Similarly, when the believer's body is laid in a grave, Paul speaks ofthis act not as a burial, but as sowing! "But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased Him, and to every seed his own body" (I Corinthians 15:35-38). Just as a buried grain of wheat brings forth a fruitful plant, so the old, sin-corrupted, aching body of human flesh, sown in the ground, will some day come forth "fashioned like unto His glorious body" (Philippians 3:21), in which "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain" (Revelation 21:4). "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body" (I Corinthians 15:42-44). When a believer's body is sown in the ground, God will soon reap from it a body of glory. HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 29, Sunday NEVER TOO LATE "And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42,43). One of the two thieves on the cross continued in unbelief right up until the time he died (Luke 23:39), but the second repented and believed unto salvation. The one assures us that no one need despair, since it is always possible to accept Christ at any time before death. The other warns us, on the other hand, that no one should presume. Long-continued rebellion against God is likely to become so fixed in one's character that sincere repentance may become impossible. The repentant thief, beholding Christ and hearing the first of the seven so-called "words from the cross" (Luke 23:34), came to believe that Jesus truly was Lord and that He could, indeed, grant forgiveness and salvation. The penitent thief had no opportunity to be baptized, to change his life style, or to do anything whatever except repent, believe on Christ, and confess his faith (Romans 10:9,10). And that was sufficient! oth thieves would die that day, and the soul of the unrepentant thief would soon descend into Hades, there to await condemnation at the future judgment day. The other, because of his trust in Christ, would go with Him to Paradise. The tragedy is that far too many people, assuring themselves that it is never too late, keep waiting until it becomes forever too late! "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" (Proverbs 27:1). The overwhelming majority of people who come to trust in Christ for salvation do so when they are young. Very few come to the Lord when they are old or about to die. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2). HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 30, Monday MY LORD AND MY GOD "And Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God" (John 20:28). Thomas has been called "doubting Thomas" because of his initial reluctance to believe in the Lord's resurrection, but neither the Lord nor the other disciples ever viewed him in such a light. His later ministry, as the first missionary/martyr to India, speaks clearly of his great faith. It is only in John's gospel that we have any specific insight into Thomas' character. When the other disciples sought to dissuade Jesus from returning to Jerusalem, it was Thomas who urged, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him" (John 11:16). Thomas understood the dangers awaiting them, but was ready to go wherever Jesus desired him to go. In the upper room, when Jesus spoke of going away, Thomas, still willing to go with Him anywhere, was the only one to ask: "Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" (John 14:5). Then, just a few hours later, the Lord had been crucified, and soon "the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews" (John 20:19) as they hid themselves in the upper room. But Thomas was not hiding! The Scriptures do not say where he was when Jesus appeared in their midst, but he was not hiding there like the others. He may well have been out working or witnessing, doing whatever he could to follow the Lord, but he (like the others) had failed to understand Jesus' promise that He would rise again. When the other disciples reported that they had seen the resurrected Lord, Thomas, realizing the tremendous significance of such a miracle if it were true, insisted he must see the proof first hand. Then, when he saw the Lord, he showed a higher comprehension of what had taken place than any of the others, as he whispered in awe: "My Lord, and my God!" HMM ________________________________________________________________________ August 31, Tuesday WHEN ... THEN "Know therefore that the LORD thy God, He is God, the faithful God, Who keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations" (Deuteronomy 7:9). Moses knew Israel would tend to succumb to various temptations in the promised land, and encouraged them not only to obey God's Law, but to use temptations as an opportunity for growth in character. Standing on the border, he proposed three "when ... then" situations and exhorted the people to decide in advance how they would react. "When the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land ... to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildest not, ... then beware lest thou forget the LORD" (6:10-12). Moses knew that a satisfied people, recipients of easy wealth, would forget the Lord. The remedy: "Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve Him, and shalt swear by His name" (v.13), and "ye shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God" (v.17). Next, "When thy son asketh thee in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies ... which the LORD our God hath commanded you?" (v.20), the fathers were to instruct them with: "The LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand" (v.21). "And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive" (v.24). God also knows our tendencies to compromise, and "when the LORD thy God... hath cast out many nations before thee, ... thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them: ... Neither shalt thou make marriages with them. ... For they will turn away thy son from following me" (7:1-4). In these and other situations, we would do well to follow Moses' exhortation and decide before hand how we will react. JDM ________________________________________________________________________ This "Days of Praise" quarterly was converted to ASCII, for BBS use, from the original formatted desktop articles. 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