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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Seeing Eternally (Revelation 22:20)

"He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."

Near-sightedness (Myopia) occurs when the cornea is too curved or the eye is too long. Light passes through the eye but focuses before it reaches the retina causing blurred distance vision.

Far-sightedness (Hyperopia) occurs when the cornea is too flat for the eye. The light rays are focused behind the eye or far into the retina and causes blurred close-up vision.

Both may be corrected with glasses, contacts or refractive surgery.

Many followers of Jesus Christ are spiritually near-sighted (myself included) as we spend entirely too much time focusing on the immediate that the far away is blurred. Reading the Revelation of Jesus Christ sharpens my vision and reminds me afresh that the days of this earth, as we know it, are numbered. According to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, that "far off day" of the Rapture can occur at any moment which gives the warning in 16:15 such urgency, "Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”

Earlier in the Revelation Jesus challenges the church at Laodicia church to "anoint their eyes with eye salve that you may see" (3:18). We, too, need corrected spiritual vision so that we can see God's prophetic work in our world today, so that we understand that the end is closer than we previously thought, and, finally, so that we are ready for His appearance.

Just as near-sighted and far-sighted vision can be corrected by wearing glasses or having surgery so our spiritual vision must be corrected if we are to heed the Lord's warning and instruction. The corrective lens of prayer and the Word of God allow us to see the glory of the celestial city and the majesty of the God we serve so that the far off is more real than the immediate.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Revelation 19:1-22:21
  • What event causes such an uproar in heaven?
  • What three names are written on the rider who is called Faithful and True?
  • What prohibits Satan from his continual deceptions?
  • What is the purpose of the thousand year period and what takes place at its end?
  • How will sinners be judged?
  • What is predominant in New Jerusalem?
  • What will be noticeably absent in New Jerusalem?
  • Compare Genesis 1-3 with Revelation 21-22:
    Heavens and earth created (1:1) -- New heavens and earth appear (21:1)
    Sun created (1:16) -- no need of the sun (21:23)
    The night established (1:5) -- No night there (22:5)
    The seas created (1:10) -- No more seas (21:1)
    The curse announced (3:14–17) -- No more curse (22:3)
    Death enters history (3:19) -- No more death (21:4)
    Man driven from the tree and the garden (3:24) -- Man restored to paradise (22:14)
    Sorrow and pain begin (3:17) -- No more tears or pain (21:4)
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to correct your vision, to allow you to realize the eternal in the temporal.

Friday, December 30, 2016

When God Hands Out Musical Instruments (Revelation 16:5-6)

"You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve."

Chapter fifteen opens with the saints singing the song of Moses, the servant of the Lord and the song of the Lamb, accompanied by harps given out by God. When God hands out musical instruments it is time to sing.

After such global devastation the saints are singing while all others are cursing. What would cause such a song? Those who've partnered with the Devil and his demons finally get their just desserts.

Humanity has thumbed its nose at the Lord Jesus Christ for long enough. They've killed His servants; they've rejected His word; they've ignored His warning and they've hardened their hearts toward His call to repentance. Some people just will not repent. No amount of destruction will bring them to their knees. Therefore the wrath of God is poured out upon them. The rebellious ones reap the bitter fruit of their rebellion against the King and the King's army sing in honor of Him who is finally vindicated. Good! It is time to sing! No time for tears, but singing.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Revelation 15:1-18:24
  • What do the seven bowls contain?
  • What does this tell you about God? About sinners?
  • How do the people respond to the intense heat of the fourth bowl and the darkness of the fifth bowl?
  • What does this tell you about people?
  • What warning is given between the sixth and final bowl and to whom is the warning given?
  • The great prostitute is false religion. What characterizes false religion?
  • Who bears the brunt of false religion?
  • How is the great city of Babylon described and why is her downfall mourned?
Turning truth into prayer
It is easy to get so caught up in living that we forget the coming outpouring of God's wrath upon this world. Ask the Lord to help you "stay awake and be prepared". Ask Him to help you become spiritually alert and prayerful.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Overcomers (Revelation 12:10-11)

 "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."

The Apostle John describes believers as overcomers in I John and in the Revelation of Jesus Christ sixteen times. Believers overcome in the battle over sin and self, in the battle with the world's thinking and system, and in the battle with the enemy.

We have a real and powerful enemy but we are not left helpless to his accusatory attacks. Because the Seed of man (Genesis 3:15) has crushed the head of the serpent and we are in Him we can overcome - get the better of, gain the superiority over - the enemy. We must appropriate the victory of Jesus Christ over the enemy in our own lives. Passivity in the Christian life leads to defeat.

Victory is gained by appropriating the three-fold weapon:
  1. The blood of Jesus Christ is powerful and must be proclaimed; Christ's death won the victory. "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Oh, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow! No other fount I know. Nothing but the blood of Jesus." Christ came to die in order to defeat sin, death, and the devil.
  2. A bold personal testimony must be verbalized. There is something powerful in verbalizing what Christ has done on your behalf. A bold testimony, like a battering ram upon castle walls, damages the hold Satan has upon fallen man. It sparks faith and illumines darkness. 
  3. A consecrated life of self denial must be lived. Pampered Christians are unprepared to face difficulty, demonic activity, and death. Disciplined soldiers courageously prepare to die for their cause. Retreat and defeat are not an option.
Does the word "overcomer" or "spiritual wimp" define your relationship with sin, with the world and with the enemy? Overcoming is a marked characteristic of sold out individuals and churches of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Revelation 11:1-14:20 (It appears that most of the events described in these chapters take place after the rapture of the church during the seven year tribulation period)
  • Where do the events of chapter eleven take place?
  • What will happen after the resurrection of the two prophets?
  • How do the twenty-four elders describe the following three and a half years?
  • The woman in chapter twelve is symbolic of Israel who gave birth to the Christ. The red dragon is Satan. The conflict between the two actually began in the garden (See Genesis 3:15). During the tribulation a new and final wave of anti-Semitism will begin. The "rest of her offspring" is the church of Jesus Christ.
  • Read 1 Peter 5:8 and describe Satan's strategy.
  • Where does the beast derive his power? (The beast is a political leader from the United States of Europe and the dragon is Satan).
  • What is the goal of the dragon and how extensive is his influence?
  • What will happen to the first beast that will astound many?
  • What will enable the 144,000 to withstand the beast?
  • What will happen to those who worship the beast?
  • What analogy is used to describe the final days?
Turning truth into prayer
One only has to look at what is taking place worldwide, in the Arab world, and in Israel to see that we are moving rapidly toward the end times. We've nothing to fear.  Every time Jesus spoke about the end times He said "Watch and pray." Ask the Lord to help you remain awake, alert, and prayerful.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16)

"And said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb."

John the Baptist's words "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world," captures Jesus' life and redemptional mission. Jesus came as a sacrificial lamb to atone for the sins of guilty sinners. All who trust Him know Him as the Lamb of God and receive His forgiveness and cleansing of our sins.

We are so accustomed to hearing the childhood song "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so" that we don't often think of Jesus as a Lamb of wrath. In fact, those who've been born again will never know the wrath of the Lamb.

The Revelation of Jesus Christ presents Jesus Christ as a Sovereign King who will one day show wrath toward unrepentant sinners. Sinners during the Great Tribulation will seek holes in which to hide from the wrath of the Lamb, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!"

As I read The Revelation I am both comforted and terrified. I know that I shall escape the wrath of the Lamb but I also realize with greater intensity that many of those I saw yesterday shopping the "after Christmas sales" will not escape the wrath of the Lamb. After reading Dr. David Jeremiah's book "What In The World Is Going On?" I sense an urgency in my spirit that we are living in the last moments before the Rapture. The world's stage is being set and all of the players are rehearsing their role. I won't be here for the opening of the curtain but many of my loved ones will be here along with millions who've never heard the name of Jesus Christ. They will experience, not the sacrificial love of the Lamb, but the wrath of the Lamb. It is real and it is terrible.

We must warn them. We must tell as many as we can.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Revelation 6:1-10:11
  • What will the four horsemen and their riders bring upon the earth?
  • What question do those who've been martyred ask?
  • What does the sealing of the 144,000 tell you about God's plan for Israel?
  • How does God reveal His love for those wearing white robes and who've come out of the great tribulation?
  • What happens in heaven at the opening of the seventh seal? What does this tell you about this particular seal?
  • What happens to the unanswered prayers prayed by those who've suffered at the hands of others for the Gospel's sake? When will those prayers finally be answered? What does this teach you about prayer?
  • What type of invasion will occur in chapter nine?
  • How are those who were not killed by the plagues described? What does this tell you about mankind?
  • What does the appearing of the mighty angel in chapter ten indicate?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to help you digest the seriousness of the coming judgment of God upon the earth and to help you to become a bold witness of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Churches Have Personalities (Revelation 2:1; 2:8; 2:12; 2:18; 3:1; 3:7; 3:14)

 "To the angel of the church of Ephesus . . . Smyra . . . Pergamos . . . Thyatira . . . Sardis . . .  Philadelphia . . . Laodicea" (Revelation 2:1; 2:8; 2:12; 2:18; 3:1; 3:7; 3:14) 

Several truths emerge regarding the seven churches addressed in the Book of the Revelation:

1.  Church buildings come in all shapes and size and, like people, they each have their own personality. Churches generally take on the personality of their leaders:
  • Friendly pastors lead friendly churches;
  • Legalistic pastors who communicate rules and regulations lead legalistic churches;
  • Evangelistic leaders teach their people to become evangelistic churches;
  • Theologically liberal pastors lead their churches to become liberal;
  • Reformed leaders lead their churches to become reformed in their theology;
  • Giving pastors lead their congregations to become generous giving churches;
  • Financial responsible pastors raise financially responsible churches;
  • Missional pastors lead missional churches;
  • Praying pastors lead their people to become praying churches.
Your church has a personality. How would you describe your pastor and your church?

2.   Churches also have problems, just like the seven churches mentioned in Revelation chapters two and three. 

  • Left first love - "I have this against you, that you have left your first love" (2:4)
  • Fearful under persecution - "Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer" (2:10)
  • Compromise and sexual immorality - "You have there those who hold to the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality" (2:14)
  • Sexually immoral women in leadership - "You allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols" (2:20)
  • Undeserved reputation and apathy - "You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead" (3:1). "I have not found your works perfect before God" (3:2)
  • Lukewarm - "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot" (3:15-16). 
4.   Churches have potential. Each church in Revelation 2-3 is given a conditional promises to which they must respond in order to be restored to a place of blessing.

5.   Furthermore, every church and her leaders, like those in the first century, will one day answer to Jesus Christ for their influence in this world.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
As you read about the seven churches in Revelation chapter two and three make a list of the following:
  • Jesus' description
  • His omniscience (what He knows about each church)
  • His warning
  • His reward
  • His power
  • His promise
  • Satan's involvement
What do these passages teach about Jesus and His relationship with churches? About churches?

Revelation 4:1-5:14
  • What activity is taking place in heaven?
  • What question is asked that brought much weeping?
  • Why is Jesus able to open the the scroll?
  • What does all of heaven acknowledge about Jesus?
Turning truth into prayer
If the All Knowing One were to visit your church this Sunday what would He see? Pray that your church and your pastor will walk in the fear of God. Pray that your pastor will live in the light of God's presence and your church will glorify Christ in all that she is and does.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Born of God

"If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of Him" (1John 2:29; 3:9).

In 1 John, the Apostle John refers to the genuine follower of the Lord Jesus Christ as one who is "born of God":
  • Everyone who practices righteousness is born of God (2:29)
  • Whoever has been born of God does not sin (3:9)
  • He cannot sin, because he has been born of God (3:9)
  • Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God (4:7)
  • Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (5:1)
  • For whatever is born of God overcomes the world (5:4)
  • We know that whoever is born of God does not sin (5:18)
  • But he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him (5:18)
John wrote this epistle in response to false teaching and deceived "professors" (those who proclaimed belief in Christ but whose lives had never changed) in the early church. Many claimed the new birth but lacked corroborating evidence of such a birth.

In the Gospel of John, John records the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus where Jesus tells Nicodemus that "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3). (Religious people need to be born again too!) Jesus makes clear that this spiritual birth is one brought about by the Spirit. Every person enters this world "born of the flesh", separate from God and devoid of God's Spirit (thanks to the fall of Adam and Eve) and must be born of God's Spirit in order to "see the kingdom of God". Jesus said "You must be born again." (John 3:1-8)

Back to John's first epistle. He describes believers as those who have "His seed" (3:9). In other words, those who've been born again of the Spirit demonstrate familial characteristics. Because God is Light (1:5), God is righteous (2:29, 3:7), and God is love (4:8), those "born of God" will desire to walk in the light, act in righteousness, and love others and will be empowered to do so.

That's why John exclaims 'Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God!' What love, indeed, that we, the born again children of God have the very life of God residing in our spirit producing Father-resemblance.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 John 4:1-5:21
  • Continue the two column list of contrasts you began yesterday and the list of "know" statements.
  • How does John describe false teachers?
  • What does John's epistle teach about the devil, about the devil and the believer, and about the devil and those who've not entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ?
2 John 1:1-13
  • What distinguishing characteristic does John use to describe believers?
  • How are deceivers described?
3 John 1:1-14
  • Describe the difference between Diotrephes and Demetrius.
  • What does this tell you about the motives of false teachers and the character of genuine spiritual leadership?
Revelation 1:1-20
  • What was the purpose of Jesus' revelation to John?
  • What promise does John make to those who read and hear this revelation?
  • How does Jesus appear to John?
  • What is John's response to Jesus' appearance?
(As we finish the year reading The Revelation of Jesus Christ I would like to suggest you read Dr. David Jeremiah's fascinating book, "What In The World Is Going On" about the economy, the Arab world and Israel, and the prophecies being fulfilled in our day.)

Turning truth into prayer
Are you walking in darkness in any area of your life? Is there an area in your life that is not upright? Do you struggle loving others? These are spiritual problems with a Spiritual solution. Ask the Holy Spirit to manifest His overcoming power, the love of the Father and the righteousness of Christ in your life today.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Connecting Truth to Life (Hebrews 12:15)

"Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name."

Like a string of pearls the writer of Hebrews connects one truth with another and inserts "Let us" instructions along the way demonstrating that truth must be lived out--acted upon. Truth demands a response.

After he establishes the superiority of Jesus as High Priest over that of Moses and the inability of the children of Israel to enter into the land of promise due to unbelief and disobedience, he exhorts believers with five "Let us" statements:
  • Let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short . . . (4:1)
  • Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest . . . (4:11)
  • Let us hold firmly to the faith we profess . . . (4:14)
  • Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence . . . (4:16)
  • Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity . . . (6:1)
The writer then uses Abraham's relationship with Melchizedek to teach the superiority of Jesus Christ as High Priest and he demonstrates the superiority of the heavenly tabernacle and its service over that of the earthly tabernacle. He follows those teachings with five more "Let us" statements:
  • Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart . . . (10:22)
  • Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess . . . (10:23)
  • Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds . . . (10:24)
  • Let us not give up meeting together . . . (10:25)
  • Let us encourage one another . . . (10:25)
The writer then uses the men and women who walked with God from the Old Testament to demonstrate that everyone who has walked with God believed God's promise and walked in faith. That faith was never static, but it promoted the believer to act in faith. He concludes that truth with several more "Let us" statements:
  • Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles . . . (12:1)
  • Let us run with perseverance the race . . . (12:1)
  • Let us fix our eyes on Jesus . . . (12:2)
Finally the writer of Hebrews talks about the coming kingdom which cannot be shaken and the role of suffering and difficulty (until that kingdom comes) as disciplinary tools in the maturation process of believers. And he ends with two more "Let us" statements:
  • Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore . . . (13:13)
  • Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise . . . (13:15)
Truth cannot be disconnected from life. Truth and life should connect like beads strung together. How connected is your life to truth?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:

Hebrews 13:1-25
  • How does the final prayer ending this epistle fit with the overall theme of this book?
1 John 1:1-3:24
  • What are the implications of the statement "God is light" in the lives of those professing to have fellowship with the Father?
  • How can someone really know that he knows Christ?
  • Make two columns and make a list of the contrasts found in 1 John .
  • Make a list of the "by this we know", "if we know"; and "you know" statements.
  • What is a believer's relationship with the world's system?
  • How does John describe the Father's love?
  • What takes place in a believer that makes it difficult/impossible to live in a lifestyle of sin? (3:9)
  • How does love manifest itself in life?
  • How do believers know that He lives in us?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to help you to both know the truth and walk out the truth in your life.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The "Gap Life" (Hebrews 10:36, 38)

"You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he promised." But my righteous one will live by faith. If he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him."

Gap life: the distance between the promise given by God and the promise realized or experienced by man; the opportunity given by God whereby man appropriates the promises of God and learns to walk with God by faith.

A gap exists between the promises of God and the fulfillment thereof. Those in-between-spaces develop our faith muscle as we hang on to the promises of God in spite of what we see or experience in the natural realm. Hebrews chapter eleven, the "Hall of Faith," lists those who walked with God by faith, those folk who lived "the gap life."

Consider Abraham. God promises him descendants when he is seventy-five years old in spite of the fact that his wife is barren. After ten years of "gap life" (they have the promise without any indication of its fulfillment), they decide to assist God in fulfilling His promise and bring Hagar into the mix. God doesn't need what they can do; Sarah's barrenness isn't an issue with Him and Hagar isn't the solution. Nearly fifteen more years of "gap life" pass before God does the impossible: He opens an old lady's womb and Sarah has the child of promise.

It takes faith in the promises of God to live the "gap life" and endurance to hold onto the promises of God when nothing seems to change in the natural realm. To have the promise, however, is to have the fulfillment. Nothing pleases the heart of God more than when His children simply take Him at His Word.

The writer of Hebrews addresses an audience of "gap lifers" who entertain returning to Judaism because the way is difficult and persecution abounds. Therefore, he demonstrates how superior the New Covenant (the way of faith in the promises of God) is over the Old Covenant. How they needed the reminder of the superiority of the New Covenant and this letter to the Hebrews must have encouraged them while living in the gap. Christ is superior to Moses, the Law, the priesthood and its sacrifices. And, how they needed to remember previous "gap lifers," those who received and acted on the promises of God.

"For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise . . . the just shall live by faith."

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Hebrews 10:19-12:29
  • List the five "Let us" statements that are the benefits of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus.
  • Why were the Jewish believers tempted to make light of what Christ has done for them?
  • How does the writer of Hebrews encourage the Jewish believers to embrace the life of faith?
  • Why are we debtors to those who've lived in faith before us? (11:40)
  • List the remaining "Let us" statements that summarize why we must endure "gap life" living.
  • What is God's purpose in discipline?
  • What does the writer say about God that causes him to list the string of warnings found in chapter twelve?
Turning truth into prayer
Are you struggling to live the "gap life" and to hold onto the promises of God when all in the natural realm seem to contradict those promises? Ask the Lord to remind you of His great and precious promises. Spend a few moments praising God for all that He has done for you in the New Covenant.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Last Will and Testament (Hebrews 9:16-17)

"In the case of a will it is necessary to prove the death of the one who make it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living."

What are death benefits? What someone gains at the expense of another's death.

A will directs who will receive someone's assets when he or she dies. In other words, death has to occur before the terms of the will can be executed.

I've never been a beneficiary of anyone's will. Well, except for Christ's. What are His death benefits? What do I gain from His death?
  • Complete salvation (7:25)
  • An eternal intercessor (7:25)
  • A changed mind and heart (8:10)
  • A relationship with God (8:10)
  • Complete forgiveness of sin (8:12)
  • Inner cleansing or a cleansed conscience (9:9,14)
  • An eternal priest, eternal sacrifice, eternal forgiveness (9:24-26; 10:18)
An old joke goes, "Where there is a will, I want to be in it!" No earthly will contains such amazing benefits. What can be gained by the death of anyone on earth cannot be compared by the benefits gained through Christ's death.

How can you be sure that you are a beneficiary of the Last Will and Testament of Jesus Christ? Saving faith in Christ alone, apart from any works, secures your inheritance. His death insures that I inherit all that His death secured for me and His resurrection imparts what His death secured. How blessed I am to be named as beneficiary to His will. I must read and know the will, however, in order to appropriate its contents. They are mine for the taking.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading: Hebrews 7:1-10:18
  • What purpose did the earthly sanctuary/tabernacle serve?
  • Make two columns and list the differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant (place, priest, benefactors, terms, burden of sin, etc).
  • What point does the writer of Hebrews make about Abraham/Melchizedek, Israel/Aaron and high priests?
  • Make two columns and list the differences between Israel's high priest and Jesus Christ.
  • What takes place in the hearts of people under the terms of the New Covenant that doesn't take place under the Old Covenant?
  • What does the continual need for an annual offering demonstrate under the Old Covenant?
  • How can we know for certain that our sins have been forgiven?
Turning truth into prayer
Read Hebrews 10:19-22. Thank the Lord Jesus Christ for being THE WAY into the Most Holy Place. Thank Him that He ever LIVES as the High Priest to make intercession for us. Worship the Lord with thanksgiving. Thank Him for cleansing your conscience from the guilt of sin. Lift up holy hands to the Lord (something Old Covenanters could not do!). Worship the Lord.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A King's Scepter (Hebrews 1:8; 4:16)

"But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of our kingdom." "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Queen Esther could not approach the king without his extending the royal scepter toward her, granting her permission to approach him (Esther 5:2; 8:4). To approach a king without his permission was to sign your own death warrant.

The scepter, an emblem of regal power and made of a simple rod with ornamentation on the end, represents royal authority. No one enters the presence of the king without his granting permission by the extension of his scepter. In the same way, no one enters into the presence of the King of the universe without his permission. Permission is granted only to those who are perfectly righteous. "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom" (Psalm 45:6; Hebrews 1:8).

Only Jesus Christ is perfectly righteous. When He entered heaven's throne room He entered on behalf of all those who place their trust in His righteousness. The scepter of God is the very righteousness of Jesus Christ which grants me continual entrance to His very presence. "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

Queen Esther had to wait for the king to extend his scepter in her direction in order to approach the throne. We have no need to wait for an extended scepter. Jesus' entrance into the throne room of God grants us continual entrance.

We DON"T enter into the presence of God because of our:
  • Church affiliation
  • Baptism
  • Prayer of repentance
  • Desire or need
We DO enter the presence of God because of the shining righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Praise Jesus for His righteousness!

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Hebrews 2:1-6:20
  • What is Jesus' relationship with mankind?
  • Why must Jesus Christ be fully human?
  • What role did Moses have in Israel and why is Jesus superior?
  • Why does the writer of Hebrews warn about unbelief and disobedience?
  • What does the writer of Hebrews convey about God that should cause us to walk in obedience?
  • Why can followers of Jesus Christ approach God with confidence?
  • How does Jesus differ from all the other high priests?
  • Why are the believers so immature in their faith?
  • What is the "rest" of God and how does a believer enter into that rest?
Turning truth into prayer
Thank Jesus for His entrance into the heavenly throne room of God. Thank Him for meeting the requirement of righteousness on our behalf. Sit in the throne room a while and share your heart and your petitions with the Living God. You are welcome into His presence.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Good Soldier (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

"Endure hardness with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs--he wants to please his commanding officer."

After candidates enlist in the military they spend time at boot camp where they begin their journey to become soldiers. Soldiers quickly learn that they are not their own, their time is not their own, and they learn how to function as a team member.
Boot camp:
  • Uniforms issued, haircuts and shots given
  • All personal stuff is boxed and sent home
  • Physical conditioning (rigorous training with a Drill Sargent (learn to follow orders, restricted diet and schedule)
  • Team building exercises
  • Weapon and safety training
  • Core values hammered into you (mental training)
Why does the military go to such measures to develop soldiers? Warfare requires men and women of discipline, team mentality, and training. Living and fighting in the desert or jungle under extreme conditions demands exceptional individuals and boot camp prepares them for that.

Paul, chained between soldiers, knows all too well about soldiers and what it takes to be a good one. He sees the parallels between good soldiering and living the Christian life. So, Paul encourages Timothy "to endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus". For Timothy to finish well he must be disciplined, physically fit, and a team player. Christians today must disengage in civilian affairs, live disciplined lives, and embrace other believers as teammates in order to endure the hardships ahead.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
2 Timothy 2:1-4:22
  • Even though Paul is chained to soldiers what remains unchained?
  • How does Paul view his imprisonment?
  • What instructions does Paul offer to reinforce his teaching about enduring hardness?
  • How does the devil seek to trap believers?
  • How do unbelievers differ from believers and how do they treat believers?
  • What role do the Scriptures play in the lives of those seeking to endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ?
  • What does Paul communicate to Timothy about God?
Hebrews 1:1-14
  • How does God speak today?
  • Why can the words and work of Christ be trusted?
  • What does the writer of Hebrews communicate about Jesus Christ?
Turning truth into prayer
Are you a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Where are you lacking? Ask the Lord to help you become more disciplined and more of a team player with other believers.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Triumvirate Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7)

"For God did not give us a spirit of fear but a spirit of love, power, self-discipline." (Emphasis added)

Paul's love for the triumvirate (any association of three in office or authority, any group or set of three equal in authority and in practice) is evident in nearly every letter and occurs twice in 2 Timothy chapter one (chapter two of 1 Thessalonians contains five such triumvirates).

Paul encourages Timothy to appropriate the triumvirate gift of God, the tri-fold spirit of love, power, and self-discipline. Why? Because:
  • Love without self-discipline is narcissism and love without power is mere sentiment.
  • Power without love is cruelty and power without self-discipline is abusive.
  • Self-discipline without love is legalism and self-discipline without power is simply religious activity.
Paul knew the strength of all three exponentially. Because he loved God and people, Paul endured suffering and hardship. And his love for God drove him into living a life of self-discipline. Love, power, and self-discipline characterize a well-balanced life.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Jude 1:17-25
  • List the characteristics which describe scoffers.
  • How are believers to behave (personally)? Interact with others?
  • What does Jude communicate to believers about God?
2 Peter 1:1-3:18
  • How does appropriating the promises of God benefit believers?
  • How are believers to be engaged in the process of developing the qualities that Peter lists?
  • How intentional are you in seeking to possess these qualities?
  • How effective and productive are you in possessing intimate knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?
  • What has Peter come to understand about the transfiguration of Jesus Christ which he witnessed years earlier?
  • How does Peter view the Scriptures in comparison to the Scriptures?
  • What will happen to false teachers (those who use the ministry for personal gain)?
  • Using Old Testament stories what does Peter teach about God and His interaction with the righteous and the wicked?
  • What does God's delay in His coming reveal about His heart?
  • What is Peter's main question regarding the coming judgment?
  • How then, in the light of His coming judgment, are we to live?
2 Timothy 1:1-18
  • What concern does Paul address as he begins his letter to a young Timothy?
  • What does Paul communicate to Timothy about God to strengthen him in the work of the gospel ministry?
Turning truth into prayer
All across the U.S., Christians are being marginalized because of their beliefs as scoffers abound in our courts and universities and false teachers teach "the good life now". Ask the Lord to strengthen and prepare the church for the last days. Thank Him that He rescues the righteous before He judges the wicked.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Called to Unjust Suffering (1 Peter 2:20-21)

"But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps."

Suffering. I'd rather not. No, really, I shouldn't have to. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll give it a pass.

How can anyone endure hurling insults or in modern terminology, verbal abuse and wounding, especially when Christian psychologists tell us we don't have to and that we must draw boundaries in order to prohibit abusers access to our lives? Try telling that to Joseph who endured constant sexual harassment in the workplace, experienced character assassination, and false imprisonment. Or to Christ, who suffered unjustly as he "bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."

Peter offers several keys to enduring unjust suffering:
  • Practice the presence of God - (verse 19) "if a man bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God". Peter quotes from Psalms 34:14 to remind the believer that "the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer"
  • Know that doing good provokes suffering
  • Surrender to God - (verse 23) "he entrusted himself to him who judges justly"
  • Trust God to work redemptively - God will retribute your suffering in his own time - God "judges justly" and "his face is against those who do evil"
Your view of God will determine whether you trust him during times of suffering and whether you endure seasons of suffering. Suffering becomes useless in our lives if we allow bitterness to creep in, anger against God to form a wall around our hearts, and when we attempt to bail out of our suffering (much suffering is inescapable) through escape mechanisms (drugs and alcohol, etc.).
It is no surprise then, that Peter plops the subject of suffering into the middle of his teaching on submission. No one has a problem with submission as long as things are going well; it is when difficulty arises that we rebel. That's why he instructs wives to submit to their husbands, just as Sarah did with Abraham. When does Sarah practice submission? During two-fold suffering:

(1) When they travel to Egypt to escape famine
(2) When Abraham uses her as a shield instead of trusting God to keep His promise of shielding him (Genesis 15:1).

How does Sarah respond? She "puts her hope in God". And God comes through for her. Not once, but twice. He sends a plague on Pharoah and he awakens and threatens to kill Abimelech if he doesn't release Sarah.

Yes, we will suffer unjustly. But God works redemptively in the midst of our suffering if we will trust Him.
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Peter 2:13-5:14
  • Why should believers practice submission to governing authorities?
  • How does suffering affect relationships?
  • What happens when we respond correctly in the midst of suffering (3:15)?
  • How does Peter describe "the suffering of God" (3:20)?
  • Why do those of the world "heap abuse" upon believers?
  • What hope do those who "share in Christ sufferings" have to sustain them?
  • How will Christ Himself minister to suffering saints?
  • Why must an believer address anxiety? What is the context of anxiety and the antidote?
Jude 1:1-16
  • How does Jude describe believers? Do you struggle with believing any one of these descriptions?
  • What warning does Jude give the church?
  • How are godless men described?
  • What promise does Jude give regarding the godless?
  • With whom does Jude compare the godless leaders?
  • What does Jude promise will happen to those who are ungodly?
  • What does this tell you about God?
Turning truth into prayer
Are you in the middle of unjust suffering? Thank the Lord! Ask Him to help you to trust Him to use this suffering in your life to conform you to the image of Christ.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Addictive Behaviors (Titus 3:3)

"At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures."

Caffeine, nicotine, pain medications, pornography, gambling, risky sex, overeating, alcohol, shopping, video games, Internet surfing, drugs (both legal and illegal), exercise, sports, co-dependent relationships, etc. claim power over many. Why? Because of the sense and extent of pleasure involved. Some addictions are soft (seemingly harmless): caffeine, video gaming, retail therapy, sports, etc. while others are hard (cause heartache and pain to self and to others): abuse of power, gambling, alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc.

We need food, sex, relationships, and relaxation in order to live. Sin however, has perverted or twisted these so that we not only need them but we are ruled by them.

Freedom from addictive behaviors should characterize believers and make us seem really strange to those around us.

Reading Titus should cause true Christians to engage in serious self-examination: do any of these behaviors control my life? Have I compromised by accepting these sinful behaviors as normative and by saying, "I will always be this way"? Am I held captive by anything other than the grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior?

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Titus 1:1-3:15
  • What is the main difference between qualified and unqualified elder candidates?
  • What three reasons does Paul give for the reverent behavior of believers?
  • How does Paul describe the believer's former behavior and what does that have to do with how they respond to those around them?
  • Why does Paul remind the believers of how they acted before they experienced the new birth?
  • What are the symptoms and the root causes of divisive behavior?
1 Peter 1:1-2:12
  • What is it about believers that make them "strangers in the world"?
  • How does God use the various trials believers go through?
  • What truths does Peter offer that should move believers toward living more disciplined lives as they embrace their position as strangers in this world?
  • Make a list of the social or interpersonal sins that inhibit spiritual growth. Which of these sins seem the most difficult to eradicate from your life?
  • How are believers to live among pagans and what will help the believer live that way?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to show you areas in your life in which you are in bondage. Ask Him to begin the process of emancipation in your life.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Spiritual Training (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

"Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things."

Should I want to train to run a marathon, I can google "training for a marathon" and find numerous sites offering plans to assist me in attaining my goal. Such sites offer training information for both experienced runners and beginners, health and nutrition, races and race strategies, injuries and injury prevention, and running equipment such as shoes, watches, heart-rate monitors, and so on.

While non-runners are sleeping in, watching TV or surfing the Internet, marathon runners are out running. They eat differently than non-runners and they invest in shoes and dress created with runners in mind. They run in the rain. They run when it is cold and when it is hot. They run alone and they run in groups. Most of all . . . they RUN!

Godliness, like marathon running, doesn't just happen; its pursuit is intentional and costly. Godly people are disciplined people who guard:
  • Their heart's affections -they are emotionally detached from worldly things (their validation doesn't come from what they own)
  • Their mind's attention - they are mentally focused on things of the Spirit (their imagination doesn't require constant entertainment)
  • Their physical indulgences - they are physically resistant to addictive behaviors (their appetites don't run undisciplined)
They spend time reading, studying and memorizing the Word while others surf the Internet and waste their time watching stuff on TV that has no redemptive value. They invest in others through evangelism and discipleship. Their spiritual training and discipline grants God access to their lives and creates an environment in which God is pleased to work. The following describes the difference between those under strict training and those who are not.

Others May, You Cannot (Published by the Faith, Prayer, and Tract League)

If God has called you to be really like Jesus he will draw you into a life of crucifixion and humility. God's call will put such demands of obedience on you that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians. At times, He will let other people do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians who seem very religious will push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans. You cannot, and if you attempt it, you will meet with failure and rebuke from the Lord.

Others may boast of themselves, of their work, or their successes, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you to despise yourself and all your good works.

Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor. God wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence upon Him, that He may demonstrate His faithful love for you in supplying your needs day by day.

God may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity in order to produce some fragrant fruit for his coming glory which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit for it now. The reward for your work is held in the hands of Jesus, and you will not see it until He comes.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you with a jealous love. He will rebuke you for the little words and feelings or for wasting your time. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own. He does not owe you an explanation of these mysteries. But if you give yourself to be His child, He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and give you the precious blessings for those who belong, heart and soul to Him.

Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit. It is His option to tie your tongue, or chain your hand, or close your eyes in ways that He does not seem to use with others. And when you are so possessed by the living God that your heart delights over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:

I Timothy 3:1-6:21
  • Why is the ministry desirable to some and why is the desire to be in the ministry not enough to qualify someone for being in the ministry?
  • What characteristics place leaders in danger of falling into the devil's trap?
  • Why are wives of ministry candidates also considered in the evaluation process?
  • Why does the Lord place such a high standard for church leaders?
  • What characterizes false teachers?
  • Why does Paul establish ministry parameters within the church?
  • List the temptations that accompany affluence.
  • What characteristic should define those who are godly?
  • How are those who are wealthy to view and use their resources?
Turning truth into prayer:
Voice your desire to the Lord for more discipline and intentionality in your pursuit of godliness.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Conflict in the Church (Philippians 4:2)

"I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each in the Lord."

Euodia and Syntyche. I wonder why Paul had to rebuke these women publically? Both women had a leadership position at the church in Philippi; they "contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with . . . the rest of my fellow workers." Paul values their contribution to the ministry therefore he singles each lady out and adjures her to sort out her difference with the other. He holds each one responsible for the conflict. Each one has to forgive the other but it takes both for reconciliation to take place.

It would have been helpful had Paul specified the reason for their conflict. But he didn't. And rightly so. Women have women problems in church. (Not to say that men don't. Had two men been out of sorts with one another Paul certainly would have addressed them.) Women are competitive creatures and competition among women creates conflict.

Had Paul spelled out their particular issue then we would think that because our conflict differs from their's then our conflict with another "church woman" doesn't need to be confronted. Wrong. All conflict affects the whole body and cannot be glossed over.

Because Paul singled each one out by name neither woman could wait for the other to make the first move toward reconciliation. Same with me. Same with you. You must make the first move toward reconciliation. You cannot wait on the other person to move toward you. You initiate resolution. 

Only by pride cometh contention (Proverbs 13:10, KJV)

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Philippians 3:1-4:23
  • How does Paul or anyone obtain righteousness?
  • What do false teachers teach about obtaining righteousness and what is Paul's view of their teaching?
  • How do enemies of the cross live?
  • Who does Paul confront in the Philippian church and why?
  • What does this tell you about the early church?
  • What is the antidote for anxiety?
  • What is man's responsibility in guarding his mind from anxiety?
1 Timothy 1:1-2:15
  • Why does Paul instruct Timothy to remain in Ephesus?
  • What reason does Paul give for his patience in the spiritual growth of others?
  • What caused the "shipwrecking of faith" with Hymenacus and Alexander?
  • How are the believers to respond to governing authorities?
  • How does Paul describe God?
  • Why does Paul admonish the women to dress modestly?
  • What attitude should define women who profess to know God?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to help you walk in obedience to Him as you address any broken relationship you may have with a woman or women in your church (or past church).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

More Than Friendship Evangelism (Philemon 1:10)

"I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains."

Prison wasn't a deterrent to Paul sharing his faith. In fact, he actively shared his faith while in prison and saw many come to Christ. One of those was a runaway slave of Philemon, a fellow worker and friend of Paul's. "I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains." Paul had a captive audience. Soldiers who guarded Paul and the other prisoners heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul saw everyone who crossed his path as a divine appointment from the Lord.

I wonder, had Philemon, even though he was Paul's fellow worker, ever shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with his slave, Onesimus? Perhaps that's the reason Paul prays that Philemon may be active in sharing his faith (verse 6). Sadly, many "workers" in the ministry never share their faith with others. They can hide for many years behind ministry "busy work" and even feel good about their ministry because they are so busy. Yet, people don't just figure out the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ by watching believers. They have to HEAR the Gospel in order to be saved. It has to be both modeled and explained.

Benefits of sharing your faith:
  • You have to be more careful about how you live when you become an active witness
  • You have to become a better Bible student because people ask difficult questions
  • If you share with enough people you will eventually see someone come to Christ
My husband recently came across a startling statistic regarding evangelism in our churches. Of the three and half million churches in the world only 7% are evangelistic. If the only things that last for eternity are the souls of men and the Word of God then we need to pray that God will help us to share our faith boldly with those whose lives intersect ours.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Philemon 1:1-25
  • How does Paul package his challenge to Philemon to prepare him for Onesimus' return?
Philippians 1:1-2:30
  • How does Paul view the church leaders in Philippi?
  • How does Paul view his imprisonment?
  • How does Paul view those who preach the gospel from false motives?
  • Why does Paul instruct those in Phillip to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ?
  • How are believers to treat one another and what will be the result of doing so?
  • What does salvation look like as it is filtered through the lives of believers?
  • How does Paul illustrate the right attitude and likemindedness?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the Lord to give you a greater awareness of the lostness of those around you.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Before and After Conversion (Colossians 1:12-13)

"Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves."

Before and after pictures. We've all seen them. They narrate aesthetic medical procedures, home makeovers, weight loss, etc. Paul often uses such "before and after" pictures in his epistles to narrate the Christian life.

The "before and after" in Colossians:
We have been delivered from the kingdom of darkness and translated into the kingdom of light (1:12-13)
We were once alienated from God and enemies in thought and in action but now we've been reconciled (1:21-22)
We were dead in sins but we've been made alive in Christ (2:13)

Paul constantly teaches these parallel truths: Christ operates in us and we cooperate with Him.

Since Christ has effected such change in our lives those who know us ought to be able to observe those changes because we cooperate with Him by being:
  • Other worldly - "Set your minds on things above."
  • Disciplined - "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature."
  • Compassionate - "Cloth yourself with compassion."
  • A person of peace - "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts."
  • Word saturated - "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly." Scripture should permeate every aspect of a believer's life and control every thought, word, and deed- not in cold legalism but in joyful singing and gratitude.
  • Submissive to authority - "Wives, submit to your own husbands." Submission should characterize children to parents, employees to bosses, and husbands, fathers, and bosses to the Master in heaven.
  • Prayerful - "Devote yourselves to prayer."
In another letter Paul defines this "before and after" experience of every believer, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature, old things have passed away; behold all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). What God has done for us in Christ is scandalous. Sinners made righteous. Spiritually dead people made alive.

It is just as scandalous when those who've been made new remain retardant in their growth in Christ-likeness because of personal passivity. Oswald Chambers warns against the lack of cooperation with God in moving toward spiritual maturity: "You must discipline yourself now. If you do not, you will ruin the whole of your personal life with God."

Questions for today's Chronological reading:
Colossians 1:1-4:18
  • How does Paul describe the Colosse church?
  • What does Paul teach the believers about the Christian life through his prayer for them?
  • How does Paul describe the person and position of God's Son?
  • Make a list of the "before and after" comments Paul makes about believers.
  • How does Paul describe his role in the church in general and to the Colossian believers?
  • Make a list of the Paul's instructions that follow his "so then" statement in 2:6. What does Christ's death, burial and resurrection demand of the believer.
  • Which instruction do you have the most trouble with?
  • What place should Scripture and prayer have in a believer's life?
Turning truth into prayer:
Ask the Lord to help you cooperate with Him so that Christ's life will be manifest in your mortal flesh.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Shacking Up With the Devil (Ephesians 4:27)

"And do not give the devil a foothold."

The devil isn't looking for a hotel room for an over-nighter (though he will take what he can get). He is looking for somewhere to rent, long term or to own.

"Do not give the devil a foothold." The Greek word topos, translated foothold here is the same word translated as room elsewhere in the New Testament. (See Luke 2:7; 4:31; 4:9; John 14:2-3)

When Paul tells followers of Jesus Christ not to give the devil a foothold, he is telling them they are not to give the devil any habitable space in their lives. Which leads to the question: How does a believer give the devil room in which to "shack up"?

The immediate context for Paul's instructions are believer's interactions with other believers. Sadly, believers spend far too much time struggling to get along with other followers of Jesus Christ and often see them as the enemy. No, they are not they enemy. In fact, our enemy wins his warfare against followers of Christ when they are offended, bitter, and unforgiving toward other Christ followers. Believers don't struggle against flesh and blood (people) but against the powers of this dark world. The enemy loves a good fight, especially between brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Conflict between believers often grows into sustained anger (which quickly becomes bitterness), fussing and bickering, slander and malice--all of which advertise, "For Rent". The enemy quickly pays rent and moves in. A rented room grants him access to the rest of the house.

People embroiled in diverse interpersonal conflict give the enemy access to other areas of their lives. People filled with the Spirit, however, have no space for rent. Therefore, Paul commanded believers, "Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body" (Eph. 4:25). 

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Ephesians 4:1-6:24
  • Why does Paul urge believers to protect "the unity of the Spirit" as we interact with one another?
  • What provision has God made to bring believers to full maturity?
  • Where does genuine change first take place and how does this change manifest itself in the Christian's life?
  • What is the context for the command "do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God"?
  • What does this tell you about how relationships affect your spiritual life?
  • How does "the filling of the Spirit" affect your relationship with others?
  • What is the prerequisite for submission in relationships?
  • What does spiritual warfare require of believers?
Turning truth into prayer:
Lord, I thank you for the spiritual weapons You have given me. I thank You that I don’t have to live in defeat but can stand in victory, not in my own strength but in Your power. I recognize that people are not my problem but that I have real enemy that I cannot see, but one who is seen by You.

Right now I assemble the armor you have given me.
I will not be led by my emotions but by Your word which is truth. I submit, therefore, my emotional life to You and to your truth.
I submit my heart to the righteousness of Jesus Christ and refuse to trust in myself for righteousness. All righteousness comes from You.

I confess all known sin that stands between You and me and between others and myself. Show me if there is anything unresolved remaining in my life that will prohibit me from being able a witness today both verbally and by lifestyle. I am Your ambassador as I enter all my activities today.

Faith in You is my protection; I take you as my shield of protection. You are between me and the enemy. Help me to recognize the origin of every thought that comes to me today. I choose to bring all my thoughts captive to Your thoughts.

I place Your helmet of salvation upon my head. I have been redeemed. I have been delivered from this present evil age and transferred into the Kingdom of the Son whom You love.
I take Your written Word and hide it in my heart. I yield my mind and my mouth to the Holy Spirit for Scripture recall and proclamation.

I yield my life to the filling of the Holy Spirit. Help me to walk on “high alert” to Your presence in my life today. In the Powerful Name of Jesus. Amen.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Shackled No More! (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5)

"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins . . . but God, who is rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ."

The sinful nature is like a pair of handcuffs that keeps people enslaved to sin, not just in deed but in desire and thought.

Paul describes this slavery as one of helplessly "gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature" and following its desires and thoughts". So, the sinful nature has cravings, cravings that manifest themselves in:
  • Unrighteous sensual pleasure (impurity, fornication, pornography, adultery, drunkenness and orgies, etc.)
  • Unhealthy social interaction (hatred, discord, jealousy, anger, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy)
  • Unwholesome quest for spiritual power (idolatry, witchcraft, horoscope, physic healers and readers, etc.)
The sin nature, with its desires and thoughts, has a death grip on mankind. Those who've heard and believed the good news of Jesus Christ have been liberated. Paul says, "Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ" We've been "raised up with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." A greater power, the power of the resurrected Christ, now inhabits believers so that the believer can experience freedom from the sin nature's power to control him.

Believers are released from sin and shame; they are shackled no more to sin and bondage. Those with the new nature have power over the cravings of the sinful nature, can find real pleasure in Christ, develop wholesome relationships, and experience the power of the resurrected Christ.

A sin-shackled Christian poorly reflects on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to free man from the penalty of sin and the power of sin. He gives life - abundant life!

Take a few moments and listen to the song in the following link. You will be blessed.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Acts 28:11-31
  • Describe Paul's jail activity. How does Paul view his internment?
Ephesians 1:1-3:21
  • What does Paul's jail time allow him time to do?
  • List the spiritual blessings believers have "in Christ".
  • What are the contents of Paul's prayer on behalf of the Ephesian believers?
  • The same power that raised Christ from the dead raises the believer from the dead. How does Paul describe that death from which we are delivered?
  • How does he describe the life we are raised up to experience?
  • Why is the gospel such good news for believing Gentiles?
  • Why does Paul ask the Lord to give believers power?
  • What does this prayer tell us about God's desire for His people?
  • Upon what does he base his confident prayer?
Turning truth into prayer
Ask the glorious Father for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better, that He would enlighten your eyes in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, that you may know the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and his incomparable power.