Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2010 – November 30 – Carnal Christianity

Study from God’s Word Chapters 1 – 4 of Paul’s second letter to the Church at Corinth, which we know of as 1st Corinthians since the first letter is not available in the canon of Scripture … Passage for Reflection: 1st Corinthians 3: 1 … NIV Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly – mere infants in Christ.

My Journal for Today: You’ve probably heard or read the term “carnal Christian” used to describe Christians who were [or are] handling life through human methods or ways of thinking rather than relying on God’s wisdom and the leading of God’s Spirit. So, as Dr. LaGard Smith points out today, that term, “carnal christian,” is somewhat of an oxymoron, isn’t it? If we’re truly Christian, we should be looking to God and following God’s truth rather than relying on self or man’s ways, shouldn’t we?

As the Apostle Paul was trying to point out to the Christians at Corinth (and to each of us in reading his epistles in the Bible), our ability to interpret life and to walk in truth has to do with our maturity and discernment of the truth of the Gospel and the ways of God, which are presented to us in His word. Hence we read in one of God’s later directives, again through Paul, this time to Timothy in 2nd Tim. 3: 16-17, reading that we, as disciples of Christ, are to follow God’s ways from His word in order to overcome the fallacies and foolishness of the world. That’s why Paul was addressing the foolishness of the divisions within the church at Corinth which had resulted by men following men rather than following God and God’s Spirit.

And when we read these charges and challenges Paul wrote to Corinth, we realize that we’re still being “carnal christians” in this world, following personalities rather than the Person of God’s Spirit, Who will lead us exactly where we need to walk, IF we follow HIM and HIS WAYS rather than, as babes, following the lures of carnality we hear today from worldly gurus like Mohammed, Confucius, Joseph Smith, or even one like Oprah Winfrey. Any time we act like children and follow the Pied Pipers of untruth, rather than being like the Bereans (again, see Acts 17: 10-15), we’re going to be led down the path to carnality and away from real Christianity, which relies exclusively on the truth of the Gospel and the message of the Cross which we find embedded in the truth of God’s word.

So, my fellow Christian life traveler, I hearken back to the truth of 2Tim. 3: 16-17, linked here for your review and meditation, keeping us away from human divisiveness and carnal foolishness by shining the light of truth (i.e., the message of Christ through His Spirit) imparted through His word for our direction and guidance through the travails of life.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, in the fogginess of life, I look to the harbor light which is Your truth in Your word. Amen

Monday, November 29, 2010

2010 – November 29 – "Lord Willing !!"

Study from God’s Word Reading the 2nd letter to the church at Thessalonica and in Acts 18: 12 – Acts 19: 22 about Paul’s third missionary journey. … Passage for Reflection: Acts 18: 21 in the context of verses 19 - 22 … NIV 19 They [Paul and his traveling companions] arrived at Ephesus, where Paul left Priscilla and Aquila. He himself went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to spend more time with them, he declined. 21 But as he left, he promised, “I will come back if it is God’s will.” Then he set sail from Ephesus. 22 When he landed at Caesarea, he went up to Jerusalem and greeted the church and then went down to Antioch.

My Journal for Today: That’s an interesting phrase, “…if it is God’s will;” and Dr. Smith points out today that its use appears to be diminishing in even our Christian social interaction. Paul’s use of the directional phrase in today’s highlight passage had to do with his expressed belief that God was the one guiding his journeys (in this case in his third missionary journey to Ephesus and other spots in Asia-Minor).

When I was a kid, I used to hear folks, Christian and non-believers, use a social phrase when trying to express quandary over what might transpire. They’d say about some future questioned possibility, “Well, … God willing and if the creek don’t rise.” And the implication was – either from tradition or belief – that God was the one Who was in control; and any future event was in His hands and not in the purview of the one speaking those words. But these days, in a culture which is becoming more secularized and where human control is more and more valued, the phrase “God willing” is just disappearing from our social mindset; and I’m afraid that’s even the case for Christians.

Dr. Smith’s probing evaluation question for the day is one we all should answer for ourselves. He posits, ”Do I ever consciously factor God’s will into my future plans?” Good question, huh?
In other words, when we’re trying to live and move within the will of God, which I assume is a goal of any Christian reading this here today, do we really believe and actively pursue God’s way as we set out in a given direction or make choices which have lasting impact on our own lives, let alone the lives of our family and others in our sphere of influence?

You know, God, through Paul, charged Christians in Ephesus (and all of us, by extension) to beware of our directions and choices, especially in troubled times [please meditate on Paul’s exhortation in Ephesians 5: 15-16 - linked here]. Jesus was clear to His followers (the people of “the Way” - see Luke 9: 23) to deny self and, when things get tough, to follow Him (and His ways). So, we need to, as disciples of Christ, be seeking – and finding – the “God willing” way in life rather than the way of SELF actualization or SELF determination, toward which so many are turning and pointing in our world.

I believe Christians began to turn away from seeking the “God willing” ways to the “self willed” ways back in the 50s, under the influence of “positive thinking” gurus like Norman Vincent Peale; and now we see a great proliferation in the secularized spiritual teachings of those like Oprah Winfrey as well as “word-of-faith” false preachers, touting themselves as “christian,” … people like Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer and all of the other “prosperity gospel” advocates. They all point mankind toward self-will and thereby away from the “God willing” point of view.

I hope we all, as followers of Christ, are doing what Paul was trying to teach the Christians in Thessalonica and on his various missionary journeys, as well as through God’s teachings in Paul’s epistles, … and that is to actively, and in surrender to God’s Spirit, seek out God’s will and become a “God willing” advocate rather than a pusher of the “self willing” points of view.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I surrender to say that “God willing” I will seek Your way rather than my way. Amen

Sunday, November 28, 2010

2010 – November 28 – Raising Our Ambitions Lower

Study from God’s Word On his second missionary journey, Paul writes two letters to the church of Greek converts in Thessalonica, where he had visited on his way to Corinth during this journey. Reading today through the 1st Letter to the Thessalonians … Passage for Reflection: 1st Thessalonians 4: 11-12, in the context of Paul’s letter to Greek Christians on how to live a life more pleasing to God … NIV 1 As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. …
9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

My Journal for Today
If you’re a new convert or a relatively immature believer (spiritually), reading through Paul’s letter to relatively new Christians in Thessalonica is a good read for direction in sanctification. Well, actually it’s a good study for mature Christians too; … as a check-up to see if one is living the Christian life the way it should be lived to please God.

Today’s highlight passages pose an interesting lesson for those of us Christians who, today, live in a world which honors assertive, if not aggressive, ambition. And Dr. Smith’s devotional title for today is an interesting one: Raising Our Ambition Lower. And what the Apostle Paul was teaching in 1Thes 4: 11-12, and Dr. Smith is reinforcing with his title, is that Christians in any pagan or assertively non-Christian culture need to avoid getting caught up in the magnetic draw of the world to “climb the ladder” of worldly success by being ambitious to get ahead.

But Paul is not trying to get Christians (that’s us, as well as the Thessalonians) to not be ambitious. No, he’s just trying to get the focus of our ambition on what is pleasing to God and not necessarily to mankind … or even more so to self. Whereas Satan, the world, and most certainly our own flesh would have us being ambitious to climb over others, God’s ambition would be for us to help others who need support. It’s the message Jesus continually taught while on earth … that the last will be first and the first will be last.

So, Dr. Smith is asking us to evaluate where, and to what, we direct our ambitions. Is our drive to please others or live according to God’s way of living? Is our motivated purpose to be ahead in the world or ahead in God’s kingdom by serving others? Are we compulsively driven to stand and help others rise to God’s standards; or are we ambitious to climb on top of others on the way up the human ladder of worldly success?

Well, I used to be driven to be seen by others and to get feedback from others as to my professional prowess. Now, my driven ambitions are to know my God as intimately as possible and to follow His lead as closely as possible. I guess I’m in that later-life mode as a Christian to become what Paul was writing about to the Thessalonians. So, I pray we’re all “raising our ambitions lower” to honor and glorify God.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to make less of myself so that You may be elevated in the eyes of all who see You in me. Amen

Saturday, November 27, 2010

2010 – November 27 – A Holy Hunger for Truth

Study from God’s Word Acts Acts 5: 36 through chapter 18: 11, documenting Paul’s second missionary journey to Asia-Minor and southern Greece … Passage for Reflection: Acts 17: 11 [in the context of verses 10 – 12] … NIV 10 As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

My Journal for Today: What is truth, anyway? And that’s a question which rattled Pilate when he was adjudicating Jesus’ fate [see John 18: 37-38]. Pilate was weighing two truths; and all he could really focus on was the worldly, political truth that he had a man before him who was touted as “a king;” and the truth of Roman power during that time was that only Caesar could be king. So, for Pilate, political truth weighed more heavily that the pursuit of absolute truth; and THE truth, as it turned out, was standing right before Pilate in the person of The Christ.

But, as we read, in the book of Acts, of the 2nd missionary journey of Paul and some of his compatriots, including Silas, Timothy, and Luke, we read of Paul being led by the Holy Spirit to Berea; and from Acts 17: 10-15 [linked] we have today’s highlight passage, one I hold to strongly because of the example set by the Berean Jews who encountered Paul and heard him preaching the Gospel. These Berean believers, in the one, true God, were well trained and well-versed in the Scripture as they knew it, which was The Law and the written words of the Prophets. So, when they encountered Paul, preaching a new type of truth, the first thing that they did was to go back and match what Paul was teaching with THE TRUTH of Scripture to see if the word Paul was bringing could stand up to the plumb of truth as they knew it from God’s Holy Word.

And that, my fellow Christian, is exactly the attitude which we should have when we hear people of worldly influence (and I’m now thinking of people like Oprah Winfrey), spouting messages they claim to be truth, especially messages which do not square up with Scripture, as we know it, which, of course, includes the canonized and scholarly translated Bible.

We need to be Bereans in our beliefs, holding closely to truth, absolute truth, such as is found in 2nd Tim. 3: 16-17, which I hope you know, which says, All SCRIPTURE is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. And this scriptural plumb of truth, the Bible, teaches (in 1st John 4: 1 and 1st Thess. 5: 21) for believers to test out all espoused doctrine and ideas to see, as the Bereans did, … if worldly ideas are in accord with God’s truth as we know it from the Bible.

As today’s devotional title by Dr. Smith posits, we, as Christians, need to have a "holy hunger for truth" as we live live in a world of growing secularism and increasing relativity of ideas. Therefore, as we are trying to know what is “truth,” we must have a solid, believable, and steady standards upon which to stand in the world of ideas. And as we glean from what God has shared with me today, this TRUTH is found – and only found - in the person of Jesus Christ and documented in His Holy Word.

Therefore, when you hear doctrines being taught or preached in the marketplace of ideas and ideals, such as those by the likes of Oprah and even false “christian” teachers, like the so-called word-of-faith proponents, we need to be like the Bereans and go back to check these teachings to see if they test out positive when it comes to the plumb and standard of Biblical truth.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help us to become Holy obsessed with Your TRUTH which is found and give to us by Your word, the Bible. Amen

Friday, November 26, 2010

2010 – November 26 – Dead Men Walking

Study from God’s Word The entire letter to the church at Galatia … Passage for Reflection: Galatians 2: 20 … NIV ... I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

My Journal for Today: Today, my devotional shepherd, Dr. LaGard Smith, in his book of devotions based upon my reading of The Daily Bible in Chronological Order had me read through the entire letter Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia, that region in Asia Minor where Paul and Barnabas had traveled and evangelized. At the time Paul wrote the letter to these beloved Christians he had helped bring to Christ, a group of misguided Jews, claiming to be converted Christians, were trying to convince the Galatian believers in that region that they needed to be circumcised and follow the Old Covenant of the Law closely to be “real” Christians. And Paul wrote the truth that we read in the letter to the Galatians that the Gospel of Christ has freed them as Gentiles, not requiring any acts of the flesh to be converted for them to walk as heirs to God’s promise of salvation.

And the focus of today’s oft quoted passage from Galatians 2: 20 [a passage, by-the-way, I hope you have memorized] points all Christians to the identification we should have in the only way we can be saved; and that is to die to self by having surrendered faith in what Christ did for us on the cross. As Smith says today, when/if we acknowledge our sinfulness and surrender ourselves unto the death Christ experienced for us on the cross, we become “the walking dead.” But because Christ died so that we could be raised again, as He was from the grave, our spiritual death to our selves will become – one day in glory – spiritual and eternal life with Christ, which is so vividly portrayed in the witness of Christian baptism.

Today, Dr. Smith, my devotional author, closes his entry for the day with what he calls an “excruciating” question. He writes, ”Am I a dead person walking with Christ, or a pretend Christian who has yet to truly die (to self)?” For the receipt of God’s gift of salvation, all who walk with Christ must have been crucified to self for us to be “dead men (or women) walking.” I pray that this includes all who read here. If not, now is the time to choose to live in Christ and die to self. And if you have questions about that, you can email me now [Email Address - billb13@bellsouth.net]. Or you can go read the entire book of Galatians as I did this morning; and then go to Romans 10: 9 – 13 [linked] and read exactly what all must do to die to self and be reborn in Christ.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that all here join me as the walking dead to self who’ve been reborn in Your for eternity. Amen

Thursday, November 25, 2010

2010 – November 25 – A Rough Road to the Kingdom

Special Blogger's Note: Your ElderBerry friend, Bill, here wanting to relate to any/all who come here - maybe today and maybe other days - to read or even meditate on what God leads me to write here in these daily devotional blogs. It's THANKSGIVING DAY; and I'm so very thankful to be reading through the entire Bible this year (still on track into the 11th month). And I'm thankful to have followers like you, who, knowing you're there, have helped to keep me accountable and motivated to <'KOKO>< , which means "to keep on keeping on in Christ!" Thanks to you, to God's willingness to give me a little more than a month more, and mostly to God's enabling grace, keeping me on track in this covenant to Him on January 1, 2010, I'm going to read/study through the entire Bible this year; and doing it will be all to God's glory. Thanks, some of you, for coming along with me. I'm so grateful for your presence. =====================

Study from God’s Word Acts, Chapters 13 – 15 … Passage for Reflection: Acts 14: 21 - 22 … NIV Then they [Paul, revived after being stoned by offended Greek Jews on his first missionary journey to Asia-Minor, and Barnabas, traveling with Paul] … returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch (in northern Syria), 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.

My Journal for Today: Okay, today is Thanksgiving in this year as I read today’s chapters from Acts and, led by Dr. Smith’s devotional, highlighting a passage attributed to the teachings of both Paul and Barnabas, who were teaching Jewish and Gentile Christians on their first missionary journey to Asia Minor. And in this study, I come upon another of those perplexing doctrinal conundrums which cause us to pause to ask how much of good works, in the face of persecution or worldly, human trial, is necessary for a believer in Jesus, as The Christ, to enter the kingdom of God, which is our heaven-bound home as born-again Christians after we’ve lived out our lives here on this earth.

We know a lot as Christians; and we really learn the basics from the Bible about salvation by God’s grace, through faith, leading to good works and kingdom as we read and internalize Christ’s sermon on the mount and then Paul’s letters later to the Church. In passages like Ephesians 2: 8-10, we read that salvation only comes through receiving the free gift of God’s saving grace by faith in Christ’s death and resurrection for our sins; and then in verse 10 of that passage, we see that fully receiving this saving grace leads to the enabling/empowering and sanctifying grace of God which shapes Christians to be able to withstand the very “hardships” which Paul and Barnabas are teaching Christians about in today’s passage.

The question and the Christian conundrum though the age of the Church has always been what Dr. Smith wrote out in his devotional challenge for the day, writing, In light of Jesus’ teaching, how far do I have to go to enter the kingdom of God?” Well, let me comment on that briefly.

I KNOW that I will enter the kingdom of God upon my exit from life because first of all my commitment in faith to Christ as Savior AND LORD, is very real. I KNOW and have declared repeatedly to others that I was (and still remain) a sinner; but I’m a sinner who was saved by the blood shed by Christ on the cross; and furthermore I believe and KNOW the truth of His resurrection from the dead to show God’s power over death. And then finally, KNOWING the truth of God’s word in Romans 10: 9-13, where the process of salvation is clearly laid out, my life since I let Christ into my heart has been a process of confrontation with the world, Satan, and my own sinful flesh. But these hardships have happened with me experiencing the enabling grace given to me by God’s presence in my heart to become the “living sacrifice,” described by Paul in Romans 12: 1-2.

I believe; and I KNOW it’s true, as Paul/Barnabas taught to Christians (in the above verse) that one cannot expect to be in the kingdom of God unless the trials of life have shown the believer that he/she has the presence and power of God’s Spirit in them and working through them in order for us, as true, born-again believers, to exhibit the fruitfulness described in John 15 and Galatians 5: 22-23.

I’ll leave it to you, if you don’t know those passages I’ve referred to above, by heart, to look them up and meditate on them here at Thanksgiving; and if you are like me on this special day, you’ll be so thankful that you let God’s grace into your life so that you can be saved from your self and allowed and empowered to deal with the hardships of life. Be thankful today, my Christian friend, that you are in, and always will be in, the Kingdom of God.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m so thankful that You, Lord, led me into Your Kingdom. Amen

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

2010 – November 24 – Joy Beyond Belief

Study from God’s Word Acts 9; 32 through Chapter 12… Passage for Reflection: Acts 12: 14 – 15 … NIV 14 When she [Rhoda, a servant girl in the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark] recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed [to those in the home gathered to pray, likely for Peter’s release], “Peter is at the door!” … 15 “You’re out of your mind,” they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, “It must be his angel.”

My Journal for Today: Do you see the interesting – and very human – conundrum in the highlight passage above. Here were a group of Christians gathered in a home, knowing that King Herod, the grandson of Herod, the Great, had executed James, the brother of John, and would likely do so to Peter, their beloved leader, as well. And so, these fellow “Christians” had likely gathered in the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, to pray that Peter would, some how, be spared death. And then, when Peter shows up at the door and is announced to the praying throng, they cannot believe it’s really him. >>> “Oh, ye, of little faith!”

But isn’t that the very human way we are as Christians? Have you ever prayed for a miracle of healing or deliverance; and low and behold, .. it happens; and then you’re astounded that it did? I certainly have had that happen; and I hope I never lose my AWE for what God does that is really humanly impossible. However, the fact remains that such instances point to the abnormal – or rather, the “supernatural” – and we, even as believers, are really blown away by God doing things that we may pray for but have trouble believing could ever occur.

Dr. LaGard Smith’s devotional title, “Joy Beyond Belief,” is a good one today to describe this point, which resonates in Dr. Smith’s prayerful self-evaluation question, which is quoted for you: ”Do I pray with such confidence in God’s power that I would never be surprised if He answered even the most challenging of [my] prayers?”

And this raises a follow-up question of my own: If I truly believe my God is omnipotent, why am I not praying for impossible things rather than just for the humanly possible?” If I could pray, knowing – beyond a doubt – that God could, would, and should do something miraculous, and well beyond man’s abilities to do something, for what “impossible” event or occurrence what would I be praying? Perhaps we should be praying for the release of Christians imprisoned with the threat of death, much as Peter was imprisoned by King Herod I. Maybe we should be praying for ALL abortions to cease in our world? Perhaps, being a leader of an ministry dealing with sexual sin, I should be praying more diligently and with discipline for the eradication of p0rnograpy from our culture.

And if (and when) God sees fit to grant us with a “YES” answer to our prayers for such miracles – which we know He could do, but maybe not always does do – shouldn’t we simply – in faith – express joy beyond belief for His mercy and grace? I think so; … what about you? And shouldn’t we, as believers in an omnipotent God, be challenged to up the ante of faith on our prayers, praying for many things which are way beyond mankind and considered in the realm of the miraculous? I think so; … what about you?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, forgive my short-sightedness and personal spiritual anemia when it comes to my prayers. Help me, IN FATH, to believe and pray big; because You, my Lord, are a BIG GOD, … far bigger than I could – and have – ever imagined. Amen

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010 – November 23 – Radical Transformation

Study from God’s Word Acts, Chapters 8 & 9, Luke writing of the entrance of Saul, who became the Apostle Paul … Passage for Reflection: Acts 9: 3 – 4 … NIV 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

My Journal for Today: The description of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9 has wrought an descriptive phrase in both Christian and secular expression, which we know of as “the Damascus road experience.” It refers to someone having a radical transformation of character, generally from something evil or malevolent to one who is obviously good for the world in some way. And for most Christians it means going, radically and dramatically, from sinner to saint.

I had one of those “Damascus road experiences” on April 13, 1983; and it would take too long to write about it here; but the experience and my sense of brokenness and change that day led me from being a self-absorbed, sin-driven atheist to what I’ve become, … an Elder in my church and an ordained Minister of the Gospel. My wife says that I went from a selfish sex addict to a compulsive Savior addict. She likes the latter better! ;>)

Only God could have wrought such a radical transformation. So, when I read about Saul becoming Paul, I have great empathy and understanding for the life transforming story of this persecutor of Christians who became the powerful protector of the Gospel of Christ.

But perhaps you have not had a “Damascus Road Experience;” and maybe you wonder if it takes such an experience to move from sinner to saint and become a born-again believer … a true Christian in every sense of your being. But, my friend, I hope you realize that it doesn’t take a vision of The Christ or some blindness to seeing episode in your life to be a transformed and born-again Christian. No, you may be one whose transformation began early in your life and you were much more slowly and steadily re-shaped to conform to Christ’s image.

My Pastor, in the church where we served as co-Elders, truly believes he was “saved” when he was five years old; and his growth in faith was slow and had some radical ups-and-downs. But in his case, and maybe yours, there was a transformation and maturing of the fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22-23), which has led to fruitfulness in his called ministry.

But you may ask, “Well, does one have to be transformed into a Minister, an Elder, a Missionary or be called to lead some Christian ministry to see the transformation of conversion and growth in Christian discipleship?” And the answer to that one is also a resounding “NO!” What it takes was described in a powerful biblical nutshell by the same Saul, who became Paul, in Romans 12: 1 – 2; and let me embolden that passage in italics for you – though I hope you know it from memory:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

One, like me who is wordy, could write or teach on that passage for weeks; and some have. But it all boils down to being transformed into a state of mind, as a Christian, of “living sacrifice;” and doing all we can intentionally to allow God to reshape us into His image, avoiding being transformed into the world’s image. If you have done that, …no matter how dramatically or slowly it has taken you, you are becoming the Christian God intends for you to be. It is the completion process Paul also wrote about in Philippians 1: 6, where God authored, … He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

But if you’re reading this and have doubts about your salvation or the conversion/transformation from non-Christian to one who is truly born-again, go read and study the letter from another great Apostle in the epistle we know of as 1st John. That whole letter was written to Christians to help them KNOW, beyond any doubt, that they are saved and “born-again” as Christians [see the purpose statement of the letter from John to the church in 1st John 5: 13 - linked here. Studying that letter will help you seal your status as a Christian and you can move on to be reshaped in Christ’s image.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, make over – completely – into Your image. Amen

Monday, November 22, 2010

2010 – November 22 – The Purpose of Prayer

Study from God’s Word Acts 6: 8 – end of Chapter 7 … Passage for Reflection: Acts 7: 59 – 60 … NIV 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

My Journal for Today: Today, moving on in the reading of the accounts in the Acts of the Apostles in the early church, recounted by Dr. Luke, we come on the prayer prayed by Stephen, the first recorded martyr in Christianity, who prayed the prayer in our highlight text as he was being stoned to death. And any reader of Luke’s account of the passion (see Luke 23, verses 46 and 34) probably gets a sense of déjà vu in reading Stephen’s prayer; because it was essentially the same prayer that Jesus prayed on the cross for those who were carrying out the crucifixion of our Lord.

And this raises an age-old conundrum about prayer. Stephen, who was filled of God’s Spirit, prays for the forgiveness of his enemies [i.e., for their spiritual well-being], as Jesus had instructed His disciples to do in the Sermon on the Mount [see Matt. 4: 43-44]. Okay, understood! But does this mean that God, hearing the prayer of even the purest of hearts, like that of the Son of God Himself, is obligated to what is evoked from the heart and lips of the one praying the prayer.

And this is the conundrum; … that we are commanded to pray with a humble, thankful, and forgiving heart; yet God is not obliged to answer with a solid and responsive, “Yes” to our prayers. How many times have believers been frustrated in sincere and earnest and expectant prayers for the healing of a dying loved one only to see that one be ushered out of life into the next life? So, does that mean that our prayers are useless?

Absolutely not! So, … why pray for our enemies? Well, Dr. Smith answers his own rhetorical question at the end of his devotional for today as he writes, “Could it be that prayers for others [like the one uttered by Stephen as he was being stoned] are more for OUR soul’s good than for theirs?” And the answer to that one is a resounding “YES!” And therefore, I ask the self-evaluation question that Dr. Smith writes and says is DYING TO BE ASKED: ”Have I considered that I am spiritually shaped by the prayers that I pray (or don’t pray) on behalf of others?”

Well, that one has nailed me to the cross by Christ; and I’ll let you deal with it for your own relationship with Spirit-led shaping.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I stand convicted by my prideful lethargy and willful selfishness in not praying often enough for those who willfully pursue and persecute me or my fellow Christians. Forgive them, Lord, (as I think of them here and now); and help them to come to know You as Lord and Savior. Amen

Sunday, November 21, 2010

2010 – November 21 – Discipled in a Special School

Study from God’s Word Acts, Chapters 3 – 6: 7 as the new Church grew in Jerusalem … Passage for Reflection: Acts 4: 13 … NIV When they [the Sanhedrin and Priests] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.

My Journal for Today: The Jewish religious/political leaders in the 1st century, as the Church was established and grew in Jerusalem after Jesus’ crucifixion, were befuddled by the astounding wisdom, Scriptural acumen, and powerful preaching of these the two men whom they knew had been common fishermen. However, now that Jesus, the Galilean rabble rouser was gone from the scene, the only identification that they could/would give these fishermen, who called themselves “disciples” of The Christ, was that they had been schooled “with Jesus.”

These men were not to be called “Christian” until much later under the mission work of the later Apostle, Paul; but now those who were sharing the good news of the crucified Messiah and were leading the new followers, whom we know of as the early Church, had walked with Jesus for three years; and now they had seriously taken up His banner and commission and call to become like The Lord and to really be DISCIPLES of the risen Lord.

Are you a “DISCIPLE” of Christ? It’s one thing to be a believer in Jesus as The Messiah. Even Satan’s demons believe that. But to be Christ’s disciple, one must be committed to that part of the great commission [Matt. 28: 19-20] which states, ”teaching them (i.e., new converts) to obey everything I have commanded you.” Well, then, … a disciple, in order to teach others what Jesus has commanded, must first know and live what The Lord commanded. The disciple must become like the Apostle Paul did when he was teaching converted followers in the Church of Corinth, when he declared (in 1st Cor. 11: 1), Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

And I think you’ll agree that following – and teaching – the example of Christ is not an easy deal, is it? BUT … it’s the commission Christ gave to all of us who call ourselves – and are truly, born-again, as - “Christian.” Dr. Smith, in his daily probing way, asks this compelling question today: ”Isn’t it time I moved beyond merely being a Christian to being a serious DISCIPLE of Jesus?” I’ll let you grapple with that one as I must, from the inside out, here this day.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to receive Your enabling/empowering grace to be YOUR disciple; and let others see me shining YOUR light of truth; … AND … help me to help others do the same. Amen

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2010 – November 20 – The Presence of God’s Spirit

Study from God’s Word Acts, Chapters 1 & 2 … Passage for Reflection: Acts 2: 38 … NIV Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

My Journal for Today: And now my guided tour (by the Bible editing and devotional authorship of Dr. LaGard Smith) in the New Testament continues as I’m led to begin reading in the book we know of as The Acts of the Apostles, which begins with that astounding sermon delivered by Peter to thousands of Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem for the traditional Jewish feast known as Pentecost, which takes place annually on the Hebrew calendar 50 days after Passover.

And after Peter preached his evangelically powerful sermon about repentance in Christ, well over 3000 men (and probably man thousand women and of-age children) were brought into the kingdom of God as new, born-again Christians that day. This was the launching of what we now know of as “The Church;” and in today’s excerpt from Peter’s sermon, we read of Peter’s “altar call,” (if you will) with a declaration that these Jews repent and receive the indwelling of God’s Spirit, which had been promised by Jesus Himself before He ascended to heaven. And as we’ve just referenced, thousands did exactly that on Pentecost; and what followed was a miraculous exhibit of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from these newly indwelt believers, many of whom even had a new, Spirit-led, gift of being able to speak in tongues with others who could interpret that gift for those who were not so gifted. But all of these new believers had been given various spiritual gifts which benefitted the new community of so-called (later) “Christians,” which we now know of as “the Church.” And all of these new, born-again believers were endowed with fruit of God’s Spirit, which Apostle Paul would later list in his letter to the church of Galatia [see Gal. 5: 22-23], to include love, joy, peace and other attributes which demonstrated that these new believers were changed – i.e., transformed – people, enabled by God’s Spirit to live, love, and interact in ways non-believers could not.

And Dr. Smith today, uses a word picture of this transformation process being like Jesus, with righteous intent, coming in and radically cleansing the Temple, as He did on at least two recorded occasions in the Gospel accounts [the 1st account in John 2 and the second documented in Matt 21 and Mark 11]. Jesus came in to a corrupted Temple; and as we know, cleaned it out so that the Temple would honor God’s presence as His house of worship. And this becomes a picture of what God, the Holy Spirit, does in the corrupted and sin-ridden temple, we know of as our body or “heart,” indwelling us with His grace and, over time, cleaning out the temple God has given us (our bodies) where He can dwell and be in a place of residence which glorifies God. The later Apostle Paul would also write about this to the Church in Corinth, when he asked the believers there (see 1st Cor. 6: 19-20), “19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

Dr. Smith, as he usually does, challenges his readers with a question at the end of his devotional entry, which today he calls a “purifying question.” He writes, ”If I truly wish to have the presence of God in my life, have I allowed my temple to be washed and filled?” I hope and pray all of us, here, either writing or reading this day, can answer that challenging question with an unqualified “YES!” Because, …only those who are truly born-again and surrendered to God’s Spirit in their lives will be able to do so.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, please, … PLEASE … purge my “temple” of anything unclean so that my heart may glorify You. Amen

Friday, November 19, 2010

2010 – November 19 – Evidence Dispels Doubt

Study from God’s Word The resurrection and post resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in chronological passages from Matt 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20 – 21,as well as the Lord’s instructions and commission in Acts 1 … Passage for Reflection: John 20 : 6 – 7 … NIV Then Simon Peter … saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

Also from John 20: 30, 31
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

My Journal for Today: I’m glad Dr. Smith, my devotional book author, pointed with specific reference in his entry for today to that little detail, which I’ve put in bold above from John 20 : 7, especially when this incredibly important bit of eye-witness evidence was reported in the context of what John later reported in this chapter of His Gospel account, that which I’ve made reference to in John 20: 30-31, his purpose in carefully recording the details of the miracles of Jesus so that others, even two millennia latter, like you and me, could believe on Christ as The Messiah, the Son of God, and our Savior and Lord. [Man, that was a Pauline run-on sentence, wasn’t it?]

I’ve heard preachers and teachers make reference to the power of that one little detail about the tomb of Jesus when, upon entry, Jesus’ disciples, including the reporter in this instance, John, noted that the burial cloths were neatly folded where Jesus had lain in the tomb. Have you ever thought about that little detail?

At a middle-eastern dinner of the day, the master of the home would signal the end of the meal by getting up from his reclining position to head toward the doorway of the home. The guests would follow the host; and immediately the servants in the home would come behind the master and guests and fold the dinner linens neatly on the table. They did this so that, if the master or the guests were to have second thoughts and return, the table linens would neatly be there to receive them.

Now you may be wondering where I’m going with this; but remember what Jesus had made a repetitive point of in His earthly ministry … that He was not only the MASTER; but He also was THE servant of His Father in Heaven; and He declared, “The greatest among you will be your servant.” (see Matt 23: 11) And that little detail of the linens being folded, showed all who would see (and understand) that Jesus was master over death; but that He had died and was risen again to serve mankind.

So much power and pertinence in a minute detail of God’s word! But these are the kinds of details which I didn’t discover for years after I surrendered my will, in faith, to become a born-again Christian. In fact there were many details about my professed faith that I would later come to learn about, understand, and find greatly confirming for my faith. I learned that it’s okay to have questions and to pursue answers for those questions … just like Thomas, the doubting disciple, when he heard that Jesus was risen.

But evidence like this one, wrapped up in a folded burial linen, is mostly available in the Bible to help the believer who has already come to faith in Christ as Lord … to confirm that faith. Oh, it is possible that some, like Thomas, will need hard details and evidence to have faith. Prominent atheist and intellectuals like C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, and Lee Strobel certainly needed, and later wrote about, their need for evidence to seal their belief; but many, if not most, like me, come desperately to Christ and surrender to Him as their only way to deal with life or brokenness. And after we’ve surrendered our life and faith to the Lordship of Jesus, the Christ, having little details, like the folded linen, help to seal and protect our faith; and such evidence also motivates us to go and share the joy and truth of the Good News of Christ with others, just as the women did when they found the tomb empty and the linens neatly folded where Jesus had lain.

I hope all who read here are believers and find the evidence of a folded linen greatly encouraging for us to go forth and shout out the truth that JESUS LIVES!!!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, Jesus, You live in my heart and the lives of all who believe You were the One who folded those linens to show me that You serve me as my Lord as I serve You forever as my Savior. Amen

Thursday, November 18, 2010

2010 – November 18 – The Perfect Passover Lamb

Study from God’s Word Documentation of Christ’s Passion from selected/edited chronological passages from Matt 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19 – the crucifixion, death, and burial of Jesus at Golgotha (i.e., Calvary) … Passage for Reflection: John 19: 33 … NIV But when they (the Roman soldiers) came to Jesus and found that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.

My Journal for Today: And why is this latter fact (in today’s text) so important – i.e., that Jesus’ bones would not be broken as was the practice to hasten death at a crucifixion? Well, we know that Jesus was God’s Lamb, the perfect paschal Lamb being sacrificed for mankind at the ultimate Passover; and according to Jewish law, the selected Passover lamb had to be perfect, with no broken bones (see Exod 12: 46 or Num 9: 12). And in Ps 34: 20 we have the Messianic prophesy of no broken bones at the time of Messiah sacrificing for mankind. Hence, when the Jewish leaders asked that the Romans hasten Jesus’ death to avoid having to take down the body on the Sabbath, the soldiers went to break his legs but discovered that he was already dead; and this allowed for God’s Passover Lamb to be bruised, but not broken [see also Is 53: 10].

Many times, being an Elder in our church I’ve been called upon to serve the Eucharist; and during the service, offering up the bread, I have said, “Christ’s body, broken for you.” But from now on, I will not say that, learning this small, but very important detail. I’m now led to say, “Christ’s body, bruised for you” to be more in accord with Scriptural truth. Oh, well … moving on >>>

The more one reads, studies, and meditates upon Christ’s passion, the Christian has to come away in awe of how all of the events fit together to cry out the truth that of that fate-filled day; and, having been prophesied by many Old Testament prophets, God, the Father, sacrificed His beloved Son as the perfect Passover Lamb so that the sins of all mankind would be propitiated. And if you’ve seen the Mel Gibson portrayal in movie version of The Passion of The Christ, you probably wept, as I did, during the visual representation of the mocking, the cruelty, and the degradation of the cross; and that it happened all for you and for me, is almost overwhelming.

A couple of years ago I was in Jerusalem; and our pilgrimage group was led to the place where archeologists strongly believe they’ve uncovered where Jesus was nailed to the cross. I stood on those very stones; and looking down at my feet on the place where the Roman soldiers pounded those three nails into Christ’s wrists and feet; and I wept – almost uncontrollably; because I realized that it was MY SIN which nailed my Lord and Savior to that cross; and it was for MY SIN for which He hung on that tree; and it was for MY SIN that He died, was buried, and was resurrected again … to save ME from MY SIN.

Yes, again I say … HALLELUJAH !!!

My Prayer for Today: You became God’s Lamb FOR ME! Praise Your Holy Name!!! Amen

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

2010 – November 17 – Getting What We Need Instead

Study from God’s Word Selected passages chronologically from the ironic and horribly unjust trial of Jesus back and forth between Pilate, Herod Antipas, and again with Pilate, taken from Matt. 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, as well as John 18 -19 … Passage for Reflection: John 18: 39 - 40 … NIV [Pilate asked] “Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews?” They [the Jewish mob accusing Jesus of sedition in lieu of blasphemy] shouted back, “No not him! Give us Barabbas!”

My Journal for Today: Reading chronologically through the horrendously gruesome trial of Jesus this morning, I learned one detail from Dr. LaGard Smith’s devotional, covering these events, that shows me, not only God’s biting sense of irony at times, but also His penchant for giving us what we need rather than always listening to and giving us what we ask for.

You Christians, who’re reading with me here, have no doubt read through Christ’s passion, maybe several times, and this series of events where the Jewish leaders have provoked a mob to cry for the crucifixion of Jesus, is one of the most incredible series of events in all of Scripture. And, as we read, it comes to Pilate, the Roman Governor, who did have the power to crucify Jesus where the Sanhedrin didn’t, to order Jesus to the cross. But for the most part, Pilate could not find fault in Jesus. So, as a ploy and a tradition of the day to release a prisoner just before the Jewish feast, Pilate mockingly asks the crowd if he should crucify the “king of the Jews.” Incensed by this, the Sanhedrin provoked the mob to cry out for Barabbas, who was an insurrectionist mobster of that day.

And herein lies one of those great God ironies, which is lost on the emotional mob crying out for Jesus to die. The name “Bar-Abbas,” in Hebrew actually means “son of his father.” So, the irony is that the people, by calling out for the release of this man, named “Barabbas,” are, in reality, crying out, “Free the Son of The Father,” which is exactly what they, as sinners, needed; and by getting Barabbas in exchange, Jesus, the Son of Man, who was also the Son of the Living God, would go to the cross in order to give them, the mob (and, of course, all of us) freedom from their [our] sins.

Incredible irony! The mob cries for what they want; and God gives them exactly what they need. And aren’t you glad that God doesn’t always give us everything we want exactly when we want it? No, when we pray for or plead to God for many things, God knows exactly what we need; and praise the Lord, He will only give us what we want … IF … it’s exactly what we need.

And just as I close out another morning of time in God’s word, being taught God’s truth, I’m so grateful that I serve and worship a God Who knows what I need; and in listening to my prayers and pleas, gives me just what I need.

Say it with me [and if I didn’t want to wake up my wife, I’d shout it!] … “Praise the Lord !!!”

My Prayer for Today: Yes, praise Your Holy Name for loving me enough to always give me what I need rather than what I want. Amen

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

2010 – November 16 – Overcoming Temptation

Study from God’s Word Reading of the trials Jesus and the Disciples experienced in Gethsemane, as well as the unjust arrest, trials, and condemnation of Jesus by the Jewish high priests and Sanhedrin from Matt 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and John 18, extracted and edited into chronological presentation … Passage for Reflection: Matthew 26: 41 … NIV [Jesus, to Peter] “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The [human] spirit is willing, but the body {or “flesh”} is weak.

My Journal for Today: Being the called leader, “pastor,” or overseer of a ministry for Christian men who’ve fallen prey to their own flesh and into sexual temptations and sin [see the Battle Plan Ministry website], the passages from the four Gospels documenting Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, as well as the flesh-driven failures of three of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples, have always had special significance for me.

Here we have Jesus, the very Son of God, dealing with His human flesh, … even praying that He might be spared “the cup” of crucifixion ahead of Him. And then we have those tired and weak three, who were charged by Jesus to wait for their beloved Messiah while He went into the garden to pray. And three times they relented to the temptation of their flesh, falling asleep at the wheel of watchfulness. And during this time, Jesus even singled out Peter, whom He had perceived as the leader of His inner core of followers, with this warning we read in today’s highlight text.

Dr. Smith even speculates in today’s devotional entry that Jesus was speaking to Peter (and to us through His word in the Bible) out of empathy; because, in the garden that night, He had been praying desperately to the Father to be able to overcome His humanity and allow His divinity to complete the mission before Him, … to go to the cross for the absolute atonement of the sins of man. So, when Jesus spoke to Peter, as well as James and John to be vigilant, watching and praying, to avoid falling prey to the ever present weakness of the flesh, He was speaking to you and me as well from His humanity as well as His divinity.

My friends, we are constantly in a spiritual battle against very powerful enemies which tempt us to fall from temptations. Certainly Satan is WAY stronger than are we; and he has created a system, known as “the world,” which surrounds us with temptations which pry at our flesh to have us worship Satan or self over The Savior. And then there is the real soft-spot in our armament; and that is our very human heart (or “the flesh”), the weakness which is so well documented in Jeremiah 17: 9, a passage linked here which I hope you really do know by heart to appreciate the fleshly weakness of our own, very human, hearts.

My friends, we really do need to be vigilant – ever day, even every moment – to guard against temptations such as those encountered by Peter, James, and John, and yes, by Jesus, Himself, in the garden, just before Jesus was taken prisoner, unjustly tried, and crucified. And Jesus warned Peter, the tough-guy of the remaining eleven Disciples, who had declared he would never deny Jesus; but he, of course, was the one who ran like a wimp from Gethsemane and denied the Lord, … not just once, but thrice.

When Jesus, told Peter, to “watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation,” He was speaking truth to us all. If we don’t remain ever vigilant, praying continually for Spirit empowered grace to overcome our ever vulnerable hearts (i.e., flesh), we are going to be very vulnerable to an enemy, Satan, who wants to do what he’s done to many Christian leaders who’ve fallen prey to the flesh. You know them well. They are the Bakers, the Swaggerts, the Haggards, and unfortunately too many others who’ve fallen prey to the flesh. And are we exempt? Hardly! How about every one of us who’ve fallen asleep in our lack of vigilance and chickened out when we should’ve stood for Jesus by witnessing to the lost rather than running in the fear of failure.? How many of us who have fallen prey to gluttony and eaten that donut rather than resisting when we knew it was sinful? How many of us men who have fallen asleep repeatedly in battle and have gone into visual pursuit of flesh on the internet rather than avoiding such pursuits to honor God?

Is the flesh weak, or what? Do we need to “watch and pray” to avoid temptation? Dr. Smith asks today: ”If my highest aspirations are not enough to keep my body (i.e., flesh) in check, isn’t it time my spirit got down its knees?”

Years ago, I learned and developed a technique; and I know that I’m going long here; … but, like Jesus in the Garden, I’m asking if you’re willing to take the time to learn a battle technique to overcome your weak heart and fleshly desires, especially when temptations arise? If you are; …TRY THIS: …
1. Write these Bible verses on 3 X 5 cards: 1st Corinthians. 10: 13; Phil. 4: 13; Romans 8: 31.
2. Until you memorize these verses (and you should ASAP), carry the cards with you AT ALL TIMES.
3. When tempted, recite or read the verses through three times. >>> After the first recitation, pray to the Holy Spirit, asking Him to give you strength ... after the second recitation, pray to Jesus, thanking Him for His saving grace ... and after the third, pray to God the Father, praising His Holy Name!. I GUARANTEE YOU, if you do this when tempted, Satan will flee just as promised in James 4: 7. This battle strategy, my friend, will work! ... BUT … only if you do it!
To me, this technique, which I’ve been using and teaching for many years, fits right into Jesus’ Gethsemane declaration to His disciples, … to “watch and pray” when dealing with temptation. I can only pray for you – and I will below – that you find this battlefield technique as successful as I have.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray here for any reading here that they will recognize and acknowledge their own weakness and rely on Your power to give them strength in dealing with temptations. Amen

Monday, November 15, 2010

2010 – November 15 – Known by Our Love

Study from God’s Word From the so-called “Upper Room Discourse,” John records Jesus’ sharing with His anxious/confused inner 11 Disciples in John 15-16 and then His prayers for them (and us) in John, Chapters 17 … Passage for Reflection: John 17: 23 … NIV May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me and have loved them as you have loved Me.

My Journal for Today: Normally, when I’m doing my own morning devotional journal entries, I wait to the end of my summary of what the Lord has revealed to me that day to share LaGard Smith’s daily and sometimes sobering question. But today I’m going to do that right up front, as today he wrote, ”If the world based its judgment about Christ solely upon how I love fellow believers, would they move nearer to Christ or farther away?”

In today’s highlight text we have Jesus openly praying that His followers thereafter, which, most certainly, includes all who claim to be “Christian” today, would be unified in their witness of love for Jesus, which He said would manifest itself most openly in the love Christians would have for one another. So, I’m back to the challenge question from Dr. Smith for today; and I honestly think I do okay on that one – not great … but okay. I’ll let you search yourself, if you’re reading here, to see if others would move closer to wanting to know Jesus by the way you treat other Christians.

But – and this is another big “BUT” – it concerns me that Christianity may be driving people away from Christ because of how we are perceived by the world as bickering with (or maybe it would be more accurate to say “fighting with”) each other as Christians. First, there is the big split which occurred in the 16th century with Protestantism splitting away from Roman Catholic and/or Easter Orthodox doctrinal beliefs. And now, how does the world view all the division they see in modern day denominationalism? And there is the confusion the world has to see with non-Christian sects like Mormonism or the Watchtower, who are in open competition with so-called “Orthodox Christianity,” as we all witness to convince non-believers that each of us has the only way to go to heaven.

And finally the world sees so-called conservative, evangelical Christians railing, as admittedly I do sometimes, about new-age teachers like Oprah Winfrey, who claim that all faith systems have commonality and you can come to God, or go to heaven, by following any of those belief systems. Won’t the world see it as disunity when someone like me would claim that, as Jesus Himself said in John 14: 16, Christ is the only way to heaven?

All this divisiveness has got to be seen as disunity and lacking in God’s love by the world; and at times I must admit that it’s hard to stand in the gap for orthodox truth and be unified in the bond of Christianity. But one thing is clear that I can do; and that is to love others as Jesus loved me. And when I think of how patient He was in wooing and drawing me to Himself, I need to be similarly loving to others – especially to other Christians … but extending that love as well to non-Christians.

I’m dong better and better with this; but I still have a long way to go to become the Christian Jesus prayed for in John 17; … so, I move on … trying to let God transform me into the disciple my Lord prayed for in that Upper Room the night He was betrayed and then taken to be crucified.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be the loving disciple I need to be for others to see You in me. Amen

Sunday, November 14, 2010

2010 – November 14 – Washing Even the Dirtiest Feet

Study from God’s Word Taken from Jesus’ time with His inner twelve in the Upper Room in Luke 22, Mark 14, Matt 26, and especially from John, Chapters 13 - 14 … Passage for Reflection: John 13: 14 … NIV Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash another’s feet.

My Journal for Today: Today, my devotional leader/editor/writer has chosen one verse from that remarkable passage at the beginning of the so-called “Upper Room Discourse” in the book of John, where Jesus, perceiving that His inner twelve are getting the wrong idea about their importance for the coming kingdom, teaches them the importance of being “servant leaders” by doing something that anyone in a position of leadership or lordship would never do in those times; and that is to wash the feet of his (in this case, “HIS”) guests. Washing the feet of others at such a dinner gathering would traditionally have been done by someone considered by the guests to be a slave or servant; and here was Jesus that night before the Passover, taking on the role of servant and washing the dirty feet of the men the Lord had been traveling with now for three years. It’s a remarkable scene on several levels, isn’t it?

And we know from this account how “foot-in-the-mouth” Peter tried to reject Jesus doing the foot washing bit; but finally relented. And in today’s highlight text, we read of the bottom line of instruction that Jesus is giving to His inner Disciples, who had just (in context) been squabbling over who was the most important in the coming kingdom. And Jesus’ message; … well, it’s that recurring theme that Christ had been trying to get across to His men … that the first will be last and the last will be first. It is the lesson that Jesus came to serve and not be served and that we should (again I say from Luke 9: 23) learning to deny self and follow the example of Christ in all parts of life.

And I think the most remarkable demonstration we see from the foot washing passage is that Jesus even washed the feet of the one with the dirtiest feet, … the man whom He knew was about to betray Him, … Judas Iscariot. And I hope we all glean this incredible lesson … that when we see someone who has dirty feet – and I mean really dirty feet – Jesus is willing to wash them; and so should we. He was even willing to wash the feet of the one who was going to turn Him over to be crucified.

And that is me! For years my life picked up some the dirtiest feet one could imagine. And I turned on Jesus much worse than did Peter … or even Judas. But when Jesus, in 1983, came around to offer to wash my feet and make me clean of all my past dirt, picked up from years of walking in the manure of sexual sin, I relented; and Jesus washed me clean (as it says in 1st John 1: 9). And I hope/pray that all who read here have had themselves fully washed by the blood of Jesus; and they now – and forevermore – will walk in Christ’s kingdom with clean feet.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I walk with clean feet any day I’m willing to let You wash my feet to walk in Your path of righteousness. Amen

Saturday, November 13, 2010

2010 – November 13 – Faithless Faith

Study from God’s Word Accounts from the Gospels about the “last supper” and Jesus’ preparing to become the Lamb of God from Matt 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22 as well as John 12 … Passage for Reflection: John 12: 42 – 43 … NIV 42 Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved human praise more than praise from God.

My Journal for Today: As sometimes we say when incongruities are apparent in someone’s story or the report of a set of circumstances, like the one in today’s devotional text, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

Supposedly we have Jewish leaders in these latter days of Jesus’ life on earth who “believe” in Jesus. Yet, they are unwilling – or unable – to stand in the gap for that faith by confessing their beliefs to the Pharisees, who were the so-called guardians of the Temple, because of fears that they’d be excluded from worshipping in the Temple, which would have shunned them from inclusion in the community of Jewish faith there in Jerusalem. So, as my title implies for my devotional entry today, these men had somewhat of a “faithless faith.” Today, we Christians might have called them “nominal christians,” because the depth of their faith was only intellectual and not a deep/abiding/living faith in Christ.

And that brings up our application challenge from Dr. Smith from reading and meditating on the text for today. Dr. Smith asks, ”In what ways have I denounced my faith by refusing to openly acknowledge what I truly believe?” I would expect that the answer to this question catches many of us coming up short in the depth of our faith over the years of our walk as Christians. It certainly has me.

There are any number of times in my walk of faith where I’ve been “chicken” and unwilling to stand openly for Jesus in the public arena of life. Quite a number of times, I’ve heard people mock Christ or Christianity; and I kept my mouth shut. There have been times in my past when I heard people spelling out their beliefs FOR abortion; and I didn’t stand up for life the way I should have done as a Christian. And maybe you have had times when you were a representative of “faithless faith,” not standing forth as you should have.

Well, fortunately we have a forgiving Lord and Savior, Who in the verses following today’s text declares (see John 12: 47), 47 “If anyone hears My words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” No, when Jesus walked the earth as the God-Man, He was not there as a JUDGE. He was there as the Lamb of God, to give His life so that those of us who have REAL faith in Him will live eternally. It is one day, when He will come again to be the Judge of mankind; and then all will have to stand in the gap for our faith in Him. And it will only be those who have true faith who will be worthy of His saving grace.

But once that saving faith has been expressed – truly from the heart; and we become Christian, receiving the saving grace offered by the blood of Christ, it will never be satisfactory to stand quietly and refuse to witness our faith. No, … the Holy Spirit, residing in me now as a Christian, rumbles His conviction when I am quiet, knowing I should speak or stand for my faith. And I don’t think – and I certainly pray - that I would now be unwilling to stand in the gap for Jesus in circumstances which called for my witness. I hope and pray that anyone reading here would step forward with me when and if the time presented itself to be a witness for our faith, never again living in a “faithless faith.”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, give us the faith of our faith to be witnesses for our faith. Amen

Friday, November 12, 2010

2010 – November 12 – Jesus In Our Midst

Study from God’s Word Passages from Matthew, Chapters 24, 25; Mark 13; and Luke 21 where Jesus is prophesying of His coming kingdom and glory … Passage for Reflection: Matthew 25: 40 … NIV The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

My Journal for Today: I agree with LaGard Smith that it’s natural to want to picture or imagine Jesus fitting into our modern or current times, especially to personalize Him in some way. In the pictures above we see renderings of Jesus which picture him in more modern contexts. The first one is by William Dyce, a Scottish painter, who painted a rendering in 1860 called The Man of Many Sorrows; but Jesus was set in a Scottish wilderness rather than on the Mount of Transformation near Jericho where Jesus reportedly confronted Satan. And one of my favorites is the more modern depiction of Jesus, called Forgiven, by Thomas Blackshear, who renders Jesus holding a man, obviously in modern garb, who is broken and wounded from life. These pictures try to show a Jesus pictured in life as we – or the artist – know it. But they showing that Jesus is with us always; and as today’s verse depicts Him, He may be found in the lives of others who need us.

And so, in today’s text, Jesus, Himself, gives his Disciples (including you and me) a word picture of how we should view our Lord and Savior. And as my devotional shepherd, Dr. Smith, writes, ”Though painted in words, this picture (i.e., from Matt. 25: 40) is a vivid reminder that we see Jesus every hour of every day in the faces of all the strugglers whom Jesus Himself came to serve – and calls us to serve.”

And I’m not going to go on with this, but close with Dr. Smith’s pointed, poignant, and powerful closing question; and then I’ll let any who’re reading here – like myself – answer by trying to find Jesus in the ones He brings into our lives to share His love with them (or maybe with Him).

Dr. Smith closes by asking, ”Am I staring right at Him but still missing the picture?”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to be sensitive to see You whenever You bring someone into my life who needs You from what I can do for them. Amen

Thursday, November 11, 2010

2010 – November 11 – The Challenge of Forgiving

Study from God’s Word Mt 21: 20-22 & Mk 11: 20-26; Mk 11: 27-33 [Mt. 21: 23-27 & Lk 20: 1-8]; Mt. 21: 28-32; Mk 12: 1-9 & Lk 20: 9-16 [Mt 21: 33-41]; Mt 21: 42-44 [Mk 12: 10-11 & Lk 20: 17-18]; Mt 21: 45-46 [Mk 12: 12 & Lk 10: 19]; Mt. 22: 1-14; Mt 22: 15-22 & Lk 20: 20-16 [Mk 12: 13-17]; Mt 22: 23-33 [Mk 12: 18-27 & Lk 20: 27-28]; Mk 12: 28-34 [Mt 22: 34-40 & Lk 20: 39-40]; Mt 22: 41-46 & Mk 12: 35-47 [Lk 20: 41-44]; Mt 23: 1-12 [Mk 12: 38-40 & Lk 20: 45-47]; Mt. 23: 13-37; Mk 12: 41-44 [Lk 21: 1-4] … Passage for Reflection: Mark 11: 25 … NIV And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against another, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.

My Journal for Today: This business of forgiveness, which is the beating heart of the Gospel story and message, is probably the biggest hurdle (or maybe I should use the word picture of a “mountain” rather than a “hurdle”) we need to overcome as humans who call ourselves born-again Christians. I don’t know about you; but in my humanity – i.e., my sin nature – I find forgiving one who has not asked for forgiveness to be one of the most difficult things Jesus commanded of His disciples.

Yes, the Lord laid it out, clean and simple in today’s highlight text, didn’t He? But though the Gospel is really quite clean and simple most of the time, that doesn’t make it easy to apply, does it? … Oh, I can find forgiveness from deep in my heart when a repentant one comes to me asking for my forgiveness. But what about that dude or dudette who owes me an apology because of some wrong perpetrated against me?

Lord, are you saying that I’ve got to forgive that lousy fool? And the answer, of course, from today’s truth, which comes right from the mouth of our Savior, is a resounding “YES!”

It’s a simple command from Jesus; but in-and-of ourselves, it’s almost impossible to activate. The application of today’s love-command from Christ requires something super-natural in us; and that can only come from us when we are in surrender to God’s Spirit, the Spirit of Emmanuel, living within us, to allow a true, born-again believer to rise above self and shine the Light of Christ, expressing the love of God to another, … yes, even one who may not – and probably does not – deserve it.

And I believe that the ability to forgive another, especially when that one neither asks for it or certainly deserves it, is one of the most iron-clad evidences of one being a living, breathing, born-again Christian. So, Dr. Smith asks the unforgiving question today: ”Who, TODAY, do I need to really and truly forgive?” And I’ll grapple with that one in my heart, leaving you to do the same.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I thank You for giving me enough grace to be debt free today when it comes to the need to forgive others; but if Your Spirit reveals such a need – anytime – give me the enabling grace to do so. Amen

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2010 – November 10 – Which Jesus Do We want to See?

Study from God’s Word John 12: 12-13; Mt 21: 1-7 & Mk 11: 1-7 [Jn 12: 14-16]; Mk 11: 8-10 & Lk 19: 36-40 [Mt 21: 8-9]; Lk 19: 41-44; Mt 21: 10-11 & Jn 12: 17-19; Mk 11: 11 [Mt 21: 17]; Mk 11: 12-14 [ Mt 21: 18-19]; Mk 11: 15-17 [Mt 21: 12-13 & Lk 19: 45-46]; Mk 11: 18 & Lk 19: 47-48; Mt 21: 14-16; John 12: 20-36; Mk 11: 19 … Passage for Reflection: John 12: 20 – 21 … NIV 20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”

My Journal for Today: Okay, my fellow SEEKERS, may I assume, in following this humble blogger and reading along with my devotional journal entries, you are a disciple of The Christ, who, like many of the people as Jesus entered the City of David on His triumphal entry, you seek after The Messiah.

However, as we know from history and Scripture, a lot of those people who were crying “HOSANNA!” at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, just days before His crucifixion, were not really seeking The Christ the way Jesus had said they must as His disciples. Many of these seekers, declaring that Jesus was THE Messiah, would soon become the Jews crying “crucify Him!!!”

So, today, in his devotional Dr. LaGard Smith asks some very pertinent questions, which are relevant to all of us who claim to be “seekers” after the One we call our “Lord and Savior.” We say that we are “Christians;” and we claim to know the historical Jesus to be THE Messiah, … the One Who died on the cross at Calvary as the Lamb of God. But we need to ask ourselves, as Jesus was asking of all those followers on His way to the cross, some of the questions written by Dr. Smith, ”What do we really hope to gain by knowing [Jesus]? [Are we just] … trying to make sure that we end up in heaven rather than hell? [Or do we seek Him] … to feel good about ourselves, wearing a name [“Christian”] associated with the Righteous One? [Or] is it still the miracle worker we’re after?” And Dr. Smith’s most pointed indictment comes right at the end of his devotional entry for this date, writing, ”Wanting to see Jesus for all the wrong reasons is to miss the Man altogether.”

Many times when I come here to read and study what Dr. Smith has to write in the context of the chronological passages he has edited for his readers to follow from Scripture, I’m convicted – in a healthy way – to go deeper into my relationship with Christ. But today, I’m actually affirmed by reading what I’ve read and writing what I’m writing here; because a deep personal exam of WHY I seek after Jesus, it tells me that my beliefs are true to what Jesus sought in His disciples.

I truly believe that I’m doing all I can to deny my sin nature. And I’m doing all I can daily to take up the crosses God’s providence brings into my life. And most importantly, I truly am doing all I can to follow after the One Who went to the cross to save me. (see what Jesus demanded of His disciples in Luke 9: 23)

Now, am I the disciple and seeker I need to be or become? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But I hope you have discovered whether you are following after Jesus to be part of the crowd of nominal “christians” who just feel good about being part of that crowd. Or I hope you’re not following after The Christ just to see Him perform some healing miracle. Or finally, I hope you’re not declaring yourself to be a “Christian” merely to try to claim your fire insurance against hell after death.

I pray that all who read here with me are seeking to know Jesus as deeply as we can so that we can follow Him as closely as we can; … so that we can pursue Him to become like Him and to become the workmanship of His grace which is described by Paul in God’s word in Eph. 2: 10. I’ll leave it to you to do that self inventory; but today, for once, I’m not so convicted as I’m uplifted by being able to declare myself a true seeker after Jesus!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to stay on this trek to know You more day by day and to follow You more as You lead me to become Your disciple. Amen

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

2010 – November 9 – Eunuchs for the Kingdom

Study from God’s Word [Jesus moves from Ephraim, through Jericho and Bethany, on to Jerusalem and the trek to Calvary] Matt 19: 3-9 [Mk 10: 2-9]; Mt 19: 10-12 and Mk 10: 10-12; Mk 19: 13-16 [Mt 19: 13-15 & Lk 18: 15-17]; Mk 10: 17-22 [Mt 19: 16-22 & Lk 18: 18-23]; Mk 10: 23-27 [Mt 19: 23-26 & Lk 18: 24-27]; Mk 10: 32-24 & Lk 18: 31-14 [Mt 20: 17-19]; Mt 20: 20-23 & Mk 10: 35-40]; Mk 10: 41-45 [Mt 20: 24-28]; Lk 19: 1-10; Mk 10: 46-52 & Lk 18: 25-43 [Mt 20: 29-34]; Lk 19: 11-27; Lk 19: 25; Lk 11: 55-57; Mt 26: 6-13 & Mk 14: 3-9 & Jn :12: 1-8; Jn 12: 9-11 … Passage for Reflection: Matthew 19: 12 … NIV [Jesus] “For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”

My Journal for Today: Today’s text is taken from the context of Jesus discussing God’s position on divorce and remarriage; and we certainly know that the Lord took a hard line on this issue, which is pressing even more now in the Church than in the 1st century. So, what, in the midst of a discussion of the divorce issue with Jesus’ Disciples does the Lord bring up the subject of eunuchs?

Well, eunuchs (i.e., those who are rendered impotent physiologically at birth or surgically later in life), were generally not living that way in Jesus’ day because they wanted to be eunuchs. Hence, Jesus was using this example to illustrate that there are people who are involved in such life situations, such as divorce. Some were involved in divorce – and may be today- because of past sin or from a past marriage which was not covered by Jesus’ reflection on Moses’ teaching on divorce. In other words, in those days (and most certainly now) there are those who are divorced and would desire to be remarried (and some do) but should not be remarried because it would be consciously sinful and, according to Christ, tantamount to adultery. Tough stuff, isn’t it?

What Jesus was saying to His Disciples by using the example of eunuchs was summarized by Dr. LaGard Smith in his devotional entry for today; and let me quote what he said …

>>> Dr. LaGard Smith from The Daily Bible Devotional for November 9: “… Jesus insists that there are hard choices to be made for the sake of the kingdom. Maybe it has to do with not remarrying in the wake of (a biblically) unauthorized divorce. Maybe it has to do with not entering into (biblically) forbidden sexual relationships despite urges to do so, or turning down that lucrative job requiring a compromise of integrity. Whatever great personal price one has to pay to maintain kingdom values, God never promised us a spiritual rose garden.”

And Dr. Smith’s hard question for today, at the end of his devotional entry is this: ”What difficult choices am I willing to make FOR THE SAKE OF GOD’S KINGDOM.”

And I don’t know about you; but there are choices I must make – sometimes daily - in light of my personal and sinful desires and my default sin nature that I need to make to be able to do what Christ exhorted His disciples in Matt. 5: 16 … to shine HIS LIGHT for all to see my good works in order to glorify my Heavenly Father and to show off His Kingdom values. You’ll have to deal with this hard word and Dr. Smith’s question above on your own; but we all need to do this kind of value inventory … and in a sense become “eunuchs” for Christ in this world.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I need Your strength to be Your “eunuch” as I choose to shine Your light in this ever darkening world. Amen

Monday, November 08, 2010

2010 – November 8 – A God Who Lets Us Die

Study from God’s Word John, Chapter 11, the story of Lazarus raised from the dead … Passage for Reflection: John 11: 37 … NIV But some of them (Jews who had come to console Mary and Martha at the death of their brother, Lazarus) said, “could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

My Journal for Today: I totally agree with Dr. LaGard Smith in his devotional entry for this date, reflecting on the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, … that we, who are believers in Jesus as The Christ, are asking the wrong question if, like Martha and Mary, we wonder why God doesn’t save any loved one of ours who dies or one who suffers greatly for a long period of time. We’re essentially asking, “Lord, why do you let, [??name??], our loved one, die?” When we more likely, according to Dr. Smith, should be asking, “Why, God, have You let any of us live?”

I would guess that most, if not all, of those reading here with me have had someone close to us who has passed away from sickness, maybe a child or a dear one who suffered a ghastly or tragic death; and it’s so tempting and human to ask of God, “Why, Lord?!” But, as Dr. Smith points out, if we’re really honest and reflective, we can probably also think of a time or a scenario where someone we know, or even our very self, lived through a disease, accident, or incident where we should likely have died, but we, or the loved one, were spared to live on.

So, as Dr. Smith asks in his challenge question for the day, ”If perhaps God has let my loved one die, have I seriously considered why He has let me live?”

And that question cuts at the core of whom we are as Christians, … sinners who deserve death in our sin nature, but we have been allowed to live, both temporally and eternally, by a loving God who desires to have fellowship forever with any who receive the saving grace which came through the Lamb of God dying to save us on the Cross. We live temporally at the grace of God in this life, even though we deserve death in our sinfulness [see the combined truth and outcomes of Romans 3: 23 and Romans 6: 23]. So, if we live, it is only through God’s grace; and we live eternally as well only because of that same grace from a loving God, Who desires to have an eternal relationship with those who come to Him in faith.

As I do often when I write my morning devotional entries here in this quiet place most mornings, I pray – as I will below – that those who are reading here realize, as do I, that we live and have our being at the grace of our God, … the giver (and yes, the taker) of life.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that I can always see that I have my life, as do my friends who read here, because of Your grace and mercy. May we never take that for granted? Amen

Sunday, November 07, 2010

2010 – November 7 – Money In An Hourglass

Study from God’s Word Luke, Chapters 13 – 18 and Matthew 20: 1-16 … Passage for Reflection: Luke 16: 13 … NIV “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

My Journal for Today: If you take the time to read/study the chapters in Luke and from Matthew 20 from today’s study of the New Testament, you have to come to the inescapable conclusion that our time here on earth is limited; as well as the message that, during the time we have, we somehow must understand, receive, and apply the truths being taught by Jesus in these passages, which were directed primarily to the Pharisees, who where were lost in themselves. There is story after story in these passages, Jesus’ parables, which espoused God’s kingdom values; and the Pharisees just could not – or rather chose not to – humble themselves to the place of being able to believe what Jesus was telling them and warning them.

Jesus didn’t hate the Pharisees. He loved them … enough to give them the stark truth; but they simply could not – or would not – set their pride aside and receive God’s truth in humility. Jesus, and later His Disciples and Apostles, told the people, especially the religious leaders, to humble themselves; and His message was that the first will be last and the last will be first. And we heard the Lord espouse the truth that man can’t worship and serve God and money.

My friends, do we get it? Or are we, like the Pharisees, mired in pride and selfishness, … unwilling to hear or receive the repeated cries from Jesus in the New Testament for us to get our act together before it’s too late. There will be a day when it truly is too late. And those of us who know the truth and have received it in humility must be in prayer, doggedly and persistently, for those we know who have rejected God’s message of repentance and grace. We must do all we can to share the Gospel truth Jesus was communicating to the lost in His day so that the lost in our day can hear the truth of hope and salvation.

Oh, how I pray that all who read here have received this wonderful news with a humble and contrite heart; and I pray that all of us who have are sharing this news with all we can in our world and in our day.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help us to spread the truth of the Gospel in our time. Amen

Saturday, November 06, 2010

2010 – November 6 – The Imperfect Hostess

Study from God’s Word Luke 9: 51-56 [Matt 19: 1,2 – Mark 10:1]; Luke 17: 11-19; Luke 10: 1-16 [Matt 11: 20-24]; Luke 10: 17-20; Luke 10: 21-24 [Matt 11: 25-27]; Matt 11: 28-30; Luke 10: 25-37; Luke 10: 38-42: Luke 11: 1-13; John 10: 22-42 … Passage for Reflection: Luke 10: 41-42 … NIV 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

My Journal for Today: If you were to go back and study the passages Dr. Smith has edited/extracted for chronological study from the New Testament, listed today above, as I have, you’ll see that Jesus was on His way inexorably to Jerusalem, encountering people, friends and strangers, along the way and trying to do all He could to declare and show His identification as The Messiah, The Christ, … the Son of God. But as in today’s highlight story, many people, even dear friends like Martha in the house of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus, too often let their religious traditions and beliefs stand in the way of total surrender and worship of THE CHRIST.

We see in this scenario from today’s text that Martha’s sister, Mary, somehow got it and was in total surrender and worship to her Lord, even to the point of neglecting what would be considered traditions of hospitality in that middle eastern culture of the day. Martha, on the other hand, was hindered by her need to be “traditional,” even though she had a head-belief that this man, her friend, was THE Messiah.

What Dr. Smith, my devotional shepherd, is trying to illustrate today comes out in what he calls a “worrying question,” which is stated today to challenge those of us reading his devotional. He writes, ”In what subtle ways does my view of religion affect my view of everyday activities?” And I might go further, in self analysis, to ask myself [and any reading here], ”How do I let my social agenda and habits get in the way of being in total surrender and 24/7 worship of my Savior and Lord?”

Do I look down upon someone who might be sitting in the spot in my church pew where I normally sit; or do I worship my Lord by welcoming the person and getting to know them to let the light of Christ shine through me? >>> Do I scowl when I see someone dressing in what I consider inappropriate attire when I see them enter our church sanctuary on Sunday morning? >>> Am I prideful when I put my tithe and offering envelope in the offering plate, wanting others to see me do it. Am I there on Sunday morning as a Mary or a Martha?

What Jesus wanted the people to recognize as He was taking the route the Father led Him upon, on the way to the Cross, was for the people to see Him and to believe in Him to the point of making their lives what Paul later wrote about in Romans 12: 1. You know it [I hope] …
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
When Jesus entered the house of Lazarus, Mary, the one sister was there, at Jesus’ feet, with the type of “living sacrifice” to which the Apostle Paul would later exhort all believers to have; but Martha wasn’t quite there yet.

I think we all need to determine if our lifestyle of worship is characterized by Mary or Martha. We may be believers at the head level; but is our life truly a living sacrifice at the heart level, shining the light of Christ, by the way we live as worship to the One who went to the Cross – as a total living sacrifice – that we might have eternal life?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may my life be my worship to You. Amen

Friday, November 05, 2010

2010 – November 5 – Blind Slaves All

Study from God’s Word John 8: 12 – John 10: 21 … Passage for Reflection: John 9: 25 … NIV He [the blind man given sight by Jesus upon inquire by the Pharisees who claimed Jesus was a sinner and of the devil], “Whether he is a sinner or not I don’t know. One think I do know, I was blind but now I see.”

My Journal for Today: I don’t know how long you’ve been a Christian; but even many non-Christians can quote the first verse of the wonderful hymn which has become a standard in our culture, Amazing Grace, written by the repentant slaver, John Newton, who later in life became a Minister of the Gospel and published this hymn in 1779 …

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

And if you’re a Christian, you can likely sing that refrain to me; and maybe, like me, it has deep and personal significance for you; because, like Newton, I was spiritually blind before an encounter with God in brokenness – and spiritual blindness – at age 39; and I was given spiritual sight just as was the blind man of today’s highlighted text (from John 9: 25), … the man who gave witness to the truth that Jesus, whoever He was/is, had given this man physical sight when he had been blind since birth.

We are all blind slaves to sin before – and until – we are given spiritual sight by God’s Spirit when we truly repent and receive the gift of grace offered by Christ’s death and resurrection to anyone who believes on Christ as the Lord and Savior of all mankind [see Romans 10: 9-13]. And it is not until one truly sees the world God’s way, as documented by His word, that we can know that any blind sinner can become a sighted saint who glorifies God thereafter. That is why, though his life began to change when John Newton was wooed by the Holy Spirit as a slave trader, Newton didn’t feel that his conversion to Christ was real – i.e., his spiritual sight restored – until he was able to see the evil of slavery and denounce it as a mode of trade in England, mentoring the likes of William Wilberforce to decry slavery until it’s eradication in England in 1833.

But if you’re like I was, a spiritual blind-man, I can recall the change in my spiritual sightedness in 1983, when I quit calling myself an “agnostic,” and openly declared Christ as my Lord and Savior. And now, though I’m still a sinner, with a degree of spiritual near-sightedness, I can see the world through ever clearing spiritual eyes given to me as I grow in my surrender to Christ, who is the sight-giver for my life.

I can only pray – and I will below – that Christ has become your sight-giver, allowing you to see the world through His eyes as long as you can be in surrender to His truth and walk in the freedom He, The Christ, offers to any who are blind and desire to see truth with clarity through God’s eyes.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray, here this morning, that all who read what I’ve written here have Your spiritual sightedness. And I pray that I can continue to grow in the clarity of sight only You can give us as believers in the One Who gives sight to the blind. Amen

Thursday, November 04, 2010

2010 – November 4 –Judging with Humility

Study from God’s Word John, Chapter 7: 2 – 8: 11 … Passage for Reflection: John 8: 6-8 … NIV But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

My Journal for Today: This story, i.e., the one in today’s highlight text, is a perplexing one, isn’t it? Rereading it today and studying it in the past, questions arise for me, like … Why did the accusing mob of Pharisees bring only an adulteress before Jesus in an attempt to trap Him; … why was the man involved not brought to Jesus also? And … what did Jesus write in the ground, which apparently had a deep impact on the Pharisees, who bolted quietly and left the scene of their accusations?

It would sure help me to be able to have the answers to these questions; but like many things in the Bible, it’s not what we don’t know or understand from Scripture that convicts us or directs us, it’s what is clearly written and understood that most often gives us the most convicting and directing application for our lives.

Dr. Smith, the editor of my study Bible this year and the author of The Daily Bible Devotional, from which I am influenced to write these daily journal entries, reports that what Jesus said to the Pharisees during this scenario is often extracted, out of context, when prideful believers are accusing others of being judgmental. How often have many a Christian, noting unforgiveness in others, have thought, at least privately if not publicly, what our Lord said to the Pharisee that day. Jesus, with the adulteress in front of Him and all the people that day, looking at the Pharisees, said, ”Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

And in this age of cultural hyper-tolerance you may have even heard non-Christians use that biblical phrase to justify their reported non-judgmental attitudes. The “tolerance crowd” in our world today would want us to not judge anyone from the standpoint of our Christian held values. Because if we, who hold Jesus up as our Savior and the Bible as our standard for life, are right, those who claim “tolerance must rule” are looking into a mirror of truth and seeing themselves as being far from one who can cast that first stone. And isn’t it interesting that those who so loudly preach TOLERANCE these days are so rabidly intolerant when it comes to Christianity.

Whatever Jesus wrote in the dirt that day must’ve been a mirror for those who wanted to have Jesus join with them in stoning the sinner caught in adultery. And when Jesus spoke his revealing exhortation to the Pharisees about casting the first stone, as well as them seeing what The Messiah wrote in the sand, it caused them to walk away in apparent personal guilt and deep condemnation.

So, what do you and I take away from this story. And maybe Dr. Smith’s closing question for the day is one upon which we all should meditate. He writes … ”Am I privately as outraged at my own moral failure as I am publicly outraged at the sins of others?” If you’ve been reading here with me this year, you’ve no doubt read me write an old adage on several occasions; and it’s one which Dr. Smith repeats today: When we point a finger of blame at someone else, three fingers from our own hand are pointing right back at our own accusing self.

And with that, I guess I need write no more today.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to right myself before I ever reach out to help others be right in Your eyes. Amen