2151.) Isaiah 41

July 31, 2017

I41 waterfall

Isaiah 41   (ESV)

Fear Not, for I Am with You

Listen to me in silence, O coastlands;
let the peoples renew their strength;
let them approach, then let them speak;
let us together draw near for judgment.

Who stirred up one from the east
whom victory meets at every step?

Commentators warmly debate the identity of this one from the east. Most believe him to be either Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish people and the father of the faithful, or Cyrus, the king who joined the Medes and the Persians into a fighting force which conquered Babylon — which, prophetically, is the broad time context Isaiah speaks to.

–David Guzik

He gives up nations before him,
so that he tramples kings underfoot;
he makes them like dust with his sword,
like driven stubble with his bow.
He pursues them and passes on safely,
by paths his feet have not trod.
Who has performed and done this,
calling the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord, the first,
and with the last; I am he.

The coastlands have seen and are afraid;
the ends of the earth tremble;
they have drawn near and come.
Everyone helps his neighbor
and says to his brother, “Be strong!”
The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith,
and he who smooths with the hammer him who strikes the anvil,
saying of the soldering, “It is good”;
and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved.

Isaiah pours on the irony. It took a lot of work to make a good god. It took skilled workers (the craftsman . . . the goldsmith . . . he who smooths with the hammer . . . him who strikes the anvil). It took organization and teamwork (“It is ready for the soldering”). If you don’t do it right, your god might not be able to stand up! (That it might not totter.)

–David Guzik

But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
the offspring of Abraham, my friend;

The sweetness of the Lord here! He says, Others reject me and worship idols instead of me. They are afraid. But you, my beloved, chosen long ago to be my own, through your ancestors my friends . . .

you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
and called from its farthest corners,
saying to you, “You are my servant,
I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
10 fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

. . . Fear not!  Guzik says, “This is both a command and a promise. Israel is commanded to fear not. Fear, worry, and anxiety are often sin. When the God who rules over the nations as described in Isaiah 41:2-4, the God who chose us and loves us as described in Isaiah 41:8-9, when that God tell us fear not, we must take it seriously! But there is also a promise. We fear not, because the Lord has told us, I am with you. What more do we need? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).”

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.”



HERE  is “Do not be afraid, I am with you,” by David Haas.


11 Behold, all who are incensed against you
shall be put to shame and confounded;
those who strive against you
shall be as nothing and shall perish.
12 You shall seek those who contend with you,
but you shall not find them;
those who war against you
shall be as nothing at all.
13 For I, the Lord your God,
hold your right hand;
it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
I am the one who helps you.”

14 Fear not, you worm Jacob,
you men of Israel!

I41 worm

Again the reassurance of the Lord — No matter what, fear not!  Don’t be afraid!  I am here!

I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord;
your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
15 Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge,
new, sharp, and having teeth;
you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
and you shall make the hills like chaff;
16 you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away,
and the tempest shall scatter them.
And you shall rejoice in the Lord;
in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

17 When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them;
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18 I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
19 I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,
20 that they may see and know,
may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.


I41 to God be the glroy


Click  HERE  to hear Fanny Crosby’s “To God Be the Glory — Great things He has done!”


The Futility of Idols

21 Set forth your case, says the Lord;
bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.

Imagine a courtroom. God calls the idols (and their worshipers) to trial. Defend yourselves, he says. Remember the past and tell the future. Show your worthiness!

22 Let them bring them, and tell us
what is to happen.
Tell us the former things, what they are,
that we may consider them,
that we may know their outcome;
or declare to us the things to come.
23 Tell us what is to come hereafter,
that we may know that you are gods;
do good, or do harm,
that we may be dismayed and terrified.
24 Behold, you are nothing,
and your work is less than nothing;
an abomination is he who chooses you.

But they do nothing, because they are nothing.

1 Corinthians 8:4   (NIV)

We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.”

25 I stirred up one from the north, and he has come,
from the rising of the sun, and he shall call upon my name;
he shall trample on rulers as on mortar,
as the potter treads clay.
26 Who declared it from the beginning, that we might know,
and beforehand, that we might say, “He is right”?
There was none who declared it, none who proclaimed,
none who heard your words.
27 I was the first to say to Zion, “Behold, here they are!”
and I will give to Jerusalem a herald of good news.
28 But when I look, there is no one;
among these there is no counselor
who, when I ask, gives an answer.
29 Behold, they are all a delusion;
their works are nothing;
their metal images are empty wind.

I41 I-will-

Have you noticed all of God’s “I WILL” promises in this chapter?

I will strengthen you. (Isaiah 41:10)

I will help you. (Isaiah 41:10)

I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

I will make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth. (Isaiah 41:15)

I will open rivers in desolate heights. (Isaiah 41:18)

I will make the wilderness a pool of water. (Isaiah 41:18)

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree. (Isaiah 41:19)

I will set in the desert the cypress tree. (Isaiah 41:19)

I will give to Jerusalem one who brings good tidings. (Isaiah 41:27)


English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
Fear not, for I am with you.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/isa41-1_wallpaper.jpg
Alpha and Omega.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/rev22-13.jpg
Do not fear.   https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/10/32/47/103247cceb478d0de9e038208420e950–scribe-scripture-art.jpg
Fear not, you worm.    http://www.sbctruckee.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/fearnot.jpg
To God be the glory.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2017/07/2ff3a-6a00e550d89fd98834017d42c7c69e970c-500wi.jpg
I will.     http://love-hit.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/I-will-love-you-till-my-last-breath.jpg

2150.) Isaiah 40

July 28, 2017


Isaiah 40   (ESV)

Comfort for God’s People

If the first thirty-nine chapters of the book of Isaiah correspond to the books of the Old Testament, then the following twenty-seven chapters, filled with pictures of Jesus the Messiah, certainly correspond to the books of the New Testament.

In this section of Isaiah (chapters 40-66), the prophet looks forward to Judah’s return from Babylonian captivity and then to the entire nation’s future restoration at the Second Advent of Christ.

–William MacDonald

from Rebecca:  Dear my readers, This is such a beautiful chapter. Take your time. Find rest and comfort in God’s love as it is shown here. Let the peace of these promises sink down deep into your soul. This is for you, for you, whom the Lord loves dearly.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

2 Corinthians 1:3   (NIV)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort!

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.

3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”



What else?!  You are probably already humming it in your head!  From Handel’s Messiah:  “Comfort Ye” and “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” and “And the Glory of the Lord.”  HERE  is a community Messiah sing-along performance from Scottsdale.  HERE  is a British performance from Liverpool


The Word of God Stands Forever

A voice says, “Cry!”
And I said, “What shall I cry?”
All flesh is grass,
and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades
when the breath of the Lord blows on it;
surely the people are grass.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

The Greatness of God

I40 mountain

Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!”



HERE  is another piece from Handel’s Messiah:  “O Thou that Tellest Good Tidings to Zion,” sung by American mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne.

10 Behold, the Lord God comes with might,
and his arm rules for him;
behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
and gently lead those that are with young.

Hebrews 13:20-21   (NIV)

Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


I40 shepherd


HERE  is more Messiah:  “He Shall Feed His Flock.”


12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand
and marked off the heavens with a span,
enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure
and weighed the mountains in scales
and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord,
or what man shows him his counsel?
14 Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
and are accounted as the dust on the scales;
behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust.
16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel,
nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before him,
they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.

18 To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
19 An idol! A craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and casts for it silver chains.
20 He who is too impoverished for an offering
chooses wood that will not rot;
he seeks out a skillful craftsman
to set up an idol that will not move.

21 Do you not know? Do you not hear?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,
and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,
and spreads them like a tent to dwell in;
23 who brings princes to nothing,
and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness.


from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw


God is different from you and me. He is really the Other in your life and mine. There is a sense in which other people are not truly other, because we are all remarkably similar. It is our similarity that enables us to know and understand one another. I am either where you are or where you have been or where you will be. Our lives are intertwined in many ways. But when we approach God, we find the One we can truly call Other. He is completely different from us; the uncreated One, beyond our reality; the One whom we cannot trap in our life or our world. He transcends it all.

In this sense he is ultimately the One you and I have to face. I can run away from you, and it is possible for us to live without impinging upon each other. But there is no way for God, the ultimate Other, ever to be excluded from my life. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end. He is the last authority in your life, whether you acknowledge him or not, and he will have the last word. God is the One you will have to face. Let us not run from him like a Jonah, but allow our lives to be given over to fellowship with the transcendent One.

24 Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,
scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,
when he blows on them, and they wither,
and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

25 To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.

How many stars are there?

This is a very good question! There are too many stars for scientists to actually count one-by-one, so other methods of estimating the total number of stars are used. We believe that there are on the order of 1021 stars in our Universe.  If you write that number out, it looks like this: 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
This is a lot of stars!

Laura Whitlock
for the ‘Ask an Astrophysicist’ team

. . . and not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you say, O Jacob,
and speak, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
and my right is disregarded by my God”?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

I40 eagle

Waiting on the Lord is work. It is a diligence to give God our complete attention and wait quietly before Him. It is also important to be about the business of doing good and being faithful in the small things even as we are waiting for something else. As my mother used to say, “Busy hands, quiet mind.” So waiting for God to fulfill His promises is not passive; I notice with some chagrin that the verse above does not include “just sitting” as a way to wait upon the Lord!


English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
O comfort my people.    http://www.4catholiceducators.com/graphics/Isaiah40_1-2.jpg
mountain.    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3150/3074449891_148e1f6d3c.jpg
Jesus carrying a lamb.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/shepherd2.jpg
God is God.    http://www.lighthousewest.net/hp_wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/11752173_10152843980617126_3045268688170768258_n-300×169.jpg
stars.    https://dncache-mauganscorp.netdna-ssl.com/thumbseg/85/85428-bigthumbnail.jpg
eagle.   http://missionventureministries.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/isaiah-40-vs-31.jpg

2149.) Proverbs 13

July 27, 2017

Proverbs 13:12

Proverbs 13 (The Message)

Walk with the Wise

1 Intelligent children listen to their parents;
foolish children do their own thing.

Don’t these “foolish children” remind you of the book of Judges? — “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Oh, the value of taking good advice at a young age!

2 The good acquire a taste for helpful conversation;
bullies push and shove their way through life.

3 Careful words make for a careful life;
careless talk may ruin everything.

4 Indolence wants it all and gets nothing;
the energetic have something to show for their lives.

5 A good person hates false talk;
a bad person wallows in gibberish.

6 A God-loyal life keeps you on track;
sin dumps the wicked in the ditch.

(See song below . . . )

7 A pretentious, showy life is an empty life;
a plain and simple life is a full life.

Let me hold lightly things of this earth:
Transient treasures, what are they worth?
Moths can corrupt them, rust can decay;
All their bright beauty fades in a day.
Let me hold lightly temporal things —
I, who am deathless, I, who wear wings.

Let me hold fast, Lord, things of the skies;
Quicken my vision, open my eyes!
Show me Thy riches, glory and grace,
Boundless as time is, endless as space.
Let me hold lightly things that are mine —
Lord, Thou hast given me all that is Thine!

–Martha S. Nicholson

8 The rich can be sued for everything they have,
but the poor are free of such threats.

9 The lives of good people are brightly lit streets;
the lives of the wicked are dark alleys.

(See song below . . . )

10 Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord,
but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.

11 Easy come, easy go,
but steady diligence pays off.

12 Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick,
but a sudden good break can turn life around.

Proverbs 13:12 (ESV)

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Dream Deferred
a poem by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?

13 Ignore the Word and suffer;
honor God’s commands and grow rich.

14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
so, no more drinking from death-tainted wells!

(See song below . . . )

15 Sound thinking makes for gracious living,
but liars walk a rough road.



“Liars walk a rough road” — sounds like a country music song, doesn’t it?!  HERE  is Garth Brooks singing about a liar whose road is just about to get rougher — “The Thunder Rolls.” The song was released in 1991.

Three thirty in the morning
Not a soul in sight
The city’s looking like a ghost town
On a moonless summer night
Raindrops on the windshield
There’s a storm moving in
He’s heading back from somewhere
That he never should have been
And the thunder rolls
And the thunder rolls

Every light is burning
In a house across town
She’s pacing by the telephone
In her faded flannel gown
Asking for miracle
Hoping she’s not right
Praying it’s the weather
That’s kept him out all night
And the thunder rolls
And the thunder rolls

The thunder rolls
And the lightning strikes
Another love grows cold
On a sleepless night
As the storm blows on
Out of control
Deep in her heart
The thunder rolls

She’s waiting by the window
When he pulls into the drive
She rushes out to hold him
Thankful he’s alive
But on the wind and rain
A strange new perfume blows
And the lightning flashes in her eyes
And he knows that she knows
And the thunder rolls
And the thunder rolls

The thunder rolls
And the lightning strikes
Another love grows cold and dark
On a sleepless night
As the storm blows on
Out of control
Deep in her heart
The thunder rolls

She runs back down the hallway
And through the bedroom door
She reaches for the pistol
Kept in the dresser drawer
Tells the lady in the mirror
He won’t do this again
Cause tonight will be the last time
She’ll wonder where he’s been


16 A commonsense person lives good sense;
fools litter the country with silliness.

17 Irresponsible talk makes a real mess of things,
but a reliable reporter is a healing presence.

18 Refuse discipline and end up homeless;
embrace correction and live an honored life.

19 Souls who follow their hearts thrive;
fools bent on evil despise matters of soul.

(See song above . . .)

20 Become wise by walking with the wise;

Only a few of my favorite “wise ones” I have walked with, ones who have shaped me:

Charlotte Bronte. Jane Eyre is my favorite redemption story.  I read it every year.

C. S. Lewis. Till We Have Faces has taught me much about true and false love, and how often we call our self-serving pride “love.”

Leo Tolstoy. Anna Karenina speaks so clearly to the consequences of choosing to serve self or choosing to serve others.

Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird — to stand up for what is right, against what your friends think, no matter the cost.

William Golding. Lord of the Flies.  A great gift to anyone who believes humans are innately good.

O. E. Rolvaag. Giants in the Earth gave me a deep respect for the faith and the courage of the pioneers.

Fyodor Dostoevsky. Crime and Punishment is a penetrating study of the human soul when facing sin. Eat and sleep before you start reading because it is impossible to put down.

Dr. Seuss. On Beyond Zebra, because “now I know in part.”

Madeleine L’Engle. A Wrinkle in Time displays the greatness of creation, the love of God, the reward of loyalty to what is true and good. I believe every middle school child should read this book!

Dominique Lapierre. The City of Joy confronted me with staggering human brokenness and suffering, juxtaposed with a love that willingly serves others.

Now —  please share with me and our DWELLING community some of the “wise ones” you have walked with!


hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.

(See song above . . . )

21 Disaster entraps sinners,
but God-loyal people get a good life.

22 A good life gets passed on to the grandchildren;

A mother becomes a true grandmother the day she stops noticing the terrible things her children do because she is so enchanted with the wonderful things her grandchildren do.
~ Lois Wyse

My mother said, Don’t worry about what people think now. Think about whether your children and grandchildren will think you’ve done well.
~ Lord Mountbatten

Grandchildren:  the only people who can get more out of you than the IRS.
~ Gene Perret

ill-gotten wealth ends up with good people.

23 Banks foreclose on the farms of the poor,
or else the poor lose their shirts to crooked lawyers.

24 A refusal to correct is a refusal to love;
love your children by disciplining them.

Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

25 An appetite for good brings much satisfaction,
but the belly of the wicked always wants more.


The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Images courtesy of:
verse 12.    http://www.thefinalharvest.org/art/proverbs13-12%20with%20verse%20no%20shadow.jpg
It’s all about me.     http://www.sparkboutik.com//wp-content/uploads/2012/02/dealwithit.jpg
verse 4.    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2104/1747477155_ff5c48cbdf.jpg
Thoreau quote.   https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/fd/a4/46/fda4463bfc161c52e2309497563bb461.jpg
tree of life.    http://emmeleia88.free.fr/tyran/tree-of-life.jpg
books on a shelf.    https://2d5nep2aya983psxvw3nw0l9-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/modern-leather-6.jpg
grandparents with grandchild.     http://i.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/01371/grandparents_1371795c.jpg
father scolding son.     https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/discipline.jpg

2148.) Psalm 106

July 26, 2017

Psalm 106  (ESV)

“This psalm is the dark counterpart of its predecessor, a shadow cast by human self-will in its long struggle against the light.” 

–Derek Kidner

“The keynote of Psalms 105 is, ‘Remember His mighty deeds,’ that of Psalms 106 is, ‘They forgot His mighty deeds.’”

–Alexander Maclaren 

“Israel’s history is here written with the View of showing human sin, even as the preceding Psalm was composed to magnify divine goodness. It is, in fact, a national confession.”

–Charles Spurgeon

Give Thanks to the Lord, for He Is Good

Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Psalm 106 begins the way Psalm 105 ended, saying hallelujah! Psalm 105 gave praise because of God’s many gifts and blessings to Israel. Psalm 106 gives praise because of God’s great mercy to an often rebellious and ungrateful Israel.

–David Guzik

Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord,
or declare all his praise?
Blessed are they who observe justice,
who do righteousness at all times!

Galatians 5:22-23    (NLT)

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you save them,
that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation,
that I may glory with your inheritance.

Both we and our fathers have sinned;
we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.

Psalm 106 is mainly focused the repeated failure of Israel through her history. Yet the singer of this Psalm does not see failure as something only of Israel’s past. He identified his present generation with Israel of old, connected in their sin, their iniquity, and their wicked deeds.

–David Guzik

Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry,
and he led them through the deep as through a desert.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

Psalm 106:9  —  He led them through the depths, as through the wilderness.

“Led” means there “caused to go on.” We all want to go on, not through the shallows but through the depths of prayer. The wild donkey of the Mexican deserts digs and digs in the sand until it finds water. It invariably does. What our wonderful God can do for His donkeys in the natural world He can do for those of us who are just that in the spiritual.

Let us allow all sorts of things to act as reminders, as calls to prayer. For example, once when held up by traffic on the road, the friend with me talked of someone who was lonely; thereafter, to be held up on the roads reminded me to pray for the lonely of the earth.

Then there is the flash of memory. A name, place, person, or something seen or heard or read flashes for one second across the mind. It can be lost or turned to prayer; the choice is with us.

As we go on practicing prayer in this simple way we can trust that He who caused His people to go through the depths as through an open wilderness will cause us also to go through these deeper places of prayer. The patient Spirit will help us in our weakness, for though we do not know how to pray as we ought, He Himself prays for us (Romans 8:26).


As a child growing up on an Iowa farm, I was given the task of the family’s ironing (see picture above, ha ha!).  My mother taught me to pray for the person whose clothing I was ironing.  It is a habit I do not choose to break, even though I do precious little ironing these days!

Joyce Meyer suggests hanging plaques of Bible verses around the house, to remind us to pray, to give thanks, to praise, to confess.  Others listen to Christian music as they work at home or as they travel to keep themselves in a prayerful frame of mind and heart.  I encourage us all to be more intentional in taking every thought and every minute captive to Christ, that He may lead us deeper and deeper into fellowship with Him. 

10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe
and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their adversaries;
not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words;
they sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot his works;
they did not wait for his counsel.

“Is it that way with you? You see God’s miracles, but at the first sign of any new opposition you forget what God has done and are soon rebelling against what you suppose to be your hard and painful life? Then, when God saves you again, you sing his praises but soon forget even that deliverance? That is exactly what you and I are like.” 

–James Montgomery Boice

14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
and put God to the test in the desert;
15 he gave them what they asked,
but sent a wasting disease among them.

I like how the King James Version puts verse 15:

And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.

Let us not seek the material gifts if they come without spiritual blessing!  Better a thin body, and a thin pocketbook, than a thin soul!

16 When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord,
17 the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
and covered the company of Abiram.
18 Fire also broke out in their company;
the flame burned up the wicked.

19 They made a calf in Horeb
and worshiped a metal image.
20 They exchanged the glory of God
for the image of an ox that eats grass.

by contemporary artist Wilfried Joye of Belgium

21 They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.

Their sin was not only of idolatry and immorality, but also of plain ingratitude.

23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
25 They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 and would make their offspring fall among the nations,
scattering them among the lands.

Which countries in the world have the largest Jewish population?

According to the Jewish Virtual Library’s figures for 2016:  Israel has 6.3 million Jews (44% of all Jewry), and the USA has 5.7 million, (nearly 40%). Next is France, with less than 500,000 (3.2%). Then Canada, the UK, Argentina, and Russia.

28 Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor,
and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29 they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds,
and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,
and the plague was stayed.
31 And that was counted to him as righteousness
from generation to generation forever.

32 They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
and it went ill with Moses on their account,
33 for they made his spirit bitter,
and he spoke rashly with his lips.

Spurgeon noted that sometimes congregations provoke their ministers or pastors as Israel provoked Moses. “We ought also to be very careful how we treat the ministers of the gospel, lest by provoking their spirit we should drive them into any unseemly behaviour which should bring upon them the chastisement of the Lord. Little do a murmuring, quarrelsome people dream of the perils in which they involve their pastors by their untoward behaviour.”

Oh, what can we do and say and pray, in order to support the ministers at our churches? Let us be encouragers rather than complainers!

34 They did not destroy the peoples,
as the Lord commanded them,
35 but they mixed with the nations
and learned to do as they did.
36 They served their idols,
which became a snare to them.

from Luther’s Small Catechism:

The First Commandment.

Thou shalt have no other gods.

What does this mean?

Answer:  We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

37 They sacrificed their sons
and their daughters to the demons;
38 they poured out innocent blood,
the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,
and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
and played the whore in their deeds.

Joining themselves to a false god, they became spiritual adulterers. 

Lord, where am I playing loose with You?  Where do I not fear, love, and trust You above all things?

40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
and he abhorred his heritage;
41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,
so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them,
and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
but they were rebellious in their purposes
and were brought low through their iniquity.

44 Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
45 For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46 He caused them to be pitied
by all those who held them captive.

“This was particularly true as to the Babylonish captivity; for Cyrus gave them their liberty; Darius favoured them, and granted them several privileges; and Artaxerxes sent back Nehemiah, and helped him to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.”

–Adam Clarke

47 Save us, O Lord our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord!



Jewish music with pictures of synagogues around the world. The first song is “Oseh Shalom” and the second is “Am Israel Chai.” They are both sung  HERE  by Sam Glaser who also plays the piano.


English Standard Version (ESV)   The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.
Images courtesy of:
verse 1 withrainbow.  http://alittleperspective.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/psa-106-1-ww-stock-9x.jpg
Girl Ironing, photograph by Russell Lee, Feb. 1939, Harlingen, Texas.   http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/historic_sites/ccc/new_deal_texas_html/media/images/girl_ironing_600x403.jpg
Joye.    http://www.wilfriedjoye.com/images%5Cpsalms%5C2.jpg
menorah.   http://img.ehowcdn.com/article-new/ehow/images/a06/kp/l5/music-traditions-sephardic-jews-morocco-1.1-800×800.jpg
idol worship.    http://www.somepcguy.com/FactFantasy/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/idol-worship.png

2147.) Psalm 105

July 25, 2017

Psalm 105  The Message (MSG)

After reading Stephen’s account of the history of Israel vigorously proclaimed to the Sanhedrin, we will now look at two Psalms which also give us a historical perspective. Remember that, as part of the family of God, this history is YOUR history, too!

Whoever arranged and ordered the Psalms set 105 and 106 together purposefully. “This and the following psalm are companions. They reveal the two sides of the relation between God and His people during a long period. This one sings the song of His faithfulness and power; while the next tells the sad story of repeated failure and rebellion on the part of His people.” (G. Campbell Morgan)

–David Guzik

Hallelujah! Thank God! Pray to him by name!
Tell everyone you meet what he has done!

“Be thankful for the smallest blessing, and you will deserve to receive greater. Value the least gifts no less than the greatest, and simple graces as especial favors. If you remember the dignity of the Giver, no gift will seem small or mean, for nothing can be valueless that is given by the most high God.”

–Thomas a Kempis

Sing him songs, belt out hymns,
translate his wonders into music!
Honor his holy name with Hallelujahs,
you who seek God. Live a happy life!
Keep your eyes open for God, watch for his works;
be alert for signs of his presence.

Remember the world of wonders he has made,
his miracles, and the verdicts he’s rendered—
O seed of Abraham, his servant,
O child of Jacob, his chosen.

7-15 He’s God, our God,
in charge of the whole earth.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

–from the Nicene Creed

And he remembers, remembers his Covenant—
for a thousand generations he’s been as good as his word.
It’s the Covenant he made with Abraham,
the same oath he swore to Isaac,
The very statute he established with Jacob,
the eternal Covenant with Israel,

Namely, “I give you the land.
Canaan is your hill-country inheritance.”
When they didn’t count for much,
a mere handful, and strangers at that,
Wandering from country to country,
drifting from pillar to post,

“Not all who wander are lost.”

–J. R. R. Tolkien

He permitted no one to abuse them.
He told kings to keep their hands off:
“Don’t you dare lay a hand on my anointed,
don’t hurt a hair on the heads of my prophets.”

16-22 Then he called down a famine on the country,
he broke every last blade of wheat.
But he sent a man on ahead:
Joseph, sold as a slave.

They put cruel chains on his ankles,
an iron collar around his neck,
Until God’s word came to the Pharaoh,
and God confirmed his promise.
God sent the king to release him.
The Pharaoh set Joseph free;
He appointed him master of his palace,
put him in charge of all his business
To personally instruct his princes
and train his advisors in wisdom.

Proverbs 23:17-18  (NLT)

Don’t envy sinners,
but always continue to fear the Lord.
You will be rewarded for this;
your hope will not be disappointed.

23-42 Then Israel entered Egypt,
Jacob immigrated to the Land of Ham.
God gave his people lots of babies;
soon their numbers alarmed their foes.
He turned the Egyptians against his people;
they abused and cheated God’s servants.
Then he sent his servant Moses,
and Aaron, whom he also chose.

I tremble for my country when I hear of confidence expressed in me. I know too well my weakness, that our only hope is in God.

–General Robert E. Lee

They worked marvels in that spiritual wasteland,
miracles in the Land of Ham.
He spoke, “Darkness!” and it turned dark—
they couldn’t see what they were doing.
He turned all their water to blood
so that all their fish died;
He made frogs swarm through the land,
even into the king’s bedroom;

He gave the word and flies swarmed,
gnats filled the air.
He substituted hail for rain,
he stabbed their land with lightning;
He wasted their vines and fig trees,
smashed their groves of trees to splinters;

With a word he brought in locusts,
millions of locusts, armies of locusts;
They consumed every blade of grass in the country
and picked the ground clean of produce;
He struck down every firstborn in the land,
the first fruits of their virile powers.
He led Israel out, their arms filled with loot,
and not one among his tribes even stumbled.
Egypt was glad to have them go—
they were scared to death of them.
God spread a cloud to keep them cool through the day
and a fire to light their way through the night;

“Pillar of Fire” by Jeanne Kun

They prayed and he brought quail,
filled them with the bread of heaven;
He opened the rock and water poured out;

Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me . . .

“The earthly form of Christ is the form that died on the cross. The image of God is the image of Christ crucified. It is to this image that the life of the disciples must be conformed; in other words, they must be conformed to his death (Phil 3.10, Rom 6.4) The Christian life is a life of crucifixion (Gal 2.19) In baptism the form of Christ’s death is impressed upon his own. They are dead to the flesh and to sin, they are dead to the world, and the world is dead to them (Gal 6.14). Anybody living in the strength of Christ’s baptism lives in the strength of Christ’s death.”

–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

it flowed like a river through that desert—
All because he remembered his Covenant,
his promise to Abraham, his servant.

43-45 Remember this! He led his people out singing for joy;
his chosen people marched, singing their hearts out!
He made them a gift of the country they entered,
helped them seize the wealth of the nations
So they could do everything he told them—
could follow his instructions to the letter.




Perhaps you are in a busy or difficult or trying time in your life right now.  Perhaps you have lost a loved one, or maybe you are moving, or you could be looking for a different job.  As I was working on this psalm, I felt a sweet assurance that, just as God led the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land, so we can count on the Lord to lead us where we need to go.  And this is not wishful thinking, or a false hope — Jesus has promised to be with us always!

Fanny Crosby wrote the hymn “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.”  HERE  is Chris Tomlin’s version.


The Message (MSG)   Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Images courtesy of:
Keep your eyes open.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/psalm105_04.jpg
Seek the Lord and his strength.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/psalm105b.jpg
Abraham and the stars.   http://www.sundayschoollessons.com/sunfolder2/image9.gif
Joseph sold.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/3_3_joseph_sold.jpg
frogs.   http://www.lindaedwards.co.uk/i/pics/sm/webphoto_dza8.jpg
hail.   http://www.bl.uk/learning/images/story/haggadah/large6195.html
Kun.   http://www.swordofthespirit.net/bulwark/pillar-of-fire-by-jeanne-kun.jpg
He opened the rock.   http://biblestudyoutlines.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Psalm-105-41-43.jpg
Hallelujah.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/hallelujah1.jpg

2146.) Acts 7:37-60

July 24, 2017

This painting of the stoning of Stepen is in the monastery at Beit Jamal, just outside Jerusalem. Note Saul standing in the background.

Acts 7:37-60 (NLT)

Stephen Addresses the Council

In 1777, William Dodd, a well-known London clergyman, was condemned to be hanged for forgery. When his last sermon, delivered in prison, was published, a friend commented to Samuel Johnson that the effort was far better than he had thought the man capable of. Dr. Johnson replied, “Depend upon it, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates the mind wonderfully.”

I cannot say whether Stephen sensed that he was about to be stoned to death when he delivered this message before the Sanhedrin, but his mind was wonderfully concentrated! More than just speaking well because of the threat of death, Stephen spoke powerfully because he was filled with the Holy Spirit (7:55). It is the longest sermon in Acts, and so the Holy Spirit thought it to be important enough for Luke to record it to the extent that he did.

Perhaps Luke wanted his largely Gentile audience to get a brief history of God’s dealings with Israel. The sermon also serves as a transition to the Gentile mission that follows this chapter, in that it shows Israel’s continued stubborn rejection of God’s message and messengers. It shows that God had worked in many places and ways with His servants down through the centuries, and so worship is not limited to the land of Palestine or to the temple. Like Abraham, who obediently followed the Lord, so God’s people must go where He leads.

Stephen was charged with speaking against Moses, against God, against the temple, and against the law and the customs handed down by Moses (6:11. 13, 14). While overall his message shows the charges to be false, it is more a sermon that traces God’s historical dealings with Israel, Israel’s history of rebellion against God, and a climax that indicts his hearers of the very charges that they were bringing against him. They were guilty of rejecting Moses and the law, and even worse, they had just killed the Righteous One whom God had sent for their salvation.

Thus — Stephen’s sermon points us to the sovereign, abundant grace of God toward rebellious sinners, but also to the danger of hardening our hearts against God’s grace.

–Steven J. Cole

33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 34 I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groans and have come down to rescue them. Now go, for I am sending you back to Egypt.’

35 “So God sent back the same man his people had previously rejected when they demanded, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?’ Through the angel who appeared to him in the burning bush, God sent Moses to be their ruler and savior. 36 And by means of many wonders and miraculous signs, he led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and through the wilderness for forty years.

37 “Moses himself told the people of Israel, ‘God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people.’ 38 Moses was with our ancestors, the assembly of God’s people in the wilderness, when the angel spoke to him at Mount Sinai. And there Moses received life-giving words to pass on to us.

Exodus 32:4 (New Living Translation) Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

Exodus 32:4 — Then Aaron took the gold, melted it down, and molded it into the shape of a calf. When the people saw it, they exclaimed, “O Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”

39 “BUT!  our ancestors refused to listen to Moses. They rejected him and wanted to return to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, ‘Make us some gods who can lead us, for we don’t know what has become of this Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ 41 So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and celebrated over this thing they had made. 42 Then God turned away from them and abandoned them to serve the stars of heaven as their gods! In the book of the prophets it is written,

‘Was it to me you were bringing sacrifices and offerings
during those forty years in the wilderness, Israel?
43 No, you carried your pagan gods—
the shrine of Molech,
the star of your god Rephan,
and the images you made to worship them.
So I will send you into exile
as far away as Babylon.’



44 “Our ancestors carried the Tabernacle with them through the wilderness. It was constructed according to the plan God had shown to Moses. 45 Years later, when Joshua led our ancestors in battle against the nations that God drove out of this land, the Tabernacle was taken with them into their new territory. And it stayed there until the time of King David.

46 “David found favor with God and asked for the privilege of building a permanent Temple for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who actually built it. 48 BUT!  the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. As the prophet says,

49 ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Could you build me a temple as good as that?’
asks the Lord.
‘Could you build me such a resting place?
50 Didn’t my hands make both heaven and earth?’

51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”

"The Stoning of St. Stephen" by Parrish Kline

“The Stoning of St. Stephen” by Parrish Kline

54 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

Mark 14:61-62 (NIV)

But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”


by David Wilkerson

“But he [Stephen], being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55-56).

Stephen represents what a true Christian is supposed to be:  one who is full of the Holy Ghost with eyes fixed on the Man in glory.  He is one who mirrors that glory in such a way that all who see it will be amazed and filled with wonder.  He is one with a steady gaze fixed on Christ, always looking up to him, fully occupied with a glorified Savior.

Look at the hopeless condition Stephen was in, surrounded by religious madness,  superstition, prejudice, and jealousy.  The angry crowd pressed in on him, wild-eyed and bloodthirsty, and death loomed just ahead of him.  What impossible circumstances!  But looking up into heaven, he beheld his Lord in glory, and suddenly his rejection here on earth meant nothing to him.  Now he was above it all, seeing him who was invisible.

One glimpse of the Lord’s glory, one vision of his precious holiness, and Stephen could no longer be hurt.  The stones and the angry cursing were all harmless to him because of the joy set before him.  One glimpse of Christ’s glory places you above all your circumstances.  Keeping your eyes on Christ, consciously reaching out to him every waking hour, provides peace and serenity as nothing else can.

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Stephen caught the rays of the glorified Man in heaven and reflected them to a Christ-rejecting society.

How true that we become what we behold.  The proper translation should read, “We all, with open face mirroring the glory, are changed!”  The idea is that the Christian reflects, like a mirror, the glory on which he gazes continually.  It is we who are “in the glass”—a mirror—looking on Christ, the object of our affection and becoming like him in the process of beholding.

When the enemy comes in like a flood and troubling circumstances get us down, we need to both amaze and condemn the world around us by our sweet, restful repose in Christ. Since we see by our spiritual mind, this is accomplished by keeping our minds stayed on Christ.

56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”

“Stephen has been confessing Christ before men, and now he sees Christ confessing his servant before God.”

—Robert Bruce, Scottish theologian of the 17th century

57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

8)  Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.

St. Augustine said, “The Church owes Paul to the prayer of Stephen.”



Was it here that Paul saw something which years later he articulated as — “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain”?  This song is Stephen’s song:   “I Am Crucified with Christ”  sung by Phillips, Craig & Dean.  Randy Phillips, Shawn Craig, and Dan Dean started singing together in 1991; all three are full-time pastors.  HERE.

As I look back on what I thought was living
I’m amazed at the price I chose to pay
And to think I ignored what really mattered
Cause I thought the sacrifice would be too great
And when I finally reached the point of giving in
I found the cross was calling even then
And even though it took dying to survive
I’ve never felt so much alive.

For I am crucified with Christ and yet I live
Not I but Christ that lives within me
His Cross will never ask for more than I can give
For it’s not my strength but His
There’s no greater sacrifice
For I am crucified with Christ and yet I live

As I hear the Savior call for daily dying
I will bow beneath the weight of Calvary
Let my hands surrender to His piercing purpose
That holds me to the cross yet sets me free
I will glory in the power of the cross
The things I thought were gain I count as loss
And with His suffering I identify
And by His resurrection power I am alive

And I will offer all I am
So that His cross is not in vain
For I found to live is Christ
And to die is truly gain


Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
 painting from Beit Jamal.   http://www.biblewalks.com/Photos80/BeitJamal9.JPG
golden calf.  http://skirblog.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341cb55f53ef010536f93bdd970b-popup
Tabernacle.  http://www.foi.org/media/filer/2012/06/27/ptab-large.jpg
Klein.  http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3106/2590616610_7bf6b7dd07.jpg
mirror.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/acts-7-mirror.jpg

2145.) Acts 7:1-36

July 21, 2017

Have you ever attended a “Walk Thru the Old Testament” seminar? It is a wonderful experience! Stephen leads the Sanhedrin through one (of sorts!) in Acts 7.

Acts 7:1-36 (NLT)

Stephen Addresses the Council

1 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these accusations true?”

2 This was Stephen’s reply: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me.

Remember the charges brought against Stephen in Acts 6:11 and 13-14:  First, that he spoke blasphemous words against Moses, he spoke against the law, and spoke to change Jewish customs. Second, that he spoke blasphemous words against God and God’s dwelling place, the temple.

In this sermon, Stephen gives a panorama of Old Testament history. We shouldn’t think Stephen instructed the Sanhedrin on points of Jewish history they were ignorant of. Instead, Stephen wants to emphasize some things revealed in Jewish history they may not have considered: That God has never confined Himself to one place (like the temple), and that the Jewish people have a habit of rejecting those God sends to them!

–David Guzik

Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham in Mesopotamia before he settled in Haran. 3 God told him, ‘Leave your native land and your relatives, and come into the land that I will show you.’

Genesis 12:1 (New International Version) "The LORD had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.'"

Genesis 12:1 — “The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.'”

4 So Abraham left the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran until his father died. Then God brought him here to the land where you now live.

5 “BUT!  God gave him no inheritance here, not even one square foot of land. God did promise, however, that eventually the whole land would belong to Abraham and his descendants—even though he had no children yet. 6 God also told him that his descendants would live in a foreign land, where they would be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. 7 ‘But I will punish the nation that enslaves them,’ God said, ‘and in the end they will come out and worship me here in this place.’

Stephen wants to make it clear that God appeared to Abraham, and guided Abraham, and blessed Abraham when there was no temple. Abraham didn’t need the temple to be close to God.

8 “God also gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision at that time. So when Abraham became the father of Isaac, he circumcised him on the eighth day. And the practice was continued when Isaac became the father of Jacob, and when Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs of the Israelite nation.

Genesis 37:3-4 (King James Version) "Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him."

Genesis 37:3-4 — “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours. And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.”

9 “These patriarchs were jealous of their brother Joseph, and they sold him to be a slave in Egypt. BUT!  God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles.

Again, Stephen is emphasizing the spiritual presence of God with Joseph all the time.

And God gave him favor before Pharaoh, king of Egypt. God also gave Joseph unusual wisdom, so that Pharaoh appointed him governor over all of Egypt and put him in charge of the palace.

11 “But a famine came upon Egypt and Canaan. There was great misery, and our ancestors ran out of food. 12 Jacob heard that there was still grain in Egypt, so he sent his sons—our ancestors—to buy some. 13 The second time they went, Joseph revealed his identity to his brothers, and they were introduced to Pharaoh. 14 Then Joseph sent for his father, Jacob, and all his relatives to come to Egypt, seventy-five persons in all. 15 So Jacob went to Egypt. He died there, as did our ancestors. 16 Their bodies were taken to Shechem and buried in the tomb Abraham had bought for a certain price from Hamor’s sons in Shechem.

17 “As the time drew near when God would fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. 18 But then a new king came to the throne of Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph. 19 This king exploited our people and oppressed them, forcing parents to abandon their newborn babies so they would die.

"The Finding of Moses" by contemporary Chinese artist He Qi

“The Finding of Moses” by contemporary Chinese artist He Qi

20 “At that time Moses was born—a beautiful child in God’s eyes. His parents cared for him at home for three months. 21 When they had to abandon him, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and raised him as her own son. 22 Moses was taught all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was powerful in both speech and action.

23 “One day when Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his relatives, the people of Israel. 24 He saw an Egyptian mistreating an Israelite. So Moses came to the man’s defense and avenged him, killing the Egyptian. 25 Moses assumed his fellow Israelites would realize that God had sent him to rescue them, BUT!  they didn’t.

26 “The next day he visited them again and saw two men of Israel fighting. He tried to be a peacemaker. ‘Men,’ he said, ‘you are brothers. Why are you fighting each other?’

27 “But the man in the wrong pushed Moses aside. ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?’ he asked. 28 ‘Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 When Moses heard that, he fled the country and lived as a foreigner in the land of Midian. There his two sons were born.

Exodus 3:2-3 (Contemporary English Version) "There an angel of the LORD appeared to him from a burning bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. 'This is strange!' he said to himself. 'I'll go over and see why the bush isn't burning up.'"

Exodus 3:2-3 — “There an angel of the LORD appeared to him from a burning bush. Moses saw that the bush was on fire, but it was not burning up. ‘This is strange!’ he said to himself. ‘I’ll go over and see why the bush isn’t burning up.'”

30 “Forty years later, in the desert near Mount Sinai, an angel appeared to Moses in the flame of a burning bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight. As he went to take a closer look, the voice of the Lord called out to him, 32 ‘I am the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’ Moses shook with terror and did not dare to look.

God’s appearance to Moses at the burning bush is important to Stephen, because it shows that God’s presence is not limited to the temple. God is bigger than the temple, and Moses did not need the temple to be close to God.

33 “Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. 34 I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groans and have come down to rescue them. Now go, for I am sending you back to Egypt.’

35 “So God sent back the same man his people had previously rejected when they demanded, ‘Who made you a ruler and judge over us?’ Through the angel who appeared to him in the burning bush, God sent Moses to be their ruler and savior. 36 And by means of many wonders and miraculous signs, he led them out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and through the wilderness for forty years.



How brightly Stephen’s light is shining as he witnesses to the truth of God! Or, to use a different metaphor, how sweetly his life song is singing for the Lord!  HERE  is Casting Crowns and “Life Song.”


Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Walk Thru.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/wt-ot.jpg
Abraham and the stars.  https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/5a/82/26/5a8226b059339695952339a575f585f6.jpg
Joseph and his coat of many colors.  http://www.artneedlepoint.com/images/Joseph%20and%20His%20Coat%20of%20Many%20Colors.jpg
He Qi.    http://www.mnartists.org/sites/default/files/article/images/7d97f13c1ad3e7a4a284053f4f1867ce.jpg
burning bush.  http://heavenawaits.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/burning-bush.jpg

2144.) Acts 6

July 20, 2017

6. seven deacons print

Acts 6 (NLT)

Seven Men Chosen to Serve

1 But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers,

The Hebrew-speakers were local Jews; the Greek-speakers were Jews from all over the Roman Empire. There existed already a kind of mutual suspicion:  the locals thought the foreigners were lax in their faith and apt to compromise with the secular culture, while the Greek-speakers saw the Hebrew-speakers as too traditional and holier-than-thou.

saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.

Matthew 25:40 (Contemporary English Version) "The king will answer, 'Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.'"

Matthew 25:40 (Contemporary English Version) “The king will answer, ‘Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.'”

2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”

The apostles have a clear sense of their calling, and a clear understanding of the time it takes to pray and teach the word aright.

Seven men — one for each day of the week?

5 Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). 6 These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.

All seven have Greek names, so it seems they will take care of the problem they have pointed out.

1 Timothy 3:8-9 (Contemporary English Version) "Church officers should be serious. They must not be liars, heavy drinkers, or greedy for money. And they must have a clear conscience and hold firmly to what God has shown us about our faith."

1 Timothy 3:8-9 (Contemporary English Version) “Church officers should be serious. They must not be liars, heavy drinkers, or greedy for money. And they must have a clear conscience and hold firmly to what God has shown us about our faith.”

7 So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too.

Psalm 51:18 (ESV)

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure.

Considering all that could have gone wrong when Satan tried to attack through division, everyone involved deserves much credit.

Those with the complaint, the Hellenists, did the right thing: They made the need known, instead of complaining and whining, and they trusted the solution of the apostles.

Those of the other party, the Hebrews, did the right thing: They recognized that the Hellenists had a legitimate need and they trusted the solution of the apostles.

The seven chosen men did the right thing: They accepted the call to unglamorous service.

The apostles did the right thing: They responded to the need without distracting themselves from their central task.

–David Guzik



HERE  is “The Servant Song,” written by Richard Gillard from New Zealand in 1977.  It has touched countless lives.

Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant, too
We are pilgrims on a journey
We are travelers on the road
We are here to help each other
Walk the mile and bear the load
I will hold the Christlight for you
In the night-time of your fear
I will hold my hand out to you
Speak the peace you long to hear
I will weep when you are weeping
When you laugh I’ll laugh with you
I will share your joy and sorrow
Till we’ve seen this journey through
When we sing to God in heaven
We shall find such harmony
Born of all we’ve known together
Of Christ’s love and agony
Will you let me be your servant
Let me be as Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
To let you be my servant, too

Stephen Is Arrested

This icon by Nicholas Papas is from St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Conemaugh, Pennsylvania.

This icon by Nicholas Papas is from St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Conemaugh, Pennsylvania.

8 Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. 9 But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. 10 None of them could stand against the wisdom and the Spirit with which Stephen spoke.

11 So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God.” 12 This roused the people, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council.

13 The lying witnesses said, “This man is always speaking against the holy Temple and against the law of Moses. 14 We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

Note the charges:  First, that he spoke blasphemous words against Moses, he spoke against the law, and spoke to change Jewish customs. Second, that he spoke blasphemous words against God and God’s dwelling place, the temple.

–David Guzik

15 At this point everyone in the high council stared at Stephen, because his face became as bright as an angel’s.

The face of an angel . . . Stephen was at perfect peace. His face was not filled with fear or terror, because he knew his life was in God’s hands. And wherever God sends you, God goes with you. 


Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
seven men, drawing.  http://i1.wp.com/www.jrdkirk.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/7deacons.jpg?resize=300%2C219
meals on wheels.  http://static.wixstatic.com/media/d95ebf_7c50ec5699f64b7291a2a34b8b166ef8~mv2.jpg_srz_390_275_85_22_0.50_1.20_0.00_jpg_srz
seven men, photo.
St. Stephen icon.  https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/be/85/2e/be852e74f77a5eee514d05fec38554e8.jpg

2143.) Acts 5:17-42

July 19, 2017

Acts 5:17-42 (NLT)

The Apostles Meet Opposition

17 The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail.

Psalm 25:19-21 (NIV)

See how my enemies have increased
and how fiercely they hate me!

Guard my life and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.

May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope is in you.

19 But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, 20 “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!”

Acts 5:20 (Amplified Bible)

Go, take your stand in the temple courts and declare to the people the whole doctrine concerning this Life (the eternal life which Christ revealed).

So the Sanhedrin says, Stop teaching the resurrection, and the angel says, Go declare the resurrection!

21 So at daybreak the apostles entered the Temple, as they were told, and immediately began teaching.

When the high priest and his officials arrived, they convened the high council—the full assembly of the elders of Israel. Then they sent for the apostles to be brought from the jail for trial. 22 But when the Temple guards went to the jail, the men were gone. So they returned to the council and reported, 23 “The jail was securely locked, with the guards standing outside, but when we opened the gates, no one was there!”

24 When the captain of the Temple guard and the leading priests heard this, they were perplexed, wondering where it would all end. 25 Then someone arrived with startling news: “The men you put in jail are standing in the Temple, teaching the people!”

26 The captain went with his Temple guards and arrested the apostles, but without violence, for they were afraid the people would stone them. 27 Then they brought the apostles before the high council, where the high priest confronted them.

28 “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” he demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about him, and you want to make us responsible for his death!”

29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.

Could the members of the Sanhedrin say the same?

Numbers 22:18 (NASB)

Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the LORD my God.”

30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by hanging him on a cross. 31 Then God put him in the place of honor at his right hand as Prince and Savior. He did this so the people of Israel would repent of their sins and be forgiven. 32 We are witnesses of these things and so is the Holy Spirit, who is given by God to those who obey him.”

Trinity!  GOD raised JESUS from the dead, and the HOLY SPIRIT is the witness.

33 When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them.

Gamaliel was highly regarded by the Jews of his day, and was a key leader of the Sanhedrin. St. Paul was one of his students (see Acts 22:3).

Gamaliel was highly regarded by the Jews of his day, and was a key leader of the Sanhedrin. St. Paul was one of his students (see Acts 22:3).

34 But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. 35 Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! 36 Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. 37 After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.

38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. 39 But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”

While Gamaliel’s speech worked to the freedom of the apostles, one must wonder what further proof Gamaliel was waiting for. Were the miracles of the apostles and the resurrection of Christ insufficient evidence?

40 The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go.

41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.  42 And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”



Your grace is enough,
Your grace is enough,
Your grace is enough for me . . .

HERE  is “Your Grace Is Enough”  by Matt Maher and Chris Tomlin.


I have friends who are missionaries in South Asia; they teach pastors there to tell Bible stories by heart.  Many of these pastors have amazing stories of the results of their evangelistic activities.  Here is one story, which seems to be of the same fabric as what we have read today in Acts.  The names of the village and the pastor have been abbreviated for safety reasons.

A Church for O.
Told by P. N.

To reach the tribal people where I minister, I have to travel by boat all day, staying overnight in one of the villages along the way, and finishing my journey the next day. This remote tribal village is surrounded by mountains, with no hospital, no school, no facilities of any kind. There are no roads — the only way to get there is by boat.

It’s a mountainous area, so I sit there on a big stone and tell Bible stories to the children.

One day as I was traveling back home, I had stopped overnight in O. village. Somebody came and called me and said, “Can you please come to this lady’s house, because she is suffering with fever?”

When I got there the sick woman said, “I have heard that you are telling good stories and encouraging people. So just tell us some stories, some of God’s healing stories, and then please pray for us.” This whole family had been sick for a long time. Not even a single one of them was well. Everyone — even the children — were constantly sick.

She told me, “It is because of the witchcraft and sorcery that people have done to us — my father and my mother and my relatives are all dead. Now only my husband and I are left.” She begged me, “Please do something. Do something for us.”

I told her, “If I pray, nothing harmful will come into your life, not even any witchcraft or any evil forces will have power to hurt you. Just give me some oil and water and I’ll pray for you before I go.”

So I told them the story of Lazarus who had died, and even after 4 days Jesus came and called him to come out of the tomb. After finishing this story, I called the family together and sprinkled the oil and water over them and prayed.

After the prayer, they came and started to bow before me, saying, “Please help us.”

I told them, “I have prayed and now nothing will happen to you. Everything evil is gone.”

By now it was evening, 6:30 PM, and they invited me, “Please stay with us tonight and eat good food.” That was enticing because they cultivate good maize. But I replied, “I don’t want to impose because you are ill now. When you get better, I will come and stay with you.” They said, “Just come to our place and we can start having regular prayer.” They asked me to come again and again.

From that day on, no one in that family is sick. They were totally and completely healed! When I pass by, even if they see me from a long distance away, they will call greetings because they are healed.

The next day before continuing my journey, I also prayed for a neighbor of theirs who was old and very seriously ill. That old lady was shouting and groaning in pain, “Ooh, aah,” because she was not well. I was not able to share a story with her because she was shouting. But I prayed and God healed her.

Now I want to start a church there in O. village. There are sixty to seventy houses. I am unable to go more often because it is 75 kilometers away but I believe God will help me to plant a church there. Please pray for us.


Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
 Acts 5:29.   https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/31/b8/af/31b8afad7303423028744ed1a916a64f–the-blacksmith-acts-.jpg
empty tomb.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/emptygrave.jpg
high priest accusing the apostles.     http://www.biblesearchers.com/hebrewchurch/primitive/primitive4_files/image002.jpg
Gamaliel.  http://www.zianet.com/maxey/gam4.jpg

2142.) Acts 5:1-16

July 18, 2017
"The Death of Sapphira" by Nicolas Poussin, 1652 (The Louvre, Paris)

“The Death of Sapphira” by Nicolas Poussin, 1652 (The Louvre, Paris)

Acts 5:1-16 (NLT)

Ananias and Sapphira

1 But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. 2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.

They wanted honor without honesty.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”

5 As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died.

Everyone who heard about it was terrified. 6 Then some young men got up, wrapped him in a sheet, and took him out and buried him.

7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?”

“Yes,” she replied, “that was the price.”

9 And Peter said, “How could the two of you even think of conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord like this? The young men who buried your husband are just outside the door, and they will carry you out, too.”

10 Instantly, she fell to the floor and died. When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear gripped the entire church and everyone else who heard what had happened.

  • David Guzik calls this last sentence “one of the great understatements of the Bible!”
  • This is the first use of the word “church” in the book of Acts.

Psalm 34:12-13 (CEV)

Do you want to live

and enjoy a long life?

Then don’t say cruel things

and don’t tell lies.


from Peculiar Treasures,
by Frederick Buechner


It wasn’t because Ananias held back from the poor box some of the proceeds of his real estate deal that Saint Peter came down on him so hard. The poor would get by somehow. They always had. What got the old saint’s goat was that Ananias let on he was handing over  his whole pile instead of only as much as he though he wouldn’t be needing himself.

“You have not lied to men but to God,” Peter said, and the undeniable truth of the charge together with the unbearable shame of it were more than Ananias could take, so he dropped dead. His wife, Sapphira, had been in on the real estate deal with him, and when she turned up three hours later and found out what had happened, she dropped dead too.

Lying to God is like sawing the branch you’re sitting on. The better you do it, the harder you fall.

The Apostles Heal Many

12 The apostles were performing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers were meeting regularly at the Temple in the area known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 But no one else dared to join them, even though all the people had high regard for them. 14 Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. 15 As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. 16 Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.



So many voices are calling out for our attention!  Who were Ananias and Sapphira listening to?  Surely they knew stories of other people of faith who had to choose which voice to obey!

And the next obvious question:  Who am I listening to?  Let us take that question seriously.  HERE  is Casting Crowns and “The Voice of Truth.”


Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Poussin.  http://www.abcgallery.com/P/poussin/poussin86.html
Ananias drops dead.    http://bibleencyclopedia.com/goodsalt/Acts_5_Story_of_Ananias_and_Sapphira.htm
Ananias and Sapphira.    http://contributionlessons.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/ags-screenshot489.jpg?w=199&h=250