Monday, January 31, 2011

January 31, 2011 … What Matters Most?

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1 – 6As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

My Journal for Today: So, here on the last day of January, let’s take a moment to review our beginning for this year, with John MacArthur as my devotional guide from his book, Strength for Today; from which we’ve dissected Paul’s admonition for Christian saints to walk worthy of our calling in Christ in Ephesians 4: 1 – 6. And as we’ve seen, this walk toward Christlikeness begins with humility and meekness by knowing our sinfulness (i.e., acknowledging our sin nature) and recognizing God’s greatness. I often say that this is letting God be God because WE ARE NOT!

Humility, which is always our choice, is the forerunner for meekness (or gentleness), which we’ve seen is power (or Godliness) under control. And developing these Christlilke attitudes (see Phil. 2: 5 -linked) allow us to be the witnesses for Christ we can be in/for Him (see Acts 1: 8) …

SCRIPTURE: Acts 1: 8 [Peter] [Jesus speaking] … “But you [disciples] will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Now, further in our Eph. 4 passage, we see that meekness matures as a fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22, 23); and as it develops in the Christian, it provides for the power of patience, where Christ’s disciple gains self-control, by surrendering to God’s power (i.e., from obediently following His will), given the circumstances of life; and then, patience produces forebearing love, the selfless and Christlike “agape” love, that gives birth to the unity of the Body of Christ.

Collectively, Christians, walking a worthy walk in Christ, will have ONE Lord, ONE hope, ONE baptism, in ONE Spirit, ONE faith, ONE Body, and all in ONE Heavenly Father, Who is most certainly worthy of our walk with Him in Christ … truly one unified people who have a powerful, effective testimony/witness of God’s love in the world [see John 13: 34-35].

However, this outcome rests on the reality that each of us, as Christians, must first walk a fruit-filled walk of faith in Christ, Who desires that we die to self, take up our cross daily, and follow Him (see Luke 9: 23). And this will activate God’s grace from the chain of surrender described above. So, I can – and should - personalize this, as should you who read this, to say that the unity of the Body of Christ rests on my willingness to surrender in humility to my God, Who has saved me for my glorious walk down the aisle of life as the Bride of Christ. And when Christians walk together down that aisle, each carrying the candle of His Spirit burning within us, we become a glowing light which shines into the darkness of this world for all to see … for all to see Christ.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to walk worthy of You! Amen

Sunday, January 30, 2011

January 30, 2011 … Unity in the Father

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 4 – 6 [highlight underlined portion] – 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

My Journal for Today: In the final phrase of this passage [i.e., Eph. 4: 6], Paul puts a capstone on the emphasis of importance that we, as Christians, must be unified in serving the ONE true and sovereign God, Who is above all, our Lord; … and Who is through all, our Provider; … and Who is in all, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

Certainly the Old Testament asserted for God’s chosen people to be set apart in their worship of the One, True God, there being no other worthy of worship besides Jehovah [see Deut. 4: 39 and Is. 45: 45]…

SCRIPTURE: Deut. 4: 39 Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 45: 45 I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, …

And into this one true faith, we, as Christians, have been grafted by/in Christ. And as with the Old Testament believers, it is only by our obedience and unity are we blessed by God, the Father, … The Author and Finisher of our faith … the One Who forged our one, true Body, His Church, … ministered to by His One, true Spirit, … with one hope, found in God, the Son, Who is our Lord. And all of this produces ONE faith, ONE baptism, and ONE Body.

And we have seen that only by joining all of the souls of believers into a unity of God’s Spirit can we be a powerful and effective witness in a world permeated by so much divisiveness and so many false gods and idols.

My Prayer Today: O, Lord, You are Holy … my All in all. May Your Church find Your power in the unity of Your Spirit. Amen

Saturday, January 29, 2011

January 29, 2011 … Oneness in Christ

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 4 – 64 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called — 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

My Journal for Today: As we did in my last devotional entry [for 1/28/11], we focus on the “oneness” of Christ, … in the Church, and from the Gospel. And the two verses below, one from Peter, the other from Paul, clearly declare, as does today’s passage, that we give allegiance and serve One God in Christ Jesus.

SCRIPTURE: Acts 4:12 [Peter] “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
SCRIPTURE: Rom. 10: 12 [Paul] For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, …

Really, both explicitly and implicitly, CHRIST is the single unifying theme throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New. Denominational, demographic, or dogmatic differences within Christianity cannot detract from this unifying reality. There is only one CHRISTIAN faith.

Actually, unity (of the church) from diversity (of believers) is the theme of Ephesians 4; and it should be a strength of God’s Church. However, we live in a world which is fallen and fallible and which has led to fallacious and far reaching interpretations of God’s word and all too much diversity of feelings in Christ’s body. And any time we let feelings dominate a unified search for God’s truth, we fall prey to our enemy, Satan, who would pour his evil spiritual gas upon the flames of our distraction and disunity.

We must beware and not hold so tightly to our own provincial and protected “brand” of corporate Christianity so that we can come together to fulfill Christ’s prayer for His Body (see John 17), holding only to the reality that we have our unity in Christ Himself. [again see Eph. 4: 4 above]

My Prayer Today: We are one … I am one in You, Lord. Amen

Friday, January 28, 2011

January 28, 2011 … Our Unity In The Spirit

Passage of the Day [NIV]: Ephesians 4: 4 – 6 [emphasis noted by capitalization/underlined words] – 4 There is ONE body and ONE Spirit—just as you were called to ONE hope when you were called— 5 ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism; 6 ONE God and [ONE] Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

My Journal for Today: Well, in case you didn’t notice ;) , the operant word in this passage is the word ONE;” and the Apostle Paul is almost shouting that we, of the Body of Christ, are ONE body in Christ … sealed by ONE Spirit … with ONE eternal calling from God, the Father. He is clearly stating that we are not many bodies, … but ONE … The Church Universal … all ONE in Christ Jesus (see Gal. 3: 28) …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Gal. 3: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all ONE in Christ Jesus.

ONE; … no matter how many creeds we believe and utter; … no many how many races are represented in our congregations; … no matter how many languages we may speak; … no matter how many worship styles we represent; … our individual souls and our singular houses of God are collectively ONE Temple, guided by ONE Spirit [1st Cor. 6: 19], Who builds The Body in the likeness of our ONE Lord, … Jesus Christ [Eph. 2: 22].

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Cor. 6: 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?
>>> SCRIPTURE: Eph. 2: 22 And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

And finally, it is that ONE Spirit, Who has sealed (or guaranteed) us into the ONE hope of our ONE calling, which is our inheritance in eternity [Eph. 1: 13-14] from our ONE Lord …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Eph. 3: 13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit, guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession — to the praise of His glory.

You’ll never get a better guarantee than that in this world! Therefore, we must do all we can as THE ONE Body of Christ to maximize the unity unto which we are called and sealed. Therefore, we, as born-again Christians, need to recognize from the context of the passage Dr. MacArthur has been using all this month (i.e., see Eph. 4: 1-3) that our worthiness as His bride, the Church, is dependent on our faith in the ONE Lord and our belief in and surrender to the ONE Spirit, Who ministers to our spirit in the Name of the ONE Father in Heaven.

My Prayer Today: Precious Lord, I am ONE in You for eternity. Hallelujah! Amen

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January 27, 2011 … Seeking Righteous Attitudes

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1 – 3As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

My Journal for Today: Yes, I know, you’re probably asking, “How many times do we have to keep digging into Paul’s exhortation about living the life of a true Christian.” And here we are today, once again looking at a seminal truth that Christians must grasp which springs from this passage. The truth is that the Christian life is more about attitude than actions.

Note in Eph. 4: 1 - 3 that not one action command or exhortation is registered. If you look at the fruit of the Spirit, listed by Paul in Gal. 5: 22 - 23, you will see that they are all attitudes - “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” So, knowing that all Christians are grace-gifted with all of these Spirit-given fruit, we come to realize that God gives us a foundation of attitude and then we provide Him with the return of actions which reflect those attitudes. And our actions will always result from commitments which spring from the attitudes which precede them.

Right now, as I am, some of you may be thinking about Eph. 2: 8 – 10. I have that passage memorized in the NKJV, so I will type it in that version of Scripture here:

>>> SCRIPTURE: Eph. 2: 8-10 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

And relative to the point I made above about Christian attitudes preceding Christians action, you’ve probably already noted it in Paul’s statement of the truth about born-again Christians. We are saved first BY God’s grace THROUGH the believer’s faith UNTO God’s purpose/will for our lives – i.e., good works. It all starts with God’s grace; but our part begins with faith, a God imparted attitude fruit, which produces good works, the God-willed action fruit.

MacArthur in his Strength for Today, from which my observations have come during this study, teaches that “action-fruit,” such as PRAISE (see Heb. 13: 15) or GIVING (see Phil. 4: 17) are simply legalism unless they result from the maturing of His Spirit-implanted “attitude fruit” (again see, Gal. 5: 22 - 23). And we’ve simply got to recognize that this is truth. Many small-c “christians” miss the reality that righteous actions flow naturally – or should we say supernaturally – from righteous attitudes. Nominal “christians” are more into DOING christian-like things to demonstrate being “christian,” rather than LIVING in Christlikeness as God’s Spirit has given us the attitude fruit to be reshaped into the Savior’s image. And that is religion at the expense of relationship … a lifestyle of legalism rather one of worship.

As MacArthur points out, if we DO things based upon the dos and don’ts of legalism, we are attempting to generate external grace from ourselves rather than utilizing the internal grace available to the truly surrendered Christian. That is nothing short of “Phariseeism;” and we know how much Christ hated and railed against the Pharisees (read Matt: 23: 25 - 26), as He said, “Woe to you [the Pharisees]!” …and using the word picture of cleaning the outer cup without cleaning the inner cup, we see how much Jesus valued the inner man [i.e., attitudes] as opposed to the outer [i.e., actions].

>>> SCRIPTURE: Matt. 23: 25-26 ... "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”

I don’t know about you; but when I see Jesus in heaven, I truly desire to hear Him say, “Well done!,” … not “Woe to you!” And so, I will continue to pray for and seek those attitudes that lead me to the righteous actions which result from His grace and fruit being born in me. Oh, how I desire to be a reflection of John 15 … a FRUITFUL Christian where my actions are a reflection of Christ’s very essence in me. And I can just hope that others who are reading this now have voiced a resounding, “Amen and amen!”

My Prayer Today: O Lord, I seek Your grace to express Your fruit in what I do. Amen

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 26, 2011 … The Bond of Peace

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 3 – NIV 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4: 3 – NASB being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

My Journal for Today: Continuing in the theme of Christian unity necessary for believers and the church to have individual and/or collective impact on the world, we read the phrase, “… through the bond of peace.” So, in today’s verse, Paul used the Greek word picture involving the term “sundesmos,” which literally refers to a belt or strap which ties packages together. And this is an apt picture of what occurs when a bunch of individual packages (i.e., believers) are tied together by the strapping of the Holy Spirit, Who unites the body together with a “bond of peace.” But, as Paul is exhorting Christians, … this only happens when they are willing to surrender to His cohesive influence so as to exhibit God’s love to the world. And this will only happen when Christians come together in selfless “agape,” … the pouring forth which occurs from the actions of Christians who are unified in humility, meekness, patience, and forebearing love … all of those concepts we’ve already looked at this month which were brought out from the Eph. 4: 1 – 3 passage.

I can’t get the ode to love from the 60s out of my brain as I write this; “… What the world needs now, is love, sweet love …;” and it’s true. The world desperately needs the unified love that evolves from unified believers, living lives of Christlikeness, from the bonding of agape that shines like a beacon into the darkness that is today’s world of greed and selfishness. And when the lost see a Light like this, emanating form the Church in the unified bond of peace, they will either run from it in fear or be drawn to it like moths to a flame.

In the Old Testament, God chided His people for not having true and lasting peace … [Jeremiah 8: 11 – 12] …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Jer. 8: 11 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. "Peace, peace," they say, when there is no peace. 12 Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, … they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the LORD.

In the New Testament, Paul rebuked the Corinthian believers for their disunity and their un-Christlike walk in their world (see below) …

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Cor 11: 17 - 22 17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. 20When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, 21for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!
>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Cor 14: 26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.

As individual Christians, melded together in the Church, we simply must be serious about coming together IN PEACE to shine Christ’s light into the world. God’s love light is dampened when we exhibit the divisiveness of denominational or doctrinal differences. How can a lost world see the love of God through the spectacle of hypocrisy and pride when it is all too often the show of the church in today’s world?

I’m convicted; … how about you?

My Prayer Today: Lord, have mercy on your Church; but shine your Light so clearly that we can’t miss it in following You. Amen

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 25, 2011 … Diligently Preserving Unity

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 3 – NIV 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4: 3 – NASB being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

My Journal for Today: Paul’s exhortation of due diligence toward worthiness as a Christian in Eph. 4: 1 – 3 has now culminated in a charge that becomes the outcome command of Christians individually and collectively walking in worthiness to Christ’s sacrifice … i.e., in Christlikeness. Our charge here, by today’s passage in third verse of Ephesians 4, is to keep the unity that God’s Spirit needs to bring God’s love to a love-starved world …to bring Christ’s light to a sin darkened culture. And God has been saying, through the Apostle Paul, that this unity of Spirit will not happen unless we, as Christians, can walk intentionally and diligently with discipline in humility, meekness, patience, and forebearing love.

Christ prayed (in John 17: 20, 21 – below) that His Church would be one in Spirit.

>>> SCRIPTURE: John 17: 20 "My prayer is not for them [Christ’s core disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message [for the Church], 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent Me.”

When a world, filled with discord, strife, and greed, sees the selfless love of Christ being lived out in a UNIFIED Church, Christ’s Body becomes a beacon of light shining into the darkness (see also John 13: 34, 35 and Matt. 5: 16); and we know that light always dispels darkness.

However, as we’ve seen, our unity in the church depends upon a collective presence and expression of God’s love whereby individual believers, working in unity, and glow with their collective individual qualities of Christlikeness, which we’ve been discussing, … shining their lights TOGETHER, powered by humility, meekness, patience, and selfless love … TOGETHER.

Yes, I said it; and it deserves repetition; … such expression, … the consistent, worthy walk of a Christian, … requires discernment, decision, discipline, and diligence so that we – as a Church – can walk TOGETHER in the unity of grace provided by God’s Spirit; … and the outcome is living a life of effective worthiness in Christ. Can we imagine the Spirit power of a large cohort of worthy Christian warriors walking in unison and accord in this word? Oh what as light – Christ’s Light – we would be!

My Prayer Today: Let it begin with me, Lord. Amen

Monday, January 24, 2011

January 24, 2011 … Forebearing Love

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1-2 [see bold/underlined portion] – As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: Okay, my fellow Christian, … if you are coming along with me and you haven’t been challenged or charged by the studies of Ephesians 4: 1 – 3 this month, then you, if you are like me, will likely be convicted today. The phrase under the scope of truth today from the Apostle’s letter to the Ephesians is “… bearing with one another in love;” and we first look at the term “bearing with [NIV],” which is the Greek term, “anechomai,” which could be translated “forebearing” as well [seen in the KJV] or “showing tolerance for [as in the NASB].” And when one combines that concept with the object term “agape,” that is, “forebearing with one another in love [KJV],” we have one of the most challenge commands in scripture to walk in worthiness to our Lord’s example [remember the command that Christians are to have attitudes like Christ – Phil. 2: 5].

We certainly know that “agape” love is one of the pre-eminent characteristics of God (see John 3: 16); and it’s the kind of love that covers all sins (Prov. 10: 12 and 1st Peter 4: 8) …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Prov. 10: 12 Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.
>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Peter 4: 8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

And the word picture, Paul is using, “anechomai” paired with “agape,” is the idea of the Christian throwing a blanket (i.e., a covering) of God’s love over the sin we perceive or encounter when dealing with others. Another word picture would be like covering a fire with a thick blanket for as long as it takes to smother the flames. John MacArthur, from his devotional, Strength for Today, says, “[forebearing love] … is unconquerable benevolence and invincible goodness; (and) it is completely selfless.”

I don’t know about you; but that is one God-shaped challenge to ask us, in living up to Christ’s command, to die to self (or selfishness) and follow Him (see Luke 9: 23); but it’s exactly what Jesus taught (turning to Matt. 5: 43 – 45) …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Matt. 4: 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

And wrapped up in these word of Jesus on the Mount, we have an attitude (i.e., forebearing love) to which we should continually ascribe and achieve to bring ourselves into Christlikeness in a world on fire with hatred, desperately needing a blanket of God’s love.

Wow, this surrender and commitment to Christ is certainly no easy walk in the park; is it?

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to carry your blanket of love to put out fires when they erupt in my life. Amen

Sunday, January 23, 2011

January 23, 2011 … The Effect of Patience

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1, 2 [see bold/underlined portion] – As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: Okay, since Dr. MacArthur has had me in Eph. 4: 1-2 for almost a month now, … I get the message! We, the Body of Christ, are to walk worthy of our Lord, individually and collectively in humility, meekness, patience, and love. Jesus even prayed for us in that regard (see John 17: 20 – 21) …

>>> SCRIPTURE: John 17: 20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.”

Jesus wants His Church, all of us, to be one in all the aspects of Godliness. And He tries to get His disciples to realize that only in a unified expression of Christlikeness and God-driven love will the world see Him as He should be seen in and through us [His church].

>>> SCRIPTURE: John 13: 34 … Again, Jesus … "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another."

John MacArthur has a rather stinging statement in this regard. He writes in his devotional entry in Strength for Today for this date, “If the Church were full of people who had genuine humility, gentleness, patience, and love for one another, others would be more inclined to listen to what we say.” And continuing he writes “… realize that what you say will have a fare greater effect when you live in harmony with what the gospel teaches. If the world could see a clear picture of Jesus Christ through the unity of the church and its humble, gentle, and patient people, our evangelism would be sped along on wings!”

And to that I must say a resounding, “AMEN!”

To the extent that we are divided by denominationalism, disunity, and disharmony, our light as a Church into the world is dimmed, not allowing the lost, who grope in the darkness, to see Christ for Whom He is … the Light of Love!

>>> SCRIPTURE: Matt. 5: 16 … [Jesus from His convicting Sermon on the Mount] … Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help add my heart/mind to the unity of Your Body, shining Your love into the world. Amen

Saturday, January 22, 2011

January 22, 2011 …Christ’s Patient Example

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1, 2 [see bold/underlined portion] – As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: Okay, for those who’ve been with me during these January devotionals, some of you may be saying, “Aren’t we dwelling a bit long in Eph. 4: 1-2?” But can I use a little double-entendre and say, “Please be patient!” Because my devotional shepherd, John MacArthur, in his Strength for Today is going deep to explore the enourmous need for us, as Christians, to be worthy of Christ with Christlike patience. So, perhaps just staying in this passage this long is a test of patience. ;)

But MacArthur recognizes, and I agree, that it’s difficult to be a patient Christian in a world that always is in “go mode;” and with our sin nature, we all have hearts so filled with the vulnerability of selfishness and sin. But as I’ve said, Jesus Himself commanded that we follow Him (see Luke 9: 23); and Paul, in Phil. 2: 5, which I will quote again here for emphasis, strongly declares that all Christians should have the attitude of Christ …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Phil. 2: 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus; …

Certainly, Jesus was the perfect model of patience! Think about it. In the few years of His earthly ministry, He endured incredibly negative circumstances. First of all, He left the perfection of The Trinity [as I’d encourage you to review in Phil. 2: 6 – 11] to be humiliated, rejected, blasphemed, and spat upon, … all to endure the cross (see Heb. 12: 2) for my soul and yours.

>>> SCRIPTURE: Heb. 12: 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Truly amazing grace, isn’t it? And Christ also showed His perfected patience, being fully God and ministering in His humanity, by coping in a loving way with all kinds of difficult people. I’m thinking now of how, during those three years with His inner 12, He endured their disbelief and questions, over and over again, in spite of all the miracles they witnessed. Just think of how patiently the Lord endured the pain and ignominy during His Passion as He marched to the cross. And in the garden of Gethsemane He so patiently and lovingly, in such agony, accepted the will of His Father to accept the cup of death upon His shoulders (see Matt. 26: 39); and then hanging there in the darkness on the cross, dying, He would say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23: 34). Is that not patience personified?

It is no wonder that Paul charged the Church (all of us who are Christians) through Timothy (in 1st Tim. 1: 15-16) to be as Christ in our patience …

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Tim. 1: 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I [Paul] am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

When I meditate on that passage, I identify so completely with Paul’s mindset. Paul saw himself as a sinner of the prime order; and so do I. Yes, he had matured in his faith over the years of his discipleship, as have I. But I’m no where near as sanctified as was Paul when he wrote this; and he was almost blown away by Christ’s patience in His willingness to become a man and to save a former Christian hater and killer. Wow, the model of patience we follow is worthy of that followership in our worshipful living. And yes, I need more seasoning in sanctification to be as patient as was my Savior.

My Prayer Today: You are worthy, Lord, of all the patience I can muster to honor You in this life I lead. Amen

Friday, January 21, 2011

January 21, 2011 … Biblical Patience

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1, 2 [see bold/underlined portion] – As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: Yes, if you’ve been following what I’ve journaled into this January, we’re still in Eph. 4: 1 - 2 and learning about the qualities necessary to live lives “worthy” of our calling as Christians; and today the focus (see bold/underlined text above) is on “PATIENCE.” And as I write this, I wince a bit with conviction because this is one of the Spirit-given fruit that all Christians have been given by the Holy Spirit upon conversion (see Gal. 5: 22, 23). I wince, however, because patience is one Spiritual fruit that is not well matured in my life; and I believe it’s, more generally, in short supply in our 21st century world. I’m sure you’d agree that we live in a MacDonald’s mentality world. “Faster is better” is the anti-patience value in our culture!

The Greek term for patience, “macrothumia,” is also translated “long suffering” or “long tempered” in various versions of Scripture. It was, and it is now, a quality that the Apostle Paul was teaching as absolutely necessary if one was to exhibit Christlike meekness [i.e., gentleness]. And John MacArthur in his exposition about this attitude wrote that Christ certainly modeled three aspects of “macrothumia” during his walk/ministry on earth.

First, the patient or long-suffering Christian never gives in. And in scripture we certainly have a model for this in the long-suffering of Abraham as mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments (see Genesis 12, Romans 4: 20, and Hebrews 6: 15). Sure, Abraham had lapses, like the business involving Haggar; but all-in-all, old Abe stuck in there waiting for God’s promises to unfold. I’m afraid, all-too-often, I find myself not willing to wait when I’ve prayed, and God’s response seems to be … “Wait!” But I’m growing; and prayerfully one day I can have a long -suffering spirit that will have the “patience of Job” as I seek for and live out God’s purposes for my life.

Secondly, patient Christians are able to cope with difficult people. This is the “long tempered” translation for “macrothumia;” and in this aspect of this fruit of the Spirit, I would say that I do better. I’ve learned, in my dealings with people over the years, that flaring back with reactive anger NEVER HELPS when I’m confronted by hurting or angry people. We can read; and I think I’ve learned God’s prescription for reactive anger in both Old and New Testaments …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Proverbs 15: 1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Thessalonians 5: 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

It’s always been interesting to me that I can do better controlling myself in reaction to out-of-control people than I can when I’m in out-of-control circumstances. I seldom ever lose “my cool” when I’m handling angry people; but put me in a parking lot after a football game, when I’m at the mercy of hundreds of cars trying to get home, and I become the personification of anti-macrothumia. Yes, more growth is needed for this Christian when it comes to situational patience; and maybe I can learn to apply some of that “cool” I have with people in Memphis, TN, traffic – someday!

Finally, attempting to grow in patience (i.e., “macrothumia”) the patient Christian is able to accept God’s plan for EVERYTHING. You probably know the verse, but Romans 8: 28 is worthwhile quoting here …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Rom. 8: 28 And we know that in ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been [the] called according to his purpose.

Therefore, the Christian who truly believes and lives out the consequences of this truth will be filled with Christlike “macrothumia.” How many of us believe, in our head, that God is in control; but when we’re confronted by the tests, trials, temptations, and/or tribulations, how many of us really operate as if we believe Romans 8: 28? – or 1st Cor. 10: 13, for that matter …

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1Cor. 10: 13 No temptation [also translated … “trial, test, or tribulation”] has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

How many of us get in this “here-and-now” mentality when we’re being tested by trying circumstances or extremely trying people? If it were an adolescent who couldn’t wait for what they wanted in the here and now, we’d label them as impatient and immature. Or maybe we even have a “temper tantrum,” as would a toddler not getting what he/she wants. But what about the adult Christian who cries out to God for what he wants in the here-and-now? Yes, you’re right; … we are immature Christians at times, aren’t we? And we let our impatience rob the joy that can even be found when we trust God and pass our cares onto the One who can carry our burdens for us (see 1st Peter 5: 7 and Matt. 11: 28 - 30 and you go and look those passages up if you don’t know them).

Well, I’m doing better with regard to “macrothumia” in my later years; but I’m afraid I’ve still got some training to go to build my worthiness when it comes to patience. But also, I do know that God will deal with me in His time and His way, until I’m a more patient, more Christlike Christian. See Phil. 1: 6 “… being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

My Prayer Today:
Lord, help me to accept life as a crucible to burn off the dross of impatience which dwells in my soul … to mature my fruit of patience to be sweet like Yours. Amen

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January 20, 2011 … Am I Gentle?

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1, 2 – [see focus in underlined/bold portion] As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: Okay, … John MacArthur, in his devotional, Strength for Today, is driving home a point about humility and meekness (or gentleness) with all this redundancy highlighting Eph. 4: 1 – 2. I accept the point that we, who call ourselves “Christian” and, according to the mandate of Phil. 1: 5 toward Christlikeness, must be aspiring to the attitudes and character qualities of Jesus, especially those He ascribed to Himself (again see Matt. 11: 29). However, the pragmatic question arises, “How do I know if I have the humility and gentleness that Christ exhibited so that I can be worthy of His calling on my life as a disciple of Christ?” Well, MacArthur asks several diagnostic or self inventory questions to help us do just that. And they are these …

# 1: Am I self controlled when confronted or challenged; or am I immediately defensive, especially when accused of being wrong? In other words, as spoken of in Prov. 16: 32, does God rule my spirit?

>>> SCRIPTURE: Prov. 16: 32 Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

# 2: Does my anger arise at the right times and for the right things? In other words, do I get angry ONLY when God is dishonored just as Jesus was our model of righteous anger? [If you have them stored somewhere, note my discussion of the last two days – Jan. 18, 19 – or go to those dates in Strength for Today.

3: Am I a peacemaker at heart? In other words, do I have a drive to seek peace in the midst of discord and strife as exhorted by Paul in Eph. 4: 3 [the verse right after our target text for today]? …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Eph. 4: 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

# 4: Do I exhibit Christlike peace when I’m confronting sinners or the unsaved? We see this when we read Gal. 6: 1 and 1st Peter 3: 15

>>> SCRIPTURE: Gal. 6: 1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.
>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Pet. 3: 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, …

If I could give an unqualified “YES” to these questions, then MacArthur would say that the fruit of meekness or gentleness (in the spirit of humility) is being reflected in my life, much in the same way that it was described by Paul in 1st Timothy 3: 2 , … from the qualities Paul listed for Christian leaders …

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Tim. 3: 2 Now the overseer [elder, pastor, bishop, teacher, etc.] must be above reproach, …, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, …

MacArthur writes, “Remember that …‘a gentle and quiet spirit … is precious in the sight of God’ … [quoted from 1st Peter 3: 4] which should be the attitude and demeanor to which we (as Christians) continually aspire.” And, when I review these self-inventory questions, as I wrote in journal entries past, I’ve got some growing to do in Christlikeness!

What about you?

My Prayer Today: Again, Lord, … it is my sincere desire, … to be gentle like You! Amen

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

January 19, 2011 … Christ’s Gentle Example

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1, 2 – [see focus in underlined/bold portion] As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: When John MacArthur compiled his devotional for this date in Strength for Today, he spent another full day dwelling on Christ’s meekness as a role model of attitude which all Christians must emulate; and along with humility, they are the baseline attitudes to live a life worthy of being a “Christian,” which we started off the year studying in Eph. 4: 1. And if you go to my journal blogs for the last two days, I looked at the cultural pitfall of “meekness” as this character trait would be if exercised in our world today. It would be the round peg in a square hole. Meekness simply doesn’t seem to fit into the attitude mindset of today’s post-modern world.

However, and it deserves repeating and further discussion, if Christ saw Himself as meek [Matt. 11: 29] in His humiliation of setting aside His glory as God to become a man [Phil. 2: 6 – 7], then we, as Paul charges in Phil. 2: 5, must emulate Him as our role model of meekness. As Jesus walked this earth, he embodied “strength under control,” which is the operational definition of meekness. And his righteous anger, as we pointed to yesterday, didn’t appear when he, Himself, was attacked verbally or physically. Only when Jesus perceived that His Heavenly Father was being vilified by man’s sinfulness did Jesus raise His righteous anger to a level of taking angry action like cleansing the temple [again see Matt. 21: 12 - 13].

The image of Jesus dying on the cross, quietly, yet assertively, forgiving those who crucified Him, is the personifying image of meekness; and it’s one we can bring to bear as we live our lives to be like Him. If you’re reading this, I don’t know your track record as a Christian in the area of meekness; but I can say, with certainty, that I’ve got a long way to go to be able to walk in the Holy shoes my Lord, Jesus, when it comes to this character quality of meekness, … or relative to humility for that matter. I need prayer and more intentional discipline to allow God to mature His grace-given fruit of love, gentleness, kindness, and patience in my soul so that my responses when I’m confronted or challenged will be more like my Savior’s meekness.

Yes, there must be some growing for me to walk truly worthy of my Lord in meekness.

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to be a kinder and gentler Christian, … molded in Your Image. Amen

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 18, 2011 … Righteous Anger

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: a … [See underlined and bold as highlighted verse] – As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: If you followed my journal entry yesterday about “meekness,” you may have asked, “Does this mean that a Christian can never have, nor express anger? … To this you might say, “What about Jesus when He cleansed the temple (see this link, Matt. 21: 12-13)? He sure seemed angry there.”

And this certainly raises a salient point. Scripture certainly does give some license for a certain type of anger. Paul, in this same chapter of Ephesians (see 4: 26), wrote, “Be angry and yet do not sin.” So, even though we are challenged to hold the same attitudes of humility and meekness as did Christ (again see Phil. 2: 5 and Matt. 11: 29), we, as Christians, are given an outlet for so-called “righteous anger,” … the type of anger we feel when we see ungodly injustices and practices [i.e., “sin”] in our world. And that was modeled by Jesus when He cleansed the Temple of what the religious leaders had sanctioned in Jesus’ Father’s Temple (likely for monetary gain).

You will note that Jesus never got angry at those who expressed anger or hostility to Him, personally. No, Jesus only became angry when He perceived that others were perpetrating injustice or sin in the face of His Heavenly Father. He cleansed the temple because of what the people had done to deface His Father’s House. He struck back verbally at the Pharisees because of their hypocrisy toward God’s Law, His Father’s Law of Love. And likewise the humble and meek Christian can – and should – feel and express righteous anger when ungodliness prevails in our midst. However, there are always things we CAN DO in humility/meekness to express our righteous anger toward sinfulness.

I get absolutely and utterly livid when I see the propagation, promotion, proliferation, and profiteering involving sexual sin in our culture, especially since it had such a negative impact on my life, through my sinful choices in the past. Most certainly that anger, which emanates from my discernment of unrighteousness, motivates me to action. But my action is not to strike out at those who are the victims of the cultural scourge of hypersexuality, blaming them for their sin. No, my anger drives me to surrender to God and use the power of God’s Spirit, first in my own life to be pure and sober of heart, and then to use my testimony of victory and my God-given gifts to minister to those who seek to be free of the tarpits of sexual sin that surround us today in our world.

As John MacArthur points out in Strength for Today, God’s people must submit their (our) emotions to God’s Spirit, allowing HIM to control our energies and/or strengths, which may involve becoming angry and then taking action … but only at things which anger God and not our own egos. Remember, meekness is strength under control; and when we yield our righteous anger to the LORD, surrendered in humility to God’s grace, He can use HIS strength under HIS control, through our actions, to glorify Himself. As MacArthur puts it, “Under God’s control, anger reacts when it ought to react, for the right reasons, and for the right amount of time.” And this type of righteous anger will never hold grudges because it will always be under the control of God’s perfect love (see 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13).

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to have only anger directed and focused under Your conviction and direction, allowing me to be an agent of righteousness and Your love. Amen

Monday, January 17, 2011

January 17, 2011 … Gentleness (“Meekness”): Power Under Control

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 2a … [See underlined and bold as highlighted verse] – As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

My Journal for Today: We return to the passage from Eph. 4: 1-2, the passage which launched us into this new year and our January devotions in John MacArthur’s Strength For Today. On Jan. 9, I covered one of the two attitude qualities Paul cited as necessary for the Christians to walk worthy in Christlikeness; and that was HUMILITY. Now today, we focus on the second of those two, MEEKNESS. By the way, in other translations, the concept of “meekness” is translated “gentleness” or “gentle” (see example in the NASB above).

Once again we remember that meekness and humility, are the only two character qualities that Christ used to describe Himself (see Matt. 11: 29). So, when one desires to be like Christ, these should be the two attitudes we focus on – first and foremost - to fulfill what Paul charged us to do in Phil. 2: 5

>>> SCRIPTURE: Phil. 2: 5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: …

So, having covered the quality of “humility” on 1/9, let’s now focus on “meekness.”

In our world, unfortunately the term “meek” is equated with “weak;” and that is far from the quality of meekness biblically. The Greek term for meekness, “praos,” accurately means strength under control; and Jesus was certainly the model of that. All of Phil. 2: 6-11 describes our Lord emptying Himself of the glory and majesty of the Godhead to become a humble man by His choice, which is the embodiment of the strength under control in meekness. The word pictures used by “praos,” from the Greek were either bringing a wild animal, like a horse, under the control of a master or a powerful medicine being used to soothe pain.

In our culture, our self-centeredness is often a quality that leads one to use personal strength or power to control others. Here, we see that “meekness” is controlling one’s strength in order to be humble and helpful to others. This is a fruit of God’s Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22 - 23) that God can use to help calm others or to bring order in the midst of chaos. Meekness (or “gentleness”) is not “wimpiness.” It’s the tamed lion licking the face of its trainer. It’s human power being brought under the control of The Master, our Lord, Jesus. When human reactions like anger or revenge are submitted to Christ, such meekness is rewarded with the peace of God (see Phil. 4: 6, 7). Meekness could be a medicine that soothes the savage pain of a hurting world. But we’ve got to be willing to humbly surrender our humanity to God’s Spirit in order to allow God’s enabling grace to develop the meekness that can produce God’s peace in our world.

How about you? Is “meekness” a word that could be used to describe your attitude of Christlikeness; or do you, as I do, have a way to go in developing a habit of meekness?

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to walk worthy of Your Name in meekness. Amen

Sunday, January 16, 2011

January 16, 2011 … Contentment: How To Enjoy It

Passage of the Day: Hebrews 13: 5. 6 – 5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." [from Deut. 31: 6] 6So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" [restatement of Ps. 118: 6,7]

My Journal for Today: Contentment! We began to look at this illusive quality of life yesterday, indicating that true contentment is a measure of the maturity of one’s faith in God’s providence. With all that life presents, especially in times of trials/tribulations, it’s so easy to wonder if real contentment is possible.

But as we read yesterday in Phil. 4: 11 – 12, the Apostle, Paul, had found real contentment, even though he was writing from prison. In fact, the entire book of Philippians is a journal of true Christian contentment and joy. Read Phil. 3: 7 - 9; and see further just how deeply felt was Paul’s sense of faith in Christ …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Phil. 3: 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.

Now that’s faith!

I have a standard response that I learned to the generic, “How are you?” greeting, which people throw out so flippantly in public. I learned my response from my former mentor, who used to reply to this question with, “Always better than I deserve?” Most people expect the generic reply, “Fine!” to that greeting; but often when I reply as indicated above, people actually have to think what I mean by that reply. Many times it offers a good opportunity to witness for my faith and to the biblical truths that we are now discussing about contentment.

Think about it. How much better off am I than what I deserve as a sinner? Infinitely so much so! Therefore, anytime someone says flippantly, “How are you?” I can respond affirmatively and accurately, “Always better than I deserve.” Try it sometime. You’ll find that it catches people short; and they may ask why you say that; or they may say, “Oh, surely not;” and when they do, the door is open to explain why you feel blessed by and content in your relationship with Christ.

I also contend that most Christians really don’t understand or truly believe the implications of a verse that many of them may even have memorized. The passage is another Pauline jewel … Romans 8: 28

>>> SCRIPTURE: Rom. 8: 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

You see, if we, as Christians, really believed this truth, then we would KNOW that God’s heart for our good was ALWAYS there in the midst of any or all trials/tribulations as well as what we generally call “blessings;” and we’d KNOW that God is working in those trials, ALL of them, for our well being and His design. But the truth is that most of us find it difficult to find joy and contentment, like Paul did, in the midst of our trials.

You know, … often I feel like Jacob when he prayed to God (Gen. 32: 9 – 10 – see especially the underlined portion below) …

>>> SCRIPTURE: Gen. 32: 9 Then Jacob prayed, "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, 'Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,' 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.

It’s like my greeting reply (above) … there’s so little, if anything, where I can really be seen as deserving of God’s providence … and believing Rom. 8: 28, even the tough stuff in my life is for my good and under God’s control. So, today I will CHOOSE to seek to be joyful and content in whatever comes my way.

Will you join me?

My Prayer Today: You are all I need, Lord! Amen

Saturday, January 15, 2011

January 15, 2011 … Contentment: The Opposite of Covetousness

Passage of the Day: Hebrews 13: 5Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." [God’s promise in quotes … from Deut. 31: 6, 8]

My Journal for Today: I can’t help but think back to the charge we got earlier this month from Eph. 4: 1 to walk worthy of Christ as we live our lives to grow into Christlikeness. Well, today’s admonition, again, like yesterday, from Hebrews 13, really gets practical and pertinent for our personal application of Christlikeness in today’s world. I personally think that covetousness has become one of the most prevalent social cancers of sin in our culture, having become the touchstone value of our generation. It’s the drive of our world, both for the haves and the have-nots; and whenever it raises its ugly head, whether it be in areas like gluttony or the “desire for stuff” in our world, it separates the one who obsessively pursues money or things from the world from the one who pursues God.

Paul, too, warned his protégé, Timothy and the church about the love of money (and/or things) … In (1st Tim. 6: 10) note the often quoted phrase which has been printed in bold for emphasis.

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Tim. 6: 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Paul and the Author of Hebrews wanted believers, and God wants you and me, to see that freedom from covetousness, from greed, can only be found in a spirit of contentment in one’s relationship with Christ and a spirit of thankfulness for God’s providence. Once again, it’s that attitude of humility that allows God to give us His grace; and we’ll never be able to have that grace if we’re selfishly pursuing money or things in our lives.

We must learn to be content with what God’s provision has allowed, especially since we have the best-of-the-best in an abiding relationship with Christ. Note how Paul, languishing in prison with almost no worldly “stuff,” had come to find the contentment we all should be seeking (Phil 4: 11-12).

>>> SCRIPTURE: [Paul – from prison in Phil. 4] 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Having read ahead a bit, we’re going to see, in the next few days of our devotional study, that finding and securing contentment in our relationship with Christ, though difficult in our world today, is the only way that we can walk that walk which is worthy of our Lord.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to be grateful and content with who I am and what You’ve given me. Amen

Friday, January 14, 2011

January 14, 2011 … Identifying With Those In Need

Passage of the Day: Hebrews 13: 3Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

My Journal for Today: Today’s exhortation from the Author of Hebrews takes the love of God to an even higher level of commitment. The word picture of that day used by this author would have been very personal since many Christians were being imprisoned, tortured, or even killed for their faith. The extension of this would have any believer, like you and me, reach out to fellow Christians if we see them being persecuted or suffering in some way.

The Apostle Paul wrote quite a few of his epistles from the cells of prisons (as in Col. 4: 18 or Phil. 4: 14-16); and he humbly asked his fellow believers to remember and pray for him, also expressing thanks for those who had sent help to him. So, the exhortation of today’s verse is simply an extension of Christ’s pronouncement to reach out to the “least” of those in need … in His Name; for when we do, we are doing so to/for Him.

This verse hits home for me; because some time ago a young Christian whom I had been challenged, by divine appointment, to mentor by mail in prison for several years was released from his incarceration. No, he had not been imprisoned for his faith; but rather for a self confessed sexual offense. However, God had led me to him; and I had been convicted/directed to reach out to him, as was Christ’s mission charge of Luke 4: 18 (see below).

>>> SCRIPTURE: Luke 4: 18 [Jesus quoting from Is. 61: 1-2] "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

This, for me, has always been a daunting proclamation by Christ. In these words Jesus gave the church of His day (and to us) His worldly mission statement, which was prophesied by Isaiah hundreds of years before as the mission of the Messiah. As Christians who aspire to Christlikeness, Christ’s mission statement should be (and, in actuality, IS) ours as well. So, when Jesus says His Father and the Holy Spirit had charged Him to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners” and to “release the oppressed,” that has become the heartbeat of the personal ministry (Battle Plan Ministry) to which God has called me to found and lead. And today’s verse and devotional simply reinforces my calling in this regard.

If one is reading this, I guess I would ask you to find yourself somewhere in Luke 4: 18, using your grace-given Spiritual gifts to reach out in Christ’s Name to those who need to hear the Good News or those who need to be freed from the prisons of their own hearts or to be helped to see God’s Way, to which they may be blinded. And when we do this, according to our verse today, we are walking as worthy as prisoners of and for our Lord [again see Eph. 4: 1], especially to those who are prisoners of this world.

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to carry out Your mission in my life. Amen

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January 13, 2011 … Love for One Another

Passage of the Day: Hebrews 13: 2 [NIV]2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.

Hebrews 13: 2 - [NASB]2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

My Journal for Today: Well, continuing on in Hebrews 13, today the Author begins to stretch the love of God which should be expressed in the lives of Christians. He says that this love should be extended not only to fellow believers but also to “strangers,” which probably would refers to non-believers as well as believers whom we don’t know well enough to be considered “brothers/sisters in Christ.” And like I said yesterday, extending God’s love to those we don’t know well can be a challenge when we don’t know if we can trust such people. Tomorrow, when we go to Heb. 13: 3, we’re going to see that this could even extend to the imprisoned. But I digress.

Paul picked up this theme in two of his epistles. Check out 1st Thess. 5: 15 and Gal. 6: 9-10

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Thess. 5: 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
Gal. 6: 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Hospitality was a big deal in middle-eastern culture when Paul and the Author of Hebrews wrote the above passages. And it was especially a mandate of the Jewish believers who no doubt remembered the story of their Father Abraham in Genesis 18: 1 - 5, who gave comfort to absolute strangers, who turned out to be angels, … one of those likely being the pre-incarnate Messiah.

But to absolutely validate the importance of our command to extend God’s love to the seemingly unlovable, to strangers, or to the lost, we need to go no further than the words of Jesus Himself, relating His command to reach out in love to the “least” of the world. Read in Matthew 25: 40, 45:

>>> SCRIPTURE: In His parable, Jesus says, in Matt. 25: 40, 45: ”The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.' … 45 "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.”

Again, I can’t help but remember the exhortation of John from 1st John 3: 18,19 [NASB], “Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed or in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth (i.e., really Christians), and shall assure our heart before Him.”

All of this is tough going for any Christian; but no one said that this Christianity deal was a walk in the park, just smelling the roses. Yes, … these commands are simple and straight forward. However, our walk as Christians can, at times, require spreading some manure on the roses and working hard to tend them for God. But when the roses grow and present themselves, they are sweet smelling and beautiful. So, I guess it’s time to go out and tend to God’s rose garden today.

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to do what it takes to spread YOUR love in the world. Amen

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January 12, 2011 … The Importance of Brotherly Love

Passage of the Day: Hebrews 13: 1 [NIV] – Keep on loving each other as brothers.

Hebrews 13: 1 – [NASB] – Let love of the brethren continue.

My Journal for Today: Again from the verse of the day, the Author of Hebrews exhorts believers to hold out brotherly love for other Christians on a continual basis. In this passage, the author uses the Greek term “philadelphia” to speak of God’s exhortation to Christian love. “Philadelphia,” translated into our American culture, is the human love that we hold for those dear to us. It’s … the love that gives and takes in human relationships. However, when Jesus commands His followers to express HIS love to our fellow man, our Lord uses an even stronger term in the Greek for love, “agape,” which is the love that gives and gives and then keeps on giving. It’s that unconditional love that actually is supernatural. [Again, I refer you to Jesus’ mandate in John 13: 34 - 35]

>>> SCRIPTURE: John 12: 34 "A new command I give you: Love [Greek – “agapao”] one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another."

And in his first epistle, John, reiterates this Christlike emphasis on love. Read 1st John 3: 17 – 20 [and especially note verse 18 in bold below]…

>>> SCRIPTURE: John 3: 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18Dear children, let us not love [again, the Greek – “agapao”] with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth [i.e., that we are truly Christians], and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence 20whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.

And here is the tough thing for Christians from the words of Jesus and His Spirit, through the Apostle John, quoted above. They are telling us that we cannot really call ourselves “born-again Christians” and refuse to love anyone, let alone fellow Christians. John is even writing, inspired by God’s Spirit, that no mature Christian would ever refuse to help another person, and especially another Christian, in genuine need. Such refusal would demonstrate, according to God’s word, a rejection of God’s love, which simply would not be the case with the genuine, surrendered Christian. And if a Christian were to sin by refusing to love another (love is always a choice!), then the conviction of God’s Spirit would be present in the Christian’s heart and would alert the believer of his/her sin. I certainly have felt that kind of conviction when my selfishness has been exercised and I’ve refused to reach out in love to others when I saw them in need.

We’ve heard of “tough love,” which is love doled out in challenging acts of separation or even rejection of the behavior of those whom we don’t want to be “enablers” for their acts of sin. Jesus taught (in Matt. 18) that there is a time when we must love another Christian enough to put them out of the church for their habitual and flagrant sin. But there’s another kind of tough love as well… and that’s “the love that is tough” to express in living up to John’s exhortation in 1John 3: 18, “… let us not love with (just) words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” I think you’d agree that this can be really tough at times; and I must admit, I find it difficult to live this out when I perceive a “drunk” panhandling for money. My struggle and question is: “How do I show love to this man?” My rational nature is saying: “If I give him money, he’s going to use it for booze.” >>> Have you ever been there and wondered how to “love” the sinner without enabling the sin? That is the real tough love for me.

Yes, all of us who are genuinely in Christ must continually take a sober look at our relational choices; and if God, the Holy Spirit, convicts us of any act where we withhold our “agape,” or our “philadelphia” from another, we simply must act to allow God’s love to be channeled through us to others. Again, according to Jesus in John 13: 34 - 35, that’s the only way that the world is ever going to see God’s love working in and through us as Christians; – and that, my dear one, is when God’s love is given out in His Name by His people.

How about it?! Let’s give out a little “agape” today and let the lost world see Christ in us.

My Prayer Today: Lord, convict me to be a light of love in this ever darkening world. Amen

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January 11, 2011 … Worthy Examples to the World

Passage of the Day: Hebrews 13: 1 [NIV] Keep on loving each other as brothers.

Hebrews 13: 1 – [NASB]Let love of the brethren continue.

My Journal for Today: If you’re reading this as a Christian, have you noticed that it’s not easy to follow the exhortation of today’s verse at times? And I don’t mean to insult your intelligence; but have you also noted that some people, including Christians, are eminently unlovable? Both Peter and Paul knew this when they penned these verses in their Epistles …

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Peter 1: 22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
1st Thes. 4: 9 Now about brotherly love 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 the brothers throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers, to do so more and more.

Both Apostles recognized that we, as Christians, can do more when it comes to receiving and developing the first fruit of the Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22), and that is love. It often [well, maybe ALWAYS] takes a concerted surrender to God’s Spirit, receiving what enabling grace He has to give us in terms of God’s love, to fulfill these challenges above … as well as Paul’s admonition in Phil. 2: 3-4

>>> SCRIPTURE: Phil. 2: 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

And note, as we said in an earlier devotion during this month from 1Pet. 5: 6 [linked], it is HUMILITY that is the key to being able to express God’s love, especially when our sin nature would rather have us be self protective, selfish, or arrogant [i.e., prideful]. So often we think of and act on love as a feeling rather than realizing and living on the truth that love is a choice. And besides, humility is one of those choices we must activate from an attitude of surrender to God; and to say the least, that is not an easy thing for us from our humanity as creatures who’ve inherited our sin nature from Adam.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I declare strongly from my own testimony/witness, we cannot love others, showing our Christianity to the world, as Christ commanded [see below], without being surrendered in humility before God’s throne of grace. Only God’s grace gives us the ability to love the unlovable. Therefore, when we can and do express God’s love, especially to the unlovable … and the world sees that, many times not understanding it, they see Christ loving others through us. Again, see God’s commands from John 13: 34 – 45

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st John 13: 34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another."

This loving business can be tough stuff for me, seemingly always tempted by my basic nature to withhold or to avoid loving others, especially those where such choices to love are risky. But I love my Lord; and He commands me to love others. Not only that, He gives me – by His grace - what I need in temptation to overcome my base nature [see 2nd Peter 1: 3 – 4]. It is also the promise of other passages from God’s truth, like 1Cor. 10: 13, 2nd Cor. 12: 9, and 2nd Tim. 1: 7 (check these out yourself and maybe even memorize them, if God so leads you).

So, we, as Christians, really have no excuse;… do we? And, … ouch! That hurts! … Perhaps today I ought to seek out someone in my life, … a Christian who’ve I’ve had trouble loving; and just choose to do something to show God’s love in some way. But will I? That’s the question.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to love when I want to leave. Amen

Monday, January 10, 2011

January 10, 2011 … Worthy Witness of Christlikeness

Passage of the Day: Hebrews 13: 1K [NIV]Keep on loving each other as brothers.

Hebrews 13: 1 – [NASB]Let love of the brethren continue.

My Journal for Today: We’ve been looking at Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians in Eph. 4: 1 [see devotionals for Jan. 1-8] for Christians to walk-the-walk of worthiness in Christ; and here, in today’s passage, the Author of Hebrews, which some scholars say was also the Apostle Paul, begins to get personal and practical about the issue of worthiness as a Christian, saying that believers will never be seen as any different from the world unless unbelievers AT LEAST see Christians loving one another. And actually, there were other similar challenges in the New Testament of this exhortation toward mutual love and Christian living. Besides the Author of Hebrews, there was Paul’s instruction to the Church and of Paul’s younger protégé, Titus, as we read in Titus 2: 7- 8

>>> SCRIPTURE: Titus 2: 7 In everything set them [the world of unbelievers] an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Also, the Apostle Peter wrote to the Asia Minor churches, exhorting them in 1st Peter 2: 15

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Pet. 2: 15 For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

And Jesus Himself, was pretty emphatic about Christians being walking examples of His Way of love, when He said the following in John 13: 34 - 35

>>> SCRIPTURE: John 13: 34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another."

Okay, … I’m both convinced and convicted! If we’re to be worthy Christians, we (I) need to be living for Christ and like Christ, loving one another and shining His light of good (and Godly) works (including mutual love) to the world in such a way that they see our [my] genuine love for one another and our concern for the world (see Matt. 5: 16 - you look that one up for yourself). … And I’m afraid that all too often I fall short of the mark set by God’s word and the Model of Christ Himself in this regard.

Yes, I fall short; but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t see the Mark and hold myself to it, or should I rather say, to “Him.” Christ is the Mark, of course; and all that I am, I should be for Him and in Him. With this said in writing, I move on toward my Mark [i.e., my “goal” of Christlikeness] as Paul stated in Phil. 3: 13-14

>>> SCRIPTURE: Phil. 3: 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

My Prayer Today: Lord, You are my Mark; help me be like You; and especially to love other Christians as You have shown Your love for me! Amen

Sunday, January 09, 2011

January 9, 2011 … Humility ... Essential for Christlikeness

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 2a – Be completely humble and gentle; …

My Journal for Today: Here early in the year in my morning devotionals, we’ve been dwelling, from John MacArthur’s Strength for Today on Eph. 4: 1. Now we move on, as Paul begins his instructions on the qualities of a Christian life that is a walk “worthy” of Christlikeness. And it is of interest to me that the first two characteristics of Christlikeness Paul chooses to describe are HUMILITY and MEEKNESS [or “gentleness”]. Interestingly enough, these are the only two character traits that Jesus ever used to describe Himself (see Matthew 11: 29 below).

>>> SCRIPTURE: [Jesus speaking] Matt. 11: 29 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle [also translated “meek”] and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

In his devotional, MacArthur concentrates today on the quality of HUMILITY, which is a quality of Godliness that is often referenced in the book of Proverbs [see below Prov. 3: 34; 15: 33; and 22: 4] . Therefore, humility obviously is a quality for Christians to pursue as we grow in Christ, desiring to be like Him.

>>> SCRIPTURE: Prov. 3: 34 He [God] mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.
>>> Prov. 15: 33 The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.
>>> Prov. 22: 4 Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.

And … both James (in James 4: 6) and Peter (in 1Peter 5: 5-7) also support the importance of developing humility as a Christian, with both authors quoting Prov. 3: 34 in those passages, even declaring that humility is the key to God’s grace (see statement from 1st Peter 5 below).

>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Peter 5: 5 Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

Pride, we know, and as we can read in the above scriptures, is the exact opposite of humility; and we know from Genesis 2 that pride was the “birth mother” of all sin. Satan, in fact, was expelled from heaven because of his anti-humility (i.e., pride) – see Isaiah 14: 13-14, where the fallen angel Lucifer says “I will” several times before God said “No, you won’t” and expelled the prideful angel from heaven. And so, since all sin has its root in pride; and since sin is defiance of and separation from God, humility becomes the attitude that is essential for both salvation and sanctification.

As to salvation, no one will ever enter God’s Kingdom without coming, to God’s throne of grace to receive God’s gift of salvation by HUMBLY declaring that Christ is that one’s Lord and Savior. And no one can be sanctified and walk in the power of God unless he/she can be HUMBLE enough to receive God’s grace, which God is so freely and willingly doles out through His Spirit to his humble servants.

It is when we walk humbly, as did Christ (see Phil. 2: 5-11), and when we have a Christlike attitude of humility (and meekness) that God can lift us up (again, see 1st Peter 5: 6) and give us His power so that we can be His witnesses on earth (see Acts 1: 8).

So we choose … humility or pride; and when we do, God promises – and will supply - all the grace we need for eternity and for our walk with Him here in this life as well.

So, … what is our choice today?

My Prayer Today: Lord, I tremble to pray this prayer; but I do pray that You help me to be humble. Amen

Saturday, January 08, 2011

January 8, 2011 … Divinely Chosen and Called

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1 [NIV]As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Ephesians 4: 1 [NASB] - Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, …

My Journal for Today: One final day in Eph. 4: 1 with Dr. MacArthur, and he has highlighted the phrase “the calling” that the Apostle Paul uses to indicate the direction we have received as Christians. This begs the natural question, “What is this ‘CALLING’ all about?”

Well, the Greek terms for “calling” [klesis] or “called” [kletos], are used in several places in New Testament Scripture. Paul also said (2nd Tim. 1: 9) that our calling is to holiness; and he also (in 1Cor. 1: 2) said that believers are called out into sainthood [i.e., again called to holiness]. Peter wrote (in 2nd Peter 1: 10) that our walk (i.e., our life) exhibits our being chosen or called by God. The author of Hebrews wrote that we have a high and heavenly calling as Christians (see Heb. 3: 1). And you may remember that Paul also referred to Christians as “the called” according to God’s purpose (in Rom. 8: 28 in NKJV).

And so, this business of walking as a “Christian” is a big deal! It’s a “calling” … by, from, and for God. It is no less than the life God has chosen or called for me [see John 15: 16]. He has called me to fulfill HIS purpose; and He has changed my character name from “sinner” to “Saint” for this calling. Therefore, it is incumbent on me to live in such a way that would honor my God and His calling.

Perhaps you remember being “called out” to be on a team, as a young person, … maybe for a basketball team at school. ... I do. … I can remember running home in the 6th grade, excitedly reporting to my mom and dad, “I’m on the team!” And then I can remember wanting to do my very best to show the coach, who had “called me out,” that his selection was not a mistake? I really wanted to live up to whatever it took to show the coach that I could do what was expected of a team member.

MacArthur, in Strength for Today, puts it this way in posing such a challenge, “Such a high calling [from God] demands an equally high response of commitment, doesn’t it?!” And then we have Paul’s challenge in Eph. 4: 1, into which we’ve been studying for the last few days.

Personally, I think that the only rational response for any Christian to his calling for God’s team is a resounding “THANK YOU, LORD!”… And then I feel that the recognition of our calling must be followed by a deep self inventory [see 2nd Cor. 13: 5] and a commitment to follow Christ as never before [as in Prov. 3: 5-6], which is certainly appropriate as we move into this New Year.

My Prayer Today: Lord, You chose me before time. I have received Your calling in my time; and I am blessed by Your gift of grace to live for You. Amen

Friday, January 07, 2011

January 7, 2011 … Divine Resources for Walking Worthy

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1 [NIV]As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Ephesians 4: 1 [NASB]: - Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, …

My Journal for Today: Well again, in John MacArthur’s Strength For Today, the author has led me to dwell on this powerful exhortation by the Apostle Paul (i.e., the repeated verse, Eph. 4: 1), which I’ve quoted today from the NIV/NASB and underlined the word picture of “the [Christian] walk” Paul seeks for believers.

Actually this word picture, referring to the “Christian walk,” is not uncommon in the New Testament. You can see it in these verses (also from the NASB – note underlined emphasis):

>>> SCRIPTURE: Romans 6: 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
>>> SCRIPTURE: 2nd John 1: 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.
>>> SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 2: 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
>>> SCRIPTURE: 1st Thessalonians 4: 1 Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.

Paul really wanted Christians with whom he had influence and contact “to walk” in Christlikeness. Read in his wonderful prayer of empowerment [from Eph. 3: 16 – 21] how Paul realized that believers would never be able to “walk” in Christlikeness unless they were energized and enabled to walk worthy by the power of God’s Spirit.

>>> SCRIPTURE: Eph. 3: 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, 21to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Don’t you just love that last verse (i.e., Eph. 3: 20). Paul knew and prayed for Christians to recognize the power within them (us), i.e., the Holy Spirit, to walk worthy of our calling as Christians. But he also knew that no Christian could or would walk in this worthy manner unless he/she were fully surrendered to the God’s way/will and was fully obedient to God’s word. He knew that God’s love could only flow through the Christian whose love was surrendered to God. That is what was expressed by Jesus Himself in John 14: 21

>>> SCRIPTURE: John 14: 21 “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him."

What a promise! If we, as Paul desired, surrender to God’s Spirit within us, walking in obedience to Christ’s commands, Christ Himself, through His Spirit, will abide in our hearts and manifest Himself in/through us. But as MacArthur points out, that’s a conditional promise. MacArthur writes, “You (the believer) must commit everyday and every moment to the Lord, trusting in [God’s] strength.” And when we do that, we will find Christ’s light shining on our path (see Ps. 119: 105) and His strength pouring through His grace into our weakness (see 2nd Cor. 12: 9) so that we can be overcomers in this world – as was Christ (see John 16: 33).

As I’ve often asked other believers, because of what I’ve experienced myself, “Would you rather depend on your own knowledge and strength or God’s?” Duh! To me the answer here for the Christian is an absolute no-brainer. But you’ve got to answer for yourself. And then, after answering this question we have to activate the decisions which allow God’s Spirit to flow, through God’s grace, into our mind/heart so that we can/will make Godly decisions rather than flesh-driven decisions. It’s actually a very simple concept … but a very difficult application.

My Prayer Today: Lord, I rely on You! Amen

Thursday, January 06, 2011

January 6, 2011 … Passion Fueling the Worthy Walk

Passage of the Day: Ephesians 4: 1 [NIV]As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Ephesians 4: 1 [NASB] - Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, …

Ephesians 4: 1 [NKJV]
- I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, …

Ephesians 4: 1 [NLT]
- Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.

My Journal for Today: Today we take a bit of a verbal microscope and look at one word from the highlight verse we’ve been studying this week, Ephesians 4: 1, where Paul is strongly exhorting the believers in Ephesus, and the Holy Spirit from Scripture, to walk worthy of their [our] calling as Christians. In the NIV he says, “I URGE you.” This word “urge” from the NIV is the Greek term “parakaleo,” which the NASB [see above] translates “I IMPLORE you.” From the NKJV it’s, “I BESEECH you;” and from the New Living Translation [NLT], it’s “I BEG you.” Though Paul could never have been accurately pictured as a “beggar” type of personality, in this passage, and others (see below), he was using beggar language to implore Christians to worthiness in Christ.

John MacArthur writes, and I agree, that Paul is assertively begging his fellow Christians to see what he, Paul, had come to see in the pursuit of Christlikeness. He also used “parakaleo” when he was entreating Christians to become “living sacrifices” in Romans 12: 1; or when he implored pagans in Corinth to be reconciled to God (2nd Cor. 5: 20). Paul had a driving passion for others to come to Christ and then totally surrender to God’s Spirit so that they might become all that any Christian can become in his/her walk with the Lord.

Paul wanted all believers to discover what he had discovered through all the trials he had endured. He wanted Christians (and that’s you and me today) to experience the joy of their salvation (see Ps. 51: 12) … or to have the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4: 7) … or to live in the abundance of the completeness and richness of the Christian life (John 10: 10) … or to have the power of God’s Spirit in witness (Acts 1: 8) … or to be completely fruitful for God’s Kingdom (Gal. 5: 22-23).

That’s the way I feel sometimes in the ministry into which God has led me in the role of Pastor/Shepherd. I so desperately want others, who have wallowed in habitual sin, to find the freedom I have found in Christ. At times I almost “beg” them to see the light of Christ through His word; and it grieves me when they turn from the Savior to selfishness for the answers to life’s questions; … or when they turn from Godliness to garbage for self medication. In terms of the truth of Eph. 4: 1, I’m not the Apostle Paul, for sure; but I can feel a lot of myself just wanting to shake Christians forcefully, and to say, “WHY CAN’T YOU SEE WHAT GOD WANTS YOU TO SEE!!!; or … why can’t you turn to God’s ways instead of that of the world; or … why can’t you walk worthy of the Name of Christ?!!!”

Am I the Christlike model for which I seek for others? Hardly! Even Paul called himself the worst of sinners. Certainly, I’ve got a long way to go; but like Paul to the Corinthians, I can and I will implore other Christians to follow me in a trek toward Christlikeness (see 1st Cor. 11: 1). Just as Christ has ordered me in Luke 9: 23 … to deny myself, take up His cross daily, and to follow Him. I can say, as did Paul, “You can follow me; because I follow Christ.” Of course, I’m human; and I will fail at times. The Apostle Paul did (read Rom. 7: 14 - 23). But I do beg [“parakaleo”] others (including any who read this) to follow my passion, as well as God’s teachings through Paul, so that we all become passionate in our desire to walk worthy of the calling of Christlikeness which all Christians have.

My Prayer Today: O Lord, help me as I share all You are with others. … Amen