- Genesis: Where is the first prophecy about Jesus in the Bible? It's in Genesis 3:15 (NIV):
And I will put enmity
The first Messianic prophecy is in Genesis right after the fall. Jesus is referred to in the beginning. Satan may cause some trouble in striking the heel, but ultimately, Satan will be crushed. There is hope in that.
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.
- Exodus Are you a good person? Am I? Let's look at the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. ... After taking the Good Test, we have seen that we fail at all of them. If you still think that you haven't brokent them all, consider James 2:10: "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." So, we are all guilty. Where is the hope? We cannot do it. If we try to live by the law, we will fail. That doesn't mean we don't desire or strive to do good, but we must rely on the perfect work of Christ to save us. For only He is good and if we trust Him as our Lord and Savior, then when the Father looks on us, He sees His Son in whom He is well-pleased (see Mark 1:11).
- Leviticus Do we still sacrifice animals? Why not? In Leviticus 1, there is a repeated phrase: "male without defect" in verses 3 and 10. We don't have to sacrifice animals, because Jesus is our Perfect Sacrifice. He has done the work. Are you trying to gain God's approval by your effort? Or are you trusting in Christ?
- Numbers Have you ever looked at an ambulance or medic alert necklace/bracelet showing a symbol where there is a pole and a snake going around it? Where does that come from? It comes from the Bible. In Numbers 21:4-9. The Israelites were speaking against God and impatient and God sent poisonous snakes to bite them. Some died. When they acknowledged their sin, God commanded Moses to put a snake on the pole and if the Israelites looked up at the snake on a staff, they would live. So it is with us. When we acknowledge the poison of sin and look the Christ, we live. Jesus was put on the cross. We look to Him and His completed work and live. So, where did Moses overlook the Promised Land before he died? Mt. Nebo in Jordan. When my wife and I went there in 2022, at the top of the mountain, we saw a sculpture in the shape of the cross, and it shows a serpent going around it. It shows how Jesus' work on the cross was a fulfillment of what the Israelites saw. Are you looking to Christ that you may live?
- Deuteronomy In Deuteronomy 2, the Israelites are wandering around, but they come to a place where they have to ask King Sihon permission to go through his country. In verse 27 they mention that they will stay on the main road and not stray to the right or to the left. Yet, the king refused. As a result, the LORD gave the land to the Israelites who defeated King Sihon. A couple of things. We are called to walk on the straight and narrow. We are called to walk towards Jesus. Yet, we have distractions "to the right or to the left." Those distractions might become idols if they aren't already. We are called to take the narro path. Think of Jesus' words in Matthew 7:13-14:
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Jesus is the gate (see John 10:9). You may encounter obstacles like the Israelites did with King Sihon, but the battle belongs to the LORD (see 1 Samuel 17:47). He has done the work, is doing the work and will do the work. Have you trusted Him. Have you entered through the narrow gate (Jesus)?
- Joshua Who led the Israelites after Moses? Joshua. In Joshua 1, there is a phrase mentioned multiple times. After reading it, what is it? "Be strong and courageous" (vv. 6, 7, 9 and 18) and in verse 7 it says to be very courageous. Joshua was leading the Israelites! And he was replacing Moses! He had big shoes to fill. How could he be strong and courageous? Look at the end of verse 5 where God says, "I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you" (NIV). That is a promise Jesus makes in Matthew 28:20. Are you trusting in Jesus and finding your strength and courage in Him?
- Judges What are some of the historical accounts in the book of Judges? One is Samson and while God used him, he was a flawed man who was distracted by Delilah and eventually paid for it. However, I want to look at the very last verse of the book: "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." What does that mean? Do we see that in our society today? We see it with the lies of relativism. We see it where people are self-centered. It reminds me of a couple Proverbs (see below) where it says couple of times that there is a way that seems right unto a man, but in the end, it ends in death. Left to ourselves, we will sin and the wages of sin is death. This is mentioned in Romans 6:23. However, there is hope. The verse also says that the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus. So, are you looking to yourself or to distrations? Or are you looking to Jesus?
- Ruth Who is the book of Ruth about? Yes, Ruth, of course, but not just Ruth. There is also Naomi. She was Ruth's mother-in-law. She lost everything even to the point of wanting to be called "bitter." She lost her sons. She was on the road grieving with her daughters-in-law Orpah and Ruth. Eventually, Orpah left and it was just Naomi and Ruth. Naomi told Ruth to go, but look what happened. Ruth said , "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16, NIV). Ruth was faithful. Naomi lost it all, but look what God did. Because Ruth was faithful, she met Boaz. The married and had a child. In Ruth 4:16-17 (NIV), it says, "Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, 'Naomi has a son!' And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David." Due to her faithfulness, Ruth became the great grandmother of David. Ruth is in the genealogy of Jesus. Be faithful, even when things are tough. Even in the worst situations, God is working.
- 1 Samuel We all know the story of David & Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. David was faced with impossible odds. Goliath was at least 9-feet tall, a trained warrior, big and strong. David was just a waterboy for the army and a shepherd. Goliath mocked God. David was faithful to God -- confident (con fidelis - with faith). Saul wanted David to wear armor. David, instead, went in the strength of the Lord. And you know how it turned out. David won. We will all have giants to face. We might be scared. We might try to handle it all on our own with some armor. However, what we need to do is be faithful to God. It doesn't mean we won't suffer, but in the end, in Christ, we will be victorious.
- 2 Samuel In 2 Samuel 6, David was celebrating a victory and bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. In verses 14-1 (NIV), it says the following:
Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.
Sometimes, you might be celebrating and living for the Lord and others may despise you for it. They may call you a "freak" or worse. Consider David's response to Michal in 2 Samuel 6:22 (NIV):
David said to Michal, "... I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this..."
David didn't care about what others thought about his celebration before the Lord. He knew it wasn't about him. He knew it was about God. How about you?
- 1 Kings What does it mean to be a man? The world has its ideas, but the Bible's are the best. In 1 Kings 2:2 (NIV), David shares in his dying days with his son Solomon about being a man:
When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son.
"I am about to go the way of all the earth," he said. "So be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go."
So, what does it mean to be a man? Part of it is living for God. You guys are young men. Get into the Word, spend time with God. Walk in obedience.
- 2 Kings We read in the books of 1 and 2 Kings a repeated. A king does evil and a king does good and a king does evil and another does evil as his father did. Consider 2 Kings 8:16-19 (NIV) as an example of this:
In the fifth year of Joram son of Ahab king of Israel, when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat began his reign as king of Judah. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Nevertheless, for the sake of his servant David, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever.
Yet, look at the last verse (19). God keeps His promises. Even when man does evil, God keeps His promise. Even though we sin, God kept His promise and provided Himself in Christ as our Perfect Sacrifice. He did the work. And if you trust Jesus, you will fully realize God's promises in spite of the evils of the world or even your own sin.
God keeps His promise.
- 1 Chronicles There are reminders in Scripture. It reinforces what we know or have heard or reminds us and encourages us. In 1 Chronicles 22:8-10 (NIV), God is speaking to David about his son Solomon and says in verse 10 "He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever" and that promise is fulfilled in Christ. Also in 1 Chronicles 22:13 and 28:20 a familiar phrase we saw in Joshua: "Be strong and courageous." God promises are available in Jesus Christ. Do you have hope in Him? For in Him, you can be strong and courageous. For teh believer, He is our strength and our courage. Interesting word: courage. It comes from the Latin word for heart. If Jesus in your heart? Do you have His heart?
- 2 Chronicles Who was King Josiah and what is significant about him? In 2 Chronicles 34, we read about good King Josiah. We see the familiar theme in 2 Chronicles where a king does evil. Josiah's father was Amon. We have to go back a chapter to 2 Chronicles 33:21-25 to read about the evil Amon had done. As a result, he was assassinated. In spite of having a father who did evil, Josiah chose differently. He was only 8 years old when he became king. In 2 Chronicles 34:3, it says that he sought God in the 8th year of his reign. He was about 16, around the age of some of you. And consider what Josiah chose to do differently than his father: H\he didn't turn to the side to the right or the left (v. 2). He tore down idols (vv. 3-7). He worked on the Temple (vv. 9-13), which resulted in finding the Book of the Law (v. 14). How can you choose diffently? Don't let anyone look down on you because you're young (see 1 Timoth 4:12). What do you need to change? What idols do you need to tear down? Are you working on the Temple -- that is, your body -- by honoring God (see 1 Corinthians 6:19)? And as a result, have you found and taken time in the Good Book -- the Bible? Be like King Josiah.
- Ezra There's a verse in Ezra I used to find hilarious. I used to share it with people for a laugh. It's Ezra 9:3 (NIV):
When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled.
What is going on? Why would this dude tear his clothes and pull his hair out, even from his beard? He was grieved. Why? We have to look in context to the verse before: Ezra 9:1-2 where it says the Israelites were involved in detestable practices of their pagan neighbors, some even marrying pagan women. They were being drawn away from God. It took this verse for me to realize that I was not to be unequally yoked (see 2 Corinthians 6:14) with an unbelieving woman, that I needed to marry a Christian woman. Yet, that is true whether or not you are called to marry one day. While we need to be kind and interact with unbelievers, we are not to become like them. We are not to adopt their practices. We are in the world, but not of it if you are in Christ. We are not to be like the world, but to point the world to Christ. 1 John 2:15-17 (NIV) says the following:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world -- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life -- comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
This doesn't mean we walk around hating people and hiding from unbelievers. How will they know the truth and love of Christ if we don't interact with them? Rather, this is not loving the world system. Are you standing for Jesus or wallowing in the world?
- Nehemiah Nehemiah was in exile as a cup bearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia. After prayer and fasting, Nehemiah was allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. Yet, in Nehemiah 4, as a result of building, Nehemia faced opposition. When we read the chapter, we see some things. Consider how Nehemiah responded: He faced insults, but he stayed faithful and built anyway. He faced anger and threat. So, he prayed and posted a guard. He faced a possible attack. He encouraged others to fear not, remember the Lord, and he returned to the work (with one hand working and another holding a weapon) indicaating "Our God will fight for us!" (v. 19, NIV). What insults do you face? Are you focused on continuing God's work, and praying, guarding your heart and fearing not as you remember the Lord?
- Esther What are some of the messes in our world? We have leaders who do not follow Jesus. We have confusion where people teach lies against God's created order of male and female. We have people who complicate basic truth and deceive themselves and others. We have people living only for themselves and disregarding God. Esther faced a messed up world, too. Her people were faced with extermination. Yet, God had a plan. She was Queen. She was bold to approach the king and intercede for her people, even risking her own life in doing so. She was there "for such a time as this" (see Esther 4:14). We live in a messed up world, but God has you here "for such a time as this." Are you taking risks for Him? Are you speaking truth in love in a confused and dark world?
- Job What is the oldest book of the Bible? Job. Though Genesis has the earliest historical events, the book of Job was written down first. And way back when, we talked about how Genesis had the first prophecy about Christ. Well, Job, the oldest book in Scripture, refers to Jesus, too. In Job 19:25 (NIV) says the following:
I know that my redeemer lives,
And Jesus is the Redeemer and He indeed stood on the earth and will again. And what's interesting is that in the oldest book of the Bible, Job, a man who suffered greatly, had his hope in the Redeemer. Whatever you're going through, is your hope in Christ?
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
- Psalms What is the most popular Psalm in the book of Psalms? Psalm 23. There's a verse in there that sticks out to me: Psalm 23:4 (NASB), which says the following:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
Notice that David walks through the valley of the shadow of death. We will also walk through such valleys. We often pray that we go around them or dodged them completely, but we will walk through them. Yet, David says he fears no evil. Why? Because God is with him. Do you have that same hope? Are you walking in Christ? He will walk with you through those dark valleys.
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
- Proverbs Let's talk about dog puke. What? Really, let's talk about it. Proverbs 26:11 says the following:
As a dog returns to its vomit,
What does that mean? A fool keeps going back to the foolish things he does. It's like the common axiom about insanity being the repetition of the same mistakes and expecting different results. If we keep doing things our own way or in our own strength we will fail. Consider this proverb:
so fools repeat their folly.
There is a way that appears to be right,
That is actually mentioned twice in the book of Proverbs (14:12 and 16:25). Why would God mention that twice? It's important (as is all Scripture). It is important to realize that if you go your own way, instead of God's way, you will be like the dog returning to its vomit. Our way is sin and it results in death (Romans 6:23). Instead, live abundantly for Jesus.
but in the end it leads to death.
- Ecclesiastes What makes a good rope? What if it's just a single strand? What about two? What if it's three strands like a braid? Well, Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV), which says the following:
Though one may be overpowered,
I often apply this to marriage where the 3 strands are the husband, wife and Jesus at the center. This is good for friendship and marriage, the Third Strand being Jesus.
It is a simple illustration reminding us to be Christ-focused? This is not just in relationships, but in everything.
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
- Song of Songs Though Song of Songs is often used to discuss marriage, there is application for you young guys. Though the book describes a marriage, it shows God's love for us as the church is His bride. What is a banner? It is like a flag. Armies carried banners to represent themselves or convey a message. In Song of Songs 2:4 (NASB), it says the following:
He has brought me to his banquet hall,
His banner over me is love. Does that represent you? Are you walking in the realization that God loves you. Jesus said if you love Him, you will obey His commandments (see John 14:15), including loving others (see Mark 12:31). Are people seeing the banner of love over you? Are they seeing you walk in the confidence of God's love for you and also demonstrating it to them and others?
And his banner over me is love.
- Isaiah - What is a cornerstone? It's a foundational stone in a building, which impacts the entire structure. Isaiah 28:16 (NASB) says the following:
Therefore this is what the Lord God says:
Jesus the Cornerstone. He is the sure foundation on Whom you can surely rest. The one who trusts in Him will never be dismayed. Are you trusting Him today?
"Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
A precious cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
The one who believes in it will not be disturbed."
- Jeremiah Like many of the books we've looked at, there is so much that can be considered and applied from Jeremiah. I'll mention just a few verses: 3:12, 3:14, 3:22 and 4:1. What theme do these verses have in common? They show God saying to Israel, "Return." The verses in chapter 3 have pleas to the faithless to return to God. And that is applicable to us today. Have you been faithless? God says, "Return." One of my favorite verses is 2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV), which says the following:
if we are faithless,
God is faithful even when we are not. Grace abounds, but this is not an invitation to sin all the more (see Romans 6:1-2). If we are faithless, He is faithful and we our to return to Him. You may think, "But I really messed up!" or "I'm not good enough." That's all the more reason to return to Him. It's not about you. It's about Him. In Christ, you can approach God with confidence in your time of need, not when you have it all together, but when you are needy. Consider Hebrews 4:16 (NIV):
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.
Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
God says, "Return." Go to Him.
- Lamentations Have you messed up lately? I don't mean a mere mistake, but a sin. I have. We all do. The Bible says that if we claim to be without sin, we lie to ourselves (see 1 John 1:8). As Christians, we are not to have a lifestyle of sin, but this side of heaven we will wrestle with it. Yet, there is hope. Lamentations 3:21-25 (NIV) says the following:
Yet this I call to mind
His mercies are new every morning, even every moment. And He offers mercy and grace in Jesus. Have you messed up? Turn from sin (repent) and turn to Jesus.
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him
- Ezekiel Ezekiel has so much in it, but let's look at one of God's promises in Ezekiel 37:24-28:
"'My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd. They will follow my laws and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I gave to my servant Jacob, the land where your ancestors lived. They and their children and their children's children will live there forever, and David my servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant. I will establish them and increase their numbers, and I will put my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. Then the nations will know that I the Lord make Israel holy, when my sanctuary is among them forever.'"
Ezekiel was written centuries after King David and it mentions a forever reign. Why is that? Jesus is in the line of David and Jesus is the eternal King. In all the prophecy back to ancient times, Jesus is God's promise for us. And we know from God's promises that He keeps them. His prophecies come true and His promises are kept. There is hope in that.
- Daniel In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar sets up an image -- a statue -- about 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. And all the "bigwigs" of the land were to bow down and worship it or be thrown into the fiery furnace. So, when the herald called, all the people bowed except Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. This infuriated the King who confronted the trio and threatened them again with the fiery furnace. However, consider their response in Daniel 3 (NIV):
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, "King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
The three knew it wasn't about them, but it was about God and honoring God. They were willing to die for truth and were confident that God could rescue them, but were faithful to the point that even if He did not, they would remain faithful to God. And God did rescue them. In fact, a fourth figure "like a son of the gods" appeared and was with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego unharmed. Jesus preincarnate was with them. This changed Nebuchadnezzar's heart. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were faithful and it changed the heart of the king to the point where he praised and honored the one true God. What's the application for us? Be faithful. Do not bow to the statues this world sets up. Have faith in Jesus, take a stand, and He is with you. Even if things don't go well for you, stay faithful. Do the right thing, come what may.
- Hosea I remember during my single years complaining to God during one of my walks about being single. I wanted a girlfriend. I started to say, "God didn't know what it was like to struggle in that way." Even though I knew He knew all thing, I didn't think He knew the experience of such a struggle. As I walk, the wind picked up and became loud to where I couldn't hardly hear. And then I knew. I knew that God not only knew my experience, but knew it all the more as He knew what it was to have an unfaithful bride. Hosea is a tough book. It's about a prophet God tells to marry an adulterous wife in Hosea 1:2-3. Why would God have Hosea take an adulterous wife and why would Hosea love her? Well, Israel, in idolatry, was adulterous to God. And we, the church, the bride of Christ, are also adulterous with our idols. Any sin can be traced to idolatry, even if it's just that we think we know better. Anything placed equal to or above God is an idol. How we struggle! How we need Him! God more than knew my experience. He knew my struggle. And though I am happily married now, He still knows my struggles and shortcomings. And He knows that of you, too. Yet, God still loves us!
- Joel It may be hard to find something to apply from some of the lesser known books, but in Joel 2:12-13 (NIV), God says the following to rebellious Israel:
"Even now," declares the Lord,
This is applicable to us. God says, "Return to me." And what does it mean to rend your heart instead of garments. It needs to be a heart change, not just and outside going through the motions. Listen to what it says, that God is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love. Maybe you've drifted. Return to Him.... even now.
"return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning."
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.
- Amos What does God want? Consider these verses in Amos 5:21-23 (NIV):
"I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
Wow! So, then what does God want? He wants us to stop pretending. He wants us to stop playing Christian on the outside. He wants us to follow Him. He wants our hearts. There's this cartoon of a boy and Jesus. The boy goes to Jesus and says, "It's all I have" and he holds out his heart. Jesus says, "It's all I want." That's all Jesus wants -- our hearts.
your assemblies are a stench to me.
Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
25 April 2023
- Obadiah What does Obadiah have in common with Philemon and Jude? They are only one-chapter books. Obadiah is a bit of a rebuke for Edom. Edom was mocking Judah in their time of calamity. Do you ever see someone you don't like and something bad happens to them and you laugh about it? That's what Edom was doing in regards to Judah. That can happen with jealousy and pride, where we think someone deserves something bad or we enjoy their misfortune. That should not be. Look at what Obadiah 12-13 (NIV) says:
You should not gloat over your brother
We are not to look down on those in calamity as comes with jealousy and pride, but rather do Romans 12:15 says, and rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn.
That is a way to love others well. If someone gets something or wins something, even if it is something you felt you deserved, then you can still celebrate with them. If someone is going through a hard time, you can come alongside of them. In doing so, you demonstrate the love of Christ.
in the day of his misfortune,
nor rejoice over the people of Judah
in the day of their destruction,
nor boast so much
in the day of their trouble.
You should not march through the gates of my people
in the day of their disaster,
nor gloat over them in their calamity
in the day of their disaster,
nor seize their wealth
in the day of their disaster.
2 May 2023
- Jonah What did Jonah say right before he was vomited up on shore?
We find this in Jonah 2:8-9 (NIV):
"Those who cling to worthless idols
Take notice of things. Those who cling to idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. In Christ, we have every spiritual blessing in the Heavenlies according to Ephesians 1:3. Yet, in Galatians 3:3 (NIV), Paul writes, "Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" If we are not looking to God, we are looking to idols. And that is Jonah's realization. God extends grace, but if we go back to our own ways or our own efforts, we are not only idolatrous, but we fail to appropriate His grace. That is, we fail to live in the application of His grace. We miss out on His blessings for the Christian life. What are the worthless idols in your life? (Hint: All of our idols are worthless compared to God!) Jonah continues that he is thankful and will sacrifice to God and will keep his word. We are to live thankful lives (see 1 Thessalonians 5:18) and while we don't sacrifice animals (as Jesus is our perfect sacrifice), we are called to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (see Romans 12:1). And finally, Jonah acknowledges the ultimate truth that salvation comes from the LORD. Jesus is Lord (see John 10:30) and the Way to the Father (see John 14:6). In Christ, there is Salvation. In Christ, there is the ability to be a living sacrifice. In Christ, there is a life of thanksgiving. In Christ, we can live abundantly (see John 10:10) in His grace.
turn away from God's love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, 'Salvation comes from the Lord.'"
Posted 9 May 2023
- Micah In some translations, Micah 7:1-7 has the heading "Israel's Misery." The chapter opens up with misery, which is described in verses 1-6 (NIV):
What misery is mine!
Sounds pretty miserable, doesn't it? And our world can seem miserable, too. All one has to do is look at the news to find misery. Or look down the street. Ministry opportunities abound. Yet, consider what Micah penned in verse 7 (NIV):
I am like one who gathers summer fruit
at the gleaning of the vineyard;
there is no cluster of grapes to eat,
none of the early figs that I crave.
The faithful have been swept from the land;
not one upright person remains.
Everyone lies in wait to shed blood;
they hunt each other with nets.
Both hands are skilled in doing evil;
the ruler demands gifts,
the judge accepts bribes,
the powerful dictate what they desire --
they all conspire together.
The best of them is like a brier,
the most upright worse than a thorn hedge.
The day God visits you has come,
the day your watchmen sound the alarm.
Now is the time of your confusion.
Do not trust a neighbor;
put no confidence in a friend.
Even with the woman who lies in your embrace
guard the words of your lips.
For a son dishonors his father,
a daughter rises up against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law --
a man's enemies are the members of his own household.
But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
And those are good words for us in good times... and in misery. Do you watch in hope for the Lord? Do you wait for God your Savior? Is Jesus your Savior? Will God hear you? That implies you are praying. Are you praying? If you are experiencing misery, look up (to the Lord), watch in hope for the Lord, and pray.
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me.
Posted 16 May 2023
- Nahum Nahum is a book that depicts the Lord's judgment of Assyria, represented by Nineveh. Yet, as with all Scripture, there is application. Consider Nahum 1:14 (NIV):
The Lord has given a command concerning you, Nineveh:
"You will have no descendants to bear your name.
I will destroy the images and idols
that are in the temple of your gods.
I will prepare your grave,
for you are vile."
Nineveh? Temple? How is this verse applicable? Well, the body is a temple. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV):
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
And Nineveh had gods (little g and false gods) in the temple. Do you have false gods in your heart? What are your idols? Is there anything you put equal to or above God in your life? Those are false gods in your temple.
How about the part about a grave? Well, Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death.
I've already mentioned idols. In Nahum 1:14, it says that God will destroy the images and idols. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are in the process of sanctification, being made more like Him. None of us (who know Christ) is perfect and we will be in that process of sanctification during our entire existence this side of Heaven. Part of sanctification is giving up idols. That's part of repentance; that is, turning away from sin. Giving up idols is difficult. Yet, consider something. What is a better outcome if you are in a war (and you are in one for your soul)? To surrender or to be destroyed? You can surrender your idols to God or He will destroy the idols in your life. If you are not a believer, you will be consumed by your idols. You think you are consuming (enjoying) them, but they will consume you. So, investing in idols is a losing strategy. That was true for Nineveh and it is true for you.
Where is the hope? Consider Nahum 1:7 (NIV):
The Lord is good,
a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in [H]im
God is our hope. Do you trust Him? Have you trusted that Jesus Christ is God and did the perfect work in dying for you on the cross and offering hope in His glorious Resurrection? Give up your trust in idols and trust Him today.
Posted 6 June 2023
- Habakkuk What's the difference between joy and happiness? Do you ever have things not go your way? In those moments are you happy? Are you joyful? Consider Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NIV):
Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
In that, crops and livestock -- that is, food -- and even livelihood are all failing. Would you be happy in that scenario? I can't imagine many would be. Yet, there is joy. See how I just said, "Yet" to switch gears. Even if we are on the road of pain and struggle, there is a switching of gears. Notice, the verse says, "yet I will rejoice", but what is the source of that joy? In the Lord. He says he will be joyful. How? In the Lord. Job lost everything, but remained faithful. Jesus lost everything and remained faithful for He had His eyes set on what the Father promised. Do you? Are you looking to eternity and the promises of God in Christ? You cannot have joy without Him.
I've heard it said that happiness is based on happenings, that is, circumstances, while joy is based on Jesus and you with nothing in between with the JOY being J0Y, J for Jesus, 0 for zero and Y for you. Is there anything between you and Jesus now that is inhibiting the joy He offers (the abundant life - see John 10:10)?
Knowing Christ is one thing that cannot be taken from you. And there is peace in that. There is hope in that. There is joy in that. Do you know Him? If you were to lose everything would you still be able to look to Him with the joy, peace and hope that is only found in Him? You can if you can say what Habakkuk says of the Source of his joy -- God, Whom he calls "my Savior." Is He your Savior? Do you know Christ?
Posted 20 June 2023
- Zephaniah Throughout the book of Zephaniah, there are warnings and judgments against various nations and peoples. However, in Zephaniah 3:17 (NASB), the scriptures turn to the remnant of Israel and the tone changes. Listen to the words:
The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with
Now, while we aren't Israel, there is application. If you know Christ, you have a relationship with God through Jesus (who is God). And you can know He is with you. He is mighty to save. He takes joy in you. Flawed as the church is, flawed as we are, in Christ, He offers us His presence, salvation, joy and peace as He quiets us with His love. People will let you down (even Christians), but Jesus will not. What does that mean? He offers you His peace in spite of circumstances. He offers you clarity in spite of confusion. In the waves of life, He is an anchor. He is true North on life's compass. You can approach Him with your anxieties and your troubles, even casting it all on Him because He cares for you (See 1 Peter 5:7). Without Him, we face warnings and judgments. Yet, He offers His Salvation. We all fail. We fail others and others fail us. Yet, Jesus does not fail. Do you have a relationship with Him?
Posted 8 August 2023
- Haggai The book of Haggai ends with this verse (2:23):
"On that day," declares the Lord Almighty, "I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel," declares the Lord, "and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you," declares the Lord Almighty.
Who was Zerubbabel? He was a son of Shealtiel who was descended from King David (as seen in Luke 3:27-31). He restored the priesthood and worked on rebuilding the Temple (see Nehemiah 12:47, Ezra 5:2 and Ezra 6:18).
Very well, what's the application? Well, Zerubbabel points to Christ. Jesus was of the Davidic line. And while Zerubbabel restored the priesthood, Jesus fulfilled it by becoming our High Priest. Consider the words of Hebrews 4:14-16 (NASB):
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let's hold firmly to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let's approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.
Zerubbabel was a governor descended from a king and a restorer of the priesthood. Jesus is more as both King and High Priest, perfectly. And because of that we can approach Him with confidence. When? In our time of need. Zerubbabel worked on rebuilding the Temple. Jesus will
make you a new creation (see 2 Corinthians 5:17) as in Him, your body is a Temple of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19). He is our High Priest representing us to God. Are you in Christ that He is representing you before God? Are you abiding in Him? And it's a two-way street. Are we representing Him to others in how we live? We often fail, even hurt others, and cause harm to our witness for Christ. May we do better. And are we bringing others before Him? We can do that in prayer. There's a saying that prayer changes things. If so, in prayer, you can also be changed.
Yet, there's more. Zerubbabel points to the Holy Spirit. The verse in Haggai mentions signet ring. It is the type of ring with an emblem where a king would place his seal on an official document, such as by pressing his ring into wax. Now consider the words of Ephesians 1:13-14 (NASB) as it speaks of Christ:
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation -- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of the promise, who is a first installment of our inheritance, in regard to the redemption of God's own possession, to the praise of His glory.
And the word sealed in the Greek (εσφραγισθητε esphragisthete) comes from a root word (σφραγιζω sphragió) which means to seal with a signet ring (source: Bible Hub).
Zerubbabel is an obscure Old Testament person (and a funny name), but a deeper look will show that, like all things in Scripture, there is a pointing to our hope in Jesus Christ. Do you have such hope? Is He your King? Is He your High Priest?
Posted 22 August 2023
- Zechariah The book of Zechariah has Jesus all over it. There are multiple fulfilled prophecies and verses directly pointing to Jesus. So, it was a challenge to narrow it down. Let's look at one in Zechariah 9:9 (NASB):
Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
He is righteous and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Readily what comes to mind is the Triumphal Entry when Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Let's look at some of the key words in this verse. Rejoice! Do you rejoice in Jesus! He is the ultimate source of joy. Triumph! Do you shout in triumph in Jesus! Have you trusted not your, but His, victory for eternity? If so, that is worth celebrating! Behold! Your King is coming! Is He your King? Do you look to Him? Righteous! He alone is righteous, but if you trust Him, He has made the swap of your sins (past, present and future) for His righteousness at the cross. Do you trust Him? Salvation! Salvation is in Jesus alone. Are you placing your faith in Him alone to save you? And finally, humble! Jesus is fully God and fully man. Jesus is the only perfect man. Yet, even in perfection, He was humble. He didn't gloat. And He didn't ride into town in a limousine. He rode a lowly animal, a donkey. The people expected Him to come riding in to overthrow the Romans. Jesus had a different plan -- a better plan. And Jesus was humble. That's how speaking the truth in love looks. It is gentle. It is humble. And while believers are not perfect, they are called to be like Jesus, which is possible in Him. Rejoice and shout in triumph as you look to your King, trusting Him for righteousness and salvation and a humble spirit.
Posted 12 September 2023
- Malachi The last book of the Old Testament is Malachi, pronounced Malak-eye, not Malachee. The time between the Old and New Testament was some four centuries! If we look at American history, and go back four centures, we are in the year 1623. That was when the Jamestowne Settlement was only 16 years old and the Plymouth Settlement just three years old. My direct ancestor spelled my last name differently at that time! 400 years! That's a lot of time in our eyes, but not in God's eyes. God is Sovereign and exists outside of time seeing all at once. After all, 2 Peter 3:8-9 (NIV) says the following:
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
And in Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, God revealed His plan to be fulfilled after 400 years. In Malachi 3:1 (NIV), the Lord Almighty says the following:
I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come. ...
Who is the messenger who will prepare the way? John the Baptist. And notice the Lord says, "before me." We'll come back to that. And who does "the Lord you are seeking" refer to? Jesus. Jesus is Lord Almighty as the messenger -- John the Baptist -- prepares the way as the Lord says, "before me." And that's exactly what happened 400 years later!
God had a plan and offered time and grace and a messenger and our Messiah to save us. Have you trusted Jesus? As 2 Peter said, The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises. He doesn't want you to perish. He knows we have sinned, do sin and will sin, but He provides the Way of salvation in Jesus. Have you repented and trusted in Him? He has given you this time. Don't wait. Today is the day of salvation!
Posted 19 September 2023
- Matthew is the first book of the New Testament, and the first Gospel. There is so much in this book. We see the red letters as we hear directly from Jesus. There is the temptation of Jesus, the Beatitudes, and much, much more. However, let's look at part of a chapter. I go to chapter 6, which spoke to me early in my Christian walk and it is as applicable today in my walk as it was then. In fact, I shared from this very chapter 33 years ago (and looked at it this morning in the same Bible I used at that time). Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV):
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you -- you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Some questions to consider:
• Can you add a single hour to your life by worrying? (actually, you can lessen the hours as it can contribute to bad health, but don't worry about that, either!)
• Can you take control of something by worrying about it?
• What shall we seek first instead?
We are to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. How? Trust Christ. Trust what He has done for you. None of us is righteous in and of ourselves, but He offers His righteousness in exchange for our sin. We must trust Him. We must seek Him first.
It reminds me of an object lesson I heard long ago and that I have shared many times. There's a jar that represents life. And pebble after pebble, gravel after gravel, gets put in the jar. They represent our concerns, priorities, etc. Finally, there is a rock that is almost as wide as the mouth of the jar. And while one can get the rock through the mouth of the jar, one cannot get the rock all the way into jar because all the pebbles and gravel prevent it. As a result, one cannot put a lid on the jar with all the contents inside. However, if one empties the jar and puts the big rock in first, all the pebbles and gravel come around the big rock and one can put the lid on the jar with all of it inside.
Jesus is the big rock. Jesus is the Rock! Like the big rock in the jar, Jesus should be first and center. And all other things should be around Him. Are you facing things that worry you? Are you facing hardship? Are you tempted to despair? Look up! Look to the risen Christ! Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness.
Consider the words of David in Psalm 23:1 (NIV):
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
Is Jesus your Shepherd? Is Jesus your Rock?
Posted 24 October 2023
- Mark The Gospel of Mark does not seem as quoted as often as the other Gospels, but it is one of the Gospels, and part of God's Word. So, obviously, it has in it things we need to hear. One of these is Mark 2:15-17 (NIV) where it mentions Jesus' response to the self-righteous Pharisees commenting on his eating with sinners:
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
This made me think of some questions to consider:
- Do you think you are not good enough to be with Jesus? Well, none of us is good in and of ourselves. And you're the type of person He wants to dine with.
- Now, think about Jesus' response. Besides a routine check-up, how many go to the doctor when they feel well or just for fun?
- Were any of us righteous before Christ? No!
- Are any of us righteous after coming to know Christ? Not in and of ourselves. It is not our righteousness. It's His righteousness. After all, we are made righteous in Christ, not in ourselves. In and of ourselves, we are no good. The Bible has plenty to say about that, but there's hope in Christ.
- If you are dying of something, wouldn't that be considered sick? Yes.
- What are the wages of sin according to Romans 3:23? Death.
- So, wouldn't sin be considered spiritual sickness? Absolutely!
The self-righteous don't think they need saving. I remember a wedding I went to decades ago. I had stayed with the groom's family. I recall over breakfast where his mother complained how he had talked about being born again. She said, "I didn't lose my religion. I don't need to be born again." Well, she's at odds with what Jesus shared with Nicodemus in John 3 where Jesus said we must be born again. Why? Because apart from Jesus, we are spiritually sick. It's not about some religion or tradition we've grown up in. We're all sick. It's about whether or not you know the Doctor and whether or not you are going to Him for treatment. He can offer His care, but just like the sick, nothing happens if you don't go to the appointment. The illness just gets worse. Perhaps, this is your appointed time with Him.
In ourselves, we are not righteous. We are sinners. So, we are sick. That's all of us. And He's calling. Will you answer today? If you are sick, you want to get better as soon as you can. Don't delay. See the Doctor. That is Jesus, the Great Physician.
Maybe you are already in Christ. He still calls you. In Christ, you are no longer under the power of sin, but you will still wrestle with it this side of Heaven as you go through the process of sanctification.
Go to the Doctor. He came for the sick and He is there when you struggle. You are not so far gone that He cannot reach you. And He wants to dine with you.
Posted 14 November 2023
- Luke It seems fitting at Christmastime to refer to Luke. However, I plan to focus on some "non-Christmas" verses. Consider Luke 10:18-20 (NIV):
[Jesus] replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
That's an unusual verse isn't it? There is the fall of Satan. There is the authority of Jesus. Yet, what is the point of the verse? Rejoice that your names are written in Heaven. Is your name written in Heaven? That's another way of saying, "Are you in Christ?" Do you know Him as your Lord and Savior? Are you trusting Him and what He did for you? While we don't earn our salvation, we do work out our salvation. That is, there is evidence of salvation in your life if you are in Christ. That doesn't mean we're perfect. That doesn't mean we don't mess up -- even in big ways! Out of faith comes good works. The works don't save you but are evidence of your being saved. Paul writes in Philippians 2:12 (NIV):
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed -- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence -- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling...
Some questions: Are you working out your salvation? Are you doing this only in the presence of others or are you also doing this in the absence of others? Are you just putting on a show for the public? Or are you the real deal and practicing godliness even in the private circles of your life? And most importantly, are you trusting in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and the free gift of salvation He offers you in grace via His perfect work on the cross? After all, it's Christmastime when we celebrate His arrival. And the cross is why He came. As the saying goes,
He came to pay a debt He didn't owe
Because we owed a debt we couldn't pay.
Do you trust Him? Are you rejoicing that your name is written in Heaven?
Posted 5 December 2023
- John It is good timing that John is the book for the devotion during Christmas. Often people will go to Luke for Christmas passages, but we will look at John, first chapter, starting with the first verse. John 1:1-5 (NASB) says the following:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of mankind. And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not grasp it.
It's fine to consider the baby born in the manger. It's important after all as is all Scripture. And it's fine to enjoy the warm glow of Christmastime, but Who is the baby? That's where we can look at John 1 and see.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
Jesus is God. He is God in the flesh.
All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being.
Jesus is Creator, again pointing to Him being God.
In Him was life, and the life was the Light of mankind.
If we think about all people -- believers and unbelievers -- there is the common grace in that we have life, but there's something more. There's the Light. This points to spiritual life found in the believer in Christ.
And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not grasp it.
You can look at the world and see it is a dark place. It could be something you've seen on the news or heard about. It could be something you are experiencing or even caused. We live in a dark world. Yet, Jesus came as the Light to save. That is spiritual life. He came as a baby to go to the cross to deliver us from sin and death. Do you believe it? Do you believe in Him? Are you a believer? That, after all, is why He came this Christmas.
Posted 19 December 2023
How many of you have hurt someone? And by hurt, I mean emotionally or physically, from saying something mean to someone to hitting them. How many of you have been hurt by someone else? That's all of us. Okay. So, let's go a little further with it:
How many have caused a hospitalization, intentionally? How many of you have been sent to hospital as a result of someone else's intentional behavior? Hopefully none of us. Let's go even further with it.
Hopefully this doesn't apply, but how many of you have murdered someone? Okay. I'm glad no one raised there hand to that, but did you know that unrighteous anger is considered murder in the heart? Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:21-22a (NIV):
You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment." But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.
This may be a silly question: How many of you have been murdered? Obviously, none of us.
Why do I ask these questions? Well, our devotion is from the book of Acts. How many know about what happened to Stephen? He had just given basically a sermon, speaking truth, and the hearers didn't like it. They murdered him for it. Let's read about it in Acts 7:54-8:1 (NIV):
Now when they heard this, they were infuriated, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." But they shouted with loud voices, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one mind. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" Then he fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" Having said this, he fell asleep.
And Saul approved of their killing him.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.
Did you hear what Stephen did and said? He looked to Heaven. He gave up his spirit and asked that this not be held against his persecutors. Who's that sound like? Sounds like Jesus.
And Saul — the murderer -- what became of him? He was blinded and transformed by Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul of Tarsus became Paul the Apostle, who under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote quite a bit of the New Testament in the Epistles.
Think of this: The murderer and the murdered -- Paul and Stephen -- are now brothers in Christ embracing in eternity. God is a God of reconciliation. No matter how bad you've been towards others or how bad you've received from others, God can reconcile. He reconciled you unto Himself via the cross (because we were enemies of God in our sin). Are you hurting? Have you done something gravely wrong? Jesus loves you. He died for you and provides new life. He showed this in His resurrection. You aren't too hurt for Him to save. You haven't done so much bad that He can't save. Yes, there's a need to ask for or grant forgiveness, but it is in Him and you aren't beyond His reach.
Posted 17 January 2024
Let me read you a verse from the book of Romans (3:23, NASB):
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
To whom does that apply? All of us.
Are you better than anyone else? Is anyone better than you? No, it applies to all of us. We all have dirt in our lives -- believer and unbeliever alike!
A few chapters later, some other verses get into this further. Consider Romans 6:23 (NASB):
For the wages of sin is death, but the gracious gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
There's something sobering as well as hope in that verse. The wages of sin is death. What does that mean? What are wages? Something you earn. So when you work for sin, you earn death. We all die. There is disease, strife, death and war all resulting from the fall. The wages of sin is indeed death. However, do you see hope in that verse? The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Do you have to work for a gift? No. Yet, what is the basis of that gift? It is in Jesus Christ whom Paul refers to as "our Lord." Is Jesus your Lord?
Jesus was Paul's Lord and Jesus is my Lord. Yet, I still struggle with the dirt in my life and Paul did, too. And Paul was very honest about his dirt. Consider Romans 7:15-24 (NASB):
For I do not understand what I am doing; for I am not practicing what I want to do, but I do the very thing I hate. However, if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, that the Law is good. But now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I do the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin that dwells in me.
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner person, but I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body's parts. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?
Wretched man! That doesn't sound very hopeful, but consider the next verse (Romans 7:25, NASB):
Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
Again, where is the hope? In Christ our Lord. Is Jesus your Lord? If He is, consider the very next verse in Romans 8:1 (NASB):
Therefore there is now no condemnation at all for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Hope! And again, it is found in Christ Jesus.
Finally, consider the extent of the hope that those in Christ have as seen in verses at the end of that same chapter in Romans 8:38-39 (NASB):
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
No one is better than you and you aren't better than others. We all have dirt. We all wrestle and struggle with sin. However, there is hope. Remember the wages of sin being death. Well, death is among the things listed that cannot separate us from the love of God found in Christ Jesus. And the hope is indeed wrapped up in the last words of that chapter: "in Christ Jesus our Lord." Is Jesus your Lord?
Posted 6 February 2024
- 1 Corinthians
Tomorrow is Valentine's Day. It's a day that is about what? Love. There are songs about "love," which have all sorts of ideas about the topic -- some true and some not so much, songs such as "What is love?" and "More than a Feeling" and "Love Stinks" and "First Love." Our culture is confused about what love is. Some mistake it for infatuation or lust or perversion. So, where should we go for an accurate depiction of love? The Bible. What is one of the most famous chapters about love? 1 Corinthians 13. I'd like to focus on just one verse in the middle of that chapter that seems to capture true love. 1 Corinthians 13:6 (NIV) says the following:
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
What does that mean? Our culture is wrong in many ways about love. A feeling can be strong between individuals, but that does not mean it is true love. Love goes hand-in-hand with the truth. You cannot have true love without truth. And truth without love is, well, unloving. Love has boundaries. There are some things love says, "No" to. For example, the love I share with my wife is reserved for her alone and vice versa, not for others.
There are different types of love, outlined in the Bible such as unconditional love agape like God has for His people. There is brotherly love phileo such as that among friends. There is romantic love eros such as between a husband and wife. And there are others. And there are contexts by God's design for these types of love.
The world, the flesh and the devil can be quite deceptive with the topic of love. If it feels good, if I feel good, blah, blah, blah, and they get it wrong. They focus on the temporal things that fade. Some say that their theology may be off, but they will err on the side of "love" and this becomes an excuse to promote all sorts of unbiblical ideas. That stands in contrast with what 1 Corinthians 13:6 says. If something is unbiblical, then it fails the truth test. Yet, true love rejoices with the truth. If something is unbibilical, it really is evil. And true love does not delight in evil.
Now, we are to still love people who wrestle in these ways. We, ourselves, have wrestled with evil and unbiblical behavior or have embraced things that aren't true. We are no better. In Christ, we are forgiven much and so we can truly love. However, be mindful that love doesn't allow whatever someone wants. If I have a friend who is engaged in self-destructive behavior but say nothing, do I love that friend? What if a small boy is running after a ball towards traffic and his mother hollers, "Stop!" and sweeps him up in her arms. He may be upset, but the mother loved him well.
You may hear people say they "love" according to "my truth." There is no such thing as "my truth." There is my opinion and the truth. Something objective is true. Opinions may be closer or further away from the objective truth. Some opinions are opposed to the truth. And some opinions make no truth claim at all (like what my favorite color is). So, opinions are just another way of talking about feelings. However, be aware: feelings come and go. Feelings aren't necessarily bad, but consider what Jeremiah 17:9 tells us: "The heart is deceitful...." Good feelings certainly can and should come with true love, but sometimes they do not. Remember the mother loving the boy running towards traffic? Or talk to a wife whose husband has died. C.S. Lewis said, when his wife Joy, died: "The pain I feel now is the happiness I had before. That's the deal."
God disciplines those He loves. This is seen in Proverbs 3:11-12, which is echoed in Hebrews 12:6. And true love and truth are all wrapped up in God. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life" in John 14:6 (emphasis mine). And the Scripture says, "God is love" in 1 John 4:8. If you are wondering if something is true love, ask if it is true. Does it reflect God? Does it reflect what He says in His Word? Are you loving in truth? Are you speaking the truth in love? We fail, but God offers His love to us in Christ. May we seek Him in these and all things.
Posted 13 February 2024
- 2 Corinthians
Why do we eat? We are designed to depend on something outside of us. What if I claimed to have not eaten for 25 years? If that were true, it might be something to boast about. However, you know that is a lie. We are not designed to just do it all in and of ourselves. We are dependent beings. It is true physically and true spiritually. We are designed to be dependent on God. Consider 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NASB):
Because of the extraordinary greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me -- to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul was a smart guy -- accomplished -- a Pharisee of Pharisees. He could've boasted in the flesh but instead boasted in weaknesses. And by that, I don't mean self-centered false humility. He boasted in his weaknesses because he realized his need for God.
You may be wrestling or struggling or hurting. We all are in some way, but we can depend on God in Christ. There's hope. His grace is sufficient. Are you suffering? Are you weak? Paul begged for the thorn to be taken away but he found that he needed to depend on God. May we do likewise and depend on Him. After all, God designed us to depend on Him in Christ.
Posted 20 February 2024
More will be posted in time.