Day 84: Revelation 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

The book of Revelation (notice it is NOT book of “Revelations” as so many are fond of calling it. There is no “s”) is one of the most organized books of the bible. It begins with John on the island of Patmos on the Lord’s Day (Sunday) receiving a vision from the LORD (1:9-10). It comes with a blessing for those who read it (1:3). The first three chapters contain an introduction and seven brief letters written to seven churches.

In chapter one, John sees the risen Christ (1:18). Jesus appears differently than we might suspect (1:13-16). He has white hair, is bright as the sun and his voice is like many waters. All the descriptions of Jesus listed here will be referenced later. Many of the things in the book of Revelation have their key in earlier portions of scripture, especially the Torah (the first five books). Once you have read the Old Testament you are more prone to catch many of the references made in Revelation. For example, you will think of the seven lamps in Exodus 25:37 when you hear about seven lamp stands (1:12).

Each letter to the seven churches follows a similar theme. Jesus first makes a reference to his own attribute(s), listed in chapter one (for example: the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand). Then he shares an affirming word for what the church is doing right. Followed by a, “Nevertheless, this I have against you” statement, which indicates an area the church needs to fix. Then next will be a word on how to respond followed by the, “he who has an ear to hear…” statement.

This formula is great for comparing the churches and understanding how the please the Lord. It is also helpful in seeing how to address our brothers and sisters in error. If the Lord should see fit to correct his people by this formula, well then it seems like a good one for confronting our brothers in sin. We might remember the character of God, affirm the positive, call out the unresolved issues, provide direction and clarity with a reminder that it is a grace to have the word of the LORD applied to our lives.

FATHER, thank you for your amazing word. We look forward to reading Revelation and pray that we are blessed by it. We ask for wisdom and discernment to understand. We pray for ears to hear what you would be saying to us. Thank you for the incredible grace of leading your congregation in this unique time. 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 82: 1 John 4-5 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Test the Spirits (4:1). Not everyone claiming the name of Jesus carries the same message. Mormons don’t. Jehovah’s witnesses don’t. Just because someone has a bit of good “Jesus speak” doesn’t mean that they are actually of Jesus… also allow some grace for people to be a little different than you, but still believe in the deity and humanity of Jesus. Just because a person has a different stance on election or the use of charismatic gifts does not mean that they are not a brother in the faith… What do they think of Jesus, that’s the question.

There is no way to be saved except through Jesus Christ (4:10). We can talk about the love of God all day long in generic terms, but his love was spilled out on the cross when Jesus took our sins upon himself. It’s not just a generic use of the word love. He took our worst and gave his best. That love is a kind is a kind unto itself. Those who claim to follow the LORD should exhibit this sort of love to one another. We should love each other at our worst and give each other our best.

Being loved by God should free us to desire to obey his commandments. We are free from sin and able to obey the Lord. Those who belong to God should be easy to spot because they long to honor the Lord in everything.

FATHER, Thank you for your amazing grace and love that goes deeper than I can fathom. I ask that my life would continue to be transformed into your likeness. Let your love show up in my life and my actions. Give me grace to love others, even when it is hard. Help me to forgive as I have been forgiven and love and I am loved. Thank you for the incredible grace in these days 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 74: Hebrews 6-8 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Hebrews 6-8 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

In Hebrews 6 the biblical author charges his hearers to persevere in their faith, noting that if they were to fall back, they would be making it evident that their faith was not genuine. The first few verses of chapter six can be confusing, but note the metaphor of rain in verses 7-8, that help us understand the intention of the author. The same rain falls, but different plants grow. What shows up is evidence of what was planted.  Some plants are useful herbs, others are thorns and thistles. The rain doesn’t determine the plant, but as the plant grows it reveals itself as either good or bad. In the same way, persecution doesn’t make someone a believer, but it helps reveal genuine faith by what it brings out.

Some have taken this passage to teach that you can lose your salvation. If you follow that hermetical approach, you would also need to note that the passage clearly does teach that you can’t be saved a second time (6:4-6).  Which is somewhat the point.  Salvation isn’t something that can be picked up, put down, and picked up again. You are either saved or you aren’t. You have either experienced the things of God or you didn’t. If you did, you will not fall away (6:9-10). 

Chapters seven and eight go on to detail the need for a new high priest according to the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was a mysterious priest who showed up in the time of Abraham. His origins weren’t known. Some even suppose that he was the pre-incarnate Christ. It was supposed that he lived forever. The high priests that Israel had according to the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron died and a new high priest would be appointed, but Jesus was a better high priest who could not be defeated by death and therefore offered a better covenant (7:22).

FATHER, We pray that we would be those who have a persevering faith. We pray that our hearts affection never grows cold. We ask that we would stand firm against any temptation that would come our way. Give us grace when we understand a passage in a different way than some of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Bring us all to maturity in Christ. We rejoice in Jesus who is the better priest who makes intercession for his people. Thank you for the joy of leading your people. Protect us from enemies seen and unseen. 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 68: 1 Timothy 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from 1 Timothy 4-6 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

The Apostle Paul writes, in chapter four, about those who will depart from the faith and follow deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons (4:1). This is a stern warning to us today to test the spirits and keep our doctrine pure. Indeed Paul charges Timothy to make sure that he continues to teach sound doctrine (4:13) and continue in the doctrine that Paul taught (4:16).

When I was studying for the ministry at a Christian college, some of the students wanted to steer clear of any sort of doctrinal discussion.  They would say something like, “we have no creed but Jesus.” The problem I had with them is that is seemed like they wanted to avoid ALL doctrine. Don’t get me wrong, there are SOME doctrinal debates that are worthless (one only needs to read yesterday’s post for more on that point). But when we avoid all doctrine together, we really create our own doctrine or set of beliefs, a false doctrine. The doctrine or teaching that Paul shared with Timothy was good, sound doctrine and it was profitable for Timothy’s growth and the growth of the local church.

The first few verses of Chapter five are instrumental in figuring out how we should treat one another. Because of age and generational differences it can be easy to perceive things differently than others in the church. As a pastor it is crucial that I communicate in ways that are respectful and appropriate. Recognizing these differences and approaching members, who may be in error, in the way that I would approach respected members of my own family, can be a helpful. 

Paul writes, that believers are to take care of their own household (5:3). The burden for caring for elderly relatives, who cannot care for themselves,  should fall back to the family, not to the church (or the government).  The church had an elaborate system of taking care of widows, but only those who had legitimate need. There is wisdom in placing the care of our loved ones back in our hands and there is grace in taking care of the needs of those who have no other means.

FATHER, I pray that you would keep us from error and that we would be intent upon studying and teaching your word. I pray that our lives would exhibit the doctrine we hold to in your word. Keep us from idle chatter, but focused on the truth of the gospel. Give us grace in relating to one another who are of differing ages. Help us to treat one another with respect, even when a difficult discussion is in order. Thank you for the privilege we have of caring for one another and being united in caring for those who have no one else to care for them. We are grateful for your Word. Thank you for the great grace you have given me in shepherding 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 65: 1 Thessalonians 4-5 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Paul reminds the Thessalonian believers to maintain sexual purity as their calling in Christ. It is amazing how often the scripture speaks to a Christian sexual ethic and yet there are several in the church even who dismiss it or try to insist the scriptures teach something else. Paul reminds not only the Thessalonians, but those reading now as well, that we were called to holiness (4:7). We’ll be covering this issue this week at Little Escambia as we continue studying the Ten Commandments and study the command to not commit adultery.

Weeks before I was diagnosed with an infection inside of my heart I was inclined to believe that I was dying. I can’t explain why I thought or felt that way, only to say that I was very fatigued and sick. When I felt that way, I kept going back to I Thessalonians 5:9-10 and it brought me immense comfort in the middle of my physical trials.  Paul’s words here are comforting to the Thessalonian believers (4:18) in a similar way, as they had asked about those who had already died in Christ (4:13).

In 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is the bread and butter of a daily walk with Christ. I can quite skeptical sometimes and I needed this reminder to “rejoice always” (5:16). God is always at work, even when I can’t see it and that is worth rejoicing over. We are to always be praying (5:17). I am continuing to develop a habit of praying for people as I see them and talk with them and engaging the Lord in Prayer all through the day. We are to give thanks in all things (5:18). I don’t know about you, but I constantly need this reminder. As I’ve said before, I can be quite the skeptic and negative in my head. One practice that has really helped me in the last few years is to reflect back about what I have to be thankful for and thank the Lord at the end of each day.

FATHER, We pray that we would live holy lives set apart to you. Help us to maintain ethical standards that you put forth in your word. I pray that we would believe that you know what is best and that we would stand firm in your word when the world attempts to convince us to abandon truth. We rejoice always, knowing that we have been given more in Christ than we can possibly celebrate. Teach us to pray without ceasing that ever thought would be taken captive and you would be exaulted even in our thoughts. Thanks you for the abundance of gifts big and small that are ours in Christ. Help us to find gratitude and be grateful even in the most trying times of life. 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 64: 1 Thessalonians 1-3 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

We find Paul caring for, and praying for, this church often (1:2-3, 2:13).  They had ministered to him after he had been run out of Phillipi ( 2:2) and they received the Word of God with zeal (2:13). Paul and his traveling companions weren’t able to stay there long and had wanted to come back and see the progress of the Thessalonian church (2:17-18). They had later encountered persecution and Paul was anxious to see how the young church was doing. He sent Timothy to check on the Thessalonian saints and encourage them. When Timothy returned back to Paul he had a great report to share about the progress of their faith (3:1-10).  

In 1 Thessalonians 2:8, the Apostle Paul writes, “We were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become dear to us.”

I am reminded of the love and warmth that is shared between pastor and the flock. I have been blessed to serve three different congregations over the past 22 years. There comes a point as a pastor that the line between obligation and love is blurred.  There are moments, especially early on in ministry where I have labored to visit the sick, counsel the hurting, and minister among the broken, because it was an obligation (first to God and second to the people who had confirmed God’s call).  Then there came the moment when I showed up to the hospital for someone, not because it was an obligation (part of the job), but because of the genuine love and care for them. The sense of obligation has been replaced with a genuine love.

You can tell as you read though 1 Thessalonians that the Apostle Paul has a genuine affection for the people of this church.  He longs for their good. He wants to observe their faith firsthand and he writes to answer their questions and encourage them. A genuine love for God will always overflow into a love for his people.

FATHER, Thank you for the church. We are grateful for our brothers and sisters in Christ and how their walk with you encourages us. We are thankful that we get the benefit of ministering to one another, not just out of an obligation, but out of a sense of love. We rejoice to hear when others are doing well in the faith. Thank you for the grace of minister with a church that loves you and loves others well. Thank you for the grace of shepherding 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 62: Philippians (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

The Apostle Paul wants us to rejoice. He uses that word abundantly through out  Philippians ( 1:18, 1:26, 2:16-18, 2:28, 3:1-3, 4:4, 4:10). Which is strange considering the context. We know that he is in chained next to a Roman guard (1:13-14). We also know that some are preaching Christ and are envious of Paul and want to add affliction to his imprisonment (1:15-16). So where does all this rejoicing come from?

Paul is confident that God will finish what he started in the believers at Philippi (1:6).  He has found what it means to be content (4:12-13). He knows that even while he is chained to Roman guards, he is guarded by the peace of God (4:7) His rejoicing is tied to his certainty that God is in control of his circumstances. He recognizes that he has been placed there for a purpose and that perhaps the gospel would go out through the Roman guard through his witness (1:12-13).

As I write this I can’t help but rejoice over God’s timing and placement (it certainly isn’t always our own).  The Philippians knew that God could use Paul in jail, that’s partly how their church got started (Acts 16). With Philippi being a Roman colony, there were perhaps many there in the church who would have known (or known of) some of the folks that Paul was chained to.

FATHER, We rejoice in your sovereignty. We are grateful that we can pray for your Kingdom to Come and your will to be done, knowing that you are actively arranging all things to that purpose. We rejoice in you in all circumstances. We rejoice to know that you have allowed us to be in certain places as certain times for the sake of the gospel. Give us eyes to see the opportunities that are ever before us. We rejoice to see your hand order our world today. Thank you for the grace of leading your congregation. 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 61: Ephesians 4-6 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

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

Paul charges the Ephesian church to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (4:3). Unity is one of those things that you need to fight to keep. Division is easy. We can drift into division. We can let small differences become big differences. Unity takes effort. Unity is what we are called too.

However, this unity, isn’t unity for unity sake. It is unity in Christ. It’s coming together with the same faith (4:13). It’s maturing in that knowledge of the faith as looked at yesterday. It’s working together. It’s “speaking the truth in love” (4:15, 25).

SIDE NOTE: To have this kind of unity. We have to be willing to tell one another the truth and we have to not be quick to let our feelings get hurt. I’m afraid that our culture, even in the church, is drifting so that we are more afraid of hurting feelings than we are of warning someone away from serious error. We must speak the truth in love.

Paul lays out in chapters five and six how this unity is to work. We are all to submit to one another (5:21). This pertains to marriage (5:22-33), children and parents (6:1-4), and workers and their bosses (6:5-9).  These are all places where it can be difficult to maintain unity of Spirit. In the flesh, we like to grumble about our boss, children love to rebel against their parents and marital strife abounds. Yet, if we are submitted to Christ, we will submit to one another to that God is glorified.

To strive for unity is spiritual warfare. Paul charges us to put on the whole armor of God Satan love to bring division and if we aren’t wearing our armor, we will fall for his attack every time (6:10-20).

SIDE NOTE: We like to think the battle is out there, but notice how much of this submission to one another is to take place in our everyday lives and especially at home. The questions I asked myself today from Ephesians 5 in the fight for unity are these: Do I love my wife like Christ loved the church? Am I raising my children in the fear and admonition of the Lord? Am I treating those above me or below me at work with respect and honor as people made in the image of God?

FATHER, Thank you for calling us to unity. We rejoice in our salvation and ask to continue to grow in the knowledge of our faith. We are grateful that you have given us all gifts and called us to be part of one body, unified but not uniform. We thank you for our spouses, families, and jobs. We pray that we would honor you in every aspect of our lives. We ask for grace to grow submitting to one another in a holy fear of you. Thank you for the grace to lead as a husband, a father, and a pastor. 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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