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.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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Day 13: Matthew 16-18 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

In Chapter sixteen we are forced to contemplate the identity of Jesus. Peter makes the first assertion that Jesus is, “the Christ, Son of the Living God.” Towards the end of the chapter Jesus promises that some of his disciples will see Him coming in His kingdom before they die! At the beginning of the very next chapter they do exactly that as they see Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. This spiritually high event is followed by a low as the disciples are unable to heal a boy by casting out a demon. Jesus challenges their faith and tells them this kind only come out only by prayer and fasting. There is no presumption in casting out of demons, it is an utter and complete dependence on God. 

Chapter eighteen centers on the topic of forgiveness.   Often it is easier to see the sins of our brother than it is to see our own sin and so we condemn them and write them off as being purely evil… while we enjoy the pleasures and benefits of being God’s servant.

However, Jesus says you can’t live that way. You can’t write someone off for their sin against you.  He didn’t write you off.  He went to the cross for you and so for the sake of forgiveness and reconciliation the least you can do is walk across the room and lovingly confront the wrong (notice I said lovingly).

It’s easy to hate someone in their wrong doing.  You can count the tears, the lives affected, and try to put a value on the pain… but then again Jesus didn’t chose the to go to the cross for you when you were lovable. Don’t pretend like your sins don’t cost too.

You see we don’t forgive because we are commanded to and that is the end of the story.  We forgive because we are forgiven. When you realize your debt before God and what lengths he went to to absorb your debt against Him… well then that bit of unforgiveness in your heart just looks plain silly.

The power to forgive isn’t in you… The power to forgive comes from God alone. You see all sin is ultimately gets paid for… Either in your soul for ever in Hell, or Jesus on the cross.  At the end of the day all of us answer to God.  He is the only one who judges our hearts right.

Matthew eighteen also addresses church discipline. Church discipline is always done in love and in the hope of restoration. Lot’s of folks often quote Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered there I am also” in prayer gatherings. While it is true that Jesus is where his people are, this verse is in reference to church discipline. It can be such a tough matter to put someone out of the church that it helps to know that when great steps have been taken to restore and individual and they are still unrepentant, that Jesus is there. Trust me, if you have ever had to walk through the heart breaking steps of seeking restoration only to be met with a hardened heart over and over, It is comforting to know that Jesus is in your midst.

Here is how I am praying through this passage today:

LORD,  Thank you that you have made yourself known to us and that we can know you! I pray for my friends who don’t know you yet, and I pray that they would come to know you and trust you soon. I pray that I would continue to trust and depend on you. I thank you for disciplines like prayer and fasting that lead us closer. I pray that whenever sin enters into our relationships that we would seek forgiveness. I pray that I would be quick to repent when I have sinned and quick to forgive those who have sinned against me. I pray for those who are sinning and unrepentant. I pray for families who are being torn apart by sin. I pray for your church to love those who are falling away. Thank you for the calling you have placed on my life to shepherd your people. I pray that I would be faithful to you and accountable to others in every area of my life. 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.

Find out about New Testament 90 – Here

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The LIFE TRANSFORMING Lesson I Discovered While Reading a List of Names in the Bible!

Have you ever caught yourself reading through the Bible and you come to a long list of names and you think, “Do I still get credit if I skip these? There are a few passages in the scripture that can make you pause and wonder if there is really anything to be gained by reading a particular list of hard to pronounce biblical names? (Before you comment… I know all about the genealogy of Jesus and the four women mentioned there as well as characters of biblical  significance.) I’m talking about the lists in the Old Testament where someone’s name is mentioned once and never seen or heard from again! Places where we have NO history other than a name thrown in among dozens if not hundreds of other names. To be honest, I never doubted that these lists were scripture and were profitable some way, but I figured that I didn’t have the biblical chops to know exactly who Nephishesim was and why his name was in the bible. But then I messed up…

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I told a bunch of students that we would go chapter by chapter through the book of Nehemiah! I had read Nehemiah dozens of times, but I always skipped the long list of names, therefore I forgot that Nehemiah chapter seven actually contains a long list of names! (It takes up over two whole pages and four columns in my bible!) So there I was, stuck with a commitment to go through this book chapter by chapter and I came to chapter seven and I had to prepare a message for our students or eat crow and explain that I had forgotten about this chapter or worse, I would have to admit that I was in over my head. I firmly held then (and even more so now)  that ALL Scripture is, “God-Breathed and useful” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)but this put it to the test.

I stared blankly at the text. I begged God. I looked up name meanings realizing that perhaps this was a stretch. I asked “Why?” a whole lot. When I was about to give up… He Spoke through the names!

They were there, because they mattered! I know, simple right? These people were listed because they were there! In this instance, they were there building a wall with Nehemiah. Then it hit me, the book might have Nehemiah’s name as the title, but it was just as much about the faithful who responded to his leadership. These folks weren’t only witnesses, they were participants.

I realized a two things:

  1. God cares about people.
  2. It’s incredibly good leadership take time to recognize and remember the work of the people you lead.

I still can’t pronounce half the names on that list, but I know this, seeing their name has impacted me and changed the way I lead. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to tell them that God used a list with their name on it to bless me! Until then, I write thank you notes, applaud and do my best to encourage everyone who participates in the life of our church. After all, these people belong to God! I may be the leader up front at our church, but I am not the only one serving God.

So today I am thankful for a long list of names in the bible because it helps me really see the people around me.

Do You Belong Here? (Nehemiah 7:4-6)

Do You Belong Here? (Nehemiah 7:4-6)

I was out to eat a Cracker Barrel as a young teenager. I had to use the restroom and so I excused myself and went in what I thought was the “men’s room” it was on the left just like the “men’s room” at the Cracker Barrel back home. If I had looked around I would have found it odd that there were no urinals, but I had to go! After I finished business I was washing my hands and a woman came in the restroom. Feeling slightly embarrassed for her I said, “excuse me, I think you are in the wrong restroom.” She did a double take stepped back out, came back in and said, “No, You are in the wrong restroom!” Horrified I looked at the wall and where the urinals should have been, there was a mirror! I sheepishly tried to escape the bathroom without anyone noticing that I had gone in the wrong restroom but I couldn’t help but feel like everyone was staring at me. I had gone to the wrong restroom!

I don’t know if that has ever happened to you, but I can let you know that it’s a life scarring event that you will need to blog about or seek therapy for later. As bad as it was though, can you imagine what it would be like to be cheering on the rebuilding of a city only to find out that you don’t belong there? It comes time to fill the city of Jerusalem and only those who meet the qualifications can live there.

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The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt. Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it: These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. (Nehemiah 7:4-6 ESV)

The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not prove their fathers’ houses nor their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, 642. Also, of the priests: the sons of Hobaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai (who had taken a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by their name). These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. (Nehemiah 7:61-64 ESV)

There was a shortage of people in Jerusalem. This was a problem because if the city came under attack it would need able bodied people to defend the city. Rather than putting out a call all over the land to allow anyone to live in the city. Nehemiah goes back to the records to determine who had the right to live there. It was important that those who lived in the city had a genealogical right to live there. If they allowed anyone in, they may as well have not built the wall because the enemy would be living inside with them. It was important to know who your ancestors were.

In the New Testament Jesus sets up a different standard for the Kingdom of God. He tells a man named Nicodemus that genealogical pedigree doesn’t matter as much as if he has ever been “born again.” Jesus issued a new standard: Not, who were your parents? But, who is your Savior? To be part of the kingdom of God, Nicodemus would have to recognize that his Jewishness wasn’t enough, that he had to come by faith in what Jesus could and would do for him on the cross.

Like Nicodemus we will be judged not on our birth, but on what we have done with Jesus. Like Nehemiah we will or won’t be allowed into the Kingdom of Heaven based up on our qualifications. Either we will try and enter on our own merit or we will plead that Jesus is all the merit we need.

Who or what are you depending on getting you to Heaven today?

Philippians 4:14-20 (Devotional Thought)

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:14-20 ESV)

Paul is beginning to wrap up the letter to the Philippians. He is so glad that the gospel has taken root in their lives and that it is transforming them. The church there is not ashamed to be associated with Paul. He gives us a rare picture of what happened after he had to leave Philippi in Acts 16. He travels on to Thessalonica to start another church. Scholars estimate that Paul didn’t stay the Thessalonica long before he had to leave, perhaps a few weeks. Yet, even while he was in Thessalonica a group from Philippi had caught up with Paul and brought him some money to make sure he didn’t have any needs.

This small church had only been in existence for a month, maybe two and they are already Continue reading “Philippians 4:14-20 (Devotional Thought)”

Philippians 4:10-13 (Devotional Thought)

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:10-13 ESV)

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” is perhaps one of the most misquoted verses of all time. I have to confess that as a young athlete I thought this verse was awesome because I thought that quoting it before I tried to make my free-throw shots in basketball would somehow help me become a better player.

The Apostle Paul is actually talking about Continue reading “Philippians 4:10-13 (Devotional Thought)”

Philippians 4:8-9 (Devotional Thought)

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV)

We are responsible for the kind of thoughts we have. Our thoughts, or habit of thought, is something that we develop and feed. The way we think is similar to the way we enjoy food. The first time I tasted coffee I thought it was awful. However, I developed a strong taste and appreciation for coffee while in college (my parents don’t even own a coffee pot). I now drink coffee every day. I’ve gotten to where I like it so much that I drink it without cream, sugar or anything else. I have acquired a taste for coffee.

Paul urges us to acquire a taste for good thinking. He challenges us to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise. This becomes a filter to help us see how we currently think and move us toward godly thinking. How we think will ultimately determine how we act.

So for example there are a lot of things you can expose yourself to by watching TV. I have to admit that often times we look at a movie and wonder how much “bad stuff” are we going to have to fast forward through if we buy or rent a particular movie.

I remember one time when I was younger we went to the video store to rent a movie. We picked one out that we thought was cool. We got home started watching it and five minutes into the movie my dad got up, ejected the movie and put it back in the case. He said, “Hey kids, I’m sorry. We are not going to watch that movie tonight. It has too many curse words in it. As you know I don’t use those words and I don’t want you to use those words. If we had a guest in our house talking like that, I would ask them to change their tone or leave. I thought by the rating on the video that it wouldn’t be this bad, but I was wrong. We’ll take it back tomorrow and find another movie.”

At the time I was totally furious with my dad. I was hooked. We had watched five minutes of the movie and I was being entertained! Now I look back and realize that my dad was trying to guard our thoughts… By-the-way I’ve since come to really respect my dad for that day. He was being a good dad!

It’s not just staying away from bad thoughts, the actual command here is proactive. We are to think about good things. We are to be the kind of people that intentionally focus on the things for which we can praise God. I think this involves filling our mind with the scripture, singing worship songs and hymns, surrounding ourselves with people who will encourage us in the Lord, participating in the life of the local church, telling others about Jesus, and so much more.

Paul offers his own life as an example for the church at Philippi to follow. Who is a godly person in your life that as best you can tell models what it is like to focus on good thoughts?

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