Monthly Archives: December 2019

December 10; Respectful and Firm

Acts 23:12-25:22

Paul was in prison, although he had not committed any crime. His incarceration, totally unjust, came from the jealous hearts of evil men. Paul was a victim.

But it was because of his imprisonment Paul was able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with kings and rulers. Paul never turned down an opportunity to talk about Jesus. His example still speaks to hearts 2000 years later.

What example? In the face of a conspiracy of lies, Paul didn’t lose his cool. He didn’t strike back. Even when the crowd was in a frenzy, Paul did not react in like manner.

But Paul didn’t roll over and play dead, either. He respectfully and firmly demanded his rights. He respectfully and firmly faced his accusers and called their bluff. “Prove what you accuse me of,” he said. They couldn’t prove a thing because he wasn’t guilty of anything.

Paul’s example speaks to me today as I consider the climate in the US. We are a nation of reactionaries. We actually believe we have a right to get even, to shout louder, to destroy property if someone says something we don’t like. It’s insane.

Do you like the climate in our nation? We who hold the Truth need to respectfully and firmly proclaim it. And keep proclaiming it. Paul went to prison doing that. Are any of us willing to do the same?

Paul was able to look his accusers in the eye and challenge them to prove him guilty. Are we living our lives in such a way we could do that, too, and be confident there was nothing they could hold against us?

Christian, America’s hope lies in us. I think it’s time we were respectfully firm, and demanded our rights to proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ. But here’s the thing:

What if the future of the Church in America, and the nation of The United States of America depended on you. Just you. Take a good look at your life, your commitment to Jesus and the Truth of Scripture. If we depended on you to be respectfully firm, what would our future as a nation be?

I’m asking the same of me, and I really don’t like what I’m finding.

May God raise up people like Paul who was respectful and firm when he stood up for the Truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. I want to be counted in that number.

December 9; I Give Up

Acts 21:1-23:11

I had to chuckle as I read these chapters today. Not so much because what I read was funny, but because what I read was so me. (Sadly).

Paul was heading to Jerusalem. Along the way, all kinds of people told him not to go, that only trouble waited for him there. Agabus, a prophet, specifically told Paul that he would be arrested if he went to Jerusalem.

Well, that did it. When the people heard what the prophet said they pleaded with Paul to change his plans. They begged and wept trying to get him to give up this crazy idea of going to Jerusalem. But Paul was adamant. He was going to Jerusalem in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ whether they liked it or not.

Then this:

When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” (21:14)

Maybe it’s the wording in the NIV, but that is where I chuckled at the foolishness. They did everything they could to convince Paul to do what they wanted him to do. Then, when they finally realized he was having none of it, THEY GAVE UP.

That is totally understandable. Eventually you quit beating a dead horse. But the sad thing is,  it was only when they had given up their own efforts did they say, “The Lord’s will be done.”

To me it sounds the equivalent of an adolescent trying to get his friends to do something he wants to do, then when the friends aren’t interested in giving in saying, “Fine. Have it your way.”

“Fine. Have it God’s way.”

I wish I could tell you I have never said that myself. After praying for something, trying to manipulate circumstances in my favor, thinking positive thoughts, and realizing I’m not any closer to getting my way than I was at the start, I then take a deep breath and pray, “Not my will but Thine be done.”

So foolish. God is reminding me today that having His will accomplished in my life needs to be my first thought, my first wish, my first prayer. Paul’s friends were right. Paul was arrested and beaten in Jerusalem just like they’d feared. But Paul had said he was willing to be bound, even killed for Jesus’ sake there in Jerusalem. He trusted God that much.

Friend, wanting God’s will in our lives should never be a last resort. I’m pretty sure those of us who know Him would say without hesitation we want God’s will in our lives. Then, from the start we need to learn to say:

I give up.

December 8; New Life, New Hope

Romans 15-16; Acts 20:7-38

Our family grew by one yesterday. My niece in California gave birth to a daughter. Isn’t the birth of a child a precious, hopeful event? That tiny, totally dependent human entrusted to her parents to nurture, instruct, mold into the person she will become. Those tiny fingers and toes, that little body houses an eternal soul. What a responsibility! What a blessing!

Some people think this world is too evil, and think we shouldn’t be having children. I am not one of them. I rejoice at the birth of my newest great-niece. I see hope in her arrival.

As I read these chapters this morning I thought of baby Keaton. I pray that she will give her heart to Jesus at an early age and be the servant of the Lord Paul talks about. I pray her life will be a testament to the goodness of God, and will inspire others to want Jesus in their lives, too.

I know life won’t always be easy for her. But I pray that she will be grounded in the Truth of Scripture and know the strength that comes from a relationship with God Himself. So, using Paul’s words, let me say to our precious Keaton…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Your Aunt Connie is praying for you, sweetheart.

December 7; It Couldn’t Hurt

Romans 11:11-14:23

You know, I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have Romans 12 read aloud at the start of every day in our public schools. It certainly couldn’t hurt to have it read before every political meeting, or at the beginning of impeachment hearing testimony. And I think it would benefit us all if each of us began our day reminding ourselves what God said through Paul:

  1. Be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
  2. Don’t conform to the world, be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
  3. Use your gifts and abilities for the good of others.
  4. Love sincerely.
  5. Hate sin – not the sinner.
  6. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
  7. Learn to share.
  8. Don’t be conceited.
  9. Don’t seek revenge.
  10. Do what is right; live in peace
  11. Be kind to people who aren’t kind to you.
  12. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I think we need to read this chapter often, and learn to do what it says. It couldn’t hurt!

December 6; Giving the Most Precious Gift

Romans 8:18-11:10

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved…foe “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:9-10, 13)

I hope you remember that experience in your own life, the day you confessed and believed that Jesus is the risen Savior, the day you became a child of God as you called on the name of the Lord. I hope you think about that day often, and celebrate the truth that your sins are forgiven, and eternity with God is ahead.

We are in the midst of getting ready to celebrate Christmas. Most of us have our shopping lists, the names of loved ones written next to the ideal gift we plan to give them. But Christmas is more than that, isn’t it? It is about Jesus.

If you have not called on the name of the Lord, and allowed Him to forgive your sins, to rescue you from eternity without Him, let me encourage you to do that today. In the hustle and bustle of the season, take a minute, and picture that baby lying in a manger surrounded by shepherds, kings, and angels. And understand there is only one gift He wants. He wants you.

You are the most precious gift you could ever give to Jesus, the one who loves you more than you know.

December 5; Delivered

Romans 5:1-8:17

Can a Christian sin? Paul certainly sounds like he struggled with sin. I John 1:8 tells us we deceive ourselves if we say we don’t sin. Galatians 5:17 says there is a constant battle between the flesh and the spirit. Plus, I don’t have to look farther than my nose to know Christians can sin.

But believers in Christ have something non-believers don’t have. We have victory. We have the Holy Spirit right there inside us, eager to help us resist temptation. We have the very power of God to fight our enemy, and the grace of God who forgives us when we ask.

“What a wretched man I am!” Paul exclaimed. “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (from 8:24)

The sin of a Christian is no less serious than the sin of an atheist. Sin is sin, and the wages of sin is death. Your sin. And mine.

The answer to Paul’s question, “who will deliver me,” is found in verse 25:

Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God will deliver you, too, if you ask. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness. He is faithful and just to forgive us all when we confess our sin. Thanks be to God!

 

December 4; Double Paying A Debt

Romans 2-4

God, through Paul, tells us all  have sinned. No one reaches God’s glory, His holiness. We can’t come close.

God’s holiness is the plumb line, and all of us have deviated from that line of perfection. If you believe you haven’t, you are delusional. That deviation is called sin. And we will find out in chapter 6 of Romans that the penalty for sin is death.

It is therefore impossible to make up for sin by doing good things. Doing good things is not death. And sin demands death.

Now, think through this with me. If all have sinned, then you and I are sinners. If the consequence for sin is death, the only way you or I can pay for our sin debt is by dying, which would mean going to hell.

Paul tells us Jesus paid what it is impossible for us to pay in this lifetime. You cannot die to pay for your own sin, then live again. But Jesus can – and did!

You can’t die, spend some time in hell to satisfy your sin debt, then wake up one day and continue life on Earth debt-free. But Jesus did exactly that for you!

The only thing you or I have to do in this lifetime is to take what Jesus died to give us. He paid the price for our sin, yours and mine. He’s standing there holding a “Paid in Full” receipt. Yet some will ignore what is right in front of them, and pay their debt themselves. They would rather face judgment on their own, instead of wearing the righteousness of Jesus.

That’s like double paying a debt. I’m six months from paying off my car loan. That would be like me writing that last check, then going to the bank and saying, “I’d like to pay for my car again.” That would be crazy.

But I think refusing what Jesus died to give you is crazy, too. You can live a debt-free life right now, forgiven of sin, with an unimaginably fabulous eternity ahead. Or you can plant your feet and take on the challenge of paying your own debt.

Just understand, you’ll have to die to do it.