Monthly Archives: November 2013

November 20

Galatians 4:8-6:18

What does it mean to be free in Christ? Did Jesus erase the law when he died on the cross? Are the things that were considered sin in the Old Testament no longer sinful? 

Paul explains that because Jesus took on himself the penalty of sin we are no longer justified by following the law. Forgiveness for sin no longer requires slashing the throat of a cow. Salvation comes through the blood of Jesus and is ours for the asking.

But, Paul says, evidence of this work is played out in obedience. Sin is still sin. He tells us not to indulge in the sinful nature, rather serve and love each other. Paul lists acts of the sinful nature in 5:19-21. Among those are sexual immorality, jealousy, drunkenness, and hatred and people who live like that will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But he also says, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. People who have the Spirit of the Living God just naturally live like that. It’s as natural as an apple tree bearing apples.

Who wouldn’t want to live being filled with the those fruit of the Spirit? Aren’t those the things most people are looking for in this life? Dear one, we are free to choose that life! We are free to choose Jesus.

Father, once again I thank you for what Jesus did on the cross when he took on himself the penalty for my sin. Help me to recognize sin and flee from it. May I be quick to confess sin in my life and may I be filled with your Holy Spirit so that I will bear that precious fruit. Not only will my life be better, but I can reach out and help others, too. May I bear fruit for your kingdom today.

November 19

Galatians 1:1-4:7

Don’t you love reading Paul’s letters? They are filled with a grass-roots look at the Christian life and encouragement to meet that life head-on! He certainly was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, was he?

When I read things like what he wrote in his letter to the Galatians I wonder why so many of us still consider the flesh and blood nation of Israel as chosen for some special treatment by God. I appreciate how Paul explains it when he reminds us God’s promise to Abraham concerned Abraham’s Seed. Not seeds. One person who is Christ (3:10). 3:7&8 say anyone who believes are children of Abraham. 3:26-29 emphasize the fact that God does not recognize any difference between Jew and Gentile, male and female. We are all heirs according to the promise when we believe in Christ.

God revealed his plan first to a Jew. He chose that man’s physical family to reveal God to the world until the Seed was born. Now it’s our turn to show God to our neighbors and friends and go across the ocean if God calls us. 

I know there are Scripture that suggests the flesh and blood nation of Israel is still set apart. But it doesn’t even suggest such here in Paul’s letter. In fact, Paul says plainly that all believers are members of the nation of Israel, heirs, children of Abraham. It has nothing to do with the nationality of our parents. It has everything to do with our response to Jesus.

You know what these amazing verses mean to me? God doesn’t love anyone more than he does me. God isn’t more interested in anyone else’s eternal soul more than he is in mine. I am the apple of his eye. And so are you if you know Christ as your Savior.

Dear God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and me. Thank you for Jesus and his obedience to your will. Thank you that his work on the cross allowed me to be adopted into your chosen family. Thank you that anyone who comes to you believing becomes heirs of the promise. And thank you for loving me so completely. May I live my life honoring you, my Father. And may others see Jesus in me.

November 18

Acts 13:1-14:28

I grew up in a church of a denomination that was formed with a wonderful emphasis on missions. We often had missionaries in our pulpit and the Missions Conference was something I looked forward to every year. A week of evening services, colorful flags from countries around the world decorating the sanctuary, slide shows from the mission fields, singing those great hymns about missions, and international dinners! I loved it all.

I know mission work has drawn criticism of late. How dare we impose our western religion on these innocent people? And if you tell them Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one goes to the Father except through him, well – that can really get the critics going!

When Paul talked to the people in Lystra who mistook him for one of their gods, he told them that in the past God let all nations go their own way. “Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:16-17) He told them they needed to turn from their worthless gods and put their faith in the living God.

When the people heard this they stoned Paul and left him for dead. Paul pulled himself up and you know what he did? He went back into the city. Why? Because he knew those people were lost without Jesus.

That’s the bottom line. People need the Lord. They are going to hell without him. Is God calling you to serve him in a foreign land? Go! Is he asking you to take the Gospel to the homeless people in your city? Do it! What about the inmates at your local prison? They need Jesus, too. Has God laid on your heart their eternal souls? Be obedient to the call.

If you really believe that Jesus is the answer, then you need to ask yourself what you are willing to do about it, where are you willing to go to share the Truth of the Savior. Paul was faithful to his calling. I pray the same can be said for each of us.

Heavenly Father, what would you say to each of us today? Is there somewhere you want us to go to share the good news of Jesus Christ? Are there remote villages full of people who have never heard? Are there large cities full of busy people who don’t give Jesus a second thought? Would you want us to go into the prisons or into the streets of our own towns to introduce lost souls to the Savior? Forgive our excuses, Lord. May we set aside our hesitations and trust you. If you call, you will also lead. May you find us faithful.

November 17

James 4:1-5:20; Acts 11:19-12:25

I hope you read the book of James. There is a wealth of information in each verse. It’s a practical guide book for living the Christian life. It truly is a light to our way.

What are you looking for? Is it health or wealth or success or is it answers to life, strength to meet hardships? Read 4:7-10 and find the answer to having the most extraordinary life. Let James talk to you about God’s will in 4:13-17, about priorities in 5:1-9, about hardships and prayer in 5:10-18. I hope you’ll read and re-read this book and let God speak to you about your walk with him.

In 5:20 James sums up why we live this Christian life in the first place. “remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

Are you turning sinners from sin? Do you have the wisdom that comes from God and is your life an example of holiness? It’s why God doesn’t take us to heaven the moment we ask Jesus to come into our hearts. While you have life and breath you have a mission. 

May we be faithful to that mission and introduce someone to their Savior today.

Dear Savior, thank you for inspiring your servant to write the words we read the last couple of days. May your children take to heart the things you are saying to us. May we be the people described here. And may our lives represent your holiness. Then, Father, give us opportunity to share the good news of Jesus with a sinner who needs turned around.

 

November 16

James 1:1-3:18

I’ve always been partial to the book of James. It is probably the one book of the Bible I have read the most. I think I first realized how rich its content when I coached a Bible quiz team from my church and we studied this book word by word. 

James starts with talking about godly wisdom and ends chapter three talking about the same thing. He invites all believers to ask God for wisdom and believe and not doubt that God will answer that prayer. 

So do you have godly wisdom? Here is James’ checklist. See if you see yourself here.

Wisdom considers it pure joy to face trials, knowing it works to mature the one who suffers. (1:2-4)

Wisdom is humble in whatever circumstance of life one is given. (1:9-11)

Wisdom perseveres under trials, knowing the end of this life is eternal life with God. (1:12)

Wisdom recognizes temptation is not from God. And wisdom doesn’t give temptation a second thought because the more you think about it the more likely that desire leads to sin. (1:13-15) Which is why I watch very little prime time TV that portrays sin as the new normal. I don’t want those subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) attacks on the truth of Scripture to have any place in my mind or heart. And I certainly would not watch those shows if I had young people in my home!

Wisdom understands that God is never changing. (1:16-18) The God of Abraham is the God of today and his demands for holiness has not changed in order to be politically correct. 

Wisdom is quick to listen and slow to anger. And it gets rid of all moral filth.  (1:19-21)

Wisdom listens to God’s Word and obeys. (1:22-25)

Wisdom keeps a tight reign on the tongue. (1:26, 3:1-12)

Wisdom looks after orphans and widows and keeps oneself from being polluted by the world. (1:27)

Wisdom does not show favoritism, but realizes the Gospel of Jesus is for everyone in all walks of life.  (2:1-13)

Wisdom demonstrates faith by how one lives, the good one does in Jesus’ name. (2:14-26)

Wisdom does not harbor bitter envy or selfish ambition. (3:16)

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” (3:17-18)

So how did you do? Can you say, after reading these chapters today  that you possess godly wisdom? Or are there some things you need to talk to your Lord about? Remember 1:5-6 says:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

Gracious God, thank you for your Word to us today. I pray that your children will seek your wisdom, believing you want us to be wise in light of Scripture. Open our minds and hearts and give us understanding of your Word. And may we accept your wisdom and live out your truths today. Make us wise. And use us to do your will for Jesus’ sake.

 

 

November 15

Acts 9:32-11:18

Cornelius was a good man. He even believed in God. But it wasn’t enough. He needed Jesus. So Peter went and shared the Gospel with Cornelius and his whole family. They repented that day, received the Holy Spirit, and were baptized. And they were Gentiles. I love the last verse we read today, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” Yes, even Gentiles!

We’re going to see that God no longer recognizes a difference between Jews and Gentiles. Peter said, in 10:34-35, “…I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Doing that right thing is accepting Jesus as Savior and it doesn’t matter if you are Jewish, Italian, Iranian, German, African, Chinese, or the mixture we call American. 

It’s not enough to believe in God. It’s not enough to be a law-abiding citizen. It’s not even enough to give to the poor or go to church or pay your taxes. Do you know Jesus? Have you accepted his forgiveness? Have you received his grace through faith? If you have, then you are a child of God, one of the chosen.

If you haven’t repented of sin and accepted Jesus as your Savior I pray you will do that. Do the right thing. Give yourself to the Lord and begin to serve him today. I promise you that walking with Jesus is so much better than going it alone.

Heavenly Father, I thank you that salvation is not limited to Jewish people. I thank you it’s not even limited to just good people. Your Word tells us all of us have sinned, none of us reach your glory or even come close. We all need Jesus. So I pray for those who have yet to humble themselves and receive your forgiveness. May they do the right thing today. And may we who know you represent you well so that others will want what we have in you. Some of our friends and neighbors need the forgiveness that only Jesus provides. May hearts turn to you today. 

November 14

Acts 7:54-9:31

The early followers of Christ lived in danger. Many were beaten and others were killed because they loved Jesus and identified with him through baptism. Thousands of believers fled Jerusalem to save themselves and their families and settled in other towns. And you know what happened? They started talking about Jesus to their new neighbors and thousands more were saved. The Church actually grew through its persecution!

Isn’t it true we can kind of get comfortable where we are? We go to a job we like, we get along with our co-workers, we’re used to our boss. We sit in the same seat every Sunday and greet the same people. We mow our lawns and wave to our neighbors as they mow their lawns. And our opportunities to share Christ get fewer and fewer.

What happens when the company you work for down-sizes and you find yourself looking for work? What happens when you are transferred to another city or feel the need to move closer to an ailing parent? 

We in America don’t know as yet what it is like to have to run for our lives because of our faith. But God does nudge us at times to get out of our comfort zones. Why? There are people who need to hear your testimony, to see Christ living in you so that they come to know him, too. When you are a Christian, everything that happens in your life happens for one reason only. And that is so that you can be a witness to people who need the Savior. 

Is God asking you to get out of your comfort zone? Probably. Go where he wants you to go. Do or say what it is he is asking of you. The Church still has room to grow.

Father, forgive us when we are comfortable. Give your people the courage to step out, to reach out, to be uncomfortable for a time so that someone can meet you. You are going to give us opportunities today. May you find us willing to do that hard thing for Jesus’ sake.

November 13

Acts 5:17-7:53

When God was on the fast track to establish his Church some pretty amazing things occurred. When the Holy Spirit came he came in flames! Ordinary people suddenly were able to speak languages they had never studied and preached the Gospel so that foreigners could understand. People were healed if they walked over Peter’s shadow. And many people found Christ because of it.

Peter and John found themselves in prison for preaching about Jesus. But God wasn’t about to let their voices be silenced. So he picked them up right out of that cell and transplanted them in the middle of town. What must that have been like for the apostles? Better than any Disney ride, I’m sure!

With all this going on, Satan was frantically trying to stop it. He influenced many people who wanted Peter and John dead. He even convinced them they were doing what God wanted by putting an end to this Jesus movement. So they thought they’d teach Peter and John a lesson, scare them into stopping their ministry. They bound the apostles and flogged them. They beat them, tearing into their flesh, causing painful cuts. And you know how the apostles responded? Read Acts 5:41-42. They rejoiced because God had found them worthy to suffer for Jesus’ sake. And they continued to preach the Gospel every day.

Nobody likes to suffer. We get angry if we are treated unfairly, pout if our feelings are hurt, and want to get even with those who wrong us. Just yesterday a young friend of mine was in a car accident. He was driving home from college when someone ran a stop sign and plowed into the side of my friend’s car. And to make matters worse, the person who hit him fled the scene. My friend was stunned. He was shaken and angry. Why me, he asked? He was following the rules and where did that get him? Bad things always happen to me, he cried.

His older sister said something that fits into what we read today here in Acts. She lovingly told him, “It happened because you are a CHOSEN ONE.” She went on to tell him that trials are a test of our faith and a chance to show Christ to others. And I think that’s what Peter and John would say to him, too. As followers of Christ we have a target on our backs. Satan wants to stop us at all costs. But God can turn any situation around and use it to glorify himself through us. 

Are you going through a storm? Are you being treated unfairly because you are a Christian? Rejoice! You are a chosen one to reveal Christ to someone who needs him. God trusts you with this trial. And he is able to see you through to the very end.

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray for my young friend. Continue to work in his life, strengthen his relationship with you, and help him to be a testimony of what a Godly man looks like when faced with hardship. Draw someone to the saving knowledge of Jesus through this situation. And I pray for all of us who are facing Satan’s attacks. May we represent you well. May we trust you with it all. And may we rejoice for the opportunity to suffer for the name of our dear Savior.

November 12

Acts 3:1-5:16

I was a public school teacher for 37 years. And as can be expected, I saw a lot of changes in education and in parents and students during those years. Prayer was taken out of the schools long before I started teaching. But as the years went by administrations became more fearful of anything that represented religion. Some went as far as to tell teachers and students they couldn’t carry Bibles to class, they couldn’t give their testimonies during class. They went to unnecessary extremes that trample on the rights of Christians.

I was blessed to work in a district that didn’t go to those extremes. Our students stood every morning to recite the Pledge and have a moment of “silent prayer or meditation.” I prayed with students who came to me with concerns if I had their permission and often the permission of their parents. A group of us teachers stayed after school once a week to pray for our school. I used to say I’ll probably get fired before I retire. But I didn’t. And I am so thankful for having had worked in the school district I did.

When Peter and John were told to stop talking about Jesus and were threatened if they didn’t, Peter said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

Whether you work in a public school or in some other vocation that has rules about what you can and cannot say, I would encourage you to do some research. It might surprise you when you find out you have rights, too. Let’s exercise those rights while we still have them.

Dear God, I pray for Christians in the work-place today. May they not only be productive employees, but may they represent you in all they do and say. I pray that as followers of Jesus they would know their Constitutional rights, to stand up for truth, to be willing to put themselves out there if you lead. I pray for employers, for decision makers. May they know you, first of all. And may they see something in their Christian workers that they don’t see in those who don’t know you. And, Lord, may all of us have a holy boldness. May we share you with confidence and love as you give us opportunity. Because, dear Jesus, when we know you we just cannot help speaking about you!

November 11

Mark 16:9-20; Acts 1:1-2:47

What a transformation we see in Peter. Can the man we read about today be the same hot-headed coward who denied he even knew Jesus just a few weeks earlier? The disciples needed a leader and Peter stepped up to the plate. He spoke boldly to the crowd of people and reminded them of their part in the crucifixion of Jesus.

And what was his message? Repent. He didn’t write them off or tell them they had gone too far to be forgiven. He invited them to join him and the other disciples. Many people repented and made a dangerous public statement by being baptized that day. No secret believers here! This act identified them as enemies of the government.

I love the picture of this first century church. They really took care of each other. And, no I don’t think it’s an argument for our current welfare system in the US. They all brought something to the table.

I think it’s a little sad how our modern day churches have lost some of the unity the people enjoyed in Acts 1&2. We’ve become so compartmentalized. Multiple worship services, small groups replacing corporate worship. Mega churches where it is impossible to know everyone – even if you are the pastor. i know there are some good things happening in churches today but I wonder if we aren’t missing out on some important things, too.

I thank God that the Holy Spirit who came upon those dear ones that day still works in the lives of people today. I pray that he will find our hearts open to be filled by him and that we will be determined to obey him as we reach out to those who are lost without him. May we, like Peter, be less concerned about popular opinion and more concerned about proclaiming the truth of Scripture.

Father, that is my prayer. May I follow the example of the first century church and care selflessly for my brothers and sisters in Christ. There are those who are struggling here at home and around the world. Help me to know what you want me to do about that and may you find me faithful. Give me the confidence you gave Peter and may I proclaim your truth – Jesus Savior, Jesus the name that will cause every knee to bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord. Jesus, the only way to the Father and the one who holds the key to eternity with you. 

Just a side note: Thank you, US Veterans. I am a daughter of a Marine and the aunt of a soldier and I am proud of both these dear men and thankful for their sacrifice. May all Veterans today know that we Americans applaud you with grateful hearts. And may we hold on to the freedoms your service has provided. God bless each of you today, Veterans Day, and every day.