11/17/18 “The Christian’s View of Governing Authorities” (Daily Bible Reading: Romans 13-16)

“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves” (Roman 13:1-2).

How do you feel about our current politicians in Washington? Approval rates for those who serve as governing officials show most of the public are displeased with them. Observing some of the posts on social media indicates that many people love to poke fun at, or are irate towards our politicians.

As Christians how are we to respond to those in political office? In the 13th chapter of Romans, Paul addresses how Christians are to view and treat those who serve as our governing officials. It is important to remember that at the time Paul wrote the book of Romans (i.e. approximately 57 A.D.), the Roman emperor Nero was ruling on the throne. Nero had ascended the throne in 54 A.D. and would die in 68 A.D. when he committed suicide. When Rome burned in 64 A.D., it was Nero who falsely blamed the Christians which led to a great persecution of those who follow Christ.

As Paul addresses how Christians are to view the governing authorities, he states that the governing authorities have been appointed by God: “Let every soul by subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). We may not like who holds the particular political office, but God, in His Providence, has put them in the position they hold. The people of our nation may vote, but it is God who rules the nations and puts people in positions of power (Daniel 4:17). God refers to the person in a governing position as “God’s minister” even though they may not even believe in Him (Romans 13:4, cf. Nero)!

Knowing the governing authorities are appointed by God, as a Christian how should I to treat them? I am told to be “subject” to them (Romans 13:1). Regarding how I am to treat the governing officials, Paul writes, “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake” (Romans 13:5). As long as those governing are not trying to force me disobey God’s law, which is the Higher law I must always follow (cf. Acts 5:29), I must be subject to them for conscience sake (i.e. because I realize God put them in the position they hold) and because of wrath (i.e. they have the God appointed power to punish me if I refuse to be subject to them, cf. Romans 13:2-3).

What is involved in my being subject to the governing positions? I am to pay taxes, obey customs, show fear or reverence towards them, and to show them honor (Romans 13:7). God doesn’t tell me I have to like those who hold political office, but I do have to respect them. In the film “Band of Brothers”, Captain Sobel had failed to salute Major Winters because he was upset that Winters had been promoted above him. Major Winters notices this, calls Captain Sobel’s attention, and says, “Captain Sobel, we salute the rank, not the man!” We are to “salute” those in governing positions by respecting them, honoring them, and paying taxes to them, even though we may disagree with them!

We are privileged in our nation to have the freedom to voice our opposition and to vote. The Christians in Rome in Paul’s time didn’t have that opportunity. However, in voicing our views about who should govern us, we must act in such a way as glorifies God (Matthew 5:16). Today, I will remember to fear, honor, and pay taxes to those who serve as God’s ministers in government!

“Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:2).

11/16/18 “Seeking to Establish Our Own Righteousness?” (Daily Bible Reading: Romans 10-12)

“Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:1-3).

What must I do to be right with God and go to heaven? Many people have asked themselves that question over the centuries. However, the answers people give to that question vary widely.

For example, some believe that if they do enough good works in service to God and their fellow man, they will become right with God and be able to go to heaven. In other words, if their good works outweigh their bad works, God will accept them. Others believe if they adhere to a certain standard of conduct or moral code God will be pleased with them. Still, yet others, believe if they simply practice going to church services on a regular basis, that this will assure their place in heaven. However, what does God say I must do to be right with Him?

In the 10th chapter Romans, Paul addresses the answer to this question as he considers his own beloved brethren of Israel. He mentions how they had a “zeal for God” (Romans 10:2). This was a commendable quality for them to have. Yet, there was a problem. Their zeal for God was “not according to knowledge” (Romans 10:2). Although Paul greatly desired to see his countrymen be saved (Romans 10:1), he knew they could not if they continued “seeking to establish their own righteousness” (Romans 10:3). Paul addresses what they needed to do to become right with God.

First, they needed to stop “being ignorant of God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:3). They needed to understand what God expected them to do to become righteous. Israel had rejected God’s Son Jesus. When Pontius Pilate asked them what he should do with Jesus, the Jewish crowd had said, “Let Him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:23). They had rejected the very One who could save them, redeem them from their sins, and make them right with God. They needed to understand that Christ “in the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). Embracing Jesus as both our Lord and Savior is the only way we can be made righteous before God.

However, not only did they need to understand that Jesus was the only way for them be made right before God, but they also needed to submit to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3). It is one thing to know God’s Will; it is another to submit one’s will to God’s Will. Paul tells them how to begin submitting to God’s Will that they may be made righteous before God. He says, “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). Confessing Jesus as our Lord, believing in His atoning sacrifice for our sins (Romans 5:8-10), and expressing our love for Him by submitting to His commandments is how we are made right before God (John 14:15).

I realize I cannot make myself right with God by doing a certain amount of good works, living perfectly by some moral code, or simply by attending church services. I rejoice that God has revealed to me through the Gospel of Christ the news that I can be made right with God by acknowledging Jesus as my Savior and submitting to God’s Will for my life!

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

11/15/18 “Debtors to God” (Daily Bible Reading: Romans 7-9)

“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors--not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:12-14).

Have you ever been in debt? When we think about being in debt, negative images enter our minds as we think about being constantly barraged with notices in the mail and phone calls harassing us to pay our debts. Being in debt is like a dark cloud hanging over you that seems to never go away.

However, as the opening passage above indicates, as Christians, we are told we are debtors. Why are we indebted? We are debtors to God because He paid for us a debt we were unable to pay ourselves. God paid the debt for our sins by sacrificing His own Son: “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8; cf. 1 Peter 1:18-19). What kind of creditor is God towards those who are indebted to Him?

For example, is God upset with us because He paid this debt for us? No, God understands the debt of our sin was too great for us to be able to pay. He paid this debt for us because He loves us! Even though we are greatly indebted to God, the apostle Paul expresses God’s great, inseparable love for us: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

Furthermore, does God want us to continually feel like there is a dark cloud of gloom over us because we are indebted to Him because of our sin? Does He want us to continually feel guilty because of our past mistakes? Again, the answer is no. Although we are indebted to Him, God says there is NO CONDEMNATION for us in Christ: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:1-3).

Finally, as our Creditor, does God call us up to harass us for not paying our bills? No, instead of calling us to remind us of how much we owe, the Holy Spirit actually pleads with God on our behalf by making intercession for us: “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26-27).

Yes, I am indebted to God because He paid the price for my sin which I could not. Today I rejoice that, unlike most creditors who want to charge me more interest and take more from me, God continues to give to me and has always has my interests at heart!

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32).

11/14/18 “Justified by Faith” (Daily Bible Reading: Romans 4-6)

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2).

If I do the things which God has commanded me to do in the Scriptures does this necessarily mean that I am trying to “earn my salvation”? What is the proper relationship between faith and works?

Paul makes it perfectly clear that we are justified by faith: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). As the opening passage above shows, we have been “justified by faith” (Romans 5:1). Paul warns trying to justify ourselves before God by our works is like trying to nullify God’s grace and make God indebted to us (Romans 4:4-5).

However, are we justified by faith only? There is a big difference in saying one is “justified by faith” and saying one is “justified by faith only”. The word “only” means everything else is excluded including works which God has commanded us to follow.

As Paul uses Abraham as an example of one who was justified by faith, he mentions that “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Romans 4:3; cf. Genesis 15:6). Although quite aged and childless at the time, God had promised Abraham that Abraham’s descendants would become as numerous the stars of heaven (Genesis 15:5). Was there any kind of work that Abraham would have to do in order to have a child? Abraham and his wife Sarah would have to engage in sexual relations with each other for this to happen.

Although Abraham and Sarah would do their part to fulfill God’s promise for them, their trust was not in themselves, but fully in God to fulfill this promise: “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore ‘it was accounted to him for righteousness’” (Romans 4:19-22).

Later in epistle, Paul makes a practical application for us to consider regarding the relationship between faith and works. After asking the question, of whether we should continue in sin so that grace may abound, Paul says, “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:2). As Christians, when did we die to sin? Paul says, “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore, we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). As Christians, when we were baptized into Christ’s death, were we trying to “earn our salvation”? No, we were following this command of Jesus (Mark 16:15-16; Matthew 28:19-20), but placing our faith in His promise to cleanse us from our past sins by the power of His blood (cf. Matthew 26:28; Acts 2:38; 22:16).

I realize that I have been “justified by faith”, but I have not been “justified by faith only”. There are still commands given to me by God that He expects me to follow. As I follow God’s commands, I do not believe I am earning my salvation, but trusting in God’s ability to fulfill the promise He has made to me! Today, I rejoice that I have peace with God as I have been justified by faith!

“You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). �

11/13/18 “Questioning the Righteousness of God” (Daily Bible Reading: Acts 28-Romans 3)

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26).

Do you ever question whether God is right in all that He does? Is God right to save some enabling them to enjoy everlasting life as they enter Heaven and condemn others to an eternity of Hell?

Since the beginning, the devil has tempted man to question the righteousness of God. Satan who, when told be Eve that God told her not to eat the forbidden fruit, encouraged her to doubt whether God was right in doing this, when he said, “"You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). Eve gave into this temptation, doubted God’s righteousness, and sin entered the world.

In writing to the Christians at Rome, the apostle Paul addresses the righteousness of God. Paul speaks about how God is filled with wrath regarding the sins of the Gentiles (Romans 1:18-32) and the Jews (Romans 2:1-3:18). Regarding sin, because all have sinned, all have become guilty before God and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:19, 23). For God to be just, sin must be punished!

However, does God swoop down and immediately ban man to an eternity in Hell the moment he sins? No, God has shown forbearance (Romans 3:25; 2:4). He is longsuffering with men, “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). In fact, God provided the way for man to be saved from his own sins, by allowing His Son to pay the price for the sins of men. God set Jesus forth as a “propitiation” (i.e. an appeasing sacrifice) for the sins of men (Romans 3:25). Jesus appeased God’s wrath for those who had once practice a life of sin, but who now place their faith in Christ as the sacrifice for their sins (Romans 3:25).

Paul concludes that God’s forbearance regarding man’s sins and allowing Christ to die for man’s sins, demonstrates the righteousness of God (Romans 3:26). It enables God to still be just by punishing those who refuse to acknowledge the sacrifice of Christ on their behalf by obeying the gospel (Romans 1:16-17), and to justify those who does place their faith in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Considering this, we can clearly see that God is righteous in all that He does!

Why are we tempted to question the righteousness of God? I believe it is because we fail to appreciate what we deserve when we sin. We deserve death (Romans 6:23). We deserved to experience the full measure of God’s wrath. When we question God’s righteousness are we not “despising the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering” towards us in sparing us from His wrath and giving us the opportunity to be saved through Christ (cf. Romans 2:4)?

Rather than question whether God is right in what He does, I will have the humility to remember that God is God and I am not. God is always right in what He does! Today, I will not question the righteousness of God, but I will rejoice in the righteousness of God who saved me through His Son!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:16-17).

11/12/18 “A Convenient Time?” (Daily Bible Reading: Acts 24-27)

“And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time, I will call for you’” (Acts 24:24-25).

Do you ever struggle with procrastination? There are some things which don’t hurt to procrastinate over such as starting a home building project or reading a particular book, but there are other things that are not good to procrastinate over such as finding a job or matters which concern our souls.

Following Paul’s return from his third missionary journey, Paul goes to Jerusalem and enters the temple (Acts 21:15-26). While he is in there some Jews from Asia stir up the crowd, lay hands on him, and beat him as they sought to kill him (Acts 21:27-32). He is rescued by some soldiers, questioned, and then eventually sent to the governor Felix (Acts 21:33-23:35).

As Paul is brought before Felix, Ananias the high priest came with some of the Jewish elders and made accusations against Paul (Acts 24:1-9). Then Paul gives his own defense and as he shares with Felix his hope in the resurrection of the dead made possible through Jesus Christ (Acts 24:15-16, 21). Without rendering a verdict Felix adjourns the proceedings (Acts 24:22). Later, Felix and his wife Drusilla send for Paul to hear from him more concerning the faith in Christ (Acts 24:24).

Paul shares with him his hope in Jesus Christ and the good news of the Gospel. As he does so, Paul “reasoned about, self-control, and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25). When Felix contemplates what Paul has to say, he is afraid (Acts 24:25). Perhaps, in listening to Paul, Felix realized he was not ready for the judgment to come. What does Felix do? Does he obey the gospel so that his fears may be relieved and he may go on rejoicing in his salvation (cf. Acts 8:39)?

Sadly, Felix procrastinates. He tells Paul, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time, I will call for you” (Acts 24:25). In fact, for 2 more years Felix will continue to send for Paul and converse with him (Acts 24:26-27), but as far as we know he never obeys the gospel and goes to his grave unprepared for the judgment to come, afraid, and never realizing the joy of salvation in Christ.

As we consider this account of Paul before Felix, we should each ask ourselves, “Are their spiritual matters in my life about which I procrastinate?” For example, for some of you reading this, perhaps you have procrastinated about making the decision to obey the gospel of Christ? For others of you, have you put off restoring a relationship with a brother or sister in Christ who has hurt you by not confronting them and forgiving them (cf. Matthew 18:15-17; Ephesians 4:32)? Moreover, there still may be those reading this, who have put off discovering their unique ministry where they can serve others and help build up church, the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16).

Why do we put off doing these things? While there are some matters such as putting off going shopping for a gift or starting an exercise program which may not hurt us too much, spiritual procrastination is deadly to our souls. It hurts our relationship with God because it puts off doing those things which draw us closer to God. Today, I resolve not to engage in spiritual procrastination!

“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2). �

11/11/18 “Doormat Christianity?” (Daily Bible Reading: Acts 21-23)

“The commander ordered him to be brought into the barracks, and said that he should be examined under scourging, so that he might know why they shouted so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, ‘Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?’” (Acts 22:24-25).

How would you like to be a doormat? Doormats are there so that people can walk all over them and wipe the dirt of their feet on them. Does God want us to let other people treat us like doormats?

Jesus told us we should be willing to endure suffering from others: “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:38-41). Jesus was speaking about our not taking vengeance on those who harm us. In the prior verse, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’” (Matthew 5:37). Instead of taking vengeance for ourselves upon our enemies, we should be willing to turn the other cheek, endure being sued, and go the 2nd mile.

However, does our not taking seeking to avenge ourselves mean we should let others treat us like doormats? A principle for us to consider is that all we say and do is to be done with the purpose of glorifying God (Matthew 5:13-16). While it is true as Christians we are told we will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), not all suffering from the hands of others glorifies God. Does a young Christian man bullied at school by others, glorify God? Does a wife who allows her husband to physically abuse her, glorify God? Is it wrong for such individuals to stand up for themselves and their rights?

Jesus kept silent and did not stand up for his rights as a citizen before those who were trying Him (Matthew 26:62-63; cf. Isaiah 5:37); yet, as the opening passage above shows, Paul did stand up for his rights as a Roman citizen in questioning those who were about to scourge him (Acts 22:25). Is there a contradiction here regarding whether or not we should stand up for our rights as citizens?

No there is not. Jesus knew He must suffer and die in order to glorify God. There was no other way for men to be saved that by His suffering on the cross. In order to accomplish this, He must be tried, convicted and put to death. This is why He kept silent. Ultimately, His keeping silent helped Him to achieve the goal of glorifying God by His death (John 12:23-26). Paul knew that his allowing himself to be beaten by the Roman authorities would not glorified God, but probably would have given those who opposed him even greater boldness to persecute Christians.

Paul was willing to die if his doing so would glorify God (cf. Acts 21:13). As it turns out because Paul stood up for his rights as a Roman citizen, Paul’s life was spared and Paul would go on to glorify God as he was able to preach the gospel to the Jewish Council (Acts 23:1-6), the governor Felix (Acts 24:1-25), King Agrippa (Acts 26:1-29), and even in Rome and among those of Caesar’s household (Acts 28:16-31; Philippians 4:22).

God doesn’t expect me to be a doormat, but He does want me to glorify Him. If I must endure persecution in order to glorify God, I will. But I realize it is not wrong for me to stand up for my rights against those who would bully me or abuse me. Today, in all my actions I will seek to glorify God!

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

11/10/18 “Do Not Be Afraid, But Speak” (Daily Bible Reading: Acts 18-20)

“Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized. Now the Lord spoke to Paul in the night by a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.’ And he continued there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:8-11).

How do you feel about speaking to others about Jesus and salvation through Him? Does it make you nervous? Are you afraid that they may react negatively to your efforts to share the gospel with them?

We typically think of Paul as always being bold in his proclamation of the gospel. He had shown eagerness to proclaim Jesus as the Christ from the very beginning of his conversion (Acts 9:20-22). He had gone on missionary journeys in which he went to various cities proclaiming Jesus as God’s Son and telling men what they needed to do to be saved. However, was there ever a time when Paul struggled with sharing the gospel with others or doubted his own ability to do so?

In the opening passage above, while Paul is in the city of Corinth on his 2nd missionary journey, we see the Lord encouraging Paul in a vision saying, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent” (Acts 18:9). This begs the question: “Was Paul afraid to speak while he was at Corinth?”

It would appear from this and other passages that Paul was afraid to speak and this is why the Lord encouraged Him. Later, when Paul writes to the Corinthians, he tells them, “I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Corinthians 2:3). It is obvious that Paul was struggling with some fears while he was at Corinth. Perhaps, his fears were because all the persecutions he had endured for Christ had caught up with him and wearied him (2 Corinthians 11:23-28), the opposition he had already faced from the Jews at Corinth (Acts 18:4-6), or his own lack of eloquence, as compared to others, that intimidated him (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1, 4). We are not told what the exact reason he afraid, but we do not he came to Corinth with “fear and trembling”.

The Lord did not frown upon Paul because he struggled with some fears with sharing the gospel while at Corinth. Instead, the Lord encouraged him saying, “…I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). After being encouraged by the Lord, Paul made a determination to share with the Corinthians the simple gospel message. Later he writes to them saying, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). He went on to do a great work for the Lord for 18 months preaching the gospel in the city of Corinth and ministering to the church that met there (Acts 18:11).

I am encouraged to see that God doesn’t look down on me when I struggle with my own fears in sharing the gospel with others. Instead, He encourages me. The question for me to consider is “Will I receive the encouragement the Lord gives to me to not be afraid, act by faith in the Lord, and share the gospel with others; or, will I cave into my fears, reject the Lord’s encouragement, keep my mouth shut, and not share the gospel message with those souls who need to hear it?” Today, I will embrace the Lord’s encouragement, knowing that He promises to be with me, and look for opportunities and share the good news of Jesus with the many people in my city who need to hear it!

“‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’. Amen” (Matthew 28:19-20).

11/9/18 “Receiving God’s Word with All Readiness” (Daily Bible Reading: Acts 14-17)

“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore, many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men” (Acts 17:10-12).

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is incredibly powerful, but are we ready to receive it?

You may be tempted to say, “Of course I am ready to receive it”! However, as the opening passage above implies, not everyone is ready to receive God’s Word. The passage above speaks about how Paul on his 2nd missionary journey came to Berea, entered the Jewish synagogue, and spoke to people who “received the word with all readiness” (Acts 17:11). However, earlier on his 1st missionary journey as Paul came to Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:14) when he preached a 2nd time in the synagogue there, the text says, “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul” (Acts 13:45). On this occasion, there were some who certainly did not receive God’s Word with “readiness of mind”.

Jesus warned many would hear God’s Word, but not understand it. On one occasion His disciples wanted to know why He kept speaking to the people in parables. Jesus said, “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them’ ” (Matthew 13:13-15).The people’s inability to understand the parables was not because God’s Word was too difficult, but that they did not receive it with “readiness of mind”!

Contrary to this, the people in the synagogue of Berea did receive God’s Word with “readiness of mind” (Acts 17:11). What does this mean? The text helps to explain: First, these folks are described as being fair-minded or noble minded (Acts 17:11). They received God’s Word with an open mind. Second, they had an inquisitive mind that wanted to search for and discover God’s truth. They “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). To them studying God’s Word was not just a routine to be practiced or to be able to prove a point they wanted to make, but searching the Scriptures was done with a desire of seeking the wonderful truths found in them that they could apply to their lives to better their relationship with God!

I want to be ready to receive God’s Word. I realize there is the temptation to allow other things such as negative feelings towards others or even towards God, becoming entangled in the world and its cares, or giving in to my own closed-minded, stubborn will to cloud my mind so that I am not ready to receive God’s Word. Today, I will follow the example of the noble-minded Bereans who received God’s Word with all readiness as they searched the Scriptures daily!

“Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Psalm 119:18).

11/8/18 “Praying Without Expecting an Answer” (Daily Bible Reading: Acts 10-13)

“And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer. When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate. But they said to her, ‘You are beside yourself!’ Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So, they said, ‘It is his angel.’ Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished” (Acts 12:13-16).

We are told to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We are also told that God hears and answers our prayers (James 5:14-16). When you pray, do you look in faith to see how God answers your prayers or have you found yourself just praying about the same things over and over again, but not really observing how God may be answering your prayers?

In the 12th chapter of the book of Acts, Luke records for us a situation where some Christians had been praying. The church at Jerusalem was being persecuted by Herod who had killed the apostle James, had Peter arrested, and was planning on bringing Peter before the people to have him put to death after the Passover feast (Acts 12:1-4). What did the Christians do during this time when Peter was imprisoned? “Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5). The Christians were “praying without ceasing” on Peter’s behalf!

God answers this prayer by sending an angel who woke Peter up from between the 2 guards before whom he was sleeping, led Peter out of the prison, and down a street, and then the angel departed from Peter (Acts 12:6-10). Peter realizes God had delivered him and comes to the house of Mary where many Christians had gathered to pray on his behalf (Acts 12:11-12).

Peter knocks at the door of the gate. A girl named Rhoda goes to answer his call, but when she recognizes his voice, in her excitement she forgets to open the gate to let Peter in the house. She runs and announces that Peter is at the gate (Acts 12:13-14). God has answered their prayers! How do these Christians react when they see that their petitions on Peter’s behalf have been answered?

“But they said to her, ‘You are beside yourself!’ Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, ‘It is his angel’” (Acts 12:15). They think she is crazy! Yet, was it not, really, they who were “beside” themselves for praying to God and then not believing God would actually answer their prayers and deliver Peter? As Peter continues knocking, they finally open the door and are “astonished” to see him (Acts 12:16). Even though the disciples were well aware of God’s promises to answer their prayers (Matthew 7:7-11), these disciples were actually “astonished” when God did it.

Do I pray and then look in faith to see how God answers my prayers or does my prayer life simply become an empty ritual of mouthing out words to God? God had done a marvelous work in answering the prayers of the disciples lifted up to Him on Peter’s behalf and God continues to answer our prayers today. One of the blessings of being a Christian is to be able to lift up our petitions unto God knowing how much He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7) and then to look by faith for His answers. I do not want my prayer life to become an empty ritual. Today, when I lift up my prayers unto the Lord, I will look in faith to see how God is working to answer my prayers!

“And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth” (Luke 18:7-8)?

11/7/18 “Jesus’ Plans for the Chief of Sinners” (Daily Bible Reading: Acts 7-9)

“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake’ ” (Acts 9:15-16).

Have you ever found yourself looking at certain people, presupposing they would never respond positively in obedience to the gospel message, and thinking there is no way God could use them in His service? Perhaps, you have thought of yourself that because of your past, your weaknesses, and your failures that you are unworthy of God and there is no way God could use you?

The opening passage above shows the utter folly of such thinking. Saul of Tarsus was a man who had made havoc on Christians in the early church in Jerusalem as he had them arrested, put in prison, and even consented to their deaths as was the case with Stephen (Acts 7:58; 8:1-3). Not content with persecuting Christians in Jerusalem, he even went to the ancient city of Damascus to bring Christians from there back to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 9:2-3). He is described as “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord (Acts 9:1). Saul was not a person that many of us would describe as the ideal candidate with whom we should share the gospel message! In fact, Saul would later describe himself, at this time in his life, as the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

However, Jesus Himself reached out to this man! He confronts Saul on the road to Damascus and says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). Having been temporarily blinded, Saul humbly asks Jesus, “Lord what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9:6). Saul is told to go to Damascus where he will be told what he must do (Acts 9:6). Saul is then led to Damascus (Acts 9:8-9).

In Damascus, Jesus tells a Christian named Ananias to go to Saul (Acts 9:10-12). At first, Ananias questions the wisdom of this. He says, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem” (Acts 9:13). Ananias did not believe Saul was the ideal candidate who upon hearing the gospel message would respond in obedience to it. However, not only did Jesus want to give Saul the opportunity to obey the gospel and be saved, He also had huge plans for Saul to become His “chosen vessel” to bear Jesus’ name to the “Gentiles, kings, and children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Not everything would be easy for Saul as he would have to “suffer” for Jesus’ name sake (Acts 9:16), but few men in history have glorified God as much as Saul, who would later become known as Paul (Acts 13:9). God had huge plans for this “chief of sinners”!

What are God’s plans for each of us? God has huge plans for each of us, but we often limit God’s plans for us because unlike Saul, we fail to be humble enough to say, “Lord what do you want me to do?” (cf. Acts 9:6). At other times, we fail to give others the opportunity for God to work in their lives because we refuse to share the gospel with them. We look at some and assume, “Oh, they are so worldly, wicked, mean, etc…, they would never obey the gospel”.

I am so glad that Jesus reached out to this “chief of sinners” because the apostle Paul made a major impact on the lives of countless people by his inspired writings, his ministry, and his Christian example. He is one of the people in heaven I can’t wait to meet. If Jesus was willing to reach out to Saul, he certainly is willing to reach out to me and any others with whom I come in contact. Today, I will remember that “The Gospel is For All” and will rejoice that Jesus reached out to me!

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

11/6/18 “Lying to God and to Ourselves” (Daily Bible Reading: Acts 4-6)

“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God’” (Acts 5:1-4).

Most of us like to believe we always think and act honestly, but do we? For example, do some of us tell ourselves we are in great shape, but when we are actually examined by a doctor we are told we need to lose some weight, exercise more, and start eating a better diet? In such cases, were we not actually lying to ourselves by saying we were in great shape?

In the passage above we see a couple who not only were being dishonest with themselves, but also with God (Acts 5:1-9). During this time, we see that some Christians who had sold their lands and gave it to the apostles in order to help needy brethren (Acts 4:34-37). This was commendable, but it was not commanded. The Christians did not have to sell their land, but it was a gracious gesture by those who did as they sought to demonstrate their love for their needy brethren (cf. John 13:34-35).

One Christian couple who also sold their land was Ananias and Sapphira. After selling their land, they kept back part of the proceeds for themselves and laid the rest at the apostles’ feet (Acts 5:1-2). However, they had given the appearance that the money they gave to the apostles was the full price of the land (Acts 5:3-4, 8). Ananias and Sapphira had conspired to give this false appearance regarding the land they had sold (Acts 5:9). When the apostle Peter confronts them about this, Peter says they had not just lied to men, but they had lied to God (Acts 5:3-4). As a result, both Ananias and Sapphira drop dead before Peter and great fear comes upon the whole church (Acts 5:5, 10-11).

Why did God reveal this account of what Ananias and Sapphira did in the New Testament Scriptures? Why did Ananias and Sapphira do this? Did they really think they could get away with trying to deceive God? Part of the reason this account is given to us is to warn us of our tendency, at times, to lie to ourselves and, in doing so, to even be dishonest with God.

Remember, Ananias and Sapphira were Christians. As Christians, do some of us lie to ourselves and to God? For example, do I tell myself I am a faithful Christian, but lie to myself because I harbor hate in my heart for others (cf. 1 John 2:10-11)? Do I sing to God on Sunday saying, “Blest Be the Tie that Binds”, when I have no intention of coming to other assemblies of the church to encourage my brethren to keep up the faith (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25)? Am I dishonest with God saying I love Him, but ignore and refuse to submit to certain commandments He has given me (cf. John 14:15; 15:14)? Do I worship with my brethren at church singing, “Love, One Another for Love is of God…” when, in my heart, there are some of them I can stand and refuse to forgive (cf. Matthew 6:14-15)?

I am not calling for sinless perfection among Christians, but I am calling for us to be honest with ourselves and with God. We are told to examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). I want to be honest with myself and with God. Today, as I go forth to serve God I refuse to lie to myself by pretending I am something I am not, but will examine myself in the faith!

“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

11/5/18 “Incredible Mistake, Amazing Grace” (Daily Bible Reading: Acts 1-3)

“‘Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:36-37).

What is the greatest mistake you have ever made? Wouldn’t it be great if that mistake you made could be instantly repaired by someone else stepping in and correcting the fault you had created?

Following ascension of Jesus into heaven, the apostles had been gathered together in Jerusalem awaiting Promise of the Holy Spirit upon them (Acts 1:4-5, 8). The Promise came as the apostles were all filled with the Holy Spirit on day of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The Jewish crowd which had come to Jerusalem for Pentecost was amazed as they heard the apostles begin speaking in other languages or tongues (Acts 2:5-12). They wondered, what did all of this mean?

Peter reminds them that what they see as the apostles speak to them in different languages is the fulfillment of a prophecy made by Joel (Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32). Moreover, Peter tells the crowd that the apostles ability to speak in tongues was made possible because Jesus, who has now ascended into heaven, had poured out these gifts of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles just as He had promised them He would do (Acts 2:33; John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7, 13).

As Peter is explaining this to the crowd, Peter reminds them of the incredible mistake they made. They had crucified God’s Son (Acts 2:22-23; Acts 2:36). Although they had put Jesus to death, God had raised His Son from the dead (Acts 2:24). The apostles had seen the resurrected Christ (Acts 2:32). Further proof of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which the crowd had seen (Acts 2:33). Peter concludes, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

How would you have felt if you were in the crowd that day? It appears many in Peter’s audience had been among the mob which when Pilate had asked “What shall I do with Jesus?” they had said “Crucify Him, Crucify Him” (Mark 15:12-13; Luke 23:21). They must have felt sick to their stomach to now realize they had mistakenly murdered God’s Son. What an incredible mistake!

Realizing their error and cut to the heart as they recognized their incredible mistake, they ask Peter and the other apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Was there any hope for them after they had made such a costly mistake? Yes, there was! There was an opportunity for them to experience God’s amazing grace that could wipe out their mistake. Peter told them what they needed to do to enjoy God’s gift of grace to them: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). 3000 of them obeyed the gospel and rejoiced in God’s amazing grace (Acts 2:41)!

The story of the gospel never grows old. All of us have made incredible mistakes. We have all sinned against God (Romans 3:23). In effect, our sins caused Christ to have to die (1 Peter 1:18-19). However, God gives us the opportunity to have our sins forgiven as we obey the gospel of Christ (Mark 16:15-16). Today, I rejoice that although I have made terrible mistakes by my own sin, I can experience God’s amazing grace as I hear and obey the gospel of Christ!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16). e.brax-cdn.com

11/4/18 “Can the Lord Still Use Me When I Have Failed Him?” (Daily Bible Reading: John 19-21)

“He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, ‘Do you love Me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep’ (John 21:17).

How many times have you failed the Lord in your walk with Him? If you are like me, you have failed him more times than you can count. How do you feel after you have messed up? Do you ever wonder if the Lord now looks at your service as less-than-acceptable because of your past failures?

Following Jesus’ arrest, Peter, in order to save his own skin, three times denied having a relationship with Jesus (John 18:17, 25-27). Peter had miserably failed Jesus. After hearing the roster crow, Peter remembered how Jesus had warned him how Peter would give into this temptation. Immediately following his third denial of the Lord, Peter saw Jesus look at him (Luke 22:61). Peter felt absolutely horrible about how he had failed the Lord and went out and wept bitterly about his failing the Lord in this hour of trial (Luke 22:62).

Can you imagine the self-image Peter would have had of himself at this time? For 3 years he had followed the Lord and been one of Jesus’ closest friends. He had been privileged to be one of the few to see Jesus’ transfiguration and to be asked to watch and pray with Jesus at Gethsemane (cf. Matthew 17:1; 26:36-37). Now, when Jesus needed him most, Peter had greatly failed Jesus!

Following the resurrection of Jesus, Peter had heard about and seen the empty tomb of Jesus (John 20:1-7). He had also seen the resurrected Christ (John 20:19-21; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5). Peter had again seen Jesus as Jesus performed another great miracle regarding a great catch of fish (John 21:4-6). However, because of his past failures, was Peter now regulated to just being an “observer” of the great works of the Lord? Was he now longer considered worthy to become a great “fisher of men” (Mark 1:17) and servant for the Lord because of the terrible mistakes he had committed?

In the opening passage above, 3 times Jesus questions Peter’s love for Him (John 21:15-17). 3 times Peter says he does. Was it painful for Peter to have Jesus keep questioning Peter’s love for Him? Yes, it was. After the third time, John records that “Peter was grieved” about this (John 21:17).

Why would Jesus have Peter answer 3 times that he loved the Lord? Each time as Peter answers these questions of the Lord, Peter responds with a term meaning that he loved the Lord as one loves a brother. Peter does not use the term for love which denotes the higher form or “agape” type of love we are to have for one another as Christians. It appears, because of what he had done in the past, Peter had begun to doubt his own love for the Lord. Jesus was helping Peter to remember that Peter did still love the Lord. Furthermore, Jesus expressed His confidence in Peter’s ability to serve the Lord as He tells Peter He has great work for him to do in feeding and tending his sheep (John 21:15, 16,17). Though Peter had failed in the past, Jesus still believed in Peter!

This is comforting to me as a disciple of Christ. Do I fail the Lord at times? Yes, I do. However, if I am humble of repent of my failures, Jesus can still use me to do great service for Him. Today, I rejoice that God does not hold my past failures against me. He forgives me and can still use me, with all my faults, to do great works for Him!

“However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1:16).

11/3/18 “I Have Glorified You on the Earth” (Daily Bible Reading: John 15-18)

“Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:1-4).

What would you be praying about if you knew you were about to die and had less than 24 hours left to live on this earth? Would you pray that God would give you more time? Would you pray that God would remove the threat of death from your life?

It is understandable that a person would want their life to be prolonged and the threat of death removed. After all, immediately before His arrest, Jesus prayed “if it is possible let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39, 42, 44). If there was any other way for God to accomplish man’s salvation besides Jesus’ having to die, Jesus prayed that this might be done (Matthew 26:39, 42). However, God’s answer was there was no other way to save man (John 3:16).

However, just before praying to God about removing the suffering He was about to experience from Him, Jesus prayed another prayer that the apostle John records for us (John 17:1-26). In this prayer Jesus shares with His Father how He had kept God’s Will on earth (John 17:4). He had done this by faithfully imparting to His disciples God’s Word (John 17:6), by manifesting to them that He had come from God (John 17:6-8), encouraging His disciples to remain faithful to God (John 17:12), and by showing them how to love one another with God’s love (John 17:23).

Furthermore, not only did Jesus pray that He had glorified His Father on the earth, but He also asks His Father to glorify Him as He is about to enter into this incredible trial which will end with His being nailed to the cross. Jesus says, “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5). Jesus requests His Father to glorify Him by helping to keep His disciples faithful to God as Jesus was about to depart from them (John 17:11, 15), by keeping them united with one another (John 17:20-23), and loving one another (John 17:26). Jesus knew He would be glorified not only by His Father restoring to Him the glory He had before He came to the earth (John 17:5), but also through the continued ministry of His disciples who carried on His great work after He left them as they continued to adhere to the truths He taught them and live lives that followed His example (John 17:10, 17-19).

I would love to pray as I lay on my deathbed, “Father, I have glorified You on the earth”. Of course, I would not pray this prayer out of arrogance because I know that God has saved me by His wonderful grace and by my responding to that grace by placing my faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8-9). I also realize that my being able to say I have glorified God on this earth means not only that I have sought to follow God’s truth myself, but also that I have treated my brethren with love striving to work with them in a spirit of unity. On my deathbed, I pray that I have lived such a faithful life to God that I could have confidence and say, “Father, I have glorified You on the earth” (John 17:4). Today, I will strive to live a life that glorifies the Lord (Matthew 5:16)!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

11/2/18 “Loving One Another” (Daily Bible Reading: John 12-14)

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

How does the world know that we are the disciples of Christ? Is it because we know the truth and are able to explain God’s truth to them? Does the world know we are the true followers of Christ because we engage in the proper form of worship, have the correct form of leadership in the church, and follow what Jesus said we must do to be saved? These things are proper and good for us to do.

However, as the opening verses above clearly show, Jesus said that the world would know we are His disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). Jesus says that His disciples were to love one another the way in which He had showed love to them (John 13:34). Earlier, John records how Jesus had loved His disciples to the very end of His earthly ministry (John 13:1).

If we are to love one another the same way in which Jesus loved His disciples, how did Jesus show love to His disciples? The 13th chapter of John further describes how Jesus showed love to His disciples. Following their supper together, Jesus rises, lays aside His garments, girds himself with a towel, pours water in a basin and begins to go around the room washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:2-5). He showed love to His disciples by serving them. After washing their feet, Jesus sits down and says, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:12-17).

Among those disciples whose feet Jesus had washed was Judas (John 13:21-30). Even though Jesus was deeply troubled because He knew Judas was about to betray Him (John 13:21), Jesus still showed Judas love by washing His feet. Jesus not only taught us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45), He gave us a powerful example of showing love to one’s enemies (John 13:5, 12). How many of us have matured in the faith enough to love our enemies the way Jesus did in this passage? How often do we allow the pain from past hurts caused by others to hinder us from following Jesus’ example to still show them love by serving them as Jesus served Judas?

Why did Jesus do this? Did Judas really deserve to be loved by Jesus? Judas did not DESERVE to be loved by Jesus, but Jesus DECIDED to love Judas. Jesus wanted His disciples to be different than the world. He wanted them to love one another in a way far superior than the love typically found in the world. It was essential that Jesus give them an example of the superior way in which they were to love one another so He washed Judas’ feet. Jesus did not want His disciples just to love those who earned or merited their love. Jesus wanted His disciples to love all men because that is what they chose to do!

I am amazed at this example Jesus gave at how we are to love one another. Today, I will love others, even my enemies, not because they earn it, but because, as a disciple of Jesus, I choose to!

“Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; ‘for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21).

11/1/18 “Lazarus, Come Forth” (Daily Bible Reading: John 9-11)

“Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.’ Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ " (John 11:41-43).

What is the one aspect of Christianity that makes it unique among the world religions? Like other religions, Christianity has a “moral code” by which its adherents are to live; but, unlike other religions, a basic tenet of Christianity is the belief in a resurrection of the body from the grave. How much time do you spend thinking about the resurrection of the body?

As Jesus neared the end of His earthly ministry, He hears that His friend Lazarus is sick (John 11:1-3). In fact, Lazarus’ sickness resulted in his death (John 11:14). Martha, Lazarus’ sister, meets Jesus and mentions to Him how if Jesus had been there Lazarus would not have died (John 11:21). However, Jesus told Martha, “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23). Martha thought Jesus was speaking about the resurrection at the last day (John 11:24), but Jesus knew Lazarus was going to be raised from the dead much sooner than this for the purposes of glorifying God (John 11:4; 40). Jesus reminded Martha of a very significant truth as he said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).

As the sisters take Jesus to the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus commands that the stone covering the entrance to the tomb be removed. Martha doubts the reason for doing this as she is concerned about the terrible stench that will come forth from there as her dead brother’s body had been decomposing in the tomb for 4 days (John 11:39). However, something far greater was going to come from the tomb than the smell of her dead brother. Lazarus himself came forth as Jesus called, “Lazarus, come forth!” (John 11:43-44).

What an amazing sight this must have been to behold by those who had come to the tomb of Lazarus that day! They saw Lazarus come out of that tomb bound hand and foot with grave clothes, but alive! Many of the Jews believed on Jesus because of this great miracle (John 11:45; cf. 12:9-10). God was glorified (John 11:4, 40).

The account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is a great reminder to us about the resurrection of our own bodies from the grave. Jesus said, “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth--those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). Christianity is not just another religion that abides by a moral code. It is far more than that. It gives us living hope of life beyond the grave. When a faithful Christian loved one passes from this life, I can look forward to seeing them again in heaven following the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Today, I rejoice that God has giving me a living hope and I look forward to the day when Jesus calls me to come forth from the grave!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4). Y

10/31/18 “Treatment of Sinners: Condemnation or Compassion?” (Daily Bible Reading: John 4-8)

“Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ " (John 8:3-5).

Without doubt, there is a lot of sin going on in our world. How do you react as you hear about how more and more sinful our society has become? How do you treat those so heavily engrossed in sin?

As the apostle John records Jesus’ earthly ministry, he notes how Jesus began to encounter opposition because He had healed a man on the Sabbath day (John 5:1-16; 7:21-24). As the opening text above shows, in order to try to entrap Him (John 8:6), the religious leaders who opposed Jesus now bring to Him a woman caught in the sin of adultery (John 8:3-5). How does Jesus react to her? Does He treat her with condemnation or with compassion?

Jesus reacts by stooping down and writing on the ground with His finger. John tells us that it appeared to some that He did not hear them, so they continue to ask Him what should be done with this sinful woman (John 8:6-7). Jesus stood up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7). Jesus then stooped down again and wrote (John 8:8).

Those who had brought the woman to Jesus began to leave one by one as they were convicted of how callously they had treated her who had be taken captive in sin and how they had used her for their own purposes to try to get at Jesus. This left Jesus and the woman alone together (John 8:9).

As Jesus raised Himself up from the ground and hearing the woman respond to a question He had asked her regarding the location of her accusers and whether or not there was anyone left to condemn her (John 8:10), Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more” (John 8:11). Why didn’t Jesus condemn her? Clearly, she had sinned. Wasn’t the sin she had committed wrong?

Sin is wrong. It separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Those who die in sin will be forever separated from God (Romans 6:23; John 8:24). Clearly the woman was guilty and if she had remained in this state of sin she would be forever separated from God. But what did this woman need from Jesus at this hour? Did she need to hear Him add to her pain, at having been exposed and embarrassed for having committed the sin of adultery, by proclaiming His condemnation of her as well or did she need something else from Jesus at this hour?

Jesus knew this woman did not need Him to point out her sin. Everyone else had done that. She was well aware of her sin. Jesus knew this woman needed someone to be able to sympathize with her struggle with sin. She desperately desired someone to treat her with some compassion. The Hebrew writer reminds us that Jesus is compassionate towards those who have fallen in sin: “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). As I look at other sinners who struggle with sin, I pray I may remember not to look down on them harshly in a condemning way. Today, I rejoice that Christ chooses to treat me with compassion not condemnation when I sin!

“Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22). ��

10/30/18 “Born Again” (Daily Bible Reading: John 1-3)

“There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, ‘Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’” (John 3:1-3).

One of the amazing things to see in life is the birth of a baby. I will never forget the amazing sight of video-taping the birth of my 2nd daughter as she was delivered via C-section from my wife’s womb.

However, as the text above shows, when Nicodemus came to Jesus, Jesus spoke of an experience all of us must go through if we are to enter into the kingdom of God. We must be “born again” (John 3:3). What does this mean? Nicodemus had a hard time understanding this. Initially, he thought Jesus was talking about one literally reentering his mother’s womb to be born again (John 3:4).

One of the interesting aspects in studying the Gospel of John is that in this Gospel account, Jesus is constantly trying to get us to think in spiritual terms, not physical terms. For example, He speaks of the water He gives which causes one to never thirst again (John 4:14). He also speaks of Himself as the bread of life (John 6:35). Jesus is not saying He gives literal water or that He is literal bread in either of these passages. He is speaking regarding what He has to offer is that which alone provides the spiritual nourishment that can satisfy our souls. Later, He says, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).

As Jesus answers Nicodemus’ question about whether Nicodemus must literally reenter his mother’s womb to be “born again”, Jesus answers, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Jesus is not talking about a physical rebirth, but a spiritual rebirth that involves both the Spirit and water. What does this mean?

The Holy Spirit is involved in the spiritual rebirth through His teachings as disclosed in the Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). What does the Holy Spirit teach regarding what a person must do be saved? One must believe in Jesus to be God’s Son (John 3:16), confess Jesus as their Lord (Romans 10:9-10), repent of their past sins (Luke 13:3), be baptized for the remission of those sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38), and remain faithful to God all the days of their life (Revelation 2:10; 2 Timothy 4:7-8). When one submits to the teachings of the Spirit, He is born of the Spirit.

Jesus also mentions one must be born not only of the Spirit, but also of water. Being born of water refers to baptism which is the point in God’s plan of salvation where a person goes from being out of Christ to becoming a part of Christ (Galatians 3:27). As one in faith submits to baptism, that person goes from having no contact with Christ to contacting the blood of Christ which has the power to wash away one’s sins (Matthew 26:28; Acts 2:38; 22:16). As one is buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life, he is imitating Christ death, burial and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5).

Like the physical birth of my daughters, I will never forget the day of my spiritual rebirth when I obeyed the gospel and was baptized into Christ. Today, if you have not been born again I pray that you will. If you have been born again remember and rejoice in it!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

10/29/18 “Forgive Them” (Daily Bible Reading: Luke 23-24)

“And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’ And they divided His garments and cast lots” (Luke 23:33-34).

How do you handle it when you have been mistreated and hurt by others? Do you find yourself seeking revenge and crying out for justice or do you muster the strength to be able to forgive those who have wronged you and to show them love? The former is the human reaction to being hurt when we have been wronged by someone. The latter is the godly reaction to being hurt by others.

I can think of no greater example of forgiving those who have wronged you than that of Jesus as He endured the cross. The events leading up to Jesus’ death show the incredible injustice and mistreatment He endured. He was betrayed by one of His close friends, Judas (Luke 22:47-48). His other close friends had abandoned Him during His hour of trial (Matthew 26:56). He had been wrongfully accused by His countrymen and who wanted Him to be sentenced to death (Luke 22:70-71; 23:20-21). Because he wanted to please the people, Pilate, who knew Jesus to be innocent, allowed injustice to occur by giving in to the people’s desire to sentence Jesus to death (Mark 15:9-15). Furthermore, Jesus endured being mocked, spit upon, and the incredible painful scourging at the hands of the soldiers who held Him captive (Matthew 27:26-30). Finally, Jesus was taken and nailed to a cross as He was crucified (Luke 23:33).

If anyone had the “right” to cry out for revenge and bemoan His being treated unjustly, it was Jesus at this moment. However, is that what He did? Did He call upon His Heavenly Father to send 12 legions of angels to come and rescue Him and reap revenge on those who had treated Him this way (cf. Matthew 26:53)? Did He harbor hatred in His heart to those who had hurt Him? No, Jesus opened His mouth and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Earlier, Jesus had told his disciples to forgive those who had wronged them: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). Understanding forgiveness was so foreign to His disciples that some of the questioned about whether or not they should be willing to forgive everyone who wronged them: “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven’” (Matthew 18:21-22). Now as He hung upon the cross Jesus gives us a powerful example of His teaching on forgiving others!

As Christians, we are to follow Christ’s example and practice this type of forgiveness towards those who have hurt us. Instead of clinging on to our hurt, pain, desires for justice, and thoughts of revenge, we need to release those negative feelings by letting go of them as we forgive others. One of the early Christians, Stephen, learned from Christ’s powerful example when He said regarding those who were in the process of stoning him to death, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin” (Acts 7:60). I acknowledge that I will have to suffer hurt, pain, and injustice committed against me by others in this life. However, I do not have to react by harboring hate, bitterness, and revenge in my heart. Today, I will follow the example of Christ and practice forgiveness!

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). L���