Day 89: Revelation 16-18 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Revelation 16-18 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

The reading today is filled with a lot of imagery that many others have attempted to interpret so I won’t add anything there. What I’d like to notice is the wrath of God, especially as it concerns the persecution of the saints. God cannot be loving without being wrathful. Those two attributes go together. Indeed, because God is loving that He is wrathful. God loves the martyrs so he avenges them by pouring out his wrath. Notice that God’s wrath isn’t like ours. He makes no mistakes in judgement. It isn’t undeserved, if anything God has been patient with mankind by not pouring out his wrath sooner.

Notice also how this wrath serves to harden the hearts of those who hate God. They continue to curse him and blaspheme rather than repent and come to God on his terms. The fact that the wrath comes in waves serves to demonstrate that there is time and opportunity for repentance, but people continue to harden their heart. They would rather shake their finite fist at the Creator than repent of sin and turn to Him…. They are broken beyond repair. They will not turn from their sin.

I think this passage should cause a real sobriety among God’s people. We should recognize that God is in control, he will bring justice in his own time and at the exact right time. We should be quick to repent knowing that God offers all sorts of opportunities along the way to seek repentance. We should also be scared to ever harden our heart against God.

FATHER, I pray that we have tender hearts today. I ask that we would be ready to receive your word. We stand in awe of your greatness and your sovereignty. We are thankful for your patience and we rejoice in your justice. We pray that we would always be quick to repent when we find ourselves in sin. Thank you for the grace of leading your flock. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 81: 1 John 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 john 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In 1 John chapter 1, the apostle John reminds the readers that what he has to share is real. He saw Jesus. He walked with Jesus. He talked with Jesus. He was taught by Jesus. John knew Jesus and his teachings very well (1:1-3). He isn’t sharing speculation. He isn’t building some sort of belief system on the foundation of Christianity. What he has to share is pure gospel. Undiluted by the world. With an introduction like that we lean in. We pull up our chairs. We strain our ears. We take note. We listen to what he has to say.

He writes for our joy. He writes so that we will have fellowship with God and one another (1:4). There should be nothing that stands between us and the LORD and if nothing stands between us and the LORD, then nothing should stand between us and our brothers and sisters in the faith (1:6-7). There once was something that stood between us and the Lord, but if we have confessed our sins we are cleansed and it stands between us no more (1:9). Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins (2:2).

Since Jesus has cleanses us from our sins, we should have a desire to follow and obey him (2:3).  If we really belong to the Lord, we should see fruit in our lives and we should look more and more like him (2:6). We should be abiding in the truth, loving others as the Lord loves us. If we are in Christ, we will love like he loves.

There is a transformation that takes place when we are adopted in to a family. Though not always sudden, our identity begins to shift from who we were before, to what it is to be a member of the new family. And so it is with being adopted into the family of God (3:1). We are no longer identified as sinners, but rather as children of God. And as our identity changes, our heart changes. We want to be more like God and the impossible begins to happen… We begin to love others because of the way that God has loved us. We change.

FATHER, Thank you for the gospel of our salvation. Thank you that we can confess our sins and come to you to be forgiven and made new. Thank you for the love you have put in our hearts for you and for one another. Help us to love one another and help one another in this present moment. We appeal to you for salvation and grace. Thank you for your grace in shepherding your people at this moment in history. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 79: 1 Peter 4-5 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Peter 4-5 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

We are certainly living in a day and age where there is plenty of worry. I am grateful for the word we find here near the end of 1 Peter that reminds us to cast all our cares on the LORD (5:7). Sometimes we hold on to our burdens, worries, and anxieties and that is not good for us. Like bread rising in the oven our anxiety multiplies and compounds upon itself and before we know it we are overcome. We need a place to go. What grace that we can take our burdens to the Lord.

We can take our burdens to the Lord because he cares for us. I am amazed that the sovereign LORD, creator God would condescend to care for us. I am well aware of the abundant love and mercy that is available from his pouring our. Caring for us means that he is actively at work in our lives providing the things we need. We can cast our anxieties on the LORD, because he is able to take our anxieties and fears. He meets us at the point of our greatest need!

The only problem is that I like to hold on to my anxieties for too long. Like holding on to a matchstick while it is burning down. We know that we should let go sooner rather than later, but still we wait until we are burnt to let them go. We shouldn’t let our anxieties consume us before we give them to the Lord. We should give them right away. We should “cast” them on the LORD. That is we fling them and let go, letting them fly into the LORD’s hands. He’s got them, he can be trusted. We just have to humble ourselves and let go of our pride and trust him.

FATHER, We thank you for your grace. We are grateful that you care for us. We rejoice to know that we can cast all our cares on you. We pray that you would give us humility to do just that. I pray that we would trust you in every moment of life. When anxiety rises in our hearts, remind us of this promise that we might be quick to remember and quick to cast our cares on you. Thank you for the immeasurable grace of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 76: Hebrews 11-13 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Hebrews 11-13 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

What does saving faith look like? The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a long description of saving faith. The author goes back through a list of biblical characters and highlights what faith looked like in their generation: For Noah, it was building an ark (11:7). For Abraham it was leaving his home for a place God would show him (11:8). For Moses it was being identified with the nation of Israel rather than Egyptian royalty (11:24-25). Each one had a crisis moment where they either had to believe God in their generation of disbelieve God. They chose to believe God and act on it.

In Chapter twelve, the scene shifts to accommodate a race theme. We are reminded that many have gone on before trusting in the Lord and that we are each to run the race set before us (121:1). It can be tempting to look in someone else’s lane and think we want to run the race that is set before them, but we each have our own race to run, filled with different trials and challenges. Ultimately we rejoice to be a part of a kingdom that cannot be shaken (12:28)… great words for today!

Chapter thirteen is filled with practical and direct points of doctrinal application. The writer also pens a prayer (13:20-21) and includes a few personal and final greetings (13:22-25). The greetings help us determine the context of the letter as possibly being a Jewish house church in Rome.

FATHER, Thank you for the legacy of faith that we see in biblical characters who were human as we are with choices to make about believing you. Thank you for the gift of faith. I pray that we would seek your will, especially in the unique days ahead. Help us to run the race that is set before us. Thank you for the grace of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 69: 2 Timothy (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Timothy follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 1:3,  that he remembers Timothy in prayer, night and day, without ceasing. What a joy it must have been for Timothy to have a mentor like Paul in his life, who poured into him, but also consistently prayed for him. Paul can speak to Timothy with directness because of the foundation of prayer that has already been laid. He knows God, He knows Timothy, and He knows what Timothy needs to do.

This letter is encouraging. Paul challenges Timothy to use his gifts unashamedly (1:6-7).  He want’s Timothy to hold fast to the sound doctrine that he received  (1:13, 2:2). Paul warns him that there is a type of preaching/ teaching that sounds good to the ear, but isn’t sound preaching (2:15-16). Timothy must stand and preach the truth in a world that will increasingly not want to hear it (3:1-7). Paul affirms that the power of the word of God (3:16-17) and charges Timothy to preach the word (4:1-2) even in the face of coming days when people will no longer want to hear the truth (4:3-5).

FATHER, Thank you for the those in ministry who know us, pour into us, and lead us closer to you. We are grateful for the prayers of the saints offered on our behalf and pray that we would be faithful in lifting up those whom you have called US to mentor. We pray for the strength to deliver sound doctrine in difficult days and we pray for the generation behind us that will face even more challenging days than these. We pray for our churches and those that we minister to. We pray that you would keep us from folly and foolish doctrines, but that we would be well grounded in the word and have a genuine desire for your word. Thank you for the grace to shepherd your flock. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 47: 1 Corinthians 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Corinthians 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Is Christ divided (1:13a)? Why are His people so often divided? Sometimes we have following the ways of a man rather than following Christ (1:12)! We have made an idol out of the wisdom of men instead of the power of God (2:5). Paul warns the church in Corinth and he warns us today… don’t be divided (1:10)!

I have to catch myself. Sometimes it can be tempting to think that if we just develop the right strategy, more people will come to faith in Christ. We can chase program after program looking for the right one. I think that if I can just make myself more appealing it will bring a better harvest. The thing we really need the most, is not a polished man made philosophy, but the power of God!

I’m glad that Paul knew he didn’t have anything to offer but the gospel. I am grateful that he was weak by the world’s standards (2:1-5). It gives me hope to know that God uses weak men (1:27). Because I pray that He uses me.

Side Note: I am confident that power in the pulpit is directly related to prayer in the pews.Where we are unified, God is glorified.  I am extremely grateful for those who pray for me every week! I am really humbled by today’s reading. It’s a great way to start a Sunday! Let’s be focused on looking for the power of God to reveal Himself through His Word!

FATHER, We pray for the unity of your church today! We pray that our focus would be on you and not a man made philosophy or the way we think things ought to be. We don’t look for worldly wisdom, we look for you. We need spiritual discernment. Examine our hearts. Humble us. Draw us to faith and repentance. Make us more and more into the image of Jesus. We pray for salvation and faith today. Thank you for the calling to lead your people. We lift our voice and ask for the advancement of your kingdom! IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Day 26: Luke 7-9 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Luke 7-9 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In the gospel of Luke we often find faith in unsuspecting places. The faith of the centurion to recognize that Jesus has the authority to heal from afar is one of those places (7:1-10). Jesus had just spoken in his hometown about their apparent lack of belief and that even in Old Testament times that God sometimes chose to do works among those who were outside of the covenant nation of Israel (4:25-27). As we keep reading, we will see a faithful response from those you wouldn’t expect. Today in the same chapter we saw the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50) who interrupts a party to clean Jesus’ feet. While she was probably a Jewish woman, she was certainly out of her social context.

Along the lines of the woman who washes Jesus’ feet, I thought it was profound that Jesus uses this as a teaching moment for Simon (the host) about forgiveness. I think it is always easier to see someone else’s sin.  The human heart is prone to gawk, make fun of and demand repentance for the wrongs that we see others commit.  We seldom ever like to take the time for honest self-evaluation of our own hearts. If I’m not careful I will see the sins of others and in my mind be way too harsh, not thinking or realizing that I have sin that has to be dealt with too. Those who have come to Jesus by grace through faith need to extend the same grace we have received to others.

Forgiveness is one of those things that is easy to do on paper, but hard in real life. Forgiveness for me is often a process and seldom ever is it a single event. I continually need to be reminded to forgive other for offenses big and small in the same way that I have been forgiven.

The big take away for me today was 8:18. We must be careful in how we hear. God’s word wasn’t meant for the purpose of information alone. It was meant for transformation. I know all about how to diet. Believe it or not, I have read books (that’s right plural) on dieting, exercising and losing weight. My problem is I haven’t done anything with what I know and my waste-line shows it. For all of that information to profit me anything I have to DO it. It’s the same with God’s word. Knowing how to forgive and forgiving are two different things. Those who do God’s word, get more from it than those who merely read it… What a challenge that was to read today! Are we hearing God’s word to transform our lives?

Finally, I wonder what it must have been like for the Gaderene demoniac to be healed of his demon possession and sent then home to tell others about what the Lord had done for Him? Here is a man who was ready to leave it all behind and jump in a boat and follow Jesus (8:38). This is the kind of disciple that Jesus was hard pressed to find. Yet here he finds one and his command isn’t to go to the darkest streets of Jerusalem, or even to go to the utter most parts of the earth. Jesus instead says, go home and tell those people what I’ve done for you (8:39).

He was already where God was calling him to go. He needed to be a sign and a witness of God’s faithfulness among his own people.  God had placed him in that area for a purpose.

Have you ever wondered that you might have that goofy brother-in-law for a purpose? That you might have found that family doctor for the sake of the gospel conversations you’ll have in the midst of being sick? Have you contemplated that God might want to use you to reach that child that is always hanging out at your house with your son or daughter?

FATHER, thank you for the grace and forgiveness that I have found in Jesus Christ. Help me to never forget the love and forgiveness that I have received. Help me to see my sins honestly before you and be quick to repent. Give me grace to be quick to forgive others when they sin against me. Help me to look for opportunities to share my faith with those that you have already put in my life. Thank you for the privilege of shepherding your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Raising Kids Who Don’t Remember Jesus

BibleRead-2They have heard about him. They know his stories. They know what he’s done for us. They sing songs about him. They have asked him to forgive their sins. They have been baptized in his name. They have memorized his words. They have done good works in his name. They have more information about him at their fingertips than any other generation, yet they don’t remember him. How does someone so saturated with Christianity loose the very essence of the one they call Savior? How do you claim a sense of what it is to be Christ-like, but have no memory Christ?

What am I talking about? It’s the Lord’s Supper. The essential part of church life that emphasizes the gospel, what it means to trust Christ, and most of all where we REMEMBER him. It’s a common meal where we all participate by receiving elements that represent the blood and body of Jesus and in doing so we ALL TOGETHER acknowledge his sacrifice and eminent return.

I see lots of believers, especially believers with children skipping out on this thing that Jesus actually said to do in rememberance of him. Is it possible to teach our children about Jesus, but to not remember him? Can we have them sit for a family devotional and prayer, sit in Children’s Church, sit close by as we go and minister, and somehow not teach them to sit for a moment to examine their life and remember Jesus?

I get it. There is a long list of excuses on why not to get the kids our of children’s church or return for a special evening service. They haven’t made a profession of faith yet – (They need to see that they are left out and apart from Christ. This physical illustration of restricting your kids from taking the Lord’s Supper will do more to teach them this reality than you words alone). Kids are really hard to keep still and quiet in church (It’s always been this way, but there are very few things in life they learn from lack of experience and this isn’t one of them).  They are in children’s church, I don’t want to interrupt the lesson.  (Can you make a children’s lesson more profound than the experiential, tangible, visible, and tastable lesson set before us in the elements of the Lord’s Supper? First as an outsider observing everyone else and then prayerfully as a believer who also professes faith in Christ.) Think about it, with the Lord’s Supper you see with your own eyes all your brothers and sisters professing that their hope is in Christ alone for salvation? We see that God provided the ultimate bread from heaven, and that we don’t live by bread alone, but by his very Word! We see that Jesus truly is the vine and we are the branches, that he is the head and we are united as the body! We see that it is only through his brokenness that we can be made whole.

Perhaps a more sober thought is, “What do I implicitly teach my kids by not participating in the Lord’s Supper myself and not bringing them in to join me?” I think the answer is clear. You teach with your actions (which speaks louder than words) that you don’t have to obey every request command of Christ and you teach that they don’t have to shouldn’t remember Jesus in this way because it’s not important.

We do a lot for our kids, everything from organic food to baseball practice. We sit through dance recitals and agonize with them over homework. We do our best to teach them about our faith and to honor God, Why wouldn’t we prioritize the Lord’s Supper?

For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  – (1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ESV)

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Why I’m Not Bitter About the Church

I guess I should hate the church. I’ve seen hypocrites. My dad got fired from a church and I was treated badly by the church members. I was ostracized by part of my youth group growing up and I saw my family suffer financially because my dad was in a ministry job instead of something else. I’ve had unrealistic expectations placed on me my entire life by people from church. In the ministry I’ve had good friends stab me in the back. Hurting people have spread vicious rumors about me. I’ve had people slander me endlessly for making what I know to be the right decisions.  I’m used to getting second guessed at every turn and I realize by now nobody likes to be told they are a sinner. I guess I should hate the church… but I don’t

The determining factor is that through it all I saw something real. Growing up my family was far from perfect but I did see a sincere faith in my parents. I was challenged to memorize scripture. I still remember the day out on the swing when I was about four years old and my dad challenged me to memorize John 3:16. I remember walking by my parent’s bedroom and hearing them pray for my siblings and myself (they didn’t know I was listening). I remember the family prayer time where we discussed the bible. It never seemed like we were just going through the motions. There was always something real there.

Then there were the times that my parent’s faith just seemed to bleed out in everyday living. Like when my dad picked up a rough looking hitch-hiker with me in the car. Later I asked him if he was scared and he said something like you should never let something scary stop you from doing the right thing… God is in control. (Years later I would pick up a rough looking hitchhiker named David who would pray to receive Christ in my truck as a result of seeds planted by my parents).

Then the advice my parents gave always seemed to revolve around the scripture. During my passage into manhood my dad encouraged me to read the bible for myself and believe what it said rather than what he or any other man would say. This gave me freedom to form my own theology dependent from my father and have a ready defense for my faith that wasn’t based on a family tradition. Similarly when I went into the ministry my mother said that there are a lot of distractions out there and to keep it about the book. She freed me to love God by loving his word and the singular focus on his word in the ministry lead to my own conversion.

Through the years I’ve learned and continue to learn to forgive people. That church that fired my dad… I walked in one Sunday night a few years later and shared the hurt I suffered and forgave them. Then I laid hands on their pastor and prayed a prayer of blessing over him and the entire congregation. The financial suffering I learned was all a matter of perspective, we were richer in the things that mattered than I had realized. I pulled aside the folks spreading rumors and told them that I forgave them. And the folks who slandered me, I had a conversation seeking reconciliation. With every major hurt I have sought the uncomfortable conversation of reconciliation and by God’s grace, He has won every time. And I remember the words of my father, “don’t let something scary stop you from doing the right thing.”

Yes the church is full of hypocrites and some of them really do have unrealistic expectations of pastors and their families, but none of that negates the work of Jesus Christ in my life. You see He’s real no matter how church people behave. And if we’re telling the truth the best place for hypocrites and backstabbers and people with unrealistic expectations to be, is church. They need to be reminded of the gospel. I know I do and though I wouldn’t like to admit it, there have been times in my life when I’ve been the hypocrite, back stabber and imposed unrealistic expectations on others.

So I’m not bitter about the church, I’m hopeful. I’m hopeful that all of us will be presented complete in Christ one day. All these little things that have caused so much pain will be purified in the presence of Christ the king. We’ll carry only the scars to remember how the gospel came to us through nail pierced hands and feet. No more pain, only rejoicing.

How to Pray for Your Pastor

In the book of Malachi a scathing indictment is issued against priests who cut corners and received less than acceptable sacrifices from the people.  The priests were called to a special office of mediation between the people and God which made the charge against their office even more significant.  In Malachi 2:5-7  God reminds the priests about the covenant he had established with them through their fathers.

My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him. It was a covenant of fear, and he feared me. He stood in awe of my name. True instruction was in his mouth, and no wrong was found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.
(Mal 2:5-7)

Pastors are not priests.  The pastoral ministry is significantly different than the ministry of Old Testament Priests especially considering the work of Christ.   Christ offered himself as the perfect sacrifice and now stands as the mediator between God and men (I Tim. 2:5, Hebrews 9:15, 12:24).   (This is one reason why many protestants stand so staunchly against the Roman Catholic notion of priest as mediators and mass as a perpetual offering of sacrifice.)

4 Ways to Pray for Your Pastor

Though Pastors are not priests, there are aspects of their ministry that parallel the duties of the priests in Malachi’s day.  Pastors are responsible to teach and oversee the body of the church. (Piper does a fantastic job of fleshing this out so I won’t belabor the point.)  It is from examining Malachi in this light that I have pulled application from the failure of the priest in Malachi into four ways to pray for pastors.

. . . . . . .

So here is how I pray for myself and the other pastors I know:

  1. To stand in fear and awe of God’s name
  2. True instruction to be found on his lips
  3. To walk with the Lord in peace and uprightness
  4. To turn people away from iniquity

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