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October 5, 2021
The Heart of Stone
“Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” (Ephesians 4:18)

The blindness mentioned in our text is the same word used to describe a kind of stone. In verb form, this word indicates a process and means “to make hard or to petrify.” Often the word is translated as “hardness.”

The people of Israel developed a hard heart and mind toward God and the things of God (2 Corinthians 3:13-15), which continually brought grief and anger to the Lord Jesus (Mark 3:5). Even the disciples suffered from this hardness (Mark 6:52; 8:17).

Our text is directed toward New Testament believers who are challenged not to become blinded or petrified as are unbelievers. This petrification in the moral realm can be compared to the loss of sensation in the physical realm—a kind of spiritual paralysis as when sensor and motor nerves no longer respond. “Who being past feeling have given themselves over to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:19).

Petrification of once-living tissue usually takes place over the course of many years, as each organic molecule decays and is removed, with the space it occupied refilled with stony material dissolved in groundwater percolating through the host material. Or it may take place as material is injected into the living tissue, thus stopping all life processes. In just such a way, the hardening of the heart can take place slowly, but finally petrification is complete. Petrification of wood can be stopped by removing it from the decay-and-replacement process, but natural processes cannot return it to its former state. Praise God that we can “put on the new man” (v. 24) with a renewed (new) mind and spirit (v. 23), no longer hardened toward the things of God. JDM

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October 6, 2021
Hastening His Coming
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

These very familiar words of the Lord Jesus are commonly considered as a statement of His Great Commission, commanding us to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Actually, however, it is not given here as a command but rather as a declarative statement— indeed, a prophecy—saying that we shall witness for Him to the very ends of the earth.

Then, His disciples were promised that “this same Jesus” would return (Acts 1:11), with the promise clearly tied to the prophecy. Just a few weeks previously they had asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming?” (Matthew 24:3). And Jesus had answered, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (v. 14). Mark recorded His answer very simply: “The gospel must first be published among all nations” (Mark 13:10).

Peter says that the Lord may seem to have delayed “the promise of his coming” because He “is longsuffering...not willing that any should perish,” urging us to “account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation” (2 Peter 3:4, 9, 15), suggesting that we should be “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12).

We can hardly draw any other conclusion from such passages than that if we want the Lord to return quickly, we can hasten His coming by fulfilling His command and His prophecy, doing whatever we can to publish His gospel among all nations. His coming has always been imminent because this could well have been done—and can be done—at any time. But it evidently has not been done yet. HMM

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October 7, 2021
Who and What to Esteem
“Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26)

We hear much today about the importance of self-esteem, with the implication that lack of self-esteem is the cause of many of the personal problems and antisocial activities of so many young people (and others as well) these days.

But this is not the biblical perspective. The problem really is too much self-esteem. The biblical command is that we should “in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3). The man Moses was once a prince of Egypt, probably in line to become the pharaoh, but he chose Christ and the people of God instead, “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (today’s text).

Paul the apostle could have become the greatest teacher and leader in the religious/political life of his own Jewish people, but he said: “What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7-8). In these verses, “count” is the same word in the original Greek language as “esteem.”

Similarly, the apostle James assures us that we should “count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations”—that is, trials that test your faith—“knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (James 1:2-3).

Therefore, if we would truly conform to the will of God for our lives, we should be esteeming others more than cultivating self-esteem in ourselves, esteem knowing and serving Christ more than all the riches and fame of the world, and esteem it a joyful privilege when we are enabled to grow more like Him through the trials and testings He permits us to share. HMM

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October 8, 2021
The God of Hope
“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13)

The apostle Paul invokes the Lord as “the God of hope” in this verse, which is an unusual but important description for God and found nowhere else in the Old or New Testament. So, how are the two nouns related in this Greek text, which is known as a genitive phrase, “the God of hope” (ho Theos tes elpidos)? The encouraging answer for us as believers in Christ Jesus is twofold.

First, our mighty Creator and Redeemer God is the only source who can give true hope. This hope is for the present life: “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14); and for the one to come: “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4).

Even more amazing is that Paul desired that we would “abound” or literally overflow with hope, as the Greek verb (perisseuo) implies. God does this “through the power of the Holy Ghost” blessing His people with “all joy and peace in believing” as they trust in him.

Second, God is also the object of our hope. The psalmist declared, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psalm 73:25-26). So we look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

Because we live in a sin-cursed world devoid of true hope, we must focus on the God of hope, not the problems of this life or our own strength. JPT

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October 9, 2021
Absent from the Body
“We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

This wonderful phrase of hope—“absent from the body, present with the Lord”—was the most appropriate inscription we could think of to place on the gravestone of our youngest son when he died many years ago. He was a solid Christian young man with a good Christian testimony, so we are indeed “confident” that he has been “present with the Lord” ever since sudden cancer temporarily conquered his body, leaving a beautiful wife and three young children behind.

Therefore, though we all miss him deeply, we “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Sadly, however, there are many others who are “without Christ,...having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). Although Christ has paid the full redemption price on the cross to have their sins forgiven and to give them eternal life, they spurn His love, and so Jesus has to say, “And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:40).

The times of judgment are coming, when they learn that “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:15). Right now, however, all who know Christ as their Lord and Savior can know, with Paul, that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Furthermore, when Christ returns, “them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him” (1 Thessalonians 4:14). And then He will change our old body, whether in the grave or still living, “that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” and “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2). HMM

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October 10, 2021
The God of Patience and Consolation
“Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 15:5)

Paul gives us a descriptive title for the Lord as the God of patience and consolation (encouragement). To understand this, we need to consider the context in which it was given. In the previous chapter, Paul addresses a divisive conflict in the Roman church where believers were judging and offending one another because of dietary preferences. He reminds them, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17).

Paul goes on to say, “Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself” (Romans 15:2-3). Thus, our lives should be conducted to promote the edification of the body of Christ by denying ourselves and modeling the life of Jesus.

But how can we perform such a seemingly difficult task in our families, churches, and occupations? We are told that this ability is granted to us by our God of patience and consolation. Think of how much offence our Creator God has patiently endured with His gracious long-suffering toward sinful mankind and how much consolation He abundantly offers to us in His Word and through the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Let us look daily to God’s Word and model our lives accordingly: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4); and request His strength to perform it: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ….That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:14, 16). JPT

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  October 11, 2021
Lord of Hosts
“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53)

This short verse is packed with important theological information. Not only did the Lord Jesus once again claim “God was his Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18), but He also made a direct reference to His divinity using powerful Old Testament terminology.

In numerous places across the Scriptures, God referred to Himself as the “Lord [Yahweh] of hosts” (242 times) or “Lord [Yahweh] God [Elohim] of hosts” (29 times). Yahweh is the unique name of God, and Elohim is the grammatical plural of God (El), giving veiled reference to the Trinity. “Hear, O Israel: The LORD [Yahweh] our God [Elohim] is one LORD [Yahweh]” (Deuteronomy 6:4).

In the era in which Jesus made this statement, a Roman legion was 6,000 soldiers, so 12 legions of angels would have been 72,000 strong. If a single angel could kill 185,000 men (Isaiah 37:36), Jesus was basically inferring that as the Lord of hosts He could employ enough angels to kill every person on Earth and then some (13 billion). So, obviously He did not need Peter’s sword to defend Him as He was being betrayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Likewise, when the Roman governor Pilate said, “Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?” the Lord Jesus responded, “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above” (John 19:10-11).

Praise be to Jesus that He gave Himself for our redemption so we can say, “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16). JPT
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October 12, 2021
The Indwelling Trinity
“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19)

This prayer of the apostle Paul applies to us as well as “to the saints which are at Ephesus” (Ephesians 1:1). Paul directs his prayer “unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (3:14), and he requests both that “Christ may dwell in your hearts” and also that the Holy Spirit would strengthen our “inner man.” We know elsewhere that Christ is at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Ephesians 1:20) so that the Holy Spirit is the person who actually indwells our bodies as believers. And yet, because God is a triune God, if the Holy Spirit indwells us, so also must “the Spirit of Christ” or else “he is none of his” (Romans 8:9).

But the prayer doesn’t end with Christ dwelling in our hearts. He further prays that “ye might be filled with all the fulness of God,” and thus the Father is there too! When we accept Christ, we accept also the Father and the Holy Spirit, for the three are one, and God in all His triune fullness thenceforth lives in our bodies.

The Lord Jesus Himself had prayed essentially the same prayer. “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth;...and my Father will love [you], and we will...make our abode with [you]” (John 14:16-17, 23). What a priceless privilege and responsibility is ours as believers that our triune God of creation and redemption and direction is with us always! HMM

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October 13, 2021
Meditation in the Morning
“My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” (Psalm 5:3)

Bible study, meditation on the Word, and prayer are necessities for a healthy Christian life and are good to practice at any time of the day or night, according to the constraints of time and responsibilities of each individual. Other things being equal, however, the best time of all is in the early morning. A believer who awakens each morning to the voice of the Lord in His Word will, in turn, be ready to speak words of blessing to others through the day (Isaiah 50:4). And as we, in turn, look up to Him each morning in prayer, He will hear and direct our steps through the day.

This was the example set by the Lord Jesus Himself: “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). If even Jesus Christ needed such a quiet time early in the morning set aside to fellowship with His Father, we also would do well to follow.

Note the prayer of David: “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee” (Psalm 143:8). We urgently need to know the way we should walk each day, for it is so easy to get turned aside into our own ways, and the obvious time to pray for guidance is at the very beginning of every day.

One should not make a legalistic ritual of prayer and Bible meditation, of course, for it should come from a heart of love whenever and wherever it can be done, whether morning or evening. However it may work for each person, may God help us to say with the psalmist: “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). HMM

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October 14, 2021
Perfect Minded
“Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” (Philippians 3:15-16)

Earlier, Paul had noted that he was not “already perfect” (Philippians 3:12), using a form of the Greek verb teleioo. In today’s verse, Paul uses the adjective form teleios. Although the root of the word is the same, this particular usage is significant.

In verse 12, the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to use the past perfect tense of teleioo, rendering the translation “not having been perfected” and thereby recognizing that the end product of God’s salvation has not yet been completed. The adjective form, teleios, denotes the sense of maturity, both in our text and the other 18 instances in the New Testament.

Those of the family of God who are “mature,” even if we might be “otherwise minded,” are to expect that our Lord Jesus will reveal “even this,” or the prize that we are to focus on in Philippians 3:14. The “one thing” of Philippians 3:13 is so important that we must “walk by the same rule” and “mind the same thing” (today’s verse).

The Greek word for “walk” is only used four other times in the New Testament, and it describes marching in a row and following a prescribed order. We are to “walk in the steps” that Abraham exemplified (Romans 4:12), just as we are to “also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Finally, we are exhorted to “mind” the same thing. Our thought processes are to be focused on that one thing that is most important—seeking the Kingdom first. May these clear commands find their way into our hearts. HMM III

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October 15, 2021
Never Alone
“When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” (Psalm 27:10)

There may be more people alive today than ever before, but there are also more lonely people today than ever before— divorced spouses, homeless people, many elderly parents and, perhaps saddest of all, orphaned or abandoned children. These and many others are still alone, even in a crowded world.

No one, though, was ever so alone as the Lord Jesus on the cross. “Behold, the hour cometh,” He had said, “yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me” (John 16:32). Then, only a few hours later, as He hung on the cross, even His heavenly Father had to leave Him, and He cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). He died alone, bearing the burden of all the sin of all the world on His soul.

But because He suffered alone, no one else need ever be alone again. “Be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5). The apostle Paul, suffering alone in a Roman dungeon shortly before his execution, could still say: “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17). John the beloved, old and imprisoned alone on the tiny isle of Patmos, nevertheless “was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Revelation 1:10) and then saw the Lord in all His glory. So it has always been with those who know the Lord, for He is there, even when all others have forsaken them, and He understands. He has already been there ahead of us, “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). HMM

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October 16, 2021
This Generation
“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24:34)

This exciting prediction by Christ climaxes His great prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives. He had given His disciples the signs they had requested, then discussed the coming great tribulation and finally His glorious return in the clouds of heaven. And “all these things” were to be fulfilled before “this generation” would pass away.

And what generation would that be? Many commentators have taken it as the Jewish “race,” but that would be redundant since many other passages had already promised that the nation of Israel would never pass away (Jeremiah 31:37-40; etc.). Furthermore, the Greek word for “generation” (genea) is never used elsewhere for any meaning but that of a particular age generation. A similar word genos sometimes means “stock” or “kind,” but never genea.

Thus, the generation that Christ was predicting probably meant the generation that would see the events He had prophesied. “When ye shall see all these things,” He said, “know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:33). What are some of “these things”? World wars, accompanied and followed by “earthquakes in divers places,” as well as “famines, and pestilences” (v. 7), worldwide spread of the gospel witness (v. 14), many false Christs and false prophets (v. 24), widespread wickedness and spiritual indifference as in the days of Noah (vv. 37-39), and the budding of the fig tree, Israel (v. 32).

The word for “this” in verse 34 is the demonstrative adjective, so Christ seems to be referring to “that” generation which sees “these things begin to come to pass.” That generation will see all these things fulfilled! To that generation He says: “Lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28). HMM

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October 17, 2021
Follow the Leader
“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ).” (Philippians 3:17-18)

Godly leaders are responsible for living exemplary lives so that those whom they teach will both follow and eventually become leaders of others. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” Paul demanded of the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 11:1). “In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works,” he instructed Titus (Titus 2:7). But Paul was first a follower of the life example of Christ.

Today’s verse uses some unusual terms to both define the responsibility to follow and mark those walking after Paul’s lifestyle. Memos is Greek for “follow,” compounded with a prefix that means “together.” Our English word “mimic” comes from memos. We are expected to imitate the examples of those who lead godly lives, who themselves are committed to emulate the Lord Jesus.

Further, we are expected to “mark” those living after godly examples. The Greek word skopeo is the strongest word among several for identifying someone or something. It has the sense of intense observation. In the secular literature, it is sometimes used for a spy. God expects us to pay careful attention to those who “have the rule over [us]” (Hebrews 13:17).

And we are to watch out for those who may influence us for evil. There are “enemies” of the Lord Jesus. Those are sometimes among us, and we must “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17). May God give us the discernment to know the difference between “good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). HMM III

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October 18, 2021
God the Owner
“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” (Psalm 24:1)

In communist countries, “the people” own the lands, while in capitalist countries individuals may own “private property.” Both are myths unless these are viewed as a stewardship from God. We don’t really own anything, “for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:7).

In the mineral kingdom, the most important substances are the precious metals upon which monetary standards are based, yet God makes it clear that all “the silver is mine, and the gold is mine” (Haggai 2:8). The greatest members of the plant kingdom are the mighty trees of the forest, and God reminds us that “the trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted” (Psalm 104:16). All the birds and beasts in the animal kingdom are His also. “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills” (Psalm 50:10).

Again and again God reminds us that “all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5), and even the infinite heavens belong to Him. “Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the LORD’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is” (Deuteronomy 10:14).

God has, indeed, given man “dominion...over all the earth” (Genesis 1:26), and Satan has, indeed, laid false claim to “all the kingdoms of the world” (Luke 4:5-6), but the fact remains that “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Daniel 4:32).

Most of all, every Christian should understand that he and all he has belong to God by both creation and blood-bought redemption. “Ye are not your own...For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). HMM

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