Saturday 1/6 ~ Oh! I didn’t know that before

The scripture for today, January 6 (1/6), is Titus 1:6f as found in the New Testament of the Bible:

changes-in-worship-cover-medium“An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer is entrusted with God’s work, he must be blameless ~ not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, nor pursuing dishonest gain.”

This is quite interesting. God does not leave us to guess the qualifications of a church leader. We don’t have to hold conferences or synods to decide on qualifications for this office because God has already given them.

Something surprising here is that the word elder is used interchangeably with the word overseer (sometimes also translated bishop). The word elder comes from the Greek word presbyter. The word overseer/bishop is from the Greek word episcopos. Elder and overseer and bishop all are the same in this passage referring to the same office!

Here’s something else interesting about the elder/overseer/bishop: The word pastor comes from the Greek word for shepherd, poiman. In Acts 20:17, Paul sent for the elders of the church in Ephesus to talk to them. When they arrived, he said, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds [pastors] of the church of God which he bought with his own blood.”

Do you see the overlapping of the same office being called by different names? It’s kind of like father and papa being the same.

Titus 1:6f uses elder and overseer for the same office. Overseer is the same in Greek as bishop. Acts 20:17 uses elder, overseer, shepherd (pastor) for the same office.

In our daily lives, we have different words meaning the same person; such as father, parent, dad, papa ~ all names for the same position in the family.

So, too, for the family of God ~ the church ~ all these words overlap as names for the same office! And the qualifications for this office are found in our scripture for today, Titus 1:6f. Indeed, how interesting! 

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Friday 12/29 ~ Promised Land

The scripture for today, December 29 (12/29), is Deuteronomy 12:29 as found in the Old Testament of the Bible:

0-REV-Cover-No Logo-KINDLE-medium“The Lord your God will cut off before you the nations you are about to invade and dispossess.”

Why would a good God drive people (the Amorite nations) from their own land so that other people (the Jews) could live there? Way back in Genesis 15, God promised Abraham that his descendants would possess the land he lived in as a wanderer, but first, they would be enslaved in a foreign country some 400 years. During that time, they would multiply. Indeed, they did grow from 70 of Abraham’s grandchildren to over three million.

Then it would be time for his descendants to possess the land. Why so long in the future?  Verse 16 explains it: “For the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”  Their sins included offering their children as sacrifices to the fire god. 

The Jews did finally possess the Promised Land, but God warned them, “If you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you” (Leviticus 18:28). Indeed, they did eventually defile the land with their own sins, so several centuries later, they were dispossessed and forced to go to Assyria and Babylon by their conquerors. Yes, God keeps his promises ~ to both good and bad.

Today, regardless of the condition of the nation you live in on earth, look ahead to that even better promise of an even better land ~ that spiritual Promised Land ~ heaven. And it will be forever good.

Thursday 12/28 ~ The kingdom came & we have dual citizenship

The scripture for today, December 28 (12/28), is Hebrews 12:28 as found in the New Testament of the Bible:

0-BK 8-ComeFlyWithMe-Cover-Medium-New“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”

Notice this is in present tense. The kingdom is not something in the future but is now.

Jesus said in Luke 9:27 that some listening to him would still be alive when the kingdom came. Colossians 1:13 says God HAS (not will) rescued us from the dominion of darkness and BROUGHT (not will) us into the kingdom.

In fact, at the end, Jesus will not come back to earth to set up a kingdom. Instead, he will at that time hand the already-existing kingdom over to the Father (I Corinthians 15:24).

So what does this mean to us? Revelation 1:5-6 says that all who have been freed from our sins by the blood of Jesus have become a kingdom of priests. And as such, we daily offer our bodies as living sacrifices in the service to our king (Romans 12:1).

Christians have dual citizenship. Christians are citizens of the earthly nation they live in, and citizens of the kingdom of heaven. What glory God has already bestowed upon us.

Wednesday 12/27 ~ True separation of church & state

The scripture for today, December 27 (12/27), is 1st Kings 12:27 as found in the Old Testament of the Bible:

changes-in-worship-cover-medium“If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem [not some other capital city], they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah.”

For centuries and millenniums, kings selected a patron god for their nation, a god they most revered to protect them. The patron god was selected by the king. Nations were always ruled by either a high priest or king. Some nations even had priest-kings.

So, when Constantine conquered much of Europe and set up his empire, he needed a patron god. One day during a battle, he looked up and saw a cloud formation that reminded him of things he’d heard about Jesus. So he made Jesus his patron God, and Christianity his empire’s required religion. He even rode his army through rivers, then declared them baptized. He ordered conquered peoples to be baptized or killed.  Headquarters was Rome.

Luther was friends of the Duke [king] of Germany, so when he broke off from Rome, the official state religion became Lutheranism. John Calvin was in the government of Switzerland, so when it broke off from Rome, the official state religion became Calvinism. When the king of England broke off from Rome, he became head of the Church of England (and Prince Charles is head of the Church there today). John Knox was influential with the parliament of Scotland, so his Presbyterianism became the official religion of Scotland.

In each instance, the king or parliament could force its citizens to follow the chosen religion of that nation. If people didn’t, they could legally put them in prison, torture them, and execute them at will. And, in earlier centuries, they did just that.

Eventually, the idea of separating religion from the state government became popular. And that is where many nations are today. But it does not mean people in government cannot express religion. It just means they cannot force citizens to be a particular government-selected religion or be in danger of punishment.

That is true “separation of church and state”.

Scripture for Thursday 12/21 ~ Use Your Power of One

The scripture for today, December 21 (12/21), is Matthew 12:21 as found in the New Testament of the Bible:

0-Michel-COVER-Kindle-Medium“In his name the nations will put their hope.”

Revelation 21:2, 9, & 26 says something similar regarding the New Jerusalem which is the Bride of Christ, and the Bride is the Church:

“The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it.”

The nation you live in may not be in good hands right now, or it may be thriving with high morals, or it may be diving into poverty. But your nation can hope ~ hope in Jesus.

Never lose hope. You are just one person, but there is great power in one. Jesus came to provide that hope. In your own way, in your own life, use your power of one.

Do not leave your nation for a “better life” in someone else’s.  All nations have their days of glory and their days of despair.  Tell about Jesus, the Prince of Peace, even if you have to tell it is secret. Stay. Show your nation how it can hope, how it can have glory, how it can have honor.

 

 

Scripture for Thursday 12/14 ~ IF

The scripture for today, December 14 (12/14), is 1st Samuel 12:14 as found in the Old Testament of the Bible:

changes-in-worship-cover-medium“IF you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and IF both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God ~ good!”

The Jews had just insisted on having a king rule over them instead of a supreme judge. Samuel replied and said IF. IF they serve and obey the Lord, and IF they both (people and king) follow the Lord, then it is good.

Today as then, some people live in a nation where the king/government does not follow the Lord. What to do? Galatians 5:22 tells us to be loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled, for “against such things there is no law”.

Is it hard to do this when crooked officials are getting all the advantages and you are being cheated? Indeed it is. It may seem they are on top of things. In reality, they are at the bottom. Never ever let others drag you down to their level. It is not worth it.  Keep your eyes on God!

Hold fast!

       Stand firm!

                Do the right thing!

In the end, they will lose. You and God will win. That is good!

Scripture for Saturday, November 18 (11/17) ~ Governments

The scripture for today, November 18 (11/18), is Deuteronomy 11:18f as found in the Old Testament of the Bible:

changes-in-worship-cover-medium“Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

Sometimes the country we live in goes through very bad times. We pray for the bad times to end, but they do not. What is going on? The above warning was to the Israelites just before they entered their promised land. God had just said through Moses, don’t worship idols.

Perhaps your country is going through bad times because of idol worship. Probably not like the hand-made idols of ancient times, but idols of money and power and immorality. There have been times in the Bible when a good man prayed, “God, I am the only one left who worships you.” God would reply that there were a few others. But he did not reply that he was going to stop the punishing. The nation hadn’t turned back to God yet.

Therefore, when we are suffering unjustly for what a majority of our countrymen have been doing, we must do it bravely. And while we “wait it out”, let us continually remind ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our countrymen of the righteous ways they should be acting.

In bad times, this is our assignment. Let us be brave and spread the news. Let us keep reminding and be as patient with them as God is with us. Perhaps someday they will listen.

 

Scripture for Wednesday, November 15 (11/15)

The Scripture for today, November 15 (11/15), is Revelation 11:15 as found in the New Testament of the Bible:

00-Heroes-Alone-COVER-KINDLE“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven which said: ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever!’ “

 Each of us belongs to a kingdom/nation within our world. It is not perfect. Its leaders can sometimes do very bad things. And we wonder how we can stand some of the terrible things that sometimes happen within a government.

But our worldly kingdom/nation is not the only one we can live in. Colossians 1:13 says Jesus “has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Rescued! Brought us! Past tense! The kingdom isn’t something in the future. It is here now. And it goes by yet another name. Verse 18 says, “And he [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church.”

So, when we become discouraged about the kingdom/nation in our world that we live in, take hope. We can have dual citizenship! For there is another kingdom here, a spiritual one. The king of that kingdom will actually love us. Forever and ever.

 

Scripture for Saturday, October 7 (10/7)

The scripture for today, October 7(10/7), is Joshua 10:7f as found in the Old Testament of the Bible:

Clouds in blue sky“So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.’ “

We today cannot imagine a good God condoning violence, let alone promoting it. But think back. Mankind was quite barbaric in the centuries and millenniums before Christ. God never runs very far ahead of mankind, or else mankind would not understand, would grow discouraged and then not even try to follow God. By the time Jesus came, God was saying, “No more violence.”

In this scripture for today, God was telling Joshua to attack people in the Jews’ Promised Land ~ Canaan. This brings up a related question: Why would a good God allow one group of people to kill off another group of people? God had told Abraham centuries earlier, “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Genesis 15:16).

In Leviticus 18:24, 28, God warned the Jews through Moses, “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled….And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you.” So God warned the Jews that, if they got as bad as the previous people in Canaan, he would drive them out too.

One of the monstrous sins of the Amorites was child sacrifice in the open fires of Marduck.  Eventually, the Jews began doing the same thing, and God drove them out of their Promised Land to Assyria and Babylon.

Further, in Old Testament times, God often punished people immediately. Why punish them? Partly to get them away from the good people. And God used armies of believers to do the punishing for him.

In the New Testament, God does not expect us to do the punishing. Romans 12:19 says, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay’ says the Lord. On the contrary, If your enemy is hungry feed him….Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Thank God, he has taken the terrible task of vengeance away from us. We can just forgive (let loose of) our enemies and hand things over to God to take whatever steps need to be taken. In the meantime, we can read the Old Testament and learn that God takes notice when people are doing bad things to us. God does take care of us. God does love his children.

Scripture for Friday, September 8 (9/8)

The scripture for today, September 8 (9/8), is Daniel 9:8 as found in the Old Testament of the Bible:

0-Mefiboset-KINDLE Medium“O Lord, we and our kings, our princes, and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you.”

Daniel is praying for his countrymen. Have you prayed for your countrymen and government lately?  I Timothy 2:1 & 2 says “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone ~ for kings and all those in authority.” At the time Paul wrote this, Nero Caesar, who led the persecution of tens of thousands of Christians, torturing many to death, was the king over the Roman Empire. Paul prayed for him.

All your life, have you done nothing but complain about your government? Isn’t it time to stop complaining and start praying? It is hard to pray for someone and they stay your enemy.

Then, pray for your countrymen. Pray for forgiveness for what your country is doing wrong. Pray with thanksgiving for what your country is doing right. All countries—regardless of how great or small—have both. Humbly ask on behalf of your countrymen for forgiveness of whatever shames them, comfort for whatever losses they feel, and gratitude for everything that is right.  Be proud of whatever country you live in.  Do not leave. Stay and help it be even better. Be patriotic.