Day 41: Romans 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Paul jumps right into the gospel in Romans. He is not ashamed (1:16). He is making his appeal to both the Jews and to the gentiles. Paul says in chapter one that what can be known about God is plain in creation, but our perverse hearts seek something else to worship (1:20-21). The reason we sin is because we are sinners and that’s not something that takes place on the outside, that’s a heart issue!

[Side Note: a lot of people are fond of pointing out homosexuality in this passage (1:26-27). It is there, but there are also a lot of other sins that are listed as the result of our rebellion against God (1:28-31). Some that are a lot more evident in society. Things like gossip, disobedient to parents, boasting, being unloving, or unmerciful. We are warned in chapter two of judging those who do these things while doing them ourselves. Romans 2:4 stands out as a gem of hope against the backdrop of condemnation and the coming wrath of God… We should be those who seek repentance not the condemnation of those who are in sin.]

Paul says that the purpose of our conscience is to bear witness against us,  condemning us or justifying us as the case may be (2:15).  We take notice that our conscience is internal, in our hearts. Our consciences are not an outside influence like an angel sitting on our shoulder whispering in our ear. If we are really going to be acceptable to God we have to change from inside out. We must be changed in the heart (2:29). 

Paul reminds us that we are all sinners (3:23). We all miss the mark. We all inwardly don’t long or aspire of our own accord to glorify God. We are bent and broken creatures. So bent and broken that the only one who could really straighten us out is God himself. And that is exactly what He did through Jesus Christ (3:24-26). We grab hold of this being made right with God though God by faith (3:28).

FATHER, Thank you for the gift of faith and of salvation. We lift up those who seem content to live in sin and plead for their repentance. We plead for our own hearts so often bent by sin and swayed by the philosophy of this world. Thank you for the high calling of shepherding your people. Give us grace today. 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 8: Matthew 1-4 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

The reading for today centers on the beginning of the earthy ministry of Jesus. The gospel writer Matthew is sure to include genetic line of Jesus, in which four particular women are uncharacteristically mentioned (Tamar in 1:3, Rahab and Ruth in 1:5, and Bathsheba, called Uriah’s wife here in 1:6).  Knowing their individual stories helps provide context of the birth of Jesus. (If you don’t know their stories, look them up, they are singled out here for a reason).

The earthly family tree of Jesus has prostitutes, adulterers, and foreigners. These women were grandmothers of the Messiah. Each one living through broken circumstances to bring another life into this world.  In their arms they held the promise of the messiah. They held on to the same promise that was given to the first broken women, Eve,  on her way out of the garden…

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

I think we can draw a point of application to our own lives here. We don’t always see the big picture or how our lives are intertwined with others. We know that God can work through sorrow and heartache to bring about something greater than we could imagine even if we don’t see it in our own moment. The small joys of children after tragedy were blessings in and of themselves, but they were also the sight of God’s hand of sovereignty moving to bring the Savior into the world.

The scripture picks up with the birth of Jesus and carries on through Jesus’ baptism, temptation, and the calling out of some of the first disciples. I was particularly struck by the temptation passage.  On the Surface, Jesus quotes scripture to overcome temptation.  This is how it is often taught. But let’s go a little deeper. The first verse Jesus quotes is  Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”  It helps to know the whole verse that this quotation comes from:

[Deu 8:3 ESV] 3 And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

The verse that Jesus quoted refers not just to the temptation that Satan was offering (food), but also hints at the provision of God. Just like God had lead Israel into the dessert, he had lead Jesus into the dessert (4:1) and just like God provided for Israel,  God would provide all Jesus needed. He didn’t need to create a shortcut. How often does it seem like things aren’t working out and how quickly do we look for a compromise. Rather than seeking God. Jesus succeeded where the Nation of Israel had failed to trust God.

We aren’t just entertained that Jesus whooped up on the Devil by quoting the bible, we are also drawn in and challenged to trust God alone for salvation. Do we trust that God will provide all the bread we will need (Remember in John 6, Jesus says that He is the bread of Heaven)?

Here is how I am praying through this scripture today:

LORD, thank you that you take broken lives and use them. I pray that you would mend all of our brokenness hurt and pain. Thank you that Jesus trusted you in the midst of temptation. I pray that you would keep me from temptation. I pray for those who are struggling today. I lift up the brokenhearted, those who have lost spouses, those who have started over in new communities, those who have found themselves as strangers in a new land, those who have been cheated on, those who have cheated, those who have been mistreated by family. I pray for those who are facing temptation and face addiction, I pray for those who lost sight of you and need to come home. I pray for those who are trusting in you and holding on to your promises. I pray for those who are facing trials and crisis of faith moments. I pray for those who I get to shepherd and those who minister to me. I thank you for the Holy Spirit and how He moves in my life. May our confidence be in you alone, no matter what the world may throw our way today. 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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It is not what you say, but what you do that matters (Nehemiah 4: 6)

It is not what you say, but what you do that matters (Nehemiah 4: 6)

We just recently saw the 2016 summer Olympics. One of my favorite moments of the Olympics was when South African Swimmer Chad Le Clos’ taunted Michael Phelps. If you don’t know Michael Phelps has won lots of gold medals in swimming over the last several Olympics, he is the man to beat in the pool. It wasn’t just Le Clos’ shadow boxing in front of Phelps that brought a spark to the event it was some of the things he had said before everyone even got to Rio that made this an interesting rivalry. Le Clos’ was out to take down Phelps and his strategy involved trash talking and taunting.

What was really interesting was Phelps response. He just stared. It was a mean stare, no doubt, but it was just a stare. He didn’t say anything back. He didn’t engage in the trash talk. When it was his turn he just got in the pool and beat everyone to win another gold medal. You see Phelps knew something; you can talk all you want, but it’s what you actually do that matters.

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Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:4-6 ESV)

Nehemiah does something similar here. He has heard the trash talk from Sanballat and Tobiah. He has prayed to God. He knows he is on the right path. There is no reason to respond with words. The only reaction is with action. He, along with all the people of Jerusalem went right on rebuilding the wall. They didn’t have time to stop.  Shouting back wouldn’t have accomplished anything.

There will be those who come along who will attempt to discourage you from doing the Lord’s work. They will tell you all the ways you are doing it wrong and why it can’t be done. They are experts at trash talking. They will attempt to cause you to fear what they might do, using intimidation as a tactic. Remember though that when it comes to doing the Lord’s work that He will defend His name, we only need to put one foot in front of the other and keep on carrying out the mission.

After the two swimmers got in the pool and the race began someone’s camera caught a picture of the pair near the end. Phelps was winning and he was facing forward looking towards the finish wall. De Clos’ was behind looking across the lane watching Phelps win.

For me the pictures serves as a sober reminder that if Lord has given you something to do, do it with all your might and don’t waste time trash talking or trying to figure out what someone else is doing.

because “They Supposed That The Kingdom of God Was to Appear Immediately” (Lk. 19:11)

He had just proclaimed in Zacchaeus’ house that he had come to “seek and save that which was lost.”  To their minds they couldn’t fathom what would be more lost than the city of Jerusalem under Roman rule.  Some had already sought to make Him the king by force.  But they didn’t understand the full magnitude of what Jesus had come to do.  They were looking to be saved from Rome, never did they imagine that He had come to save them from an even greater enemy.

I wonder if sometimes we might ever underestimate what Jesus is really up to in our lives? We have plans and ideas about how things should play out.  We have taken the liberty and written out all the plays that God should make.  We even take the time to find the verses that support our theories.  Yet in the midst of it we forget one thing: He is God and we are not. We don’t see the big picture.  We don’t have full knowledge of how things will play out. We don’t understand the full ramification of our own actions, how then could we fully fathom the mind of God.

They would have stopped Easter from ever happening in order to have a temporal king. They would have been free from Rome, but dead in their sins.  They would have national hero, but the world would be lost forever.

How many times along the road to the cross would he have been stopped if he listened to those around Him?  Have you ever Praised God that He didn’t listen to our foolish plans or ideas? His are always better, even if their is a bit of pain in the mix.  Have you ever thought that God provides for us exactly what we need in Jesus Christ, and this is often more than we have the foresight to want?

Father,

I thank you today for your patience with me.  Like those around Jesus at this time, I often try to fit you into my understanding of things.  I have ideas on how things should play out, but I am reminded today that your ways are greater and your plans are better.  I am following you today.

 

“Teaching and Journeying toward Jerusalem” (Lk. 13:22)

He was on a mission.  He was headed to Jerusalem. Yet all along the way he healed, he taught, he told about His kingdom.  Eventually he had to reveal the meaning. Eventually even the healing had to make sense in a larger picture, a larger portrait.

He was headed to the cross.  The one place where it would all come together.  The one place where it would all finally make sense.  He said he was going there, but they thought He spoke in a metaphor and they did not understand.  They thought He would ride in like a king and take over, the did not know how deep their problem was and they did not know how far He would go to deliver them.

Like a disease or a disfigurement mars the body of an otherwise healthy person, sin has disfigured the entire human race.  Like a blind man who has eyes but he cannot see, we are made in the image of God, yet we have profaned Him. So he came healing and proclaiming that His kingdom was at hand.  In Heaven there will be no more disease.  In Heaven their will be no more sin.  Christ has born it all on his own body on the cross! He stood in our place so we could stand in His!

You see, that was the mission.  The mission was not to heal a few thousand people (if that many) in Palestine a few thousand years ago.  His mission was not to come and make our lives comfortable again.  His mission was to reconcile us to God by taking on our sin debt! His mission was to save and he couldn’t do that without going to Jerusalem first.  Jerusalem was the appointed place and his appointed hour was quickly approaching

Father,

So often I am eager to glean a principle for practical living as if this whole Christian walk has to do with the exercise of my will.  While I know that my will is important, I also know that you have already completed everything I need to be reconciled to you.  Today I rest in that.  Today I rest in the fact that you are God and you know what you are doing.   Thank you for all you have done to bring me to faith in you.

“I Have Given You Authority (Lk.10:19)

“I have given you authority” those were the words.  Authority to tread on serpents, to suffer no harm.  This is a phrase that cuts both ways for those who follow Christ.

The first way it cuts is that it reminds us that we have no authority over evil other than that which has been given us by Jesus Christ.  It’s His authority, we just represent Him.  Our Church growth strategies, our evangelism programs and our best efforts to win our neighbors to Christ are just that… ours. Sometimes we forget that we are aliens in this world.  The power to save, the power to go and make disciples, the power to shine light into darkness doesn’t come from us… it comes from Him.  We go under His authority, “All authority has been given unto me” (Mt. 28:18).

second.  We have authority from Him!  Don’t let anyone tell you that you have no right to speak the truth, comfort the afflicted, and bring healing to those who are hurting. We are doing only what Jesus has told us to do.  It’s His authority.  Who trumps His authority?  No one!

Father,

Today I am both humbled and encouraged.  One the one hand I am humbled to remember that I can do nothing on my own.  I can only do what I see you doing.  I can only act out of the authority that you give.  I am also encouraged.  I am encouraged because I am your man.  You have called me.  You have set me apart and you have commissioned me to share your gospel.  Father, I ask that I would go boldly today in the authority that you have provided.  I ask that I would not act out of insecurity or self-preservation, but that I would be jealous for your glory today.

“You Give Them Something To Eat” (Lk. 9:13)

There they were on the side of the mountain and late into the day.  The people were listening to Jesus preach, but it became apparent that they needed a break to get something to eat.  Eating is necessary after all.  Eating is what sustains us, it keeps up alive. Necessities of life were encroaching upon meeting.  They could go on meeting, but they could not go on without food.

The plan was to dismiss the crowd.  The disciples had determined that.  We don’t have enough, let them go into the villages and purchase food.  Who knows perhaps this would have been an economic stimulus for the area they were in.  But Jesus had other plans.  He looks at his disciples and says, “You give them something to eat.”

I’m sure they looked around at each other at this point.  They thought, “We don’t have anything, well not much anyway… maybe one man’s lunch, but not enough for the crowd.”  But he takes it, he takes those small rations.  He holds them out and blesses them and begins to pass out food to feed the multitude.

But, wait, there is more to this story that just plain old white bread.  Jesus was meeting a physical need.  He was feeding the hungry.  Just like Moses called on God and God provided the manna.  Jesus was saying here that he would provide for all that we needed.  Not just physically, but spiritually as well.  He is the Bread of Life!

So then I remember, this is how ministry works.  I truly have nothing to offer, nothing much anyhow. Nothing apart from His blessing.  Nothing apart from His hands. He is the one that takes my weakness and exploits it for kingdom gain.  He is the one ultimately opens his word before me to feed me and a whole multitude beside.

Father,

I remember today how little I have to offer you and how gracious you are to multiply your grace to me and many more besides.  Use me today to open your word before your people.  I am nothing if I am not in your hands.

Diversify your Investments and Give Generously (Ecclesiastes 11)

Ecclesiastes 11

Solomon tells us to cast our bread upon the water.  He is not stating that we should literally go throw bread out at the lake, but rather this is probably a shipping term.  In Solomon’s day comerce would take grain and goods from one country to anther via the shipping lanes (on the water).  Yet, they didn’t have weather tracking systems and sometimes ships would go to sea never to be heard from again.  But, often ships would make it to port.  Sell the grain and goods and bring home a hefty profit.  Solomon says it is better to go ahead and invest in many places than place all your eggs in one basket (so to speak).  You don’t know where the hurricane will strike, the oil leak will emerge, or the demand for 8-tracks will hit rock bottom.  However, one thing is sure.  If you stare at the sky and try to calculate the weather and never invest, you won’t receive a profit (11:4).  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  So invest in lots of places and spread out the risk.

I think the application here is for more than how you are going to manage your retirement portfolio.  Sometimes we can be paralised by the obstacles ahead of us.  Your sitting there staring at the sky looking for the right conditions.  You don’t know the future.  The only way to live life is to take some calculated risk.  Things will not always work out according to your plan.  Better to attempt something great rather than use the excuse that you were just waiting for the right moment and it never came.

Make investments where it really counts. Be generous in your relationships.  Give to others.  Be a good friend, a good spouse, a good parent, open your home to others, show grace, forgive, look for opportunities to share Jesus.  Don’t be disappointed if you are not immediately met with success in these areas of your life.  Cast your bread on the water.  Live soberly knowing that one day we will all give an account to God (Ecclesiastes11:9).

Real Failure Comes From a Lack of Wisdom (Ecclesiastes 10)

Chapter 10 is much like Solomon’s speech to the graduating class.  Its a reminder that God is sovereign, people should be humble, and that apart from God’s wisdom you will make a mess of your life.

I know a man who lived well and for a majority of his life he trusted God.  Yet near the end he became a fool and made some bad decisions.  We are all only one bad decision away from ruining it all.  It’s not how you start the race its how it ends that matters. (Ecclesiastes 10:1)

Sometimes we meet resistance in life just because we are foolish.  There is story I once heard of a young man who wanted to be a lumberjack.  He was younger and more athletic than the other lumberjacks in his crew.  He showed up to the forest the first day and made the claim that he could chop down more trees than anyone else on the crew by the end of the week.  So they went to work and sure enough the young and athletic lumberjack was leading the way and cutting down trees almost twice as fast as the rest of the crew.  Eager to make his mark on the lumberjack world he worked through his lunches and while the other guys took a break. Somewhere around mid-week things began to slow and the young and athletic lumberjack was cutting fewer and fewer trees.  Finally by the end of the week he had cut the least amount of trees and the foreman had to let him go.  On his way out of the camp he went up to one of the older men who had been cutting down trees for years.  He said, “I don’t get it.  I am stronger and faster than anyone out here.  I never took breaks.  I worked through lunch.  How did you cut down more trees than me?”  The older lumber jack simply replied, “I took time to sharpen my axe.”  Sometimes it’s not about how hard you swing or how fast you are.  Sometimes as the old business proverb goes, “Work smarter, not harder.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10)

Application:   Where do you need wisdom in your life? There are decisions that you need to make in your life right now.  Some of them are somewhat small and inconsequential (like what will you eat for lunch).  Others of them really  matter.  Like what kind of husband, father, son,  or leader will you be.

Problems in Paridise (Ecclesiastes 3)

Ok here is the drill. I’ve been keeping up with chris aiken’s blog. He posts his devotional thoughts in real time via his daily blog post. So somewhere between 6-7am you can catch his thoughts.

I wish I functioned like Chris does in the mornings. I post earlier in the morning before I go to bed (it’s around 12:30 as I write this). There is a lot more to it than that, but it should explain why I post earlier than my good friend and pastor Chris Aiken.

Everything has it’s time
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-15)

This is a sobering reality in the world in which we live. God has a plan and a purpose for everything. This makes God a little difficult to understand when we are hurting in the short term. We wonder at how God can take the bad things, even evil things and use them for our good (Genesis 50:20). We wonder, “how can God cause anything good to come out of this?”

Quite frankly that’s how this week started for me. Sunday from sun-up to sun-down I was dealing with the darker shades of life. Many of the situations were well beyond my control.

Solomon’s advice here is to not let what “we cannot know destroy what we can enjoy” (Tommy Nelson). God is good and ultimately what He decrees will prevail, even through short term pain (Ecclesiastes 3:14).

There is a time for everything and God is good. Ultimately his goodness will shine through, even on the darkest days.

Application:
How do you handle it when bad things happen? Are you quick to blame others for your circumstances?

What are your thoughts on Ecclesiastes 3?