Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31, 2011 … Our Ultimate Example

Passage of the Day: 1st Peter 2: 21 - 23 … 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. 22 "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth." [quoted from Is. 53: 9]
23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.

My Journal for Today: Talk about a role model!

This month I’ve been in devotional study, helped along by John MacArthur’s Strength for Today as always during this year, looking at how we Christians walk [i.e., live] worthy of Christ’s Name (see Eph. 4: 1-2) even when we face trials and tribulations. And in today’s passage from the Apostle Peter, we read of THE Role Model of role models in this regard – Christ, Himself. And it was appropriate that Peter reflected on the prophesy from Isaiah 53 of the “suffering Servant,” Who would suffer for all mankind and still look to His Heavenly Father in the midst of the man’s most horrible trail – His death on the cross.

This month we’ve looked at both Stephen and Paul as wonderful human role models of suffering servants who ended their lives, living out the strength in suffering exhibited by Christ on the cross. We see how they exhibited a Christian’s worthiness in their ability to stand in Christlikeness in the face of pain, suffering, and persecution, … both of them dying as martyrs in the name of their Lord. These were certainly two role models of Christlike humility and meekness in the face of persecutions, much as was their role-model, Jesus.

But you may say, “Stephen and Paul, yes; but can I do it? Can a normal human walk so worthily in Christlikeness, even in the face of great tribulation. And for the answer to that we mentioned the story of Cassie Bernall, who died at Columbine High School in 1999, when one of the teen gunman who had invaded that high school on that November morning asked her, threatening her life with a gun to her head, if she was a Christian, to which she replied without hesitation, “Yes!” And she, like Stephen and Paul became a martyr for her faith.

Can I walk like these faith-worthy Christians? Until I’m challenged as were they, I’ll never truly know; but I would hope that my faith and walk in Christ has matured to the point that I could. I certainly know that my head says that I’m committed to such a walk of faith. That’s why I’m here every morning devoting the best part of my day early each morning, getting to know my God more intimately. BUT, … my heart is challenged daily to be ready to walk into the potentially hot fires of life, still following Christ in fruitful victory … the One Who died on a cross that I might have this walk.

As the author of Hebrews (in Heb. 12: 2) puts it, these martyrs mentioned above walked … fixing their eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith. And once more I turn back the words of that incredible hymn …

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face …
And the things of this earth will grow strangely dim …
In the light of His glory and grace.

What more could we ever say about what we always need to do when we face trials and challenges in life?

My Prayer Today: And may that, Lord, as I come to this quiet place each morning to be with You, be my daily habit. Amen


Blogger’s Note: Well, that concludes my journaling of my daily quiet-times with my God each morning in May, this month focusing on how to walk in a worthy manner in Christlikeness even when things get rough in life. Next month, I’ll be focusing, again with the help of John MacArthur in his devotional book, Strength For Today, on how to maintain INTEGRITY in the face of an enemy and a world who wants to denude Christians of our strength of character. Perhaps you might grow with me as we explore Christlikeness again this next month.

Monday, May 30, 2011

May 30, 2011 … Endurance: Look to the Future

Passage of the Day [NIV]: 2nd Corinthians 4: 17 … 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary; but what is unseen is eternal.

Passage of the Day [NASB]: 2nd Corinthians 4: 17 … 16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

My Journal for Today: Today, we look on the same passage as we did yesterday; but with a focus on verse 17 [bold and underlined]; and for a seeker’s benefit, I have taken the liberty to add the NASB version to the NIV in today’s study.

We see here that Paul is asking Christians to focus clearly on our future hope in Christ, which, he reminds believers, far outweighs any present (or past) trials we might endure (“momentary, light affliction” in the NASB – but which may not seem so “momentary” and “light” to those enduring the pain). It is interesting that Paul, having experienced so many near-death trials [see his description in 2nd Cor. 11: 21 – 28], refers to any afflictions we experience as being “light.” I don’t know whether I would have had that kind of attitude; but he is right. Anything I’m going through now is “light” compared with the affliction our Lord, Jesus, went through on the cross to secure my eternal glory.

The Apostle James (see James 1: 2) even wrote that we Christians should consider it all joy to endure such trials which confront us in Christ’s Name. But back to Paul’s exhortation in today’s passage, the temporary pain we experience from ANY temporal or corporal challenge is simply inconsequential when weighed against “the eternal weight of glory.”

In his devotional for this date from Strength for Today, John MacArthur evokes the same word picture referred to by Paul’s writing in today’s passage … that of the old balance scale used to measure the weight of any element. We’re asked, as believers, to see our lives on one side of that scale with the weight of any momentary earthly trial, which is weighed on the other side of the scales against the infinite eternal weight of being with Christ in glory. NO CONTEST!!!

The weight of any passing temporal pain we might have to endure or cross we may have to carry (see Luke 9: 23) is ALWAYS far outweighed by the cross Christ had to endure so that we could praise, serve, and glorify Him for eternity.

My Prayer Today: For You, my Lord, I must bear any weight. Amen

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 28-29, 2011 … Joy and Endurance in the Spirit

Blogger’s Note: Yesterday I was not able to post the devotional you read below because of travel schedules and my laptop battery lapsing while I traveled (long story!). I actually did the devotional for 5/28; but since I couldn’t post it online, I’m doing so today (5/29) along with my devotional for this date. For those who read along with my daily journal entries, I apologize for this lapse in planning/posting.


May 28, 2011 … Joy in Spite of Death

Passage of the Day: [Repeating] Philippians 1: 21 …
21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain …

My Journal for Today: Continuing with the same verse and theme from yesterday’s entry [5/27] , the Apostle Paul, according to John MacArthur in his devotional from Strength for Today for this date, had three reasons to be confident – even in the face of prison or other dire circumstances.

First, Paul had confidence in the power afforded by God through prayer … see Rom. 15: 30

SCRIPTURE<: Romans 15: 30I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.

Secondly, the imprisoned Apostle just knew the Holy Spirit would sustain him in the face of his trials, which is Paul’s message in two of my favorite and most called-upon verses in my arsenal of memory verses, 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9, both of which I really hope any reader of this entry would have memorized and deeply embedded in your heart by now. Peter had also expressed the same confidence that God gives us all we need to face life (see 2nd Peter 1: 3). …

XRIPTURE: 2nd Peter 1: 3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.

And finally, Paul had consummate confidence in Christ’s promises … that God had called him (Paul) into ministry (see Acts 26: 16 - 18) … that he would never suffer shame in Christ’s Name (ala Mark 8: 38) … and that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, would never abandon His sheep (after John 10: 27-28).

Paul knew, as should we, that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and will never forsake us (Hebrews 13: 5, 8). And prayerfully, we can all realize that we can forever place our confidence in our God in moments of trial.

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


May 29, 2011 … Endurance: The Value of the Spirit

Passage of the Day: 2nd Corinthians 4: 16 – 18 …
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary; but what is unseen is eternal.

My Journal for Today: Maintaining our bodily temple is certainly important. If fact, the Apostle Paul had also written to the Corinthians about that (see 1st Cor. 3: 16 – 17) …

SCRIPTURE: 1st Cor. 3: 16 – 17 ... 16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.

However, as Paul declares in today’s passage, we should realize that our bodies, while being maintained in proper stewardship as God’s temple, are just temporary (see again 1st Cor. 15: 35 – 57 - linked here); and so, our primary focus should be on our eternal relationship with Christ.

Admittedly this can be challenging at times, because this latter focus is “unseen,” as Paul states in our passage for today. In Colossians 3: 2, he also exhorted the church that we need to “… Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” In all of this Paul recognized that the Christians of his day, as is the case today, were under great pressure by Satan, the world, and their (our) own flesh to concentrate on the temporal or corporal here-and-now, especially as the church was being persecuted. However, Christians must, according to Paul, grasp and cling to the truth that our hope is not in those elements we can see now, but in Christ and what is unseen in glory.

Peter was also helping the early church to grasp this truth by encouraging them (and now us) to understand that our sufferings would help them (us) prepare for the great eternal life ahead (see 1st Peter 5: 10) ...

SCRIPTURE: 1st Peter 5: 10 And the God of all grace, Who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

And there is, of course, the uplifting word of God in Isaiah 40: 28 – 31, where we read that God will always provide the strength for a believer, who avails himself or herself of God’s grace, to meet the physical demands involved in the temporal challenges of life (and we’re also encouraged by Is. 41: 10, 1st Cor. 10: 13, 2nd Cor. 12: 9, and James 1: 2 – 3).

If we know and believe God’s word and promises in these passages, there is no trial or persecution which should dissuade us from our hope, Who is Christ.

My Prayer Today: Lord, You are the strength I need. Amen

Friday, May 27, 2011

May 27, 2011 … Confidence in the Face of Death

Passage of the Day: Philippians 1: 21 … For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

My Journal for Today: As I read today’s verse, I can’t help but reflect on the last few years of the life of my earthly Dad, who went to be with Jesus in spirit just a few of years ago. My Dad suffered a lot physically and emotionally in his latter years, the last few being in a nursing care facility in his home town of Lebanon, IN. These latter days of his life, Dad became a role model of God’s grace on display in the life of one who suffered much in a broken down body.

At Dad’s memorial service, I read from a passage he used to enjoy having me read for him that last year when I would go to visit him. It was 1st Corinthians 15: 35 – 57; and I’ll leave it to you to check out this hope-filled passage. But the hope found in God’s promises of a new body in this passage was greatly comforting to my Dad as he languished with emphysema, osteoporosis, dysphagia (swallowing difficulties), and other ailments. In the 1st Cor. 15 passage Paul describes the new body my Dad will one day (in God’s time) have in the new Jerusalem.

Today’s verse also reflects on this hope; but Paul was not as down about his temporal life at the time he wrote from a Roman prison to the Philippians living with the threat of his life, just as my dying father kept a hopeful spirit as death approached. Paul saw that for him to live in prison was his life in Christ; but if he were to die there, he would gain entrance into the resurrected life with Christ. So, this says to us that life in the here-and-now is life IN Christ; and the life eternal is life WITH Christ. What a “win – win” deal is that!!! I guess that’s why Paul quoted Job (from Job 13: 16) in Phil. 1: 19

SCRIPTURE: Phil. 1: 19 … for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

Paul knew, as should all believers, that we, in Christ, will be delivered ultimately to be with Jesus and to be free of our earthly pains, trials, hardships, or temptations. And as Peter proclaimed in 1st Peter 4: 13, we can rejoice in any suffering – even those which might take us prematurely to be with Jesus – because such trials in this life prepare us for our eternal life with our Savior (know also Rom. 8: 28).

My Prayer Today: And to that, Lord, I simply declare, … HALLELUJAH!!! Amen

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

May 25, 2011 … Paul: Joy in Spite of Trouble

Passage of the Day: Philippians 4: 4 … Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

My Journal for Today: This month we’ve made reference to and discussed the stoning and martyrdom of Stephen. Well, we know that the Apostle Paul, then “Saul of Tarsus,” was present as a witness at Stephen’s stoning [see Acts 7]; and it is reasonable to assume, due to his authority and history of persecuting Jews, that Saul (Paul) may have ordered or authorized the “hit” on Stephen. And in that moment of Christian history, Saul, who would become Paul, witnessed the very act of faith that he would later exhort all believers to experience … and that is the choice to “rejoice … always,” even when facing a horrible and painful situation [as did Stephen]. And since the Apostle Paul wrote the words of today’s verse from prison, the contextual power of his pronouncement is enhanced.

Many of Paul’s greatest teachings, as positive as they were, came from his prison epistles (see also Ephesians and Colossians). … But note, in Eph. 3: 1, that though Paul was physically in a Roman prison, he referred to himself as a “prisoner to Christ,” which affirmed what he proclaimed in today’s verse that he could rejoice in his faith even when he was facing death from the Romans. Paul could have been executed at any time as he wrote Phil. 4: 4; and ultimately he was martyred for his faith. But he believed that one could choose joy in the midst of trials; and he did just that! We read in Phil. 1: 13 that he used the “opportunity” of prison to spread the gospel, even to his Gentile, Roman jailers. And the entire epistle to the Christians at Philippi was an expression of joyous love to them.

Go and read the wonderful true story, penned by Luke in Acts 16: 22 – 34, about Paul and his fellow compatriot, inmate Silas, as Paul chooses to rejoice in the gospel message remaining in the jail, even when they had the chance to escape prison. No, rather than escape, they chose to lead a Roman jailer to Christ, which also resulted in that jailer’s entire family being saved. Such an act of Christians rejoicing in their faith in the face of danger and trial speaks volumes of life proclaiming validity in the words of God, through Paul, in today’s verse.

How could we, as Christians, not aspire to such faith?

My Prayer Today: Help me, Lord, to bloom as joyful wherever I’m planted. Amen

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

May 24, 2011 … Stephen: Godliness in Suffering

Passage of the Day: Acts 7: 55 … But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

My Journal for Today: Revisiting the wondrous commitment of Stephen, being martyred for his faith, we read in today’s verse, that he was “full of the Holy Spirit;” and this is the key to Stephen being able to act in such a superhuman way as was chronicled in Acts 7.

In both today’s verse and Acts 6: 5a, covered yesterday, Stephen was described a being filled of God’s Spirit. The Greek term for “filled” is “pleres” (pronounced - “play-race”). This Greek term means to be full to overflowing or completed. It is the picture of a glass which is so full that any movement would cause it to overflow. And with that picture in mind, John MacArthur, in his Strength for Today devotional for this date, visits the old computer cliché, “Garbage in; Garbage out.” But in Stephen’s case it would be more accurate to say “God in; God out.”

When one is so full of God’s Spirit, as was Stephen, when he is pressured or jostled by life’s trials, God will flow outward from that one’s filled spirit, as godliness did when Stephen was stoned. But being filled with the world or the flesh, when we are jostled by life, it will be the flesh which expresses itself. It is the living expression of Proverbs 23: 7 (from the NKJV), which states, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” I’ve heard the great Baptist preacher Dr. Adrian Rogers say, “When one is so filled with God’s Spirit, the only thing that overflows when one is shaken is God.”

Paul exhorted Christians to “ … set your mind on things above, not the things on earth;” (see Col. 3: 1 – 2 or Phil. 4: 8) and Jesus provided His Spirit to ALL believers so that we could become Christians of character like Stephen (see John 14: 26 – 27).

SCRIPTURE: John 14: 26 – 2826 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Therefore, the more we humbly surrender to God’s Spirit, allowing our minds/hearts to be permeated by His sanctifying and filling grace, the more we will be filled to the brim with the Christlikeness [like that exhibited by a Stephen] when we are pressured or “stoned” by the world.

So, often I’m reminded of the old hymn which expresses this truth … [and I often sing it during devotionals in praise to God]; … in fact as I sit here – with God – this morning, I’ve gone to a recorded version of the old him, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” to be overtaken in this moment with God’s Spirit. In fact, … if you’re at your computer and reading here along with my journaling, you can go to this link, and let the Christian group, Hillsong, sing you the chorus from this wonderful old hymn on You Tube – words below …

Turn your eyes upon Jesus …
Look full in His wonderful face …
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim …
In the light of His glory and grace.

But in my living out of life, I have to confess that all too often I look inward for solutions when I get shaken up; and I don’t rely on God’s Spirit to give me discernment, direction, or power. And when I do this, the Holy Spirit cannot fill me with His grace. But the times when I allow God to fill me by surrendering to His Spirit in humility, I think things, say things, or do things that are just downright amazing to me, … way above my human level of performance. And that’s no different than what Stephen exhibited when he was martyred for his faith.

I don’t know about you, but I want more of those supernatural moments in my life. And so, I pray this day ...

My Prayer Today: Fill my heart, Lord, with Your Spirit. Help me to receive Your grace, Lord, and let it overflow from my heart … yes, even this day. Amen

Monday, May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011 … Stephen: Grace & Serenity in Suffering

Passage of the Day: Acts 6: 5a and Acts 6: 8a … 5a … Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; … 8a … Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, …

My Journal for Today: In these past days [see my devotional blogs], I’ve (we’ve) been looking at what it takes to live as a Christian in this caldron of world opposition and/or personal tribulation. And when it comes to having what it takes, the biblical model of Stephen, the first recorded Christian martyr, is a good one to put before Christians. As we see in our two text passages for today, Stephen was described by Luke, the Author of Acts, as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit [Acts 6: 5a]” and one “full of God’s grace and power. [Acts 6: 8a].” And Stephen certainly demonstrated all of these character traits when he witnessed strongly for Christ to the Sanhedrin and then became the first biblically recorded Christian martyr (see Acts 7). Toward the end of that chapter we see Stephen’s resolve when he, while being stoned to death, was willing and able to mimic his Savior and forgive his fellow Jews who were stoning him to death [see Acts 7: 60].

SCRIPTURE: Acts 7: 60Then he [Stephen] fell on his knees [while being stoned] and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

In Stephen we see what it takes for Christians to be able to handle even the most extreme trials with the character of Christ being lived out in the believer. Stephen’s belief became Stephen’s life. Stephen’s worship of his Lord became his life; and that is what it takes for any of us who are challenged by this world or our own flesh … yes, even to the point of opposition or death.

I may never be called upon to witness to my faith in the way of Stephen or the way Cassie Bernall did at Columbine High School, where a disturbed young man held a gun to her head and asked if she was a Christian. Without hesitating, she quietly proclaimed, “Yes;” and with that witness of faith, she was assassinated by that deranged teenager. When any Christian is challenged in the pubic arena, we need to call upon the same strength of character which martyrs like Stephen and Cassie Bernall exhibited. And we can, because we, being born-again Christians, have the same Holy Spirit in our hearts as did these strong witnesses for Christ. The truth of the promises of 2nd Cor. 12: 9 and 1st Cor. 10: 13, which carried the day for Cassie and Stephen, carry the day for me [and you]. Yes, I am weak; but my God is strong; and He is faithful to never allow me into any situation where, with His help/strength, I cannot be triumphant in His Name.

Are we ready to be Christ’s light in a dark world today? Are we ready to call up the grace and strength of a Stephen should we face the fiery trials of a hostile world and a weak flesh today? To that end … I pray …

My Prayer Today: O Lord, give me Your grace to witness in the world as did Stephen. Amen

Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22, 2011 … Entrusting All to God

Passage of the Day: 1st Peter 4: 19 … So then, those who suffer according to God's will should COMMIT themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.

My Journal for Today: This is the closing “tag line” to the passage we’ve been looking at these past few days, writing in historical context to Christians who were witnessing their faith under an extreme cloud of oppression and danger, … many being burned alive because they were unwilling to deny Christ. And the Apostle Peter closes his exhortation to these committed believers by charging them to “keep on keeping on” in their faith – no matter what!

As I consider this charge in my own life, the exhortation of Paul in Romans 12: 1 comes to mind …

SCRIIPTURE: Romans 12: 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers [and sisters], in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.

Both Peter and Paul are encouraging fellow believers to join them (and they certainly were exemplary martyrs for the faith) in being willing to live - or die - for their Creator and Christ.

The term “commit” in all caps above in the NIV version of 1st Pet. 4: 19 is the Greek term, “paratithemi,” which can also be translated “entrust” (as it is, for example, in the NASB version). MacArthur, in his Strength for Today devotional for this date, points out that this is a Greek banking term; and therefore, these Apostles are saying that our acts of faith, what Paul referred to as “living sacrifice,” in Rom. 12: 1 [e.g., doing good in the face of trials], are faith deposits, placed in the safest of all “banks,” … in the Name of none other than God Almighty. Acts of faith, therefore, done in sacrifice in Christ’s Name and for His glory, are deposits which will be banked for eternity by God; and I believe God will honor them with His interest, which will be crowns in heaven.

So, in the face of trials, even ones like those of the Roman Christians being burned, where it becomes very tempting to cut and run, as did Christ’s Disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, we must be willing to ask ourselves whether our faith has matured to the point that we truly believe and are “living sacrifices” to the truth of Romans 8: 28 or 12: 1. And yes, as declared by God through Paul in 2nd Cor. 12: 9, we are weak; but if we believe in Christ and receive His grace, enabling us to prevail, as also promised in 1st Cor. 10: 13, we will be overcomers as was Christ, Himself (see also John 16:33).

My Prayer Today: Lord, may this life, mine, be a living sacrifice in Your Name. Amen

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 21, 2011 … Evaluating Our Suffering

Passage of the Day: 1st Peter 4: 15 [NIV] … 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.

1st Peter 4: 15 [NASB]:
Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; …

1st Peter 4: 15 [KJV]:But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or [as] a thief, or [as] an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.

My Journal for Today: Today I’ve listed three versions of today’s verse (1st Peter 4: 15), embedded in the passage we have been discussing the past days from 1st Peter 4. And here we read Peter, by God’s inspiration, helping believers to see that we have many troubles or trials in this life; but we don’t need to be creating them on our own by doing unlawful, sinful, or meddlesome things.

Certainly we know that if we create our own problems by doing such things as breaking the law (e.g., murder or theft), we can expect that the governments of the world, instituted by God (see Romans 13), would likely be a big part of our “troubles” or circumstances if they had to prosecute us for our unlawfulness; and most certainly if that were our lot in life, we be in a barrel of troubles. But the latter phrase in 1st Peter 4: 15 indicates that we can also “shoot ourselves in the foot” in this life by becoming “busybodies” or “troublesome meddlers” in the affairs of others as well (see the NASB or KJV versions).

Of course, God’s word does encourage our concern and HEALTHY involvement in the lives of others. For example, Paul exhorts Christians to think of more than their own affairs and to reach out to help others in Phil. 2: 3 – 4

SCRIPTURE: Phil. 2: 3 - 4 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.

However, Paul is not saying here to become “troublesome meddlers” in the lives of others, … to what the Greek term, “allotriepiskopos {pr. - al-lot-ree-ep-is'-kop-os}” in today’s verse refers. Actually either of the KJV or the NASB renderings is, in my estimation, more accurate than the NIV’s simple translation of “meddler.” The Greek term above really means someone who creates problems by making themselves as a supervisor or “controller” in the affairs of others. Paul actually joined Peter in this exhortation of avoidance in hindering the lives of others in 1st Thes. 4: 11

SCRIPTURE: 1st Thes. 4: 11Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, …

Both Peter and Paul, therefore, were saying that we, as Christians, must do all we can to avoid creating our own trials or troubles in life by doing things which are illegal, foolish, and/or meddlesome, especially where we are trying to control the affairs of others. In this regard, especially in the light of Christians becoming involved in civil disobedience, we must be very sure that our actions, in the Name of Christ, are truly within God’s will and purpose and not just done to make the lives of non-believers troublesome.

My Prayer Today: Let me be a helper, Lord … and not a hinderer. Amen

Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20, 2011 … Rejoicing Through The Spirit

Passage of the Day: 1st Peter 4: 14 [see bold highlight] … 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

My Journal for Today: And today we continue on with Peter’s contextual message to those suffering for their faith with the 14th verse of 1st Peter 4. Can you just imagine Christians in the Circus of Rome or in Asia Minor having pitch poured over them, which was lit by the Roman guards; and then to hear, as was reported historically, these burning Christians proclaiming Christ’s Name and singing His glory? It’s tough to see myself being able to praise God in that light; but I do believe it happened; and I know it’s possible.

Peter points out, in today’s verse, that such devotion, faith, and proclamation of joy in Christ, in the face of “fiery trials,” could only take place because of “the Spirit of glory” (i.e., the Holy Spirit), Who indwells all born-again believers. Again, I refer any reading here to the wondrous texts from Paul to the Corinthian Christians (and to us) in 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9. Can you see how many times I refer to these scriptures and why I say that these two would be two of the best passages from God’s word to commit to memory?

John MacArthur, in his devotional for this date in Strength for Today, reminded me (us) that this Spirit-driven power in the first martyr for Christianity, Stephen, was the power that allowed him to witness so deeply to his faith just as Jesus had done on the cross, asking God to forgive those who were stoning him to death (go back and read Acts 6: 15 and Acts 7: 55 – 60). And in Stephen’s story of martyrdom, we have the same grace in the face of human weakness, again spoken of by Pau, whom BTW was a witness to Stephen’s stoning, l in 2nd Cor. 12: 9, that would allow this man, Stephen, being stoned to death, to do a super-human act of Christlikeness. And all of us who are truly in Christ have that same power in us.

The question, at least for this war weary Christian soldier this morning is, … “Has my belief and challenged faith been strengthened and developed to the point that I could/would rejoice in the face of any fiery trial as did Stephen or the Apostle Paul?” I would like to answer “yes” to that question; but going even deeper into my relationship with Christ and practicing the disciplines of the faith with even more diligence can only make my belief stronger and my skills as a Christian warrior more battle ready. So, in the Spirit, I press on even as I am this morning! (see Phil. 3: 13-14)

My Prayer Today: Glory be that You are in me and for me, Lord! Amen

Thursday, May 19, 2011

May 19, 2011 … Rejoicing in Suffering

Passage of the Day: 1st Peter 4: 13 [see bold highlight] … 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.

My Journal for Today: I left yesterday’s devotional reference to 1st Peter 4: 12 above for any reader’s contextual review. Reading back to the May 18 journal entry on this blogsite may be helpful in that regard.

In today’s verse (1st Peter 4: 13), Peter exhorts Christians to do something that is really a stretch for most of us – to REJOICE in the face of suffering, especially in the face of “painful trials.” Remember, he was writing to Christians who were being burned alive by the Emperor Nero’s orders for their faith. But how does one do that – i.e., to do as Jesus said in Matt: 5: 11 – 12

SCRIPTURE: Matt. 5: 11 – 12 [Jesus from His Sermon on the Mount] … 11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I don’t know about you; but when I’m being persecuted for my faith, it’s pretty hard to feel “blessed.” But God’s word would not be teaching believers in this way unless it were not only possible – but the truth. The Apostles learned this lesson by recognizing their worthiness to suffer in Christ’s Name (see Acts 5: 41). But you may be saying to yourself, “But, Bill, the Apostles had seen the resurrected Jesus, face-to-face; and they witnessed all those miracles.” And you are right on if you’re thinking that. It’s simply not natural, in our flesh to REJOICE or feel blessed when we’re going thru some fiery trial of life. No, ... to be joyful in the face of troubles is just flat supernatural.

To find joy in the midst of our trials, the Apostles before us, and now, we too, must be able to lay our trust totally in Christ’s hands – again seeing all trials in the context of Romans 8: 28 or 1st Peter 5: 7 … i.e., that the trials of life are ALL for our good as believers; and we can ALWAYS give them over to a caring God. As I’ve written in an earlier devotional, this becomes a measurement of the maturity of our faith … faith that is seen in our choice to see and find joy in the face of tribulation, … also remembering that joy is a choice and not a feeling.

As believers in and followers of Christ, when we put our suffering in the context of Christ’s suffering on the cross; and with the realization of His second coming and our ultimate glorification, we can choose joy … yes, even in suffering! One day, when Christ returns for His Bride, She (the church – and prayerfully that’s you and me) will rejoice forever beyond measure.

My Prayer Today: You are my joy, Lord, … even in trials. Amen

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 18, 2011 … Reassurance in the Midst of Trials

Passage of the Day: 1st Peter 4: 12 [NIV] … 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.

1st Pet. 4: 12 – NASB Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeals among you , which come upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; …

My Journal for Today: I like the way that the NASB version takes the phrase “painful trial,” translated in the NIV above from the Greek; and expands the translation. By referring to “fiery ordeals,” which seemingly tests the believer over a longer period of time, the NASB reference is much more explanatory and fits the historical context more readily. The NASB rendering calls the sufferings being experienced by the 1st century readers as “fiery ordeals … which comes upon you for your testing.” To me this is much clearer than the NIV reference to “painful trials”, especially in the context of the suffering of the Christians in Peter’s day, many of whom were being burned alive by Nero and became pitch-covered human torches for their faith.

This image is much like that of Psalm 66: 10, which states clearly the metaphor of life, at times, being like a “fiery trial,” which burns in our life for a season of time to help refine us …

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 66: 10For You, O God, tested us; You refined us like silver.

When you know how precious metals are refined, the word picture and metaphor for life becomes very applicable. The gold/silver ore is melted over a fire; and the dross (i.e., impurities) float to the top where the metal-smith skims off the impurities, leaving the refined, purified gold or silver. When we face the “fires of life,” as did those to whom Peter was addressing, we are purified by these “fiery trials;” and this is the essence of the sanctification process. That’s why belief in the truth of Romans 8: 28 [I hope you’ve memorized that scripture by now!] is severely tested when we are put to the test of fire in our life.

And so we read Peter reminding those in the “fiery trials” of life not to be surprised or dismayed. The Apostle Paul wrote in much the same way about the testing or trials of life in 1st Cor. 10: 13, where he said, “No temptation [also accurately translated “test, trial, or tribulation,” depending on the life circumstances] has seized you except what is common to man.” These Apostles wanted their Christian readers to grasp the expectation that these 1st century believers would suffer for their faith or have “fiery trials” in their lives so that God could purify them into the completeness and purity of Christlikeness.

Tomorrow in the Peter’s next verse (see 1st Peter 4: 13), we will read that these “fiery trials” should actually cause us to “rejoice,” because they are our participation in the sufferings of/for Christ. But I’ve been reading ahead; … more on that tomorrow >>>.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to see You in the furnace of life. Amen

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May 17, 2011 … Satan’s Role in Our Trials

Passage of the Day: 1st Peter 5: 8 - 9 … 8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

My Journal for Today: Having been in discipleship ministry now for many years, dealing with Satan’s stronghold of habitual sexual sin, I’ve always been drawn to the imagery of this passage. Here Peter gives believers a clear perspective on the devil’s role in the trials and temptations of life. And, I’m afraid, all too often, Christians come to feel that Satan is winning the war as he stalks us, roaring so loudly as to scare believers into thinking that his strength exceeds that of God, Himself.

It’s a lie from hell [!] into which we believers cannot be suckered. If we fall for it, like the stalking cat, the enemy will pounce on us and devour our testimonies and our witness. As Christians, we can take heed from the truths below about our prowling foe and the Lord Whom we follow …

SCRIPTURE: 1st John 4: 4You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them [the forces of evil], because the One Who is in you [i.e., the Holy Spirit] is greater than the one [Satan] who is in the world.
SCRIPTURE: James 4: 7Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
SCRIPTURE: 1st Cor. 10: 13No temptation 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.

These, and other scripture passages like Is. 41: 10, Phil. 4: 13, 2nd Cor. 12: 9, Rom. 8: 31, and 2nd Tim. 1: 7, which I have embedded into my heart/mind over the years of discipleship, give me ample evidence and encouragement, from God’s own word, that we can, as Christians, always choose God’s way and resist Satan … even with the expectation of victory in this life (and most certainly the glorified victory in the next). An unbeliever or even a discouraged Christian cannot tell me that this is untrue; because I have experienced and walked in this truth for decades now.

We should take heart from the confrontation that Jesus had in the wilderness with the stalking enemy, recounted in Matthew 4 and/or Luke 4. Most certainly Jesus was/is the God-Man. However, as believing, born-again Christians, we can invoke the same power of God’s word from God’s Spirit to do what Paul claimed for believers; and that is to take captive of every thought to the obedience of Christ (see 2nd Cor. 10: 5).

Yes, we are in a spiritual war (see Eph. 6: 10 – 13); … BUT … we need not fear (again Romans 8: 31, 2nd Tim. 1: 7, and/or Isaiah 41: 10). We have the power to overcome and be overcomers like our Savior (see John 16: 33). God has given us access by His grace to his full armor as well as the high ground of prayer in the Spirit (see Eph. 6: 13 – 18). And as long as we stand with these, we will prevail!

I truly hope – and will pray below – that you know – AND BELIEVE – all the scriptures I’ve quoted above for my journal entry today. Because you have a roaring lion, in Satan, stalking you. No, not all of the tough circumstances of life are created by the stalking devil; but many of our trials are either his ploys or the result of our own ill-begotten choices. And we can/will only be overcomers IF we know and believe in those citations from God’s word which I’ve cited above. So, I pray that we all can be victorious against Satan in life as was our Savior in the wilderness (again, go read the first verses of Matt. 4 and/or Luke 4 for that story).

My Prayer Today: Lord, we who know You as Savior, stand with You, as our enemy stalks us. Help us to know and believe and use Your word to do battle with him. Amen

Monday, May 16, 2011

May 16, 2011 … Confidence in God’s Providence

Passage of the Day: Romans 8: 28 [NIV] … 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.
Rom. 8: 28 - Other Versions - NKJV - And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
The MessageThat's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.
Amplified - We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.

My Journal for Today: If you were here yesterday reading my journal entry, I wrote that belief in and application of Romans 8: 28 is definitely one of the scriptural measures of the maturity of our Christian walk. Henceforth, above I have put several Scripture versions of this well known verse. And you will note that to believe in the reality and truth of this passage, the believer must have an understanding of God’s providence.

God works His purposes in this world and in our lives in two primary ways: Through His miracles and through His providence. Yes, God is still in the miracle business. Any father who has been a witness of child being born has been a witness of a miracle of the Creator, whether he acknowledges it as such or not. However, I agree with John MacArthur in his devotional for this date in Strength for Today that God usually does not use miracles in this church age the same way He did when Jesus walked with His disciples. Therefore, God’s providence is His primary way of unfolding His will for the lives of His children.

In Genesis (50: 20), Joseph had confidence in God’s providence as once abandoned son of God related to his brothers how God had turned a very bad thing (their hate, jealousy, and murderous intent) into God’s own good. The Apostle Paul expressed faith in the strength of Christ to get him through all things – bad and good (see Phil. 4: 11 – 13). And if we really believe in the truth of Romans 8: 28, we will see that even the trials and tribulations of life are expressions of God’s providence to write good into our lives for his glory.

We have a tendency of seeing only the comfortable and pleasurable as “blessings” in our lives; when, in fact, God probably blesses us for His good the most when we are ushered into the most challenging circumstances of life. Yes, it is from God’s providence, and/or maybe even His occasional miracle, that we go through some of the toughest times of our lives so that we can best do what Jesus spoke of in Matt. 5: 16 … to shine our light (i.e., His light in the midst of darkness) so that others can see Him and God, the Father, will be glorified.

So, may we ALWAYS see that ALL THINGS work together for our good as Christians in this life.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me to see all of my life as Your good providence. Amen

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May 15, 2011 … The Necessity of Grateful Prayer

Passage of the Day: Philippians 4: 6 - 7 … 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

My Journal for Today: If any Christian is looking for a scripture to “hang your hat” upon in this unpredictable and threatening world in which we live, go no further than this exhortation from the Apostle Paul as he wrote to believers who were being buffeted by some dangerous heresies and teachings (such as Judaism and Gnosticism) as well as persecution from Rome. There was much over which Christians could be anxious in Paul’s day; and there is even more today. And so, Paul’s admonition and prescription for handling the worries of life couldn’t be more pertinent for you and me today.

I truly believe, as Paul posits above in today’s highlight passage, that only Christians can find God’s peace to guard their hearts in the midst of the storms and tribulations of life. Paul exhorts that the Christian need not fret, worry, or be anxious about “ANYTHING.” That’s a tall claim; but it’s either true or not; and the more mature my faith in Christ has become, the more truth I’ve found in what Paul claims about God’s peace in today’s text. In fact, I maintain that our belief in and use of the truth of today’s passage, as well as that in Romans 8: 28, provides a measure of the maturity of the Christian. [And hopefully you have this latter verse memorized as well as today’s passage; if not, let me provide it here!]

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

If you can find peace trough prayer and know that a trying situation is for your ultimate well being as a believer, your faith is mature. However, to the degree we wallow in self-pity and anxiety, rather than looking for God’s will from prayer in the midst of trials, we need to grow in our faith. Right now, I think of the promise in Peter’s prayer of 1st Peter 5: 10

SCRIPTURE: 1st Peter 5: 10And the God of all grace, Who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

When we’re in the midst of life’s trials and tribulations, knowing and believing the truths of God’s word and His promises [see those above], … we Christians truly can find God’s peace, no matter what life may throw at us.

I’ve still got some growing to do; … how about you?

My Prayer Today: Lord, I so want to find your peace in the midst of the storms of life. Amen

Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 14, 2011 … Prepared for the Worst

Passage of the Day: Matthew 7: 24 – 27 (noting vs. 25 underlined) … 24 "Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."

My Journal for Today: In my youth, I was encouraged and shepherded into becoming an Eagle Scout; and the Boy Scout motto was (and still is) “Be Prepared!”. Being prepared in our Christian walk is knowing that unexpected storms (i.e., trials) will come our way, but building the foundation of our lives upon “The Rock,” Who, of course, is Christ. Today’s verse expresses this truth, as does the Old Testament in Isaiah 26: 3 – 4

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 26: 3 – 4 ... You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You. 4 Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.

It is trusting Christ which builds our life on the solid rock of truth. It is following Christ as He commanded in Luke 9: 23, knowing that such trust will always lead us in the right direction (see Prov. 3: 5 – 6 or Psalm 119: 105). Because when a believer does, in fact, build his/her life on the solid foundation of a deep and abiding relationship with Christ, humbly following our Lord wherever He might lead, God’s grace will be there to keep our house standing, no matter what storm may come into our lives (see Phil. 4: 13, 1st Cor. 10: 13; 2nd Cor. 12: 9).

[NOTE: May I interrupt to say, that you may have noted the repetition of a number of scripture passages if you’ve been using this devotional journal to guide your devotional path. There’s a powerful reason for that. These are scriptures which I have deeply committed to memory; and they bubble out of my consciousness as I’m journaling my thoughts, using John MacArthur’s devotional, Strength for Today. I would hope that you, the reader, will see that these passages have great power in helping any believer to set the foundation for an abiding relationship in Christ. In that regard, perhaps you might be convicted by God’s Spirit and enabled by Him to memorize the verses/passages you see recurring so often in my journal entries. … Just a thought – but I believe an important one!]

Meditating on all of the scriptures which I’ve cited on this date, I would hope any Christian could see that ignoring these truths would be building our life’s house on sand; and in today’s passage, we see where that will ultimately lead to destruction, if not our soul or our testimony. But on the solid rock of belief in what Christ did for us on the cross and through His resurrection, ascension, and re-glorification, we have the most solid foundation for life anyone could have. And Christ only wants the structure of our house (i.e., our sanctified life) to be able to weather the worst of life’s storms (again I point to Prov. 3: 5-6 and also John 10: 10).

So, I pray that we all are building our lives on the solid foundation of a life in Christ, seeking His will and finding His way in His word.

My Prayer Today: My preparation is in following You, Lord. Amen

May 13, 2011 … Endless Preparation for Trials

[Blogger's Note: On 5/12/11 there was an interruption in service from this site; and I could not post here for two days. My 5/12 blog was posted and stored and is now available for reading. This post, for 5/13, is now being posted on 5/14. Then you will see my 5/14 devotional entry posted as well.]

Passage of the Day: 2nd Timothy 1: 7 … 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a Spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

My Journal for Today: It is all too easy for Christians to become oppressed by a spirit of fear when we see the strength and cunning of the enemy and we know and acknowledge our own weaknesses. Solomon wrote in Prov. 29: 25, however, that trusting God is the way to overcome the snare of fear; and in today’s verse we read Paul mentoring Timothy (and, by extension, you and me) to be lifted up and away from fear by the truth of God’s love and power, which we have through His Spirit.

Jesus promised His disquieted, confused, and fearful Disciples that in His physical departure from them He would provide them with His peace (see John 14: 27); and Paul instructs Christians on how to capture that peace (see Phil. 4: 6 – 7).

SCRIPTURE: John 14: 27Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

SCRIPTURE: Phil. 4: 6 – 76 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

To the extent that we can believe and apply the truths of the Apostle Paul, written to fellow Christians, above and the words of Jesus to His Disciples, we will live with that Spirit of love, power, and self-discipline to which Paul encouraged Timothy in today’s verse.

God’s word is loaded with truths and promises to lift us up and bolster our courage in the face of fears produced by the trials of life. I strongly exhort anyone who reads this to memorize and internalize a number of pertinent and powerful passages, which, when believed and claimed, will overcome fears and provide the faith to act with the power that God provides for believers.

May I suggest these scriptures, as well as those above: Isaiah 26: 3 … Isaiah 41: 10 … 1st Corinthians 10: 13 … 2nd Corinthians 12: 9 … and, my personal favorite, the verse which brought me to Christ [long story!], Philippians 4: 13. These passages, as well as today’s highlight passage, I have deeply embedded in my heart; and when I get anxious or fearful, I call them up (or rather God bubbles them into my consciousness) to give me the reassurance I need to handle the trials and troubles of this world and life. I pray that these truths will also do so for you.

But if you’re reading this and you’re willing to take a few minutes, may I refer you through this link to one of my favorite Christian songs, written and sung by Steven Curtis Chapman, who needed God’s perfect strength a few years ago when his teenage son accidently killed his little adopted daughter. Go to this You Tube piece and be lifted up by God’s strength as you worship the God of all strength. Yes, my friend, … God’s strength is perfect to overcome our weakness.

My Prayer Today: Dispel all my fears, Lord with Your truth. Amen

Thursday, May 12, 2011

May 12, 2011 … Trials’ Lessons: No Partiality

Passages of the Day: James 1: 9 – 10 … 9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.

See also 1st Peter 1: 3 – 6 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.

My Journal for Today: Today (above) we have two passages to consider, which both convey two elements of a powerful message of truth. Taking these messages together, we see that rich and poor, as well as the powerful and the weak in this world, are loved and served equally by God. Aren’t you glad? I sure am.

Take note of what happened on Christmas Eve in 2004 with the incredible devastation of the far-eastern tsunami. Many rich and powerful tourists were swept away, along with the poorer and less powerful residents in those areas affected. It is true that the rain falls on the rich and poor alike when it falls, just like the love and grace of God showers all equally; … the worldly powerful and the worldly weak are covered equally by the love and grace of God. Again … praise the Lord for this truth!

And as we read above from Peter’s praise, the poor and disenfranchised of the world can take hope – great hope – in the resurrection power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. ALL believers, no matter what our social status may be, can, and actually, must revel in the glory of our future inheritance as believers in Christ. Read of this in Ephesians 1: 11 – 14

SCRIPTURE: Ephesians 1: 11 – 1411 In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 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.

However, after taking in this truth of God’s impartial love and grace being offered to all who would receive it, we also have to consider the other side of this spiritual coin, where the opposite and horrible truth resides for those who choose not to believe in and receive Christ as Savior and Lord. Whether these non-believers be rich or poor, powerful or not, they will one day, BY THEIR CHOICE to reject Christ, be living together and eternally in the fires of hell, which is separation from the same God Who would have visited His glory on them had they chosen to receive His saving grace..

So, may we all – rich and poor – powerful and week - come to the Cross to receive the glorious inheritance which awaits us from our faith in the resurrected Christ. Oh, how I pray you have joined me here.

My Prayer Today: You, Lord, are my only hope and refuge. Amen

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

May 11, 2011 … Trials’ Lessons: Increased Wisdom

Passage of the Day: Job 28: 12 - 13 … 12 "But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? 13 Man does not comprehend its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living.

My Journal for Today: Get ready folks; … if you’re reading along with my journal entry for today, we may go a bit longer today because Job 28 is one of my favorite Old Testament chapters [linked here if you're rigorous enough to go back and study the passage]. In today’s text we read of Job, who had been through a most incredible set of trials; and now, recognizing that he can’t explain or rationalize his circumstances, he concerns himself with man’s pursuit of wisdom and understanding. And to appreciate the teaching from the book of Job here, it’s important to see it in the context of the word picture which was used to describe man’s pursuit of wisdom. And we also need to define “wisdom” here as the essence of God’s mind, i.e., Godly understanding of man’s circumstances.

In Job 28, the unknown author of Job, relates how Job had been through agony of unspeakable horror; and the author compares man’s search for wisdom to that of the mining practices of his day. This involved digging shafts down through the rocky earth just big enough for a single man to be lowered on a rope in a support harness, at times hundreds of feet down into the earth to chop away at the rock to mine for jewels or precious ore. It was very dangerous and rigorous, but men risked their lives to mine in this way so that they might find the precious metals or stones which could be worth so much to them in that age.

The text in Job today is in the context of that picture … man, knowing the wondrous value of the mind of God and being willing to dig deep into His word and his relationship with God to find the precious content of wisdom. And in Job 28: 28, Job gives us the same lesson Solomon gave his son (and us) in Prov. 1: 7, which you can read below …

SCRIPTURE: Job 28: 28 And He [God] said to man, 'The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.' "

SCRIPTURE: Prov. 1: 7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, …

In other words, in the context of the word picture from Job, the mining of the precious jewels of Godly wisdom begins when we mine for them deeply in the recesses of the Word of God. And from personal experience, I know that such mining requires rigor, discipline, and the faith that digging into His word will produce the jewels of God’s will and His promises. In the New Testament, James wrote about what we must do to mine the mind of God in James 1: 5 – 6

SCRIPTURE: James 1: 5 – 65 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

When we dig shafts deeply into the word for God, mining for His precious wisdom, we must truly believe and expect that those precious gems of wisdom we pursue will be there; and from these gems of God’s truth, which we glean from his word, God’s promise is that such wisdom will be ours if we mine in faith with the confidence that our efforts will pay off richly with an abundance of wisdom coming from our reverence of God and our expectation that we WILL find His wisdom.

As John MacArthur put it in his devotion for this date in Strength for Today, “God’s wisdom puts things in the right perspective during trials and helps us to endure them.” And that was exactly the lesson to which Job was addressing himself in Chapter 28 of the book of scripture God gave us through his writings.

However, from these lessons (above from Job, Solomon, and the Apostle James), we see that gleaning God’s wisdom is not an automatic task for the believer. We must actively and rigorously pursue the mind of God and ask for God’s wisdom [from ardent prayer] with an attitude of expectation from His own promises (see the verses above). And if you read how God provided wisdom for Solomon in 1st Kings 3: 5 – 13 [linked here], you will see that our willingness to surrender to God’s promises from His word will produce vast jewels and precious ore from the very mind of God.

The trials of life are the minefields from which we must dig and dig, with expectation and faith and an attitude of trust, knowing that such efforts, i.e., mining from the word of God, will produce all the riches we seek from God’s mind. And truly this is God’s promise (see Prov. 3: 5 -6 and all of Psalm 119). So here I am, day-by-day, digging deeply into God’s minefield of precious gems (i.e., His word), knowing that, like today, as I relate in this journal entry, my mining will bring up beautiful jewels of wisdom which will pay off with royal dividends in my life. I pray that you are mining and finding these gems of truth as well.

My Prayer Today: O Lord, I mine from Your mind; and everyday You give me Your jewels. Amen

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 10, 2011 … Trials’ Lessons: True Comfort

Passage of the Day: 2nd Corinthians 1: 1 - 4 … 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

My Journal for Today: What a wondrous chain of comfort is brought to believers in this passage; and if you are in the family of God, it is likely that you have experienced this chain of comfort in your life at some time.

Example: You may have had a big problem or challenging set of circumstances at some point and you gain great comfort from knowing or reading God’s word … or maybe from being in His creation … or from the fellowship of believers (i.e., from your church). And having had this comfort, you become compelled and empowered to reach out and provide God’s love and comfort to others in need of what you can provide. And so the chain of comfort proclaimed and promoted in today’s passage becomes reality in the lives of those to Whom God sees fit to offer it through His people.

As John MacArthur describes it, “… proportionately … the more we suffer, the more God comforts us; and the more He comforts us, the more we can comfort others who are hurting.” And the beat goes on! The Apostle Paul, who wrote of this sharing chain of comfort sharing principle, was a good role model for this for God’s inspired truth in the passage he wrote for today’s devotional. He had suffered much in his life (see his litany of suffering in 2nd Cor. 11); and so, in turn, he was able to provide first-hand witness as to how life’s suffering could be turned into a blessing for others (see also 1st Cor. 12: 26 and 2nd Cor. 6: 7).

Have you suffered in some way, testing your faith; and have you come out of it a stronger, more mature Christian? If so, go and provide comfort and encouragement to others in Christ’s Name.

My Prayer Today: I am blessed to help others, Lord, as You have helped me. Amen

Monday, May 09, 2011

May 9, 2011 … Trials’ Lessons: Seeing Greater Reward

Passage of the Day: 1st Peter 5: 10 … And the God of all grace, Who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.

My Journal for Today: Yesterday in my devotional journal I reflected on the reality that often it is hard to remember God’s love and to trust that He wants the best for His children, especially when we’re confronted with horrible circumstances. I can’t even imagine how difficult it might have been to remain faithful and positive, trusting steadfastly in God, in the midst of the suffering endured by Christians through that horrible far eastern Christmas eve tsunami or after hurricane Katrina when it hit the Gulf Coast. And even here I sit this morning with a grandchild in the hospital fighting off a severe case of pneumonia where the doctors are considering surgery to relieve the pressure of fluid leaking from her lungs into the pleural sacs. So, it’s difficult this morning for yours truly, and I’m sure the mother of our grandchild, our daughter to have enjoyed a Mother’s Day yesterday with her child in the hospital suffering.

Intellectually, I can see what the Apostle James wrote about in James 1: 2 – 3 … that suffering helps to produce endurance in faith …

SCRIPTURE: James 1: 2- 42 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

How difficult it is – within our own mind/strength – to “consider it pure joy” when we’re encountering trials and suffering. I think any rational person, with any degree of life experience, would say that we learn the most and do, in fact, develop perseverance more readily from trials than from the smooth and easy times. However, that doesn’t make it any easier to choose to be joyful and faithful in the midst of troubles or pain.

However, Peter is teaching in today’s passage, and we must accept, that our completion (i.e., sanctification) as Christians will take place as we experience suffering in Christ’s Name and for His sake; and we do so that we might one day reign with Him in glory (see also 1st Tim. 2: 12). Christ suffered the most for God, the Father; and now He has been raised to the highest position, at the right hand of God. And like James and John had to learn (see Matt. 20: 20 – 23), … in fact all of Christ’s disciples had to learn and accept that we must become suffering servants, as was Christ (again read Isaiah 53), so that we can be come elevated and glorified as Christ was in heaven.

Therefore, to the degree that I’m willing to serve our Lord and to suffer for Him, denying self. and seeking to follow our Savior, I will be lifted up to a more exalted role of lauding Him in heaven.

My Prayer Today: Worthy is the Lamb!!! Amen

Sunday, May 08, 2011

May 8, 2011 … Trials’ Lessons: Confidence in Heaven

Passage of the Day: 1st Peter 1: 4 [in context of verses 3 – 5] … 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

My Journal for Today: In today’s passage from the Apostle Peter, we read of the great hope of heaven that we, who believe, have in Christ Jesus. However, all too often it is easy for a Christian to “forget” this heavenly hope when he/she is confronted by everyday trials, let alone some type of excruciating circumstance which tends to overwhelm our psyche.

In his devotional for this date in Strength for Today, John MacArthur paints an apt word picture to describe this phenomena of temporal distraction. He pictures us going up a steep mountain side on one of those slow trains with many seats available. As we traverse up the mountain, we can either choose to sit on the side of the train closest to the mountain and look out the windows at the dreariness of the mountainside; or we can choose to sit close to the window looking out into the beautiful view of the landscape and the sunshine away from the mountain. How often we Christians, when confronted with the choice of how to view life, choose to look at the dark side rather than looking upward and outward to the wondrous hope that lies heavenward.

To Christ’s small following of disciples in the upper room at the Passover meal shortly before His betrayal, Jesus related openly to the Twelve about His impending death. [see John 16: 19 – 22]

SCRIPTURE: John 16: 19 – 22 ... 19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, "Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, 'In a little while you will see Me no more, and then after a little while you will see Me'? 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

But note above (in verse 20 – underlined), … even in the midst of speaking of the grief they would feel, He reassured them of the joy that would come in their realization of seeing Him risen again. But even with that reassurance, Peter still chose to look at the dark side in fear as he denied His Lord just a few hours later in the garden; and the remaining disciples bolted and ran in fear as well. All of them chose to be influenced by the darkness of the moment rather than to remember all those miracles they had seen Jesus perform and to remember His promises from right there in the upper room just a few hours before. Oh, how easy it is to allow our fears to turn our eyes away from the hope that is heavenward in Christ.

As John MacArthur also put it, “Nothing in life can (or should) take away from the wonderful promise of heaven’s glory as it was revealed by God, bought by Christ, and guaranteed by The Spirit (see Eph. 1: 11 – 14 - one of my favorite passages to return to when I’m down on life) …

SCRIPTURE: Eph. 1: 11 – 14 ... 11 In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory. 13 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.

I hope any and all who read here will truly grasp this … as I hope and pray I will. I’m no different that a Peter who bolts in fear from momentary challenges rather than standing in faith from the hope of heaven. As we traverse the mountain of life, we simply must develop the habit to view the panorama which is the heavenly hope we have in our Lord, Jesus Christ, no matter how scary the events in life become.

So, today, as you face life, which side of the train do you choose to sit?

My Prayer Today: Lord, You are my hope and my joy. Amen

BLOGGER’S PS: Can anybody reading here identify with what I’ve posted here today. If so, let me know either on Facebook or via email – willieb13@rocketmail.com ... wrb

Saturday, May 07, 2011

May 7, 2011 … Trial’s Lessons: Right Priorities

Passage of the Day: Genesis 22: 10 - 12 … 10 Then he [Abraham] reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son [Isaac]. 11 But the Angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Here I am," he [Abraham] replied. 12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," He [the Angel – likely Jesus] said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from Me your son, … your only son."

My Journal for Today: It’s a test! And the question from today’s passage, involving the poignant and powerful test Abraham had to endure, becomes – Do we pass God’s test when He calls for our radical obedience in the face (at times) of overbearing demands from the circumstances of life?

Sometimes the teaching from God is almost unbearable. Jesus taught a hard truth in Luke 14: 26 (see below) when He told His followers that discipleship could cause them to seem like they hated their own family. [“hate” here refers to turning radically from selfish desires or feelings for others]

SCRIPTURE: Luke 14: 26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple.”

But as with all such challenging demands from Christ, Jesus, Himself, is our Model. He was the suffering servant (see Isaiah 53), Who went to the cross in perfect obedience to His Father in Heaven, encountering incredible hardship, pain, and even death to carry out God’s will. And that becomes the mold into which we must pour our lives … no matter how challenging it might be, especially when we are called – by God – to move in directions which our family may not agree. Often, when Muslims convert to Christianity, their family hates them for it; and many times the newly converted Christian must turn his/her back on the family to pursue discipleship in Christ.

So, what in our lives stands in the way of following Jesus as He commanded … to deny self, to take up His cross daily, and to follow Him [Luke 9: 23]? Are we willing to put Christ first – even above the lives and feelings of our families? Of course, Christ would never ask us to do anything that subverts the roles we have as Christian husbands or fathers or even as friends in steadfast Christian family relationships. That’s illustrated as clearly as it could be in today’s highlight passage about Abraham and Isaac. He certainly didn’t allow Abraham to take the life of his son. But many times Christ’s calling will mean that others will have to take second place as we lift and carry His cross and follow Him in our daily life. Are we ready and willing to do so?

I pray that I am.

My Prayer Today: Lord, help me pass Your test. Amen

Friday, May 06, 2011

May 6, 2011 … Trial’s Lessons: Contentment

Passage of the Day: Hebrews 11: 24 - 27 … [Note verse 26 in bold] ... 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.

My Journal for Today: In the 21st century, post-modern culture in which we live, most of us will do anything we can to circumvent trials or to prevent pain, especially when we’re in a position where we can take “the easy way” out or we can manipulate the circumstances in our favor to avoid pain and suffering. How many medication commercials, especially for pain killers do we see on TV?

Moses was also into such a culture of opulence, materialism, and power, being raised as a prince in the court of pharaoh. He had been insulated from the sufferings of his Hebrew birthright as a young man. But God showed Moses that he would have to participate in the trials and tribulations of his birth culture to appreciate his destiny and so that Moses’ trust would only be in the God Who would deliver His children from bondage (see today’s passage).

And that is the message that Jesus pointedly taught His people (see Matt. 6: 24) … that NO ONE can serve both Go and riches (including power or sensationalism). It is in our nature – our sin nature – however, to rely on position, power, money, or pleasure to avoid troubles or to dampen the pain or suffering in our lives. But it is only God who can give us the light and life we seek.

As I meditate on what Moses did in faith, following God’s leading, I’m drawn once again to the words of the old hymn, written by Helen Lemmel in 1918, … Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus; and as I do often during my morning devotionals, I’ve gone to listen to this old hymn on my Ipod with my earphones so that I won’t waken my dear wife, Elly, who sleeps so peacefully near me. What a song to bring contentment, especially in light of my love sleeping so peacefully near me. This is contentment; but nothing compared to that brought about by the same God who delivered Moses and God’s people from oppression. Oh, how I pray these thoughts on all who might read here.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, …
Look full in his wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, …
In the light of His glory and grace.


It’s only when we, like Moses, come to focus all our life on our God that the trials and troubles of this world can be dimmed by the light of His love and grace.

My Prayer Today: You are my only Light, dear Lord. Amen

Thursday, May 05, 2011

May 5, 2011 … Trials’ Lessons: Humility

Passage of the Day: 2nd Corinthians 12: 7 - 9 … 7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But He [Jesus] said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

My Journal for Today: “Why all the problems, Lord?” … Ever voice such a prayer? Maybe you haven’t voiced it … but maybe you have felt like that and questioned God’s motives in engineering or allowing the difficulties/circumstances in your life. Right now in my life, I really identify with Paul’s painful “thorn” in today’s passage, because I’m going through rehab following a full hip replacement; and it’s a humbling experience – to say the least. Perhaps you’ve had some physical and/or emotional pain which has humbled you in your life.

The answer to our quandary or attitude block about the physical/emotional/spiritual pain which God allows in our lives just might be found in the passage that is our focus today. The Apostle Paul obviously had a special relationship with the Lord, especially having been blessed by personal confrontation and/or visitation from Jesus as well as some vision unto heaven. You can read of some type of a personal tour of heaven in 2nd Cor. 12: 1 – 4

SCRIPTURE: 2nd Cor. 12: 1 – 4 ... I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.

Note that it is highly likely, according to scholars, that “the man” to whom Paul refers in this passage in the third person is himself. And I think it’s easy to see that the Apostle is trying to show his readers (and that would include you and me) that mountain-top spiritual experiences tend to make one prideful. And Paul, in today’s passage, shows that God had to “take him (Paul) down a notch” in the realm of personal humility so that He (God) could bless Paul with His grace. And Paul finally got it … even after praying diligently that God lift the “thorn” from his own flesh (whatever that condition was).

We all have “thorns” in our life. Some are physical maladies like I’m going through presently; others might be emotional, habitual, or circumstantial; but as believers, we must know that God is in those circumstances or that “thorn,” whatever it must be. God has said as much in His word – that He would never forsake us (see both the OT – Deut. 31: 6 – and the NT – Heb. 13: 5). And like Paul, it’s okay to pray fervently to God for the deliverance of the pain or anguish of any malady, trial, or situation. Jesus did that in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before He was to have the thorn of all thorns visited upon Him on the cross. But it may be the case, as it was for Paul and Jesus, that God will not see fit to lift the thorn which causes us so much pain. And if it is to help us be humble enough to receive His grace, it is well worth the agony of that “thorn” to be able to receive God’s grace and His strength in our weakness.

As I’ve stated in the past, this highlighted passage of scripture today is one of my “favorites,” both personally and for use in ministry. I think all Christians would agree that we desire to have all of God’s grace that He’s willing to pour into our lives – even if we don’t deserve it. And from this passage, as well as others like James 4: 6 and 1st Peter 5: 6 [from Prov. 3: 34] , we know that “… God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore, even if it takes God allowing Satan to perpetrate pain upon us to keep us humble, as was Paul’s challenge, it is worth it so that we might have access to God’s amazing seeking, saving, and sanctifying grace! Actually, wasn’t the entire book of Job, the oldest book in the Bible, about this subject?

All of this substantiates the truth of Paul’s wondrous claim in Romans 8: 28 … that all things do work together for good for those who are “the called” according to Christ’s purpose; and I pray that I will always be able to see God’s grace awaiting me in the challenges which beset me – and those for you as well. I certainly needed to re-learn this lesson today; … how about you?

My Prayer Today: Lord, I beg You to pour Your grace into my life, especially into my weaknesses so that Your strength will be seen by all. Amen

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

May 4, 2011 … Trials’ Lesson: Faith

Passage of the Day: Hebrews 11: 17 – 19 … 17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, "It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned." [see Gen. 21: 12] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.

My Journal for Today: My devotional time from this passage, and from what was written by John MacArthur in Strength for Today for this date, is most convicting. Today we see that God reckoned Abraham’s faith as real because of what would transpire as accounted in Genesis 22, where we read the chronicle of Abraham’s trial with his only son, Isaac, being the sacrificial “lamb.”

This story, of course, is used in God’s word to show how God uses the trials of life to “test” our beliefs and our lives, as He did with Abraham … to see if our faith, like his, would be genuine. And the question I find myself asking (myself) is this: “If I were put to a radical test – as was Abraham – would I be willing to give my all for my God?” Ultimately, that is what God demands of my heart and my life … for me to be willing to turn the dearest part of me over to Him.

Certainly that’s why Abraham is referred to in the New Testament as the “father of the faithful.” [see Rom 4: 11 – 12 and Gal. 3: 6 – 7] and why, as a believer, I’m considered a son of Abraham. … Well, I’d like to think that I could pass such an extreme test of my faith. And I think again of Cassie Bernall and how her faith in Christ was tested with a gun to her head at Columbine High School that fateful day. Cassie died by saying, “Yes” when she was asked if she was a Christian. Could I be so faithful? Would I be that faithful, as was Abraham, if I was asked to give up my wife or one of our daughters or any of our grand daughters? Would I have the faith that has no hesitation, knowing that my God is faithful no matter what the circumstances? I would hope that I would.

Most certainly I know that my faith grows in my God the more deeply I know Him. Abraham KNEW God so well that he just KNEW that God would fulfill His promise in their Covenant. He KNEW that God could raise Isaac or in some way fulfill all the promises He (God) had made concerning Isaac. So there was no hesitation on Abraham’s part when God tested Abraham in the way He did. I would hope/pray, in dire circumstances, that I would have the faith of Abraham or a Cassie Bernall.

And I think all who read this should be taking stock of your faith to see where you might stand should we be tested in the future. … I pray we stand with God and His promises.

My Prayer Today: Lord, ALL that I have is Yours. Amen

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

May 3, 2011 … Loving Truth Brings Hatred

Passage of the Day: John 15: 20 – 21 … 20 Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' [repeated from John 13: 16] If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed My teaching, they will obey yours also. … 21 They will treat you this way because of My name, for they do not know the One who sent Me.

My Journal for Today: Jesus, in today’s passage, pretty well lays out for His disciples what can be expected when they (we) follow Him, which, of course is mandated of His followers (see Luke 9: 23). Follow Jesus and you can expect apathy and/or superstition (see Paul's witness in Acts 17: 22 - 23), moral deviation (see Romans 1: 18 – 22), or out-right persecution (as from today’s verse in John 15: 20). I’ve heard it said before … that if, as a Christian, you are not experiencing one or more of these issues in the world, you are like a fish, floating or swimming down stream with the cultural waters of the times, rather than one who is fighting upstream to get to the headwaters (which, of course, in this context is Christlikeness).

John MacArthur, in his devotional for today from Strength for Today, reminds his readers of what Paul taught in Phil. 3: 10 … that we, as Christ’s disciples, are living in the “… fellowship of His suffering.” So, if we are experiencing some, or all, of what Jesus was warning His disciples about in today’s passage, we can be assured, using my word picture above, that we have jumped into the raging stream and are swimming upstream as hard as we can.

And that, of course, means living for Christ and/or witnessing our faith in a hostile world; and repeating for emphasis, this could mean apathy at best and painful persecution at worst. But just think about the promises and power from God as you are Christ’s disciple and a witness, in faith, to His truth …

SCRIPTURE: Acts 1: 8 … [Jesus] “… you 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."

SCRIPTURE: Rom. 8: 31If God is for us, who can be against us.

SCRIPTURE: Rom. 1: 16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes …

So, we have a decision to make … are we going to be dying or dead fish, floating downstream; or will be alive in Christ, battling upstream against the worldly currents and doing all we can, with God’s promised power, to swim to the headwaters of transformation in Christ, honoring and glorifying our Lord in the process?

Our choice, isn’t it?

My Prayer Today: I stand for you, Lord! Help me to swim upstream. Amen