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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Planned Giving (1 Corinthians 16:2)

"On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made."

Less than 3% of Evangelical Christians tithe.

Money has a way of sticking to our hands and to our hearts. Jesus spoke about money frequently. He noticed the gifts of the rich and of the poor. He engaged numerous wealthy people: sadly, some walked away as the fingers of their heart clutched their money (the rich young ruler) while others opened their hearts and their wallets to the Lord Jesus in total abandon (Zaccheus). Further, Jesus states "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Luke 12:34). Therefore, I doubt that He has complete access to your heart until He has complete access to your finances.

Intentional giving says "I choose to be captured by God Himself rather than to be enslaved to the natural world where physical and bodily appetites rule, where money means independence and power."

Paul urges the Corinthian believers to save up to give, "On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made." They were to be intentional and generous givers, not to endowments, where when the market is down giving decreases, but to immediate needs.

Paul then would take the monies given to Jerusalem where they would be used in a cooperative effort and dispersed by the leaders to fund the missionary activities of field missionaries. Their local offerings impacted the entire world. The Corinthian believers, by their monetary gifts, would touch the lostness of the known world; their money would empower those to go where they themselves could not.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Corinthians 15:35-16:24
  • How do the first and last Adam differ and why is there a need for a last Adam?
  • What change will take place in those who are alive at His coming? Those who are dead at His coming?
  • What accompanies the opening of "a great door for effective work"?
  • Who would be responsible for Timothy's needs while he is in Corinth?
  • What do each of the commands in the string of commands in 16:13,14 have in common?
Acts 20:1-6
  • List Paul's co-laborers in ministry. Can't you see why he spoke to the Corinthian believers about their offerings?
2 Corinthians 1:1-2:4
  • How does Paul describe God?
  • What does experiencing God during times of personal suffering enable you to do?
  • What does Paul teach about "the promises of God"? What does that mean for believers/you today?
  • What is God's seal of ownership? What does this tell you about God's commitment to you?
  • Describe Paul's relationship with the Corinthian believers.
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to show you where you are the most invested and to make you more aware of how you give/spend your money.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Words That Edify (1 Corinthians 14:2-4)

"For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. (1 Corinthians 14:2-4).

Meaningful conversation occurs between two people who share the same language.

Communicating the best news in the world in English to non-English speakers is futile. Imagine finding the cure for cancer but not being able to communicate the cure to others due to a language barrier. No one understands the one who speaks in tongues but the gift of prophecy edifies those who hear. Paul seems to imply that those who desire only to speak in tongues are mainly interested in their own edification while those who desire the gift of prophecy are interested in the edification of others. Paul urges believers to desire gifts that benefit the entire body. 

Paul's instructions regarding the gift of prophecy and the gift of tongues teaches at least four truths:
1. The childish Christian desires little to minister to others; therefore they only desire gifts that are personally beneficial or edifying.
2. The lazy Christian desires little to engage others in a cross-cultural conversation by attempting to learn another language in order to share the gospel.
3. The selfish and uncaring Christian sees non-English speakers as an economic drain and even dares to pray that God will do something to eliminate the immigration problem.
4. The apathetic Christian doesn't even bother sharing the good news with those who speak their own language. 

Could it be that we've so disobeyed the Great Commission to take the gospel to every kindred and tribe that God is bringing the world to our doorsteps and we still don't get it?. Instead of seeing lostness and need we see nuisance or we don't see them at all. Everyone ought to have the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ in their language at least once. Therefore, desire the gift of prophecy for the spiritual benefit of others.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Corinthians 14:1-15:34
  • How do the spiritual gifts of prophecy and tongues benefit the body?
  • How does prophecy benefit individuals in the body of Christ, the body of believers and unbelievers?
  • Why does a person have to hear (in his own language) the Gospel to be saved? (Romans 10:14-17)
  • What should characterize the church?
  • How does Paul define the Gospel message?
  • Why does Paul use himself as an example of gospel preaching?
  • Why is emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus Christ so important?
  • What happened to all humanity as a result of Adam's sin?
  • What will happen to all those who've put their hope and trust in Jesus Christ?
  • How does Paul demonstrate his own belief in the resurrection?
Turning truth into prayer
People are saved because they HEAR the gospel in their own language and place their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Ask the Lord to help you share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with someone today. Pray for those serving the Lord in cross cultural ministry.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Rugged Individualism (1 Corinthians 12:12)

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body."

Since the Garden of Eden men/women seek to live independently of God. Independently of Adam, Eve makes the decision to eat the forbidden fruit; and Adam, independently of God, makes the decision to go along with her decision. Cain decides he will come to God his own way and angrily kills his brother after God confronts him over his unacceptable offering. Since those first days every man, woman, and child (whose early words "Mine!" characterizes the interaction between toddlers) struggle to live in community with others and with God.

Rugged individualism. We all struggle to live in community. Community with others and community with God.

God, in Christ, restores community. His Spirit, indwelling believers, moves us toward one another in community; therefore rugged individualism has no place in the Body of Christ. "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts, and though all its parts are many, they form one body." When one area ceases to function within the human body it affects the entire body.

Living in concert with the diversity of other personalities and talents requires a unifying factor or power; He, the Holy Spirit, dwells within believers to provide that unifying power. Division always occurs among rugged individualists who live independently of the Holy Spirit and independently of others.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Corinthians 12:2-13:13
  • What is the context of Paul's teaching on the conduct of believers?
  • What complaint is Paul addressing?
  • What causes division among believers?
  • What happens to the human body when one organs ceases to work?
  • What does this tell you about the interdependence of body functions? About the body of Christ?
  • How does anyone come to agreement or unity with others in such a diverse body of believers?
  • Why do we need other believers in our life?
  • How does God see the body?
  • What gift has God given to the body that brings unity and what will then characterize that body?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to reveal an area of independence that negatively affects others. Ask Him, then, to refine you in that area.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Innocent to Me, Harmful for Another (1 Corinthians 8:12)

"But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ" (1 Corinthians 8:12).

Our family enjoys playing cards, so, when we have a get-together in our home card playing just happens.

A couple of years ago our family invited a bunch of people over for fun and fellowship. Playing cards just happened. One young lady brought a friend with her whom we didn't know; nor did we know that this young believer was a recovering compulsive gambler. You can see the developing problem. Well, we found out later that he fell off of the wagon at our house! Had we known that he was coming and that he had a gambling problem we would have planned another activity altogether. Who knew?

That's kinda what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians chapter eight. Except the problem isn't cards but carved statues, which some people know and worship as idols; and what others know as carved statues, without any religious connotations whatsoever.

Seeing another believer eat meat offered to an idol may cause a weaker idol worshipping-background believer to revert to idol worship. What means nothing to you may mean something harmful to another. Their problem is your problem.

Had we known our card playing on that day would have caused this young man to stumble we would have found fun in some other activity. Our card playing wasn't wrong; it was just wrong to do on that day when that brother was in our home. Had we known about his problem and played cards anyway we would have sinned against Christ and our brother. "So this weak brother for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge". Since we had no prior knowledge we simply caused a brother to stumble. Makes me sad. Had we only known.

That experience makes us very sensitive about card-playing. Maybe this fun activity should remain a family and close friend activity only.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Corinthians 8:1-11:1
  • What are some activities Christians are free to do but may be misunderstood or even cause harm to weaker believers?
  • What "right" or "expectation" do pastors/preachers have that Paul gives up so that his motives aren't misunderstood?
  • Why does Paul "make himself a slave" even though he is free?
  • How does Paul describe the serious runner?
  • What does this analogy teach Christians about their bodies and their "freedoms"?
  • List the things that Paul mentions that disqualify the children of Israel from entering into the promised land.
  • How do these examples apply to our lives today?
  • How are believers to regard all of their activities?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to pinpoint areas in your life that aren't necessarily wrong but cause others to stumble.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Kinder than God? (1 Corinthians 5:6)

"Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?"

First Baptist Church at Corinth Harbors Sex Offenders could have been the headliner for the local paper, but I suspect it was hardly mentioned at all.

Obviously from today's Chronological Bible reading a sexual incident happened at FBC-Corinth and little, if anything, was said by anyone in the church or outside the church about the very public church member who had sexual relations with his stepmother. In fact, the church of Corinth prided themselves on their compassionate tolerance of sin in the life of a professing Christian. Which brings us to the question: "How does a church handle known sexual sin (or any publicly known sin) of its members?" of "Should a church say anything at all?"

The church "shows compassion" and practices "tolerance" toward this blatantly sinning man until Paul steps in. They were kinder than God. "Don't you know a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? responds Paul to their tolerance. In fact, his severity is a bit astonishing: "hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord."

Jesus died to free guilty sinners, free them from the guilt of sin as well as the sin itself. People of this world are immoral, greedy, swindlers, and idolaters but "new creatures in Christ" ought to be different in lifestyle and behavior. Paul firmly establishes that no one who calls himself a brother practices sexual immorality or greed, etc. (Ephesians 5:3-7; I Corinthians 6:9-10) nor should they continue fellowshipping with the local church.

Lest you think Paul acts more harshly than Christ against professing Christians who habitually practice sin consider Jesus' words: "But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake of fire . . . " and "But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie" (Revelation 21:7; 22:15).

As the Gospel becomes more watered down in our day, the church becomes kinder than God toward guilty church members. That's why sexual activity, greed, addictive behaviors, etc. abound in today's church. The church must lead the way in repentance and brokenness, in the disciplining its members for sinful practices, and in restoration. The goal and role of confrontation is reconciliation; repentance always precedes reconciliation.

Later on in Paul's second letter to the Corinthian church Paul admonishes the believers to "not be too severe" toward that very man who had repented and had returned to the Lord and to the church. Paul encourages them to "forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow . . . to reaffirm your love to him" (2 Corinthians 2:5-8). No one is kinder than God toward broken and repentant sinners.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Corinthians 5:1-7:40
  • What does "yeast" represent in Paul's analogy?
  • How should the church respond to sin in her midst?
  • How does public "fussing" and "disputes" affect the church's witness in the world?
  • What distinguishes believers from those around them?
  • How are believers to view and treat their bodies?
  • What role does sex and the spiritual discipline of prayer serve within marriage?
  • How should a woman view her body?
  • How does following Christ affect marriage?
Turning truth into prayer
Pray for the purity of the church.

Friday, November 25, 2016

No Competition in the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:12)

"Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ."

Sibling rivalry in the church destroys relationships in the body of Christ. There should be no competition among church leaders themselves or between followers. Sibling rivalry in the body of Christ indicates immaturity. It was ugly in the 1st century church and it is just as ugly today.

Some believers are more known by their mimicry of noted Bible teachers that they follow than who they are in Christ. They are the "mini-me" or "spiritual clones" of certain noted Bible teachers and only read the books of those men whose theology they align themselves with. They are quick to categorize others by their theological bent and if they don't agree with their pet bullet points then they are either adversarial toward them or they ignore them altogether.

Paul addresses this in the early church and simply calls it immaturity. There is room in the body for variety and differences as long as the foundation is Jesus Christ. He is the great constant. Paul's antidote for spiritual immaturity is to pursue Christ; not through the slant of a particular author's eyes but through a deep and abiding love for the Word of God alone and a willingness to embrace the cross of Christ. The cross of Christ, not human doctrines, is the message Paul declares must be preached. Anything less leads to spiritual elitism and division.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Corinthians 1:1-4:21
  • How does Paul describe the church of God in Corinth?
  • Even though Paul has a high regard for the church what problem does he point out? What does this tell you about the church?
  • What was the source of their quarrels?
  • What does he say should be the central message of the church and how should that message affect the church?
  • What is central to the Jews? Greeks? the Church?
  • What are the characteristics of worldliness?
  • What analogy does Paul use to describe the importance of unity among believers?
  • Why is the church's foundation so important?
  • How does Paul describe his and Apollos' relationship?
  • How does Paul view his position in the church?
  • What does Paul teach, by example, about church leaders?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to show you how central the cross of Jesus Christ is in your words, in your witness and in your life pursuits.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Winning Team (2 Thessalonians 2:8)

"And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming."

Watching a game go into overtime, especially during an end of the season bowl game keeps viewers and players alike tensely on edge. Watching a replay of the past sporting event where you already know the outcome, however, is much more relaxing.

Tension builds as followers of Jesus all over the world ask questions such as "Are we living in the last days?" and "Are we moving toward a one-world government/leader?".

The Thessalonian believers lived in such turbulent times and their political environment prompted them to ask similar questions. Paul addresses their fears and calms their hearts by reassuring them that the Risen One, the Lord Jesus Christ, would one day intervene "And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendor of His coming."

I remember the panic in the late 1970's when a noted Christian leader prophesied of soon coming persecution on Christians. Some believers acted in fear and bought and stored a year's supply of freeze-dried food. The fear of the unknown prompts people to do strange things.

We may sometimes feel that we are living in spiritual "overtime", but we are not to allow fear to rule our hearts. We know the end is sure (and near), more importantly, we know the One who has written the last chapter. Let genuine faith in Him displace the fear that rises in your heart during troubled times and remember the Psalmist's words, "Whenever I am afraid I will trust in you" (Psalm 56:3).

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3:18
  • What will enable believers to not be deceived and to stand firm during the last days?
  • How does Paul invite or include the Thessalonian believers in his ministry?
  • Why does Paul warn the believers about idleness?
Acts 18:18-19:41
  • What role do Priscilla and Aquila serve in the ministry?
  • What is Apollos' source of authority?
  • Why does Paul question the Ephesian believers about their baptism?
  • What does this tell you about baptism?
  • What causes the name of the Lord Jesus to be held in high honor?
  • What event caused the Gospel to spread widely and powerfully?
  • Why was Demetrius so disturbed about the Way?
  • Who does God use to "calm the people down"?
  • What does this reveal about God?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank our Lord Jesus Christ for the promise of His coming and the sure defeat of the enemy.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Risk Tolerance and Ministering to People (1 Thes. 2:19)

"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?"

One of the first things financial planners do when they sit down with a potential client is to assess their risk tolerance. Each person has a different propensity for risk. When investing, this risk propensity can be used to determine the percentage of your portfolio invested in various options from low risks (bonds and CD's) to high risks (equities).

Paul was a risk taker and all sorts of people were his investment as he went from town to town preaching Jesus and looking for those in whom he could invest the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To be a Gospel and people investor you'll need to know your risk tolerance for:
  • Rejection - Paul faced constant opposition from his own people
  • Suffering - Paul faced angry crowds who stoned him; he spent time incarcerated under inhumane conditions; he was beaten, whipped, ship-wrecked, etc.
  • Disappointment - Paul surrounded himself with supportive team mates (Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Titus, etc.) but every now and again people let him down (John Mark and Demas)
  • Hard work and difficult working conditions - Paul was a tent maker by trade and often supported his ministry efforts through his tent making which required time and attention
  • Imprisonment - Paul spent many of his later years under arrest
  • Dependency on others - Paul relied on others to meet basic needs and to assist him in ministry
Paul had a high tolerance for people investment which was rewarded when he was able to say about the Thessalonians "you are our hope, joy, and crown in which we glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when He comes." Tent making met Paul's needs while he invested in people but none of those tents remain today while his ministry to people lives on. Most Christians spend their lives making tents instead of taking the gospel to people and investing in their spiritual development. Any one can invest in making tents; God looks for those with a high risk tolerance who are willing to take the Gospel and invest in people.

Having a low risk tolerance for ministry is inexcusable and doesn't exempt any believer from investing the Gospel in the lives of the people all around him. It simply means you've got a lot to work on and to overcome. Get busy.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Thessalonians 2:17-5:28
  • What does Paul's sending Timothy to Thessalonians tell you about Paul? tell the Thessalonians about Paul?
  • What are the components of Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians?
  • What kind of instructions does Paul give to the people?
  • What does this tell you about Paul's role and relationship with the people?
  • What does Paul teach them about those who have already died?
  • What does this teaching do for the people?
  • What does Paul teach them about the coming day of the Lord?
  • How are they to prepare for that day?
  • Which two pieces of soldiers apparel does Paul use to describe their readiness?
  • How are the people to treat the contents of this letter?
2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
  • How does Paul encourage the believers?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to help you to see people in the same way Paul saw people.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Faith, Hope, and Love (1 Thes. 1:3)

"Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father."

A common theme in Paul's letters is the triumvirate of faith, hope, and love. We see them most clearly in the Love Chapter where Paul says "and now abide faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13).

While faith, hope, and love evoke warm thoughts and make cute charms on a bracelet or necklace, to Paul these were not mere words; they are imbued with life. In I Thessalonians 1:3, he links faith with works, love with labor, and hope with endurance. Genuine faith manifests itself in Christian works. Real love manifests itself in selfless service for others, and real hope allows believers to endure difficulties with grace. None are static.

A love that doesn't serve selflessly is not love at all. A hope that doesn't persevere is not true hope. A faith that doesn't work - producing Christian conduct and character--is dead faith.

Paul commends the Thessalonians for their vibrant faith, genuine love and living hope. Faith, coupled with repentance, is evident as they turn to God from idols to serve the living God (1:9); love shows up in their behavior toward other believers (1:7); and hope manifests itself in their enduring severe suffering (1:6). Faith, hope, and love are not lucky charms but lifestyle characteristics of those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, genuine faith, hope and love produce evangelism: "The Lord's message ran out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia--your faith in God has become known everywhere" (1:8).

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Acts 17:1-18:17
  • What is the initial response to Paul's preaching in Thessalonica?
  • How do the Bereans differ from those at Thessalonica?
  • Why and how does Paul change his Gospel approach to those at Athens?
  • How do the Thessalonicans, Bereans, Athenians, and Corinthians differ in their response to Paul and the Gospel message?
I Thessalonians 1:1-2:16
  • What does Paul say that most certainly encourages the Thessalonian believers?
  • How does Paul describe his ministry in Thessalonica?
  • What keeps Paul grounded/focused in spite of suffering for preaching the Gospel?
  • What two comparisons does Paul use to describe his ministry among those at Thessalonica? What does this teach us about how we are to minister to those around us?
  • How does Paul describe the Jews who resisted the Gospel themselves and persecuted those who've come to faith in Christ Jesus?
Turning truth into prayer:
Paul exhibits genuine faith, love, and hope as do the Thessalonian believers. Ask the Lord to show you where you lack genuine faith, hope, and love.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Valuable Conflict (Acts 15:36-39)

"Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, since he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had a sharp disagreement."

Since John Mark had not proved to be a faithful servant of the Lord, Paul, not taking any chances with more disappointment, chose not to permit him to accompany him and Barnabas on the next leg of their missionary journey. They, in fact, had a sharp disagreement over John Mark's usefulness.

What happens when two strong leaders disagree? Sometimes it is better to part company. Neither party is wrong with their decision. They simply have different goals; Paul's goal concentrates on strengthening existing church plants while Barnabas' goal emphasizes restoring fallen workers.

Barnabas had taken Paul up under his wing when no one else would take a chance with him years earlier. Barnabas takes another chance, this time with someone who has failed miserably in the ministry. Neither party knew that a beating and jail time awaited Paul and Silas. Had John Mark accompanied them on this particular journey he would not have been able to sing along with them in prison. In fact, the Philippi episode would have sent him over the ministry cliff. God, in His providence, prevents John Mark from spending the remainder of his life being defined by failure. Because he accompanies Barnabas instead, he is able to mature and become useful to Paul later on. Isn't God good?

Truths about conflict:
  • Conflict happens
  • All conflict isn't bad
  • Conflict happens between strong godly leaders and sometimes neither is completely wrong
  • Conflict creates opportunities that otherwise would not exist
  • God uses conflict to accomplish His own purposes
Sometimes disagreement occurs between strong and godly leaders. Whose to say which one is in the wrong? Sometimes disagreement has less to do with one or the other being in the wrong and more with which course of action to take. John Mark received a mentor in the deal and Paul received a mentee. Both teams prospered and the kingdom of God continued through the lives of all four men.

Conflict is a great teacher--to those willing to learn from it.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Acts 15:1-16:40
  • What causes conflict between Jewish background believers and Gentile believers?
  • Upon what authority do the Apostles base their decisions?
  • What causes a sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas? What does this tell you about early Christian leadership?
  • Read 2 Timothy 4:11 and describe Paul's later relationship with Mark
  • How does Paul make travel decisions? What does this teach you about the Holy Spirit?
  • What is the first thing Paul does when he arrives in Philippi?
  • How does Lydia identify herself as a fellow believer?
  • From where does the slave girl receive supernatural power and what happens when she is freed from demonic possession?
  • What kind of problems and ministry does her deliverance create for Paul and Silas?
  • What characterizes the jailer's life after he believes in Jesus Christ?
  • What does this tell you about salvation?
Turning truth into prayer
Do you have animosity and unforgiveness toward another believer? Ask the Lord to show you how He is seeking to use it redemptively in your life.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Sowing to the Flesh, Sowing to the Spirit (Galatians 6:8)

"The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."

Sowing to the flesh. Paul states that the acts of the sinful nature are obvious and then proceeds to list them in 5:19-21. They actually fall into three categories:

Sexual sin:
  • Sexual immorality
  • Impurity
  • Debauchery (Excessive indulgence of the appetites; especially, excessive indulgence of lust; intemperance; sensuality; habitual lewdness)
Spiritual sin:
  • Idolatry
  • Witchcraft
Social sin:
  • Hatred
  • Discord
  • Jealousy
  • Fits of rage
  • Selfish ambition
  • Dissensions
  • Factions
  • Envy
  • Drunkenness
  • Orgies
Entertaining sexual images through books, magazines and Internet, watching questionable movies and having inappropriate interaction with others stimulate sexual urges. Reading the horoscope, playing games and watching movies with evil/demonic overtones, etc. open people up to demonic activity. Unforgiveness, jealousy, competing with others and by being divisive, etc. break down relationships. These sowing activities excite the sinful nature, twist and destroy the good that God has for man.

Sowing to the Spirit. How does a person sow to the Spirit so that they produce love, joy, peace, etc (5:22-23)? What attracts the Spirit's work in our life? Humility, forgiveness toward others, prayer, reading/studying/memorizing the Word, and obedience. These acts/attitude welcome His presence. Sowing is work; it is your part. When you do your part then the Holy Spirit has greater access to your life. The more access He has to you the more your life will reflect Christ. The Spirit doesn't take over an unsurrendered life.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading

Galatians 4:8-6:18
  • How does legalism affect the loss of joy?
  • What characterizes the leaders of legalism?
  • How do Sarah's son and Hagar's son differ?
  • What does this analogy teach us about those born of the Spirit and those who are legalists?
  • How does anyone walk in freedom?
  • So, if the law doesn't save will it assist anyone in keeping a reign on the desires of the sinful nature?
  • What is a believer's only hope and help?
  • What is the one "law of Christ" believers are responsible for and how will this play out in our lives?
  • What does the Holy Spirit do in the lives of those who've been born of Him that makes him a victor over the world and the flesh?
Turning truth into prayer
Sons of promise appropriate truth and walk by the Spirit while slaves keep rules and regulations. Ask the Lord to help you appropriate truth and begin by thanking Him for the Holy Spirit's presence in your life, acknowledge His work in overcoming the sinful nature, and welcome His involvement in your life today.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Faith Goes Behind Enemy Lines (Galatians 3:21-25)

"Is the law, therefore,opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe."

The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ releases prisoners from the chains of sin. The Law offers no help in releasing those held imprisoned by sin. In fact, the best the Law can do is stand by and watch, condemn, and impair any escape by guilty sinners. Furthermore Paul clearly states that the Law's greatest failure is that it cannot give dead men life, "For if there had been a law given which could have given life truly righteousness would have been by the Law" (3:21b). Faith in Christ moves beyond the visible barrier of the Law and unlocks the chains of guilt and sin.

This amazing transaction takes place when guilty sinners put their trust in the work of Christ alone as the One who completely obeyed the Law, paid the penalty for those who broke that Law, and rose again in victory over the death for sin that the Law demanded.

This is the heart of the Gospel. That's why Paul and Peter came to verbal blows. Much more was at stake than eating rights at the table; at the center of this seemingly innocent controversy rested the full truth of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Galatians 1:1-4:7
  • How does teaching salvation by works or keeping the law pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
  • What place did the law have in Paul's life before his conversion?
  • What is the root of hypocrisy/legalism?
  • Why does Paul confront Peter?
  • What does Paul unequivocally teach about the law/faith in Christ?
  • How does anyone possess or gain righteousness?
  • Who does Paul use from the Old Testament to teach salvation by faith?
  • Since keeping the law doesn't save what is the purpose of the law?
  • What does the law actually do to a person? How is anyone freed from sin?
  • What does the Holy Spirit do within every believing heart?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank God that salvation comes through Jesus Christ and not by keeping the law. Ask the Lord to help you appropriate the truth about sonship and the Holy Spirit's presence in your life.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Joy and the Holy Spirit's Presence (Acts 13:52)

"And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Spirit."

You can fake happiness but joy can't be faked nor human-engineered. In fact, when Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, which includes joy, he makes sure that we understand that no law kept will produce joy by stating at the end of his list "against such there is no law" (5:23b).

The Holy Spirit produces joy as He fills the inner man with His presence. How does that happen? Just as a surgeon's glove remains useless unless filled by the hand of a surgeon so the believer has to offer himself/herself to the Lord for His filling. The Psalmist equates the presence of God with the presence of joy, "In Your presence is fullness of joy evermore" (Psalm 16:11b). Not only will joy bubble out of the surrendered believer's life but usefulness to the Lord and guidance by the Holy Spirit will become a way of life.

Lack of joy indicates that the Holy Spirit has been grieved by the presence of unrepented sin. Joy, then, is an excellent indicator of the Holy Spirit's presence and activity.

Questions for today's Chronological reading:
Acts 13:1-14:28
  • How does God speak and direct the early church?
  • How does Elymas use his influence? What does this tell you about those in opposition to church leaders?
  • How does Paul respond to Elymas? What does this teach you about how to respond to those in opposition?
  • List the points in Paul's message to those in Pisidian Antioch.
  • How does Paul prove Jesus' resurrection?
  • What does Paul explain about the law?
  • How do the towns people and the Jews differ in their response to Paul's message?
  • Who do the Jews use to stir things up against Paul?
  • What does Paul recognize about the crippled man?
  • How do the crowds respond to Paul's healing of the cripple?
  • What does this tell you about crowds? about leaders interested in having a large following?
  • What do Paul and Barnabas teach the people about the kingdom of God?
Turning truth into prayer
Just as the hand of a surgeon transforms a latex glove into something useful so the Holy Spirit transforms the lives of those who offer themselves, by faith, to His filling. Appropriate this truth now by offering yourself to the Lord in surrender and thank Him for His filling.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Dreaded "S" Word (James 4:7)

"Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).

Submission, the despised "S" word, is a training issue. Once your intellect understands the value of submission, it informs the will to soften its neck and bow its knee in surrender. It all comes back to one's view of God. We think that a compassionate and merciful God should remove suffering. No, He simply converts suffering, for the saint, into something redemptive. Joni Eareckson-Tada sums this up best, "Suffering is when God uses what He hates in order to accomplish what He loves."

Unbowed people covet, fight, and quarrel. Why? They don't believe that God is at work in their lives or that He can be trusted with their welfare. Submission first begins with God, "Submit yourselves to God."

James uses Job (5:11, emphasis added) as an example of submission to God during suffering, "You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." Because we know the end of Job's story we see the value of submission to God during suffering. And it is submission to God in suffering--not merely submission to suffering itself, which is what happens to a lot of people; they become a martyr--full of bitterness.

When we only see the natural realm, suffering seems futile; yet God uses the suffering in the natural realm to accomplish eternal wealth in the spiritual realm. Think of Jesus' attitude toward suffering, "Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame and has set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). Christ's suffering did not diminish His joy. 

Enough said. 

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
James 4:1-5:20

  • What are the symptoms or indicators that a person is proud?
  • What characterizes humble people?
  • How does James describe the attitude of those who are wealthy?
  • What is James' solution to quarreling, fights, and worldliness?
Acts 11:19-12:25
  • How does the Gospel spread to Antioch?
  • Describe Barnabas.
  • What events does God use to get Saul to Antioch? What does this tell you about how God works?
  • What event brings the body of Christ together in prayer?
  • How does Peter escape? Does Peter expect to be released by an angel?
  • How does God deal with Herod? What does this tell you about God? about leaders?
Turning truth into prayer
Are you suffering? Ask the Lord to help you trust Him to convert your pain into something redemptive.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Professional Bailouts (James 1:2-4; 12)

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

What does it mean to persevere? And under what conditions do we do so?

Perseverance - to remain steady in a course of action, especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement.

Place that definition into James' statement "Consider it pure joy, my brothers [and sisters], whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. [Remain steady and stay the course] so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Americans are bailout "professionals". We bailout:
  • When marriage becomes difficult we divorce
  • When church becomes difficult we either quit or transfer our membership to another church
  • When job situations become tough we print out multiple resumes and look for another position elsewhere
  • When emotional pain becomes unbearable we resort to coping medication (both legal and illegal)
  • When adult children make continued irresponsible decisions we bail them out
"Bailing out" has become a defining characteristic of American culture, but for followers of Jesus Christ, bailing out isn't an option. With every bailout people become weak-willed wimps, pathetic, and remain infantile in their faith and experience of God. Persevering through difficulties and trials matures believers.

God uses the tough stuff to toughen our stuffing (our internal resolve to become mature believers). The path to maturity leads through fields of disappointment, hurt, and sometimes, unbearable pain. It is always too soon to bail out. The saints of God must rediscover what it means to persevere.

Questions for today's Chronological reading:
James 1:13-3:18 (James has been called "The Proverbs of the New Testament")
  • Read Proverbs 12:27b and record one of man's greatest possessions.
  • How does God reward those who persevere under trial?
  • What is the difference between a trial and a temptation?
  • Read Genesis 4:5-8 and record how Cain's anger affected him and others.
  • How does James describe true religion?
  • Define discrimination (1:9-11; 2:1-11)
  • How does James define genuine faith?
  • Why is James' promise in 1:5 so vital in light of his teaching on the tongue?
  • Describe the difference between godly wisdom and earthly wisdom.
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to reveal to you areas in your life where you've given up and bailed out. Ask Him to help you get back on the track of maturation.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

God's Strategy (Acts 10:19-20)

"While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them."

God strategically and simultaneously operates on multiple fronts. 

Scene one has a man named Cornelius in Caesarea having a vision where an angel of the Lord gives him instructions to fetch a man named Peter from Joppa.

Scene two has Peter in Joppa having three strange conversations during a single vision involving animals and sheets while upon the rooftop in the middle of the day.

God prepares each to encounter the other; and this exchange will change the course of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This isn't the first time we see this principle, that God works simultaneously on multiple fronts, at work. Early on in Israel's history God prepares, in the old country, a spouse for Abraham and Sarah's son, Isaac, in Canaan (Genesis 22:20-24). Neither Isaac nor Rebekah is unhappy with the arrangement.

Think about how God works in the lives of those taken captive to Babylon (Daniel, Esther, etc.) while He also works in the lives of the remnant remaining in Jerusalem (Hulda, Jeremiah, etc.). This simple truth seen in these narratives and many others, may seem insignificant to some but to the parent who has a prodigal wondering out there somewhere and to the single girl or guy fulfilling God's calling while waiting upon God's partner this truth keeps the coals of faith red hot.

Through these events Peter realizes the sovereign hand of God working behind the scenes to accomplish purposes bigger than those of Peter or anyone around him can see or understand at the time until both scenes intersect.

Only an eternal vantage point allows the believer to see what God is up to. Faith in the God who works of two fronts simultaneously will carry you through when all you see is the here and the now.

Questions for today's Chronological reading:
Acts 9:32-11:18
  • What event brings Peter from Lydda to Joppa?
  • What kind of testimony does Tabatha have with those in Joppa?
  • Who is Cornelius and what is taking place in his life?
  • What does Peter learn about God, about the gospel, about himself, and about the Gentiles through his vision and later interaction with Cornelius?
  • How does the Lord speak specifically to Peter? What does this teach you about the Holy Spirit?
  • Remember the disciples' discussion about which disciple was the greatest earlier on? What happened in Peter's life that cured him of using his relationship with Christ to fulfill personal ambition?
  • What does God do to confirm that the gospel of Jesus Christ includes Gentiles?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to allow you to see how your life and obedience connect with the lives of others as He carries out His purposes in our generation.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Using God (Acts 8:18-19)

"And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, "Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit."

Are you trusting God today or are you using Him?

Luke records the story of the ten lepers who came to Jesus to be healed. Nine of the lepers received their healing and turned away. The tenth, a Samaritan, returned to thank Jesus for this great gift. He alone received healing and salvation. He wasn't using God; he was trusting God.

The central figure in this narrative is also a Samaritan but he seeks to use the power of God rather than trust the God of power. When he sees the amazing work of the Holy Spirit through Peter and John he offers money with which to buy this power. Peter rightly diagnoses his motives, immediately rebuking him for a heart not right with God that is poisoned by bitterness and twisted by immorality.

We are all tempted to use God rather than trust Him. Rather than depend upon Him in a crisis we demand He fix our problem on our time table. God, however, patiently exposes the motives of our hearts to lead us to repentance. God will not be used.

The nine lepers got what they wanted but not what God really wanted to give them. When you are tempted to use God beware lest He give you what you want and "send leanness to your soul" (Psalm 106:15)

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Acts 7:54-9:31
  • What does Steven say about Jesus that angers the Sanhedrin?
  • What does Stephen recognize about the body and the soul?
  • What characterizes the lives of those who've been scattered by the persecution?
  • Why was Simon drawn to Philip and his message? What does this tell you about how some view the gospel ministry?
  • What does Philip recognize about Simon? 
  • How does Philip share the good news with Jesus Christ?
  • What does the Ethiopian understand about belief? baptism?
  • How does God capture Saul's attention?
  • What does God's instruction to Ananias require of him?
  • What plan does the Lord have in store for Saul and how does God communicate this plan?
  • Describe the change in Saul following his conversion.
  • How does Barnabas relate to Saul? Do you have a Barnabas-like figure in your life and are you a Barnabas to others?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to show you where you use the gospel for personal validation. Ask Him also to help you become more aware of your responsibility to come alongside of others and of the people to whom you are encourage.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Unstoppable God (Acts 5:38-39)

"For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God."

Joseph's brothers learned that God's plan is unstoppable.

Moses learned that God's plan is unstoppable. God spoke to Abraham hundreds of years earlier about their 400 year sojourn in Egypt and their departure, therefore Pharaoh was powerless to prevent Israel from leaving Egypt.

Nebuchadnezzar, comes to understand this same truth in Daniel 4:35 when he says "All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'"

God uses even Gamaliel's speech to inform the high priest that God's plan is unstoppable and to prevent the chief priest from killing the disciples even though Gamaliel isn't a follower of Jesus Christ.

Biblical history proves that God can be trusted to accomplish His will even in the midst of trouble, economic instability, and persecution. With this truth tucked away in their hearts the disciples boldly proclaim Jesus as the Messiah and one of His first deacons, Stephen, doesn't worry about being politically correct as he preaches his last message.

How would the church look today if her men (and women) believed and acted on this truth and preached and taught as if they serve an unstoppable God, even if it meant that their message was their last?

"Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure'" (Isaiah 46:9-10). Oh, glorious truth! Tuck it away in your heart and live it out in all that you do. He is the unstoppable God!

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Acts 5:17-7:53
  • Why are the apostles imprisoned?
  • How and why does the Lord deliver them?
  • What does Gamaliel recognize about the situation?
  • How do the apostles view their suffering?
  • What causes division in the early church? What does this tell you about the first Christian community?
  • How is the dispute resolved? What happens as a result?
  • What is the apostles main role?
  • How do the enemies of the Gospel begin their attack on Stephen and the gospel?
  • How does Stephen begin his defense?
  • Why does Stephen mention Joseph's brothers and their jealousy?
  • How are the people under Moses' leadership similar to the people in Jesus' day?
  • How does Stephen apply Israel's past with what is taking place in the present?
  • What does this narrative teach about people in general?
Turning truth into prayer
Praise the Lord for His wisdom and might. Praise Him for His ability to accomplish His purposes even in the midst of persecution. Ask the Lord to make you, in this generation, like His men and women of old.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

When Cripples Are Healed (Acts 3:7-8)

"And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them--walking, leaping, and praising God."

Change is a wonderful thing. Once a caterpillar becomes a butterfly it will never be the same. It will never again crawl around on a bunch of legs, but will fly; nor eat leaves but puddle (drink through a straw-like mouth).

Can't you see the headlines of The Jerusalem Post: Crippled man of forty years healed. Everyone knew Beggar Bo (short for Boaz). Unable to work the crippled man spent his days laying outside the gate of the temple courts begging. The day that Peter and John enter the temple courts to pray changes Beggar Bo's life forever. Expecting a few coins the beggar receives a gift beyond his wildest imagination when he is healed. Consider the changes healing brings to him:
  • He could never beg again
  • He would have to learn a trade and find a job
  • His family wouldn't carry him around anymore and would expect him to become a productive contributor to the family
Walking, jumping, and praising God the beggar enters the temple courts, the place off limits to those whose physical bodies were crippled. Never mind all those who enter with whole bodies but crippled souls. For the first time in his life he can freely enter the temple courts. When a person repents of his sins and turns to Jesus Christ he too will never be the same:
  • He won't be able to continue living a life of sin.
  • Others will hold him accountable for his attitudes and service.
  • How he relates to all others will change.
  • He'll have new struggles (those which accompany being able to walk and work).
  • He will become a contributor to the kingdom of God instead of a drain.
Just as changes take place when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly so changes accompany the healing power entering the beggar's physical body. Just as healing power enters the body of the beggar and changes his life so certain changes accompany the entry of the Spirit of God into a repenting believer's life. Changes in relationships, activities, and attitudes. And that's a good thing.

Commenting on this change within a person Oswald Chambers states in his November 12th My Utmost For His Highest reading:
"The experience of salvation means that in your actual life things are really altered, you no longer look at things as you used to; your desires are new, old things have lost their power. . . Has God altered the thing that matters? . . . If you are born again, the Spirit of God makes the alteration manifest in your actual life and reasoning."

When cripples are healed there is no going back to the lifestyle of a cripple.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Acts 3:1-5:16
  • How does Peter utilize the healing event?
  • How does Peter describe his ability to heal?
  • What response does Peter's message demand from the people?
  • What does Peter's message teach about God?
  • Why do the rulers, elders and teachers of the law arrest Peter and John?
  • What do the rulers, elders, and teachers recognize about Peter and John?
  • What are some of the changes which have taken place in Peter's life since his betrayal of Jesus Christ?
  • How do the believers respond to Peter and John's release?
  • What do they recognize about Scripture?
  • How do the disciples pray about their opposition?
  • How are we to pray for our adversaries today?
  • How does the Christian community respond to all that God is doing in their midst?
  • What is Ananias and Sapphira's view of God?
  • How does their death affect the community and teach the people about God?
Turning truth into prayer:
What kind of changes is the Holy Spirit making in your life? Ask the Lord to open your eyes to His activity in your life.

Friday, November 11, 2016

After the Spirit Comes (Acts1:15,20; 2:16,26,34)

"And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples...and said...For it is written in the Book of Psalms . . . For this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel...

Before Pentecost Peter had more zeal than knowledge and he seemed a bit dense regarding spiritual truth (although he had confessed Jesus as the One who has the words of life). He struggled with unbelief and appeared stumped by Jesus' continual statements about fulfilling Scripture. (i.e. "this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law . . . "). That was before the Spirit came at Pentecost.

After the Spirit's arrival, Peter quotes Scripture in his decision making (choosing Judas' replacement). He quotes Scripture to teach about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He quotes Scripture to explain the Holy Spirit's activity at Pentecost.

It is after the Spirit comes that Peter becomes a Scripture quoting dude. "It is written..." "This was spoke by the prophet Joel... " "David said about Him..." Spirit-filled believers, like Peter, immerse themselves in the Scripture; they elevate the Scriptures; they obey the Scriptures; and they boldly proclaim the Scriptures.

Questions for today's Chronological Reading:
Mark 16:9-20
  • Why do the disciples not believe the witness of Mary and the two Emmaus Road travelers?
  • In spite of their lack of faith what does Jesus command the disciples to do?
  • What is He teaching them about belief/unbelief?
Acts 1:1-11
  • Why are the disciples commanded to remain in Jerusalem?
Acts 1:12-2:47
  • Who all were in the upper room?
  • What is Peter beginning to understand about the Scriptures?
  • What criteria do the disciples use to make Judas' replacement?
  • Describe the Holy Spirit's advent.
  • What else is taking place in Jerusalem?
  • What does this tell you about God? His work? How He orchestrates events?
  • How does Peter explain this amazing event?
  • What role do women have in the advent of the Holy Spirit?
  • What does the passage about David teach you about Jesus' trust in His Father and the Father's love for the Son?
  • How does David differ from Jesus?
  • What does Peter understand and explain about the resurrection of Jesus Christ?
  • How do the people respond to His preaching?
  • How does the resurrection, the advent of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of the Gospel affect Jerusalem? What does this tell you about the Holy Spirit's role in believers collectively?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to make you sensitive to the Holy Spirit's indwelling and His love for the Scriptures. Immerse yourself in the Scriptures and proclaim the Word with boldness.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Breath of God (Luke 24:49)

"I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

He's back! And He is inside of believers!

I like to think of the Holy Spirit waiting or hovering with excitement for the sixth day of creation when He would enter into freshly created humanity. Genesis 2:7 describes the creation of man: "The Lord formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7). Is that what the Holy Spirit had been hovering and waiting for all along? To enter man's spirit?

Job describes the breath of God in the spirit of man:
  • "But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding"
  • "The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life" (Job 32:8; 33: 4)
So what happened to Eve when she "saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom"? When she took and ate its fruit she chose an alternate source of wisdom instead of God's (Genesis 3:6). She (and Adam) rejected the understanding and knowledge gained by the Spirit's presence in her (their) life. When she ate of the tree's fruit she died. Not physically, but spiritually. The Spirit moved out.

That's why Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must experience the Spiritual birth. And, that's why Jesus speaks peace to the disciples and breaths on the them saying "Receive the Holy Spirit". He's back where He belongs -- in the spirit of man. No longer does He hover on the outside, as He did the first five days of creation, but He resides on the inside. That's why Pentecost is such a BIG deal to believers. Jesus' death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the Father made receiving the Holy Spirit possible.

It is interesting that Jesus links the presence of the Holy Spirit with forgiveness (John 20:22-23). Wherever the Spirit of God dwells the work of forgiveness takes place. Those born of the Spirit are forgivers. He's back to give life and provide forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness for me and forgiveness through me to others. Those who've been "breathed upon by God" are forgiven and forgiving people.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Matthew 28:11-15
  • What do the chief priests and elders do to continue their deception? (They misappropriate temple funds again)
  • How would you describe the chief priests?
Luke 24:13-35
  • How does Jesus explain the coming of the Christ to the two on the Emmaus Road?
  • What does Jesus do that reveals His true identity?
  • What had happened as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them?
  • What does this tell you about the Scriptures?
Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-23

  • Why do the disciples have such a hard time believing in Jesus' resurrection?
John 20:24-31

  • How does Jesus confront Thomas' unbelief?
  • How does Jesus describe those who will believe without actually seeing the risen Lord and what does He promise them?
Matthew 28:16-20

  • What instructions had Jesus given Peter and the other disciples before His arrest and crucifixion?
  • Describe the assignment given to the disciples and the provision enabling them to complete their assignment.
  • Does this assignment include Jesus' disciples today?
John 21:1-25

  • How does Jesus restore Peter?
  • What has Peter learned about himself over the past three years? About Jesus? About what it means to follow Jesus?
Luke 24:44-53

  • Why are the Scriptures easier to understand to some and not to others?
  • What have the Scriptures meant to Jesus throughout His life?
Turning truth into prayer:
Thank the Lord for the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Ask the Lord to open your heart and mind to the Scriptures. "Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things from Your law" (Psalm 119:18).

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Father Longings (John 20:17)

"Jesus said to her, "Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God'" (John 20:17). 

I grew up with a deep longing to have a loving dad like some of the other girls I knew. That desire became more intense throughout my teens and early twenties as I piled on a 'ginormous' amount of negative baggage from having the dad that I did have.

Ultimately what I was looking for was the kind of relationship Jesus had with His Father. You know, the one who affirms His children - "This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased." Every human heart was created to hear words of affirmation from the Father. Most, however, will never hear those words.

Mary Magdalene had to know the Son in order to experience the Fatherhood of God. Jesus' death and resurrection permitted Mary to experience Jesus as much more than a close family friend, but a conduit through which Mary could know God as "Father".

That's why Jesus' words "I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" arrests my heart every time I read them. Jesus calls God "My Father" thirty-five times in John's gospel alone. He describes himself as:
  • Taught by the Father (8:28; 12:50),
  • Has the Father's seal (6:27),
  • Experiences intimacy with the Father (5:20-21; 6:46, 57; 8:29; 10:15),
  • Given assignments by the Father to complete (5:36; 6:39; 10:18; 12:49)
Jesus' death and resurrection make the fulfilling of this Father-longing possible. His Father IS my Father! And the Father is just as crazy about me as He is with His Son, Jesus.

Back to my disappointing relationship with my earthly dad . . . His imperfections led me to the Father's perfections. I am no longer defined by my flawed relationship with my earthly father. I had to intentionally "let go" of the negative baggage and appropriate the truths revealed in Scripture about the Fatherhood of God.

Do you have unmet Father-longings? The following link will lead you to a helpful article called "Alphabet of the Father Heart of God". Print and meditate on the alphabetized character of God. To know Him is to love Him. Get to know the Father.

You will bless your spirit as you read John 14-17, and discover all that the Father is for you in Christ Jesus. Read it, make a list of your discoveries and appropriate its truths.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Mark 15:42-47; Matthew 27:57-61; Luke 23:50-56; John 19:38-42
  • Who is Joseph and what prepares him to respond to the death/burial of Jesus Christ in this manner?
  • Who is Nicodemus? (Review John 3:1:21)
Matthew 27:62-66
  • What do the chief priests and elders call Jesus?
  • What do the chief priests and elders do to prevent further "deception"?
Mark 16:1-8; Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-13
  • Who are the first people to know that Jesus has risen?
  • What are the angels instructions? To whom were they to go?
  • What does this tell you about Jesus' role for women?
  • What do the angels remind the women of?
  • Describe Jesus' relationship with the women.
Matthew 28:9-10; Luke 20:14-18
  • Describe Jesus' relationship with the woman.
  • How does He reveal Himself to her?
  • What promise does He make to her?
  • What message does He give her for the others?
  • What does this tell you about the first evangelist?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to show you His Father heart for you.