Monday, July 24, 2017

RISE UP

Today’s Reading: Nehemiah 1-2

Click scripture link to read online or HERE to listen online (then click the symbol of the audio speaker above the scripture portion).

 

The City of David is the Israeli name for the oldest settled neighbourhood of Jerusalem, and it is a major archaeological site. It is on a narrow ridge running south from the Temple Mount. It was a walled city in the Bronze Age and, according to Scripture, it is the place where King David built his palace and established his capital. The City of David enjoyed the defensive advantages of its position by the Tyropoeon Valley to its west (mostly filled in), the Hinnom Valley to the south, and the Kidron Valley on the east. This photo is looking south along an ancient City of David wall. Down to the left is the Kidron Valley.

GOOGLE MAPS – To see where the photo was taken, click HERE.

 

Key Verse: Nehemiah 2:18

And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to do this good work.

 

King Artaxerxes, ruler of the vast Persian Empire and stepson of Queen Esther, became God’s servant in the answers to the prayers of Daniel and many others who suffered ethnic cleansing at the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The Jews were still subjects of Persia, but the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem provided some sense of control over their own destiny as a distinct people. Some have called this period of time “The Springtime of Judaism.”

Ezra, in our readings over the past few days, has concentrated on the spiritual restoration of Judah, and now Nehemiah focuses on the political and geographical restoration. God gave the Jewish people one more leader who was a contemporary of Ezra and Nehemiah, the prophet Malachi. His ministry to the people was crucial to the revival of Judaism. The final book in the Hebrew cannon of Holy Scripture is powerful. To discover the power of Malachi’s words we may read Malachi 3:6-12.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Lord God, like Nehemiah, I pray with all sincerity for You to move upon the lives of those in authority. Please lead, guide, and direct our leaders in Your ways. You influenced the Persian Kings for the good of Your ancient people; now I pray that You’ll do the same for our current civil authorities, and in particular our spiritual leaders. Raise up in our time, O Lord, powerful prophetic voices as You have done in times past. I pray all these mercies in the Name of Jesus, Amen!!!

100 PERSONAL WORDS:

About 30 years ago, I was invited to speak at a conference of pastors and church leaders in Berlin, Germany. Rev. Volkhardt Spitzer was my host. He was the leader of a great Pentecostal congregation which had taken possession of the great church building in which Kaiser Wilhelm, of WWI times, had worshipped. I passed through “Check Point Charlie” into Eastern Germany, where I had the honour to preach in a Methodist Church. There in Communist-controlled territory, I found a church full of young people. Poverty was evident, but the joy of the Lord filled the building.

The next day, I took a taxi from my hotel to the infamous Wall that the Communist East Germans had built. A house which was a part of the Wall was being torn down and the Wall was being constructed to fill the gap. Police with machine guns were everywhere on the East German side. I approached the Wall from the west to try and make conversation with the masons laying the stones. I spoke in my best German (not that good) a warm greeting, but was met with no response. The workers would not look at me. I was totally ignored. I tried several times, but there was no response. I shared that evening in the conference that God is seeking to get our attention, but we just keep on building walls which separate. President Reagan said a few months later, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” As in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, God still uses leaders to bring about positive change in human affairs. I must never give up hope.

Yours for optimism based on the knowledge that God hears and answers prayer,

David

Ronald Reagan next to the Berlin Wall where he spoke the famous words, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” – June 12, 1987

Sunday, July 23, 2017

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Today’s Reading: Ezra 9-10

Click scripture link to read online or HERE to listen online (then click the symbol of the audio speaker above the scripture portion).

 

The northern part of “The City of David.” This area of Jerusalem was also known as the Ophel and is a narrow promontory beyond the southern edge of the Temple Mount and Old City. The Temple Mount is seen at the top of this photo.

GOOGLE MAPS – To see where the photo was taken, click HERE.

 

Key Verse: Ezra 10:1

Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large congregation of men, women, and children assembled to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly.

 

During the captivity in Babylon, much very serious prayer took place. Daniel prayed three times every day while facing Jerusalem. No doubt there were many others doing the same. God answered their prayers with a resounding, “YES!” The result was that God moved the heart and mind of the Persian Emperor Cyrus and his successors.

Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, states in “Antiquities of the Jews” (11.1.2) that Jews showed King Cyrus, who defeated Babylon, the prophecy of Isaiah where his name was mentioned over 100 years before his birth. Isaiah described Cyrus’ role in the plan of God. Josephus writes that this motivated Cyrus “to fulfill what was written.” Archeological excavations in 1879-1882 found what is known as the “Cyrus Cylinder.” At the opening of the Crossroads Centre in 1992, we had a replica of this cylinder on display. It is an important confirmation of the accuracy of the Biblical account, and of the policies of Cyrus in his rule of his vast empire. It says of Israel, “All their peoples I gathered together and restored to their dwelling place” (see photo of the Cyrus Cylinder below).

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Lord God, You do hear and answer prayer. Sometimes You say, “Yes,” sometimes, “No,” sometimes, “Slow.” I pray for deliverance of people today from captivity, yes, in Iraq (ancient Babylon) and Iran (ancient Persia), and also here at home. Destructive addictions, bad decisions, a self focus rather than seeking the good of others first, and other things, are holding people in captivity. I cry out to You for restoration of all that is good, kind, and loving. I pray in the name of the One who modelled the life we need, Jesus, Himself, Amen!!!

100 PERSONAL WORDS:

Norma-Jean and I lived for a time on Seaton Street, Toronto, just one block east of Sherbourne. I would often walk by the Salvation Army Men’s Centre where we volunteered on several occasions. I would think of our city in history. I had read that in the 1880’s Toronto was a mess! Open sewers, contaminated drinking water, much public display of intoxication, prostitution, and other ills that made Toronto a bad place in which to live. One man made a difference. The city became known as “Toronto the Good.”

William Howland attended an evangelistic series of meetings at St. James Cathedral, where history records that he realized he was a sinner who needed the Saviour. Fired up by his new faith, he set out to bring change and hope to his city. He regularly visited people living in the slums. He became an active worker in the YMCA. To help people find jobs, he raised the money to build an industrial school. At age 42 he ran for Mayor of Toronto and won (see photo below). His first act as Mayor was to create a morality squad, which patrolled and cleaned up the streets. He instituted a complete overhaul of the city’s water system. He so involved himself in the plight of the underprivileged that he wore himself out and died at 49. Those years impacted Toronto for at least a century.

I see evidences, particularly in the park on Sherbourne Street, that Toronto needs another William Howland. Pray for John Tory, our present mayor. I’m praying for the intervention of God in Canada’s largest city, in our entire country, and around the world!

Yours for hearing from God and for making the best personal decisions possible,

David

The Cyrus Cylinder (click on photo to enlarge)

William Howland, former Mayor of Toronto

 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

THE RIVER

Today’s Reading: Ezra 7-8

Click scripture link to read online or HERE to listen online (then click the symbol of the audio speaker above the scripture portion).

 

One significant source of water in the Middle East comes from a karst spring found in the Golan Heights region of Israel. The water from this spring forms the Dan River which is the largest and most important tributary of the Jordan River. It is fed by rain and snow that filters down through the rocks of Mount Hermon and emerges at its foot, creating the largest karst spring in the Middle East.

GOOGLE MAPS – To see where the photo was taken, click HERE.

 

Key Verses: Ezra 8:21, 23

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions…so we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.

 

Let us learn that while fasting does not gain any special favour, it does emphasize the high level of our fervency. God responds to fervent prayer. Fasting is an evidence of a high level of fervency. James, known as the brother of our Lord, wrote that, “The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) avails much” (James 5:18b). The word “river” is repeated four times in our reading. Prayer is like a river. There is a source, found in the rains and springs God provides. The river flows, picking up other little streams as it goes. Without the Jordan River, much more land would be swallowed up by the desert.

Yesterday, our key verse told us that the people “prospered through the prophesying of Haggai, the prophet, and Zechariah.” We considered a sample of the preaching of Haggai yesterday. Today let’s read from the other preacher…Zechariah 1:14-17 and Zechariah 9:9-10. Here is a repeated promise from Psalm 72:8 which is the motto that the founders of Canada chose to describe our country and to proclaim that God is Lord of Canada. Consider Zechariah 4:6b “Not by might [corporate strength] or by power [personal strength] but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Is it any wonder that the people prospered?

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Father God, as is recorded in Mark 9:24, “Immediately the man cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord I believe; help my unbelief!'” Dear Lord, I am encouraged by reading this story and praying the same prayer. Thank You! Amen!!! (Mark 9:14-29).

100 PERSONAL WORDS:

Haggai and Zechariah had influence on the people of God. Esther, the young Jewish girl who became the bride of the King of the Persian Empire, had a profound influence. No doubt it was her presence in the palace that brought about the letter which we have in today’s reading. Every one of us have a sphere of influence. I mentioned in my first commentary on the book of Ezra a Jewish Canadian named Ezra Levant. He has an increasing influence on Canadian life and politics. Like those who spoke out against the prevailing conditions in Israel, Levant has been persecuted but refuses to be “politically correct.” Check him out. Whether I agree with him or not, I find him fascinating. You may want to encourage him by writing (his website is here).

Yours for all who use whatever opportunities we have to speak out on issues about which we care,

David

This sign is at one of the main points where the water comes out of the ground. You can read about the impressive volume of water that this Karst Spring produces.

Friday, July 21, 2017

THE DECREE

Today’s Reading: Ezra 5-6

Click scripture link to read online or HERE to listen online (then click the symbol of the audio speaker above the scripture portion).

 

Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem on the slope of the Mount of Olives. On his first visit to Jerusalem, Boris Yeltsin ordered that the onion-domed spires on this Russian Orthodox church be reguilded with golden paint.

GOOGLE MAPS – To see where the photo was taken, click HERE.

 

Key Verse: Ezra 6:14

So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying [preaching and teaching] of Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, and they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes King of Persia.

 

In yesterday’s reading we were introduced to Kings Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes of Persia. It seems that they ruled between Cyrus the Great and Darius. In this interim period construction on the new Temple was stopped. A holocaust threatened the Jews until Queen Esther came on the scene (read Esther 3:12-14). Also we may want to read Esther 4:15-17 and Esther 7:4-6. In just over two weeks we’ll be reading the entire book of Esther.

Let us persist in our readings. The history of this period can be confusing. Hang in there! The Jews in the province of Judea held onto their vision. Two preachers made a big contribution to lifting the spirits of the people. Let’s read from the first preacher today, and the second tomorrow (Haggai 1:13-15 and Haggai 2:1-9). In spite of Haman’s threat to have all the Jews killed, they kept the faith. God had His Esther, and her uncle Mordecai, in the Persian Palace.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Lord God, I understand that You do not violate human free will, but I thank You that You do put people in place, and You do create circumstances that cause people to be willing to do, of their own free will, what is right. Please Lord, I pray that You’ll continue to do this in our world today. I volunteer for service, Lord, if I can be of any help in Your cause. In the Name of Jesus, the greatest Volunteer, I pray, Amen!!!

100 PERSONAL WORDS:

President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union and her satellite countries, the “Evil Empire.” But even there God was at work. In 1985 Crossroads made it into the Soviet Newspaper, Pravda, with the story of our unusual contract with Prague for the creative content of our “Pavilion of Promise” at Expo ’86 in Vancouver. I have lots of stories out of this period as to God at work in these officially anti-God countries.

Yesterday I wrote of the deliverance of many Jews from the USSR. Today I have a Christian story. I was speaker on two evenings during the first ever gathering of Christian leaders from all 15 republics of the USSR. This invitation resulted from the 1989 release of our Crossroads Creation TV series in prime time. Friends from Finland had translated it and made it look like we were speaking Russian. One morning I sat at breakfast with five Pastors. One of them, I thought, had the worst case of arthritis ever. However, it appeared to be in only one hand. I had to ask about it. The Pastors knew what was coming and they laughed. The man with the twisted fingers said, “I was teaching my children about God and was ordered to stop. They put me in prison and broke my fingers one at a time. With each finger they offered to stop if I would sign a paper admitting my guilt and promising to stop my teaching. Each time I refused. Now, however, they have called me in and offered to fix my fingers by re-breaking them, this time under anesthetic, and they said I could continue my teaching as I pleased. But I said, ‘No!’ I get a lot more attention when I preach using this hand to help make my points.” Loud laughter broke out amongst the Pastors. I felt like crawling under the table. I was not worthy to be in the company of such strong followers of Christ. Here I was, the guest speaker, and I was learning much more from them than they would ever learn from me. That evening, after my message on “The Church After Persecution Ceases,” I was kissed at least 500 times (Russian men kiss other men on the lips!). I’ve got to report that I simply tolerated it with the grace God gave me, but at the same time, I rejoiced with them because we all knew that the “70 years of the dark red night of atheistic rule,” as they called it, was almost over. They likened it to the 70-year Babylonian captivity of Israel.

Yours, like Esther, wanting to be at the right time and the right place in order to serve God and people,

David

P.S. We brought a Mobile TV production unit over to Moscow from Leningrad (the name had not yet been changed back to St. Petersburg) and videotaped this conference. A news report was carried on 100 Huntley Street. The picture below shows how doors continued to open in Russia.

1992 – Prime Minister Brian Mulroney told Boris Yeltsin about the Crossroads ministry and our Russian students studying television at our School of Broadcasting and Communications. To me, this was a confirmation of God’s will being done over the years since my first visit to Moscow in 1968. After 70 years, the captives to atheistic communism were set free. Yeltsin’s first trip outside Russia was to Jerusalem to walk where Jesus proclaimed freedom to people everywhere.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

WEEP AND REJOICE

Today’s Reading: Ezra 3-4

Click scripture link to read online or HERE to listen online (then click the symbol of the audio speaker above the scripture portion).

 

The black volcanic stones formed the foundation of the Capernaum synagogue in the first century. Jesus healed the man with the withered hand in this building (Mark 3:1-6).

 

GOOGLE MAPS – To see where the photo was taken, click HERE.

 

Key Verse: Ezra 3:12

But many of the priests and Levites and heads of their fathers’ houses, who were old men, who had seen the first Temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes; yet many shouted aloud for joy…

 

Today’s reading tells a story of tragedy and triumph! The people followed a two-year plan of worship and work (100words is also on a two-year plan). The foundation of God’s house had been completed. It was time to rejoice, reminisce, and express hope for the future.

The destruction of the original Temple by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had not hindered the worship of the true God in the people’s hearts. In fact, the opposite was true. The 70 years of captivity in Babylon had purified and intensified their fervency for God. The circumstances demanded small group gatherings. Eventually this would result in the development of the synagogue movement. Even before they began the construction project, they set up an altar to express reverence and obedience to God. Building or no building, God’s people will always find a place of personal, and if available, corporate worship.

In chapter four, we read of a delay in construction of the physical building; but the building of the holy temple, “eternal in the heavens,” went right on. Read 2 Corinthians 4:16 to 5:1-8.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Lord God, Like the people who gathered around Ezra’s vision, sometimes I weep and sometimes I shout for joy. You know my heart and mind. I pray for grace and consistency to worship You at all times and all places. Amen!

100 PERSONAL WORDS:

I served for several years as a Judge in “The International Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.” One recipient for whom I voted was Rabbi Lord Jacobovitz, chief Rabbi of Britain and the Commonwealth (see photo below). He had written extensively on the subject of medical ethics, but the main reason I supported him was for his work with the USSR in bringing Jewish people out of the oppression and persecution of the Soviet Union. The people were called “Refuseniks.” He, like Ezra, succeeded magnificently. At Convocation Hall in the University of Toronto, where he was honoured, I had the opportunity of a long conversation with him. We agreed that one of the tragedies in history was when Jewish Christian leaders, who led the Christian Church for the first few decades, were replaced almost totally by Gentile leaders. Let us not forget that all the Apostles were Jews, as was Jesus, Himself. Read Romans 11:11-24. The Rabbi and I rejoiced for the occasion of the Templeton Prize and the recognition of his work, but we wept over the disastrous chasm which opened up between Jews and Christians. Below the Rabbi’s photo is an example of that divide. In 4th century Antioch Christians were still worshipping with their Jewish brothers and sisters in the local synagogue. This three-dimensional model is in the museum of the Jewish diaspora located on the campus of the University in Tel Aviv.

Yours for restoration for all that is God’s will for His people,

David

Rabbi Lord Jacobovits, winner of the Templeton Prize in 1991.

Add caption....Chrysotom.....

Jews and Jewish-Christians prepare to worship at the Great Synagogue of Antioch, Syria, in the 4th century AD. Chrysostom, one of the fathers of the Church, reproves the Christians and demands that they separate from the Jews.

 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Cyrus the Great

Today’s Reading: Ezra 1-2

Click scripture link to read online or HERE to listen online (then click the symbol of the audio speaker above the scripture portion).

 

The Temple that Ezra rebuilt was an earlier version of what is depicted in this model from the time of Jesus. Today, a Muslim mosque, known as the Dome of the Rock (seen in the background), is located on that same Temple Mount.

GOOGLE MAPS – To see where the photo was taken, click HERE.

 

Key Verse: Ezra 1:2b-3

“…He [the Lord God of Heaven] has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? May his God be with him! Now let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem.” Cyrus the Great, Ruler of the Persian Empire.

 

Cyrus defeated the Babylonians and released the Jews from captivity, encouraging them to rebuild the Temple. Today’s reading records that the amazing treasure, which Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had stolen from the original Temple of David and Solomon, was returned to the Jewish people. Several years later, after the death of Cyrus, the new ruler, Darius (of Daniel’s den of Lions fame) had to search for the memorandum Cyrus had written ordering the new Temple to be built (Ezra 6:1). It might be useful for us to read Daniel 6:25-28. Darius also had a high view of the God of Israel. Queen Esther and the potential persecution of the Jews is in the mix here also. Hopefully in the next two weeks, as we proceed through Ezra and Nehemiah, we’ll get the history sorted out adequately.

Cyrus the Great is named in an amazing prophecy. In the writings of Isaiah it is predicted, approximately 150 years before Cyrus came to the throne, the actions of a ruler named Cyrus in the restoration of the Temple and Jerusalem  (read Isaiah 44:24-28). God, who created the cosmos, could surely have let His prophet Isaiah know in advance what His plans were. Those who choose to not believe will surely say that this was added to the book of Isaiah after the event.

The historical record of these events outside of the Bible is impressive. The Encyclopedia Britannica says, “In 538 B.C. these events happened as recorded in the Bible.” Add to that the Cyrus Cylinder (see photo below…a most unusual archeological artifact – I’ve seen a replica), which tells the story exactly as the Bible records it, and of course Josephus, the Jewish historian, also records the story.

This first commentary on Ezra is way over 100 words. An economy of words hopefully will follow in the next few days.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Lord God of Israel, You are faithful to Your promises to Your ancient people. I pray that I will have the faith given to me so that I, too, will trust Your promises which You have made over and over in Your Holy Word to all people at all times. Amen!

100 PERSONAL WORDS:

On Canadian media, one of the most outspoken opinion commentators is Ezra Levant. I invited him to check out my blog, particularly because he is Jewish and obviously named after the scribe, Ezra. I did not mention to him something he no doubt already knows, that his last name, “Levant”, is the description of the name of the area once ruled by Cyrus, which extends from the Euphrates River (Babylon) on the east to the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and from southern Turkey to the tip of the Sinai in the south. It seemed to be a cultural and geographic region which had at one time been ruled by King Solomon, and later by the Assyrian Empire.

Also, I could not help but think of the far-reaching impact of the social and political actions of Cyrus. He developed the model which would be used by Rome and even the British Empire, i.e. local rulers who owed their power to the Emperor. Remember, one of the titles of Queen Victoria was, “Empress of India.”

Yours for having a far-reaching impact on today’s world,

David

The Cyrus Cylinder was discovered in 1879 and rapidly became one of the most famous cuneiform texts, as it confirms that the Persian conqueror Cyrus the Great had allowed the Jews to return from their Babylonian Captivity.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

READ, LISTEN AND REJOICE

Today’s Reading: Philippians 4

Click scripture link to read online or HERE to listen online (then click the symbol of the audio speaker above the scripture portion).

 

The Apostle Paul was guided to the city of Philippi by a vision (Acts 16:9-10), probably around 49 or 50 AD. Accompanied by Silas, Timothy and possibly Luke, Paul preached for the first time on European soil in Philippi (Acts 16:12-40) and baptized Lydia, a purple dye merchant, in a river to the west of the city. While in Philippi, his exorcism of a demon from a slave girl caused a great uproar in the city, which led to their arrest (Paul and Silas) and public beating (Acts 16:16-24). A miraculous earthquake caused their prison to be opened. The jailer prepared to kill himself, thinking all the prisoners had escaped and knowing that he would be severely punished. Paul stopped him, indicating that all the prisoners were in fact still there. The jailer then became one of the first Christians in Europe (Acts 16:25-40). Paul visited the city at least on two other occasions, in 56 and 57 AD. The Epistle to the Philippians dates from around 61-62 AD and shows the immediate impact of Paul’s instruction.

GOOGLE MAPS – To see where the photo was taken, click HERE.

 

Key Verse: Philippians 4:19

And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

 

The first three verses are most interesting. Paul commends the “Brothers,” but perhaps two of the women were not in such close fellowship. Nevertheless, Paul also commended the women who “laboured with me in the Gospel.”

It’s an order repeated twice, “REJOICE!” Whether we feel like it or not, let’s do it! A good start is to, “Be anxious for nothing,” then confirm our decision by prayer and thanksgiving.

We can claim 100% the promise from God stated in our key verse, because we believe the previous sentence found in verse 13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Let’s just do it! Go ahead, try something which is included under the heading of “all things,” and watch God supply “all your need” in order to accomplish “all things.” Another promise is, “All things are yours.” Read 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 & 3:1-23. Note that the word “things” is repeated 13 times.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Lord Jesus, as You inspired Paul to write, “All things are Yours” in 1 Corinthians 3:21, may I be consciously and fervently seeking Your will so that I will know what things You desire of me and for me. I want only what You want! So, I ask You now for what You know are the best things for my service to You as well as for my personal needs. In Your all supplying Name I pray. Amen!!!

100 PERSONAL WORDS:

My eldest son has a trade, and so did Paul. Paul’s was making tents to support his missions ministry, so my son is as a professional photographer through which he tries his best to earn money for personal expenses without taking a salary from any organization. I think that our 100 Words photographer, David Reynold Mainse, should be able to give 100% of his time to the mission of World Embrace by having a salary. What do you think? He and his wife Kathy live in Uganda full time. Please pray for them and support them as you are led (click here for info about their ministry – receipts for tax deductions are available in Canada and in the USA).

Philippi became a ghost town because they experienced earthquake after earthquake. It is said that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Take a look back at the pictures from the past three days, and “listen” to the pictures communicate. I’ve done that and I’m filled with the message that this earth is not a stable, solid foundation for my life! Only my faith in Christ provides a firm, unmovable foundation on which I can build my entire life.

Yours for reading and listening… And moving on tomorrow to a man who did just that, “EZRA,”

David

P.S. Twice yesterday I mislaid my cane. Jadice, Ron and Ann’s 4-year-old granddaughter, specializes in keeping track of my cane. I can hear her in my imagination now, “Great-Grand’pa, here’s your cane!” (picture below). This happened many times last year when Norma-Jean and I lived with Ron and Ann and Jadice was visiting from Indiana. I called out for her today, got emotional, but of course had to find my cane myself! Thanks again to Ron and Ann for making this blog possible.

This was the marketplace of ancient Philippi.

The Via Egnatia was built beginning in 145 BC . This route was Rome’s primary artery to the east and Philippi was an important outpost along the road. The Egnatian Way made it easier for Rome to move troops throughout the empire and it was the route that Paul traveled on from Neapolis to Philippi, Amphipolis, Apollonia and Thessalonica.

 

Monday, July 17, 2017

“EVEN MORE JOY”

Today’s Reading: Philippians 3

Click scripture link to read online or HERE to listen online (then click the symbol of the audio speaker above the scripture portion).

 

A majestic arch marked the main entrance to the Amphitheatre in ancient Philippi. The city was established by Philip II of Macedon in 356 BC and abandoned in the 14th century.

GOOGLE MAPS – To see where the photo was taken, click HERE.

 

Key Verse: Philippians 3:10

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death…”

Paul (formerly known as Saul – read Acts 9:1-22) is a prisoner in Rome. What a man! He writes this letter in which he uses the words “Joy,” “Rejoice,” “Rejoicing,” “Glad,” “Gladness,” etc. 11 times. We should feel more joyful already! Paul’s incarceration did not inhibit his vision for his future. He states his goals: (1) “That I may gain Christ.” (2) “That I may know Him.” (3) “That I may know the power of His resurrection.” (4) “That I may know the fellowship of His sufferings.” (5) “That I may be conformed to His death.” (6) “That I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (7) “I press on!” (8) “I forget those things that are behind.” (9) I reach “forward to those things which are ahead.” (10) “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!!!” Anyone who is forward-looking, like Paul, will experience “JOY” also.

Paul’s warnings at the beginning of today’s reading come from his own background. He had been the chief legalist, and he had boasted for years of his standing in the Jewish denomination known as the Pharisees. Now he quickly makes it clear that none of these religious accomplishments are worth anything, in his opinion, in comparison to his relationship with Jesus! Let us be constantly conscious of the fact that we who believe IN Jesus (not just about Him) are not into a religion (outward observances) but are in a personal relationship with Him.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Lord Jesus, You are closer to me than the breath of my lungs. You are my Friend, my constant Companion, closer than anyone else could ever be. I pray all those goals listed above by one of my fellow believers in You, Paul. “This one thing I do!” Amen!!!

100 PERSONAL WORDS:

I think that over the years I’ve received hundreds of letters, phone calls, e-mails, and personal encounters where someone is suffering from depression. Of course, I always suggest professional help for severe cases, but without exception I have said something like this, “If I were your physician and gave you a prescription, would you have it filled, and would you faithfully take it?” “Yes,” they would answer. “Well, here it is” I would write or say. “It will take you 5 minutes each day. Read the book of Philippians once every day for 30 days. This letter of Joy will rearrange your thinking and you will begin to rejoice.” For those who have taken my prescription, no one has ever told me that it failed to do the job!

Yours for giving this reading a fair shot at bringing new “JOY” into our lives,

David

P.S. If you missed the first two blogs from Philippians, I strongly encourage you to go back to the two previous days and partake of this four-course spiritual meal. Tomorrow will be the dessert!

This was the marketplace of ancient Philippi.

Even those who don’t speak Greek can likely decipher the words on the second line of this inscription found among the ruins of Philippi…”Province of Macedonia” and “Philippi.”

 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

ESTEEM OTHERS

Today’s Reading: Philippians 2

Click scripture link to read online or HERE to listen online (then click the symbol of the audio speaker above the scripture portion).

 

Looking over the ruins of ancient Philippi. They comprise roughly one square kilometre.

GOOGLE MAPS – To see where the photo was taken, click HERE.

 

Key Verses: Philippians 2:1a, 3

THEREFORE…Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

 

The word, “therefore” appears six times in this reading. It could be written, “Because of the preceding statement, we do as follows:” (1) We do as verse three tells us because we “believe in Him” (Jesus), and because “we suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29).

(2) “Therefore” (verse 9), because of Christ’s humility in voluntarily restricting the use of His attributes as “God-with-us,” living as a human being, we humble ourselves and in “lowliness of mind,” we “esteem others better than ourselves.”

(3) “Therefore,” because God has exalted Jesus and “given Him a Name which is above every other Name,” we seek to live in unity with our brothers and sisters in Him, so that we “may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (verse 15).

Paul states his case around that word “therefore.” We may want to read the second chapter again, checking out the statements before and after that key word, “therefore.”

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Lord Jesus, You are God; therefore, I pray that I will be granted the grace to live in humility and in unity with fellow believers. Grant that I may shine as a light in the world, “holding fast the word of life.” In Your strong Name I ask these mercies, Amen!!!

100 PERSONAL WORDS:

As I’ve read and reread Philippians 2, I can’t help but think of those I know and hold in high esteem (verse 29). Bob Johnson stepped through the curtain of death not long ago. He is son of Leah, whom I mentioned yesterday is such a special person to me. His picture was in the hall of my high school and listed below his name were the honours he had received. Bob could have entered any university of his choice and had great worldly success, but he chose to study for the Christian ministry. By the summer of 1952, Bob had graduated from his theological studies and was establishing a new congregation. His brother, Wallace, my classmate, and I traveled on weekends to help Bob, singing and playing our trumpets on the street corner in preparation for Bob to preach. He was still single then and did not have money to buy a bed. We slept on the floor. It was on one of those weekends that I began to pray, “Lord Jesus, would You do me the honour of calling me into the full-time Christian ministry?” I’m sure it was because of the sacrifice I saw in Bob’s life. I hold Bob and many others in high esteem. Thank you, Bob, for being like these men in our reading. I sincerely want to be such a man also.

Yours, in Christ’s love and service,

David

Philippi…the remains of an ancient Greek temple are in the foreground with the ruins of an early church in the distance.

The remnants of an ancient home or market in Philippi.

 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

JOY

Today’s Reading: Philippians 1

Click scripture link to read online or HERE to listen online (then click the symbol of the audio speaker above the scripture portion).

 

Paul’s letter among the ruins of ancient Philippi.

GOOGLE MAPS – To see where the photo was taken, click HERE.

 

Key Verses: Philippians 1:3-4

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy…

 

In Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, he was under house arrest. The Romans had a practical financial plan. Prisoners who had resources paid for their own imprisonment costs. The initial purpose of this letter is to thank the congregation in Philippi for their financial support.

This was the first church Paul planted in Europe. Philippi was a Roman military city where Paul had experienced a severe beating and imprisonment. The warden of the prison and his family would’ve been there at church when this letter was read. The members no doubt expected “JOY.” After all, Paul, and his co-worker, Silas, had been singing praises to God (probably a Psalm of David) at midnight, their feet and hands securely fastened, when an earthquake hit the city and the shaking set them free. Read Acts 16:9-40.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:

Lord God, grant me the grace to exude joy in the midst of circumstances that would not naturally produce joy. Thank You for those You have allowed to bless my life. I pray that I will consistently pass on the blessing! Amen!!!

100 PERSONAL WORDS:

When I opened my Bible to read Philippians, I found my notes from the message I brought at the home-going celebration of Leah Johnson. This special person in my life showed joy in very difficult circumstances. A mother of five, she still had time for me. I was 16 years old and still needed a mother figure. Her third son, Wallace, a classmate of mine, brought me home with him again and again. Leah, a single mom, welcomed me with love and joy. My own mother had died when I was 12, and my father had returned to Egypt where his services were required as a missionary. I can see in my mind’s eye her loving face, complete with the warmest smile I could imagine. I do thank God upon every remembrance of Leah and her family.

I’m taking the liberty of more than 100 personal words today. When the television opportunity presented itself in 1962, I had no idea how I would pay the bills. While I had the blessing of the congregation of which I was Pastor, there was no way that a television ministry could be funded out of the general fund of the church. I believe God speaks to me from the pages of Holy Scripture. Here in Philippians chapter one I found what I believe was, and still is, God’s answer to my prayer for the money to fulfill my vision to use television to communicate the Good News of Jesus. The Amplified Bible, which brings out all the shades of meaning present in the original text, is the translation that particularly spoke to me. Here are the words in which I found the answer of God to the challenge: Philippians 1:3-5 in the Amplified Bible says…

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you. In every prayer of mine I always make my entreaty and petition for you all with joy (delight). [I thank my God] for your fellowship (your sympathetic cooperation and contributions and partnership) in advancing the good news (the Gospel) from the first day [you heard it] until now.

This is exactly what has been happening. I resonate with the same joy expressed by Paul throughout his letter to the people of Philippi. Check out the Crossroads Ministry at www.crossroads.ca.

Yours for a joy-filled life based on the love and provision of God!

David

A modern gate prohibits visitors from walking into an ancient prison in Philippi, likely where Paul and Silas were held and miraculously delivered.

The spectacular Theatre of Ancient Philippi.