Day 83: 2 John, 3 John, & Jude (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 John, 3 John, and Jude follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Hospitality is part of the Christian life, but there are some folks who we should not show hospitality too. We should not welcome or greet into our homes those who deny the deity of Jesus Christ. (See 2 John 9-10). While we can be polite, we can not entertain such individuals in such a way as we would a fellow Christian.  As much as a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness might try to use the language Christianity, they are not Christian. At the core of their doctrine, they deny the deity of Christ. Some may see this as callous or rude, but the truth is, if they are headed to Hell because they have rejected Christ, they need to know it. This is not a command to hate, but to love an individual enough for them to know that they are not part of the christian fellowship.

However, there are those who we should be eager to welcome into our homes and treat with great hospitality.  We need to search out those who serve God and serve the church well (See 3 John 5-8). We need to go to great lengths to show them honor and be delighted to receive them at our dinner table.

I think sometimes we forget that we need to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 3). Not everyone believes the truth about God as we do. There are many who twist the grace of God or deny the deity of Jesus Christ (Jude 4).  We should be careful to draw the line of distinction. There is no salvation for those who deny the deity of Christ.

These three short books should drive us to carefully consider those who are of like faith and have the common gospel at their core. We can and should fellowship with other Christian denominations who may believe differently than we do about spiritual gifts, election, church order, etc… Not that these are unimportant doctrines, but that we can misunderstand them and still get to heaven. Those who deny the deity of Christ, misunderstand the gospel and continue to be outside of the faith

FATHER, thank you for the grace of your word. I pray that our homes and our hearts would be open to our Christian brothers and sisters and that we would honor you by honoring them with true hospitality. I pray also for friends and loved ones who are outside the faith because they have believed contrived man made doctrine that teaches that Jesus was just a man and not God. We pray that you would show them the sever error of their ways. We pray that perhaps you would even use our lack of hospitality to demonstrate to them that they are outside the faith. Thank you so much for your grace in 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 72: Hebrews 1-2 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Hebrews 1-2 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

The first recipients of the book of Hebrews were likely members of a house church made up of Jewish converts to Christianity (hence the name Hebrews). They were facing persecution (I have another article about that here) and were now being tempted to leave behind their faith in Christ to re-embrace Judaism, where the persecution wouldn’t be so severe.

The theme of Hebrews could easily be understood as “Jesus is better.” The Author relates how God has spoken throughout history but ultimately and fully revealed himself in Jesus (1:1-3). He is even superior to things like angels (1:4), which would have been highly revered in Jewish culture and tradition.

The first several chapters start out with a strong and compelling charge to keep the faith and remind the readers that there is nothing to go back too, in Judaism. In chapter two the author challenges the readers to pay close attention to what they have heard about Jesus so they don’t drift.

Drifting away from the truth is easy. It doesn’t require diligence, effort, or work. It just happens by neglect. If something is valuable we don’t neglect it. We pay attention to it. We are therefore, to pay attention to our faith.

The lack of attention to the scriptures can soften the effect of the gospel upon your life. You will generalize, moralize, and rationalize your thoughts on scripture until you pull the punches that are present in the gospel.  The writer here is challenging us to examine the truth. To go back to the genuine article and make sure that we do not drift from the truth.

FATHER, thank you for Jesus. We are grateful that he is far better than anything we could think or imagine. We rejoice in the power of the gospel to transform our lives and give us hope in you. We pray that we wouldn’t drift, but that we would be anchored to your truth. Hold us fast as we hold fast you you. Thank you for the calling if leading your people to faith in you. 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 71: Philemon (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

The Epistle of Philemon is a letter written by the Apostle Paul, to a man name Philemon concerning the reception of a former servant named Onesimus. We know that Philemon was seemingly wealthy man and that he hosted his local church to meet in his house (1:2). (In the New Testament era, most of the churches met in the houses of wealthy patrons. There were not many church buildings until centuries later.)

Paul writes as a close friend of Philemon. He had prayed for Philemon often ( 1:4) and kept up with him, hearing from others about Philemon’s well-being as well as his actions and attitudes (1:5). Paul was even planning to visit Philemon (1:22), and perhaps Paul had even been instrumental in Philemon’s own faith in the Lord (1:19).

Onesimus who was Philemon’s servant was spiritually lost while he served Philemon (1:11). He had chosen to run away to Rome and had probably stole some goods from Philemon (1:18). Yet, when he got to Rome he ran into Paul, who was instrumental in bringing Onesimus to faith in the Lord (1:10, 16). Paul is now sending Onesimus back to make things right with Philemon (1:17-21). This is an excellent epistle about forgiveness and restoration among individuals in the infancy of the church. Those first Christians really did struggle with some of the same issues we struggle with today.

FATHER, thank you for the reconciliation that begins when we trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Thank you that being reconciled to you causes us to seek reconciliation with others. Thank you for the forgiveness offered to us through the blood of Jesus Christ. I pray that we forgive others because we know what it is to be forgiven by Jesus Christ.  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 66: 2 Thessalonians (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Paul generally begins his letters with prayer as he does here in 2 Thessalonians. What seems to be different here is that he says, “we are ‘bound’ to thank God for you” (1:3, 2:13). The word bound would mean obligated. Paul felt a debt to the Thessalonians for how well they had received the gospel and endured under persecution (1:4).

Paul jumps right in to draw the line about the coming of God’s final judgement and glory. It seems as though that after Paul had left, someone had come in the church and was sewing seeds of discord about the return of Christ, claiming that he had already come back and they had missed it (2:1-3).  Paul sets the record straight and reminds them to go back to the sound doctrine (traditions) they had received from him in person or via his other letter written to them (2:15).

Paul wraps up this short epistle with a request for prayer and warning against idleness.  If Paul needed the prayer of the churches, we all need prayer.  There were some who were content to eat the bread from other’s labor, but Paul admonished them that each one is to work and eat their own bread (3:12). He reminds his readers that they are to not grow weary of doing good (3:13).

I imagine that growing weary in doing good is all in your perspective. If you see the good that God has called you too as an obligation, I see how it could become wearisome. However, if we see the opportunity to do good to others as a  gift, we will look for it more often and with zeal.

FATHER, We give thanks to you for your church. We are bound to give thanks for all the ways you have worked in the church and used the church in our own lives. We thank you for each and every gift. We rejoice in the encouragement we have drawn from one another. We pray that we would not be lead astray by false doctrine, but that we would cling to your word. Strengthen our hand that we would not be weary in doing good. Let our love for you be evident to all and may it abound. We pray for our church leaders that you would strengthen their hand and that they would glorify you. Thank you for the grace to shepherd 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 60: Ephesians 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Congratulations! We are on Day 60 which means we are 2/3 of the way through the New Testament and 2/3 of the way through the challenge! Keep it up! Hopefully reading through the scripture like this (and writing about it) is becoming a healthy habit for you!

Chapter one of Ephesians is one of the most wonderfully written descriptions of redemption in Christ. Paul immediately follows up his description of redemption with prayer (1:16). This theology (truth about how God saves us) provokes Paul to prayer and it should to provoke us to prayer as well. We should pray fro wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God (1:17-19). Paul wants his readers to know what is theirs in Christ (1:18).

I once was given a neat little remote control plane that had a few small propellers on the wings.  I love to play with it. I couldn’t ever figure out how it would take off, it didn’t have any wheels. So I would throw the plane lightly and hit the throttle.  One day a friend came over and I showed him the plane and how I flew fly it. He asked if he could have a turn. He flipped a switch, the wings changed direction and the plane took off like a helicopter. I was amazed. The plane had always had that ability. It was designed that way. All I needed to do was to flip the switch and a whole new feature of the plane would be accessible. Paul prays that those who read this letter wouldn’t be content to just play around with their faith in Christ, but that they would know fully about their salvation.

In chapter two Paul presses deeper into theology and worship. I say worship, because truth about God provokes our hearts to worship. In Chapter three Paul shares a brief  testimony about his call to take the riches of the gospel to the gentiles and delights that they should know the fullness of their salvation.

FATHER, We thank you for the gift of faith and salvation in Jesus Christ. We pray that we would grow in our understanding of the faith. We lift up friends and family members who have publicly identified with you and we pray that they would increasingly grow in the knowledge of their faith as well. I ask for grace to teach and preach to your people all the wonders of your Word and I pray that the Holy Spirit would provoke worship in our hearts. Thank you for the grace it is to lead your church. 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 59: Galatians 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

oday’s reading comes from Galatians 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In chapter four Paul continues to write with both passion and personality as he attempts to persuade the churches of Galatia ( Galatians 1:2) to reject the false gospel of salvation through Old Testament covenant law (specifically circumcision).  Paul continues to be very adamant that whoever has introduced this heresy to the churches in Galatia is in serious sin (5:10).  Just a few verses later, Paul uses a graphic double entendre (5:12). In one sense he means the grossest understanding of the text, in that those stirring up strife would physically emasculate themselves. In another sense, he has eluded to the fact that those who preach a false gospel will face the wrath of God (1:8-9, 5:10), and suggests that they would cut themselves away from the covenant people of God.

Paul presses the church in Galatia to ‘love their neighbor as themselves’ (5:14) and to walk by the Spirit (5:16). The deeds of the flesh flow out of a failure to love their neighbor (5:19-21). The result of walking in the Spirit (fruit of the spirit) is Love, which is what Paul commanded in verse 14. Since the word fruit isn’t necessarily plural and the context is ‘loving our neighbor’, it is reasonable to think the the fruit of the spirit is love, and from love, flows the rest of the attributes that are listed (5:22-23). It would read something like this: love is joyful, love seeks peace, love bares all things, love is kind, love is good to others, love is faithful, love is gentle, love demonstrates self-control. The bottom line is that you can’t love your neighbor without walking in the Spirit (5:25) 

We are reminded in chapter six that love looks out for others. It restores those who have fallen. Love causes a humble carefulness when we do restore others. Love causes us to share what we have learned from our teachers.

FATHER, we thank you for the gospel of Jesus Christ that sets us free from sin. We pray that you would guard our hearts from heresies. We ask that our love for you would be pure. We are grateful for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We pay he would produce the fruit of love in all of it’s forms in our lives. We thank you that you work in us that which we cannot work in our selves. Thank you for the grace to lead 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 58: Galatians 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Paul uses some very strong language in Galatians chapter one. He says if anyone preaches another gospel (a false gospel), let him be accursed (damned to Hell) (1:8-9). Believing a false gospel and never trusting the true gospel does lead to Hell. While Paul is harsh, he is honest. It’s worth noting that he writes with passion because this is not a small issue.

He even goes out of his way to say even if “we or an angel” speak a false gospel, let them be accursed (1:8). Coincidentally at least two religions (Islam and Mormonism) are based on accounts of angels visiting “prophets” to say that the gospel Paul preached was all wrong and shared their version of the gospel. We remember that from our reading just a few days ago that Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14).

The false gospel and “work” of the Law at stake here was circumcision. The Jewish council had already ruled that converts to Christianity need not be circumcised to be saved (Recorded in Acts 15 which Paul recounts here in Galatians 2:1-10). Some people had come in behind Paul with the false doctrine of salvation by circumcision. All through Galatians, as we will see tomorrow, Paul defends the gospel against this heresy.

Side Note: Context is important. We read the phrase “works of the Law” (2:16) through western eyes and all we hear is the word, “works.” We don’t always take time to understand the “work of the Law” as used here, was related to Jewish rituals, specifically circumcision (5:1-6). If we aren’t careful, we create a false dichotomy between works (in general) and faith.  The specific issue at stake is that we cannot be saved by keeping the ceremonial law, but we can only be saved by faith. This is the way Abraham was saved (3:6). True faith manifests itself in good (not ceremonial) works (Ephesians 2:10, James 2:14).  As we will see near the end of chapter three in Galatians, the ceremonial law served the purpose of pointing us to Jesus for salvation (3:24-25).

I realize I’m a little wordy. To put it simpler: We are saved from our bad works (sin),  unto good works (the fruit of the Spirit), by the work of Jesus (Substitutionary Atonement), that we receive through faith (Believing God).  The rituals of Judaism (such as circumcision) pointed to our sin, but didn’t cover or remove our sin. To go back to Jewish rituals denies the power of the cross to forgive our sin, to reconcile us to God and fill us with His Spirit.

FATHER, We are grateful for salvation that comes through faith in Jesus Christ. We ask that we would live in the full power of our salvation. Keep us from idols and false gospels that would attempt to lure us away from hope we have found in you. I pray that you are glorified in our lives this week. Thank you for the grace to shepherd and lead 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 56: 2 Corinthians 10-12 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Corinthians 10-12 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In the reading today, the Apostle Paul brings up spiritual warfare. There were some in Corinth who were seeking to cause division, which Paul was compelled to address.  Some individuals mistook Paul’s directions and intentions as a personal attack, rather than a loving rebuke. Paul writes to reassure them that he’s not looking to start a fight, but that the church needs to be on guard against spiritual forces seeking to destroy it from within (10:3-4).

It’s not as though there is a demon lurking around every corner. Even if there were, you wouldn’t necessarily know it. One of the schemes of the devil is to blend in at church (11:14-15). Most often spiritual warfare begins with “stinkin’ thinkin'” (any thought that isn’t good and isn’t from God). Not every thought that pops into our head is a good thought or a true thought. Every thought needs the light of the gospel to examine it. Paul says, “take every thought captive” (10:5b).  We need to compare what we think to what we know to be true of Jesus.

I’m reminded of the movie, A beautiful mind. The main character begins to see people that were not real. When he interacts with them it becomes apparent that he is mentally ill. There comes a point, where he understands that he is having delusions and so he doubts and scrutinizes some of the people that seemed very real.  He used a metric to evaluate what he was experiencing. His delusions didn’t go away, but he was able to navigate life despite them because he put them in their place.

There are some thoughts that pop into our head that we should doubt. Thoughts that think the worst of others, rather than the best. Thoughts that seek to tear down and destroy. Thoughts that sow seeds of discord. Thoughts of hatred, envy, and bitterness. Thoughts of worthlessness. The list can go on and on… These thoughts should all be filtered by the gospel and brought to obedience in Christ (10:5b).

FATHER, Thank You for the Word of God. Thank you that we can evaluate thoughts that come through our mind and take captive those that would lead us away from you. Thank you for the Holy Spirit and the role He plays in guarding our hearts and helping us to discern truth from error. Help us to remember that we don’t fight against flesh and blood, but that we are waging a spiritual war. Help us to guard the battle ground of our minds. Thank you for the grace to lead 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 53: 2 Corinthians 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 2 Corinthians 1-3 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online. You can get a copy of the New in 90 reading schedule here.

Paul begins 2 Corinthians by praising God for his comfort (1:3-7). I am thankful for the grace of God in comforting us when we go through various trials. I am grateful for the opportunity to comfort others because we have been comforted (1:4). The Christian has a

In chapter two, Paul advised the church on how to forgive those who have been addressed by the church for their sin. Sometimes we don’t take pause to think about how Satan might attempt to manipulate us (2:11). This is one of the reasons why it is so important to walk close to God everyday. If we are out of God’s word, the lines get blurry and legalism and an attitude of superiority can set in. We are not to hold people’s sins continually before them… ultimately, God is their judge.

So when someone repents we are to forgive, just as we have been forgiven.  We have to be careful not to let Satan rob us of the joy and freedom found in forgiving people their sins against us, because we want to nurse a grudge.  Satan uses this attitude of unforgiveness to cripple us not the one against whom we nurse the grudge.

FATHER, Thank you for how you have brought comfort to us in the midst of the trials that we face. We are grateful to be able to comfort others with the comfort you have given us. We pray for grace and discernment in comforting others. We ask for grace to forgive those who have hurt us. Guard us from unforgiveness. Thank you for the grace to lead 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 45: Romans 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

CONGRATULATIONS!!! We are half way through the 90 Day Reading Plan! Keep up the good work! Today’s reading comes from Romans 13-15 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

As the Apostle Paul works from theology to application, he writes that Christians are to be subject to the governing authorities (13:1) and pay taxes (13:7). We are to love our neighbors as ourselves which keeps the last five commandments (13:9-10). [Side note: I find it interesting that the command to honor your father and mother isn’t listed here. It seems that in Paul’s mind that command goes with the first four that deal with God. We will be addressing this command this Sunday at Little Escambia Baptist Church. ]

In chapter fourteen, Paul challenges us on two fronts. On the one hand we have freedom in Christ. Some Christians will do things differently than others and it’s not up to us to judge. We all stand and fall before the Lord (14:10-13). On the other hand we need to be careful in our freedom that we don’t cause others to stumble. We should be mindful of how our actions will effect others and be a source of encouragement not discouragement (14:19-20).

Paul wraps up this section with reminding us that to mature in Christ is to be concerned with the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We should not seek to offend in our liberty, but we should seek unity of Spirit.

FATHER, We pray for those who govern us and are in an authority over us. We pray for their salvation. We ask for peace. We pray for the grace to love our neighbors both in thought and practice. We pray that we would make no provision for the flesh, but that we would “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Guard our hearts from sin and draw us near to you. We ask that we would be content to let you judge us and our brothers and that we would seek unity in name of Jesus. Thank you for the grace to pastor 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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