Friday, November 30, 2012

November 30, 2012 … The “Just Do it” Discipline for Christ

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 335

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: 1st Corinthians, Chapters 9-11 To study these chapters, go to this link
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Highlight Passages: 1st Corinthians, Chapters 9 -11 … Please take the time to use the link above and read this letter to a church who needed some direction. : [NLT] … {If you take the time to read through these chapters, as I hope you do, you’ll find that Paul is exhorting the Corinthians – and us by extension – to get with God’s way and live in discipline according to God’s will, as Jesus had admonished all His disciples in Luke 9: 23 [and I hope we have that one memorized by now as often as I’ve used it during this chronological read through the Bible]. }
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Highlight Passages: 1st Corinthians 9: 24-27 : [NLT] … {Ugh! Discipline!! Somehow all Christians know it’s a good thing; but few seem to be able to put it into daily practice, as Jesus commanded in Luke 9: 23 … to … deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and follow [Christ].” And it’s all really a matter of faith, isn’t it. If we really believed Jesus’ command and Paul’s exhortation in this passage and the one below in Phil. 3: 12-14, we’d discipline our selves in/for Christ, wouldn’t we? So, what’s the hang up? It’s our sinful-selfish sin nature, isn’t it?}  
24 Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. 25 All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
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Highlight Passages: 1st Corinthians 10: 12-13 : [NLT] … {God is faithful! The question is do we really believe Paul’s exhortation of truth in this passage?!! Because if we did, we’d KEEP ON, KEEPING ON, IN CHRST, wouldn’t we? }  
12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. 13 But remember that the temptations [or tests or trials, or tribulations] that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it. 
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Highlight Passages: 1st Corinthians 11: 1 : [NLT] … {And this is Paul, standing the test of accountability and vulnerability, saying that those to whom he’s writing or teaching can follow his lead because Paul knows that he’s following Christ’s lead. And that to me is the essence of whether we’re able to live in obedience to God’s word and follow His will. It’s because we know that we know that we know that we’re doing what Christ said in Luke 9: 23 … to deny self and follow Jesus. Because if we were doing that faithfully, without falter, we’d know that anyone could follow us. That question is … ARE WE? }  
1 And you should follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s.
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Reference Passage: Philippians 3: 12-14 : [NLT] … {Paul again in this passage, as well as in other passages, like Gal. 6: 7-10 and Eph. 6: 10-20 and 2nd Tim. 2: 1-13, exhorts us (Christians) to “fight the good fight,” wearing God’s full armor, and discipline our bodies, minds, and spirits to become more like Christ. The question is … like the Nike commercial use to charge … “Just do it!”?} … 12  I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. 13  No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.

My Journal for Today: I’ll not write much today. My commentary is mostly summarized in my entries above in bold relief. These chapters were Paul being tough and very straight with the Corinthian Christians about what it would take for them to live as they should – IN CHRIST; and he even boldly states, with confidence in his own faith and Christian discipline (in 1st Cor. 11: 1). that the Corinthians could follow him (Paul) because he knew that he was following Christ.

And for the “nth” time today, I made reference to Luke 9: 23, which is Jesus commanding His disciples to do exactly what Paul knew he was doing … and that’s to deny himself and take on the daily trek in Christ by following the Lord obediently and with DISCIPLINE.

Ugh! That word “discipline,” from the same root we get “disciple,” is such a convicting concept for us, isn’t it? … Why? … And I know you can answer that one just as easily as I can. It’s because of our selfish, sin-nature, isn’t it? We NATURALLY desire to default to self rather than The Savior. And when we do – as Christians – it’s really because we just don’t have enough faith to do what Paul was exhorting the Corinthians to do … to discipline themselves, in faith, and as the Nike commercial used to charge … ”Just do it!” The “IT” being following Christ, living as He lived, and doing life as His word spells it out for us.

Let’s face it, … if we really believed in God’s will from His word (in the Greek sense of the term “BELIEVE”), we’d live that way, wouldn’t we? We don’t because we simply don’t believe strongly enough. Paul believed; and that’s why he was able to say to the Corinthians, … ”You can imitate me, because I imitate Christ!”

Okay, let’s take the essence of what Paul was saying to Corinth here and do all we can to “JUST DO IT!”

My Prayer Today: … Lord, I get it. It hurts, but I get it; and now I need Your help to just do it! Amen

Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 29, 2012 … The Bugaboo of Sexual Sin

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 334

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: 1st Corinthiians, Chapters 5-8 To study these chapters, go to this link -
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Highlight Passages: 1st Corinthians, Chapters 5 - 8 … Please take the time to use the link above and read this letter to a church who needed some direction. : [NLT] … {A number of challenging issues were covered in these chapters, including church discipline, the handling of lawsuits among church members, Christian marriage and singleness, the church handling rituals or personal habits, like eating behaviors, and importantly, the church dealing with Christians involved in sexual sin, all critical issues in the church in Corinth and as I’m sure you’re aware, in the church today. I hope you read the entire four chapters in 1st Corinthians; but my entry today will focus on Chapter 6.}
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Highlight Passages: 1st Corinthians 6: 9-12; 18-20 : [NLT] … { These passage, from Chapter 6 of 1st Corinthians are the focus for my journal entry today because they deal so closely with the ministry which God called me and my wife to found and lead years ago. You can see about this effort for God’s kingdom, Battle Plan Ministry, by going to this website:  … and it has become a ministry passion for me personally because of how God delivered me from habitual sexual sin and how Christians must deal with this very personal and very-VERY common form of sin against God in our culture. } …  
9 Don’t you know that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, 10 thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers — none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God. 11 There was a time when some of you were just like that, but now your sins have been washed away, and you have been set apart for God. You have been made right with God because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God have done for you. 12 You may say, “I am allowed to do anything.” But I reply, “Not everything is good for you.” And even though “I am allowed to do anything,” I must not become a slave to anything. … 18 Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. 

Reference Passage: Romans 12: 1-2 : [NLT] … {Today’s journaling again takes me back to the passage on worship by Paul to the Christians in Rome; and like I explained yesterday, it becomes an exhortation to Christian and Church living today.}  
12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. 

My Journal for Today: Okay, four more Chapters in Paul’s pointed and powerful letter to the Church in Corinth are covered today; and as I indicated above, a number of issues pertinent to the church then are still pertinent to the church today; and I have singled out one of those issues from Chapter 6 of 1st Corinthians because the issue of sexual sin has become a social plague – or as I’ve heard it called, “a spiritual tsunami” – in our culture and church today.

For my readers, go to this website –  and take in some links to compelling statistics, documenting just how prevalent and perverted sexual sin has become in our world today. Sexual sin was a big enough issue for Paul to write about it specifically to the church in Corinth, a city where perverted sexual idolatry was a BIG part of the culture. But Satan and the world have refined this area of humanity to where it has become a SUPERWEAPON for Satan in our times. And many believe, as does the Christian apologist, Josh McDowell, (see this website) that habitual sexual sin, especially internet pornography has become the biggest spiritual threat to Christian families and children in our world today.

Years ago, before I became a Christian, my life was consumed by habitual sexual sin; but when I became a Christian, God, through a number of discipleship tools, brought me to deliverance from this personal plague and ultimately led me (and my wife) to found and lead Battle Plan Ministry, the website I’ve linked you to above. And now, every day, my wife and I are on the front lines of battle against this sin-driven Satanic super-weapon stronghold in our world; – and it is a world-wide issue, especially with the beachhead of INTERNET PORN making sexual sin so tempting and available to anyone – yes, even the kiddies in our culture.

And I’m astounded at how ignorant or ill-informed Christians seem to be about this issue – or maybe we’re just super-duped and desensitized by Satan and the world to think that this is not the spiritual horror that some of us think it is. My friend, every day Battle Plan Ministry goes to war for Christ on this issue; but sometimes I feel like the proverbial Christian trying to empty the ocean with a teacup as we battle to help Christians walk free from habitual sexual sin. This is a winnable war [!!!] … because we have the power of God on our side [see 1st John 4: 4]; but one first has to recognize and realize that it is, in fact, a war to be able to go to battle; and so many Christians today will not or cannot recognize that our Christian world is being engulfed by a super-weapon system developed by Satan and employed by his world.

I could go on and on and on about this matter. It is so personal to me; but today let me just charge any reader with me here to take in the passages in 1st Cor. 6, copied above, and meditate on what you’re feeling; and then ask yourself, … “Am I doing all I can to go to battle against the world and Satan in this area of spiritual warfare?” And if you answer is “NO” … then go to the website links above and pray to God to lead you into battle.

You can be a force for God in doing what Paul wrote about in 1st Corinthians 6!! But you’ve got to decide to get in the battle.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, I beg You to wake up the Christian world to what Paul was writing about in his letter to Corinth, which has become so pertinent in our world today! Amen

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 28, 2012 … Avoiding Chameleon Christianity

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 333

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: 1st Corinthians, Chapters 1-4 To study these chapters, go to this link -
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Blogger’s Note: See this photo of Paul’s 3rd Journey for geographical reference
Click on Photo for larger and clearer viewing

Highlight Passages: 1st Corinthians, Chapters 1-4 … Please take the time to use the link above and read this letter to a church who needed some direction. : [NLT] … {While on Paul’s 3rd missionary journey (see map) and near the end of Paul’s 3 years in Ephesus, he learned of the challenges being encountered by the church in Corinth; and he writes this 1st letter to that church to help them walk-the-walk of faith in a very hostile world. Friends, the church can become like a chameleon if it is not careful, taking on the color of the surrounding culture and world. We see that happening in our world now. So, Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Christians is just as relevant now as it was over 2000 years ago in about 55 AD.}
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Reference Passage: Romans 12: 1-2 : [NLT] … {The first four chapters of 1st Corinthians harkened me back to the passage on worship, written later by Paul to the Christians in Rome; and like his letter to the Corinthians, it becomes an exhortation to Christian and Church living today. } 12 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. 

My Journal for Today: In Acts 18-19 yesterday, after going through Luke’s account of Paul launching into his third missionary journey (see the attached map), my chronological read takes me to the letter Paul wrote toward the end of his stay in Ephesus (in about 55 AD, right about the time of Acts 18-19). Paul had learned that the church he had helped established some years earlier in Corinth was having troubles … disunity, worldly living, and perverted worship. In other words the church there in Greece, in the very cosmopolitan culture of Corinth at the time, could be likened to the word picture I used above – like a chameleon - that little creature who takes on the color of its environs.

And when one reads through the earlier chapters of 1st Corinthians, as I hope you have today, one can’t help but be impressed that much of what Paul was writing about to a church in 55 AD could be (and is) powerfully pertinent to the CHURCH in America today. And as I studied through these first chapters of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian churches, my memory and spirit raised up thoughts of another passage Paul would write to another church (this one to Rome), … Romans 12: 1-2, which I really hope you have memorized (if not, I’ve copied for you in the NLT above). It’s a good summary thought for 1st Corinthians, Chapters 1-4, isn’t it?

Actually, returning to word picture of the chameleon, in the context of the letter to Corinth and the passage in Romans 12, the church in our world should be more like a horned-frog than a chameleon, standing out clearly, even though it may look weird to the world. Paul says in Romans 12: 2, Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. And my friend, if one (or a church) does that, holding on and living out the values of the Gospel and Christ in the world, he or she [or that church] will most certainly stand out and look a horned-frog to the world.

What say ye, my friend? Are we living more like chameleons or horned-frogs in this world?

My Prayer Today: … Lord, help me to be salt and light in this world. Amen

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 27, 2012 … Passing the Torch of Truth

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 332

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Acts, Chapters 18-19 To study these chapters, go to this link -
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[Click on photo to see a larger version]


Highlight Passages: Acts 18 [please use the link above and read the entire chapter!] : [NLT] … {Reading Chapter 18 of how the Gospel torch of truth gets passed from an evangelist like Paul to a dedicated Christian couple like Aquila and Priscilla, who studied God’s word and were even expelled from Rome by Emperor Claudius for their faith. Then this couple, coming to Asia-Minor as tent-makers, located in Ephesus and opened their home to share the Gospel with others. In this process, they encountered Apollos, a traveling preacher who preached the message of John the Baptist. So, this couple, recognizing his preaching talents but seeing that his message was incomplete, took Apollos into their home and they mentored and taught him about the truth of the Gospel. And sometime thereafter Apollos took his God-given speaking talents on the road for Christ; and many were saved as the torch of truth was passed along from person-to-person just as it should be in today’s church.}
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Highlight Passages: Acts 19: [NLT] … {Please use the link above and study Acts 19: 21-41, the story of how the Gospel message, being preached by Paul in Ephesus, became a confrontation with the business people in Ephesus. And one of those local business men, a Greek silversmith named Demetrius, whose business was selling silver statues of the Greek god Artemis, stirred up a riot against Paul and the Christians in Ephesus, speaking against them in a local arena, which now has been uncovered by archeologists in Ephesus from the rubbles of earthquakes there; and the arena is pictured in the attached photo [1st posted above].  However, in those days, when the people perceived that these Christians and their faith would hurt the commerce of Ephesus, a riot against Paul had to be quelled against Christians in Ephesus had and Christianity had to go “underground,” especially during the rule of Nero, which occurred about the time that these chapters in Acts were documented by Luke. Also note the 2nd photo of the Christian symbol, an indicator of underground Christianity, still found in the archeological digs in Ephesus – the photos taken by yours truly with my wife on a trip to Ephesus in 2011.}

My Journal for Today: Today my chronological reading segment took me into Acts, Chapters 18-19, where Luke was describing the spread of the Gospel as his traveling companions, men like the Apostle Paul and Silas, and other men, like Apollos as well as others, witnessed in their times and in their environs, often risking their lives, to be Christians and especially to witness their faith in the truth of the Good News of the Gospel.

In one of the photos [the 2nd above] I’ve attached in this journal entry, taken a couple of years ago is a picture of a symbol which the early Christians in Ephesus carved into walls (in this case, a street in Ephesus), and like the early Christian symbol of the fish, it signified/witnessed that Christianity was thriving in that area. And as these two Chapters in Acts document, Paul, when he reached Ephesus, became a force which the local merchants, especially the local Greeks, Romans, or Jews could not abide.

 And when you read in Acts 19, verses 21-41, it’s easy to see how the values of Christianity would conflict with those of the world in those days. In that passage one local merchant in Ephesus had a business crafting and selling silver statues of a Greek God; and Paul’s message about the one, true, God simply compromised his profit margin. So, this wealthy Greek merchant, Demetrius, stirred up the people of Ephesus, even speaking against Paul and the Christians in a very large arena in Ephesus, the ruins being depicted in the photo attached.

And is this not still the same conflict we find in today’s world? … Even today we see that the values of Christianity do not conform with the values of the world; and quite often the powers of the world do all they can to eradicate the values of Christ from the culture. And we certainly see that conflict playing out in the world today, … over 2000 years after what we read of in Acts 18-19. And I would pray that we stand up for Christ as did Paul, and the couple, Aquila and Priscilla, and the young evangelist, Apollos, about whom we read in today’s bible study. These witnesses for Christ, passed the torch of truth, onward and outward in their world; and we certainly have been called (by the Great Commission) to do so in our world.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, help me to be and become the torch of truth for the Gospel You have called me to be. Amen

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26, 2012 … Living in Readiness for Christ

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 331

Blogger's Note: ... Any readers here ... forgive my tardiness in posting later in the AM today.  I was not able to post before going to my weekly morning "Sonrisers" group, ... a prayer group of men who meet every Monday AM to let the Son rise in our hearts to begin.  But here's my entry for today.  

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: 1st Thessalonians, Chapters 1-5 and 2nd Thessalonians, Chapters 1-3 … To study these chapters, please use any Bible version, online or printed, to seek out, read, and study from Paul’s letters to the church (at Thessalonica).
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Highlight Passages: 1st Thessalonians 5: 14-22 : [NLT] … {Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica, written shortly after his second missionary journey, around 52, is a letter of encouragement and exhortation for the Christians there. And the Thessalonians were a church where Paul and his companions had experienced a lot of hostility, as Luke had documented in Acts 17 – the chapter on which I blogged yesterday. Yet a church in the midst of challenge was birthed there nonetheless; and those Thessalonians needed direction on how to live in anticipation of Christ’s second coming. Hence, from Corinth, Paul writes this letter to that church. The first four chapters are strong, but loving, words of encouragement and direction for these Christians; and in chapter 5, there is brief, hard-hitting section which gives Christians a great check-list of exhortation to Christian living in anticipation of Christ’s return. It would behoove any of us – as disciples of Christ – to use this list to do a self inventory to see if we’re living rightly in our desire to follow Christ. … Check it out!}  
14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. 15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to everyone else. 16 Always be joyful. 17 Keep on praying. 18 No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 19 Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. 20 Do not scoff at prophecies, 21 but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. 22 Keep away from every kind of evil. 
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Highlight Passages: 2nd Thessalonians 2: 13-15; : [NLT] … { And then 2nd Thessalonians is a follow-up letter to 1st Thessalonians, written several months after the first letter to enhance the message of Christians living in/for Christ in anticipation of His second coming. Sometimes it takes repetitive communication from God to really “get it” the way God intended it. Have you ever read a segment of God’s word a second or a third time and said to yourself, “Oh, now I get it!” Well, Paul heard that the Thessalonians needed more explanation and exhortation to clarify certain points from 1st Thessalonians. Hence this letter to give more punch to the message from Paul to this bunch of disciples. }  
13 As for us, we always thank God for you, dear brothers and sisters loved by the Lord. We are thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation, a salvation that came through the Spirit who makes you holy and by your belief in the truth. 14 He called you to salvation when we told you the Good News; now you can share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on everything we taught you both in person and by letter.  
{And then from Chapter 3: 1-5, a further exhortation … }
1 Finally, dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to pray for us. Pray first that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and be honored wherever it goes, just as when it came to you. 2 Pray, too, that we will be saved from wicked and evil people, for not everyone believes in the Lord. 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will make you strong and guard you from the evil one. 4 And we are confident in the Lord that you are practicing the things we commanded you, and that you always will. 5 May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God and the endurance that comes from Christ. 

Reference Passages: Romans 12: 1-2 : [NKJV] … { Paul wrote to Christians the essence of Christian living. } 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

My Journal for Today: It felt good yesterday with only one chapter to read in my chronological reading assignment [Acts 17]; but the editors of this through-the-bible reading really poured on the gas today with BOTH letters from 1st and 2nd Thessalonians assigned; and I’m encouraging any reading with me to take this very large pill of truth with me by reading both letters. … THANK YOU!

Well, Paul, when he returned from his long and rigorous 2nd missionary journey, obviously felt the need to help the church which had been started up in Thessalonica after his journey there. Yesterday, in Luke’s account of Acts 17, we read of Paul and Silas being run out of town by a mob of Thessalonians and even pursued all the way to Berea by Jews who simply would not buy into the truth of the Gospel as Paul and Silas preached it there. But some did receive God’s gift of salvation and desired to follow Christ; and Paul, learning of the church forming in Thessalonica wrote one letter and then another, trying to help the Christians in Thessalonica (as well as any Christian who might read his letters – like you and me) to live in preparation of Christ’s second coming.

And when I re-read through these letters today, another – formerly memorized = passage from Paul’s teachings popped into my mind, … that I’ve copied above from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome, … from Romans 12: 1-2, where the Apostle charges all Christians to live lives of “living sacrifice,” which is exactly what Paul was writing to the believers he had helped to receive Christ in Thessalonica. And Paul went into some descriptive depth in these two letters to help disciples live lives of worship (i.e., “living sacrifice”), preparing for Christ’s return.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, that’s how all of us are to be living; and above I asked my fellow readers today to use the list of challenges in 1st Thess. 5: 14-22 as a “living sacrifice” check-list today … to see if we’re living NOW as Paul desired for the Thessalonian believers and as he wrote these two letters. So, for me, I found some areas of lethargy and ill-begotten worship to attend to from this list. I’ll leave it to you to see if you – as a disciple of Christ – need to be attending to some area in your “living sacrifice” worship as well.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, … oh, how I desire to live as a “living sacrifice” to/for you in preparation for Your return to reclaim Your Bride. Amen

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 25, 2012 … A “Berean” Mindset

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 330

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Acts, Chapters 17 To study these chapters, go to this link -
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Highlight Passages: Acts 17: 10-15 : [NLT] … {Paul and his traveling companions on the 2nd missionary journey found the preaching difficult in Thessalonica, where Paul was run out of town by a mob of jealous Jews and city leaders. He traveled to Berea where the Jews there were more dedicated to God’s truth; and the Bereans searched the scriptures to see if his preaching conformed to the Scripture – God’s Book of the Law – as they knew it; and they found that nothing Paul preached was untruth. Therefore, many in Berea believed in the Lord and were converted.}  
10 That very night {in Thessalonica} the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the synagogue. 11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to check up on Paul and Silas, to see if they were really teaching the truth. 12 As a result, many Jews believed, as did some of the prominent Greek women and many men. 13 But when some Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God in Berea, they went there and stirred up trouble. 14 The believers acted at once, sending Paul on to the coast, while Silas and Timothy remained behind. 15 Those escorting Paul went with him to Athens; then they returned to Berea with a message for Silas and Timothy to hurry and join him. 

My Journal for Today: Today’s chronological read had me in Acts, Chapter 17, which contains some historical accounts of Paul and Silas as they traveled on Paul’s second missionary journey in Asia-Minor, more specifically in Thessalonica, Berea, and Athens. There is a lot of drama and interesting events in Acts 17, about which I could comment; but I want to extract one of Paul’s encounters, in verses 10-15, about his preaching in Berea, to post this journal entry.

This section of scripture means a lot to me personally because I identify with the Bereans. When I became a Christian, when I was 39 years old, I had been identifying myself as an “agnostic” for almost 20 years of my adult life. When I was 18 when I was confronted and challenged by an atheist in college; and I had no logical arguments for him and I lost my intellectual faith in Christ. Then, at almost 40, I was broken by the truth of my “lostness’” and I emotionally became a seeker after truth. I had conditioned myself to be a cynic, questioning everything about Christianity. But when a set of circumstances (to lengthy to recount here) broke me to a place where I began to seek after Christ and His gospel truth, I saw nothing else to do but what Christians told me to do; and that was to get into God’s word to see if it helped to explain to my confused heart what my seeking intellect was trying to understand.

And so, like the Bereans in Acts 17, I began to delve into God’s word to check out the intellectual and logical validity of God’s word, to see if it would confirm what I was feeling in my heart. And the deeper I studied God’s truth in Scripture in both the Old and New Testaments, the reality and truth of what Paul would write later to a seeking Christian, Timothy, in 2nd Tim. 3: 16-17, … as well as what Isaiah wrote in Isaiah 55: 11 as scripture, … convinced me that my decision to follow Christ was an intellectually sound decision as well as the powerfully emotional choice I had made to follow Christ. Be a “Berean” and check out these two passages!

Because these truths, on display in Isaiah 55: 11 and 2nd Timothy 3: 16-17, if internalized, clearly say that God’s Scriptural truth is all we need to be a disciple of Jesus, The Christ. And the truths in Scripture are also all we need to live our lives in this world as well. God has brought His truth and His word into the miraculously compiled canon of Scripture; and it gives us all the truth any believer will ever need to live out their lives following the One Who gave us His word, … Jesus, … the One about Whom THE BOOK was written.

So, I have become “a Berean” believer, going directly to the Scriptures as I know them, when I need enlightenment or understanding; and as the Bereans found, I ALWAYS find light to lead me through darkness, … direction when I need a personal GPS, … and empowerment when I’ve feeling weak. Therefore, I think we all need to have a Berean attitude and use God’s word to guide us through life. Because as Paul wrote in 2nd Tim. 3: 16-17, His truth will be what is described by another truth-seeker, the author of Psalm 119, who wrote about God’s word (in Ps. 119: 105), “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” 

My Prayer Today: … On this Thanksgiving weekend, Lord, I’m so grateful for the light and truth we all have in Your Word. Amen

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 24, 2012 … Freedom! – In Christ

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 329

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Blogger’s Note: If you’re reading with me today, go to this link  and listen to a wonderful song by Nichole Nordeman, expressing the heart of the message in my devotional entry today.
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Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Galatians, Chapters 4-6 To study these chapters, go to this link
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Highlight Passages: Galatians 4: 8-12… : [NLT] … {Paul pleads with those who followed the true gospel to conversion when he was with them in his first journey to their area; but now he grieves that they are losing their fellowship with God’s Spirit by succumbing to the false teachings of the Judaizers, who have them believing that it is their works or lack thereof which sanctify them instead of the freedom found in living under the true Gospel. It’s so easy for mankind to default to legalism and think that our works transform us, rather than being freed from the Law and living in faith where it is God’s gift of grace which frees us live with Spirit-led power.}  
8 Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. 9 And now that you have found God (or should I say, now that God has found you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual powers of this world? 10 You are trying to find favor with God by what you do or don’t do on certain days or months or seasons or years. 11 I fear for you. I am afraid that all my hard work for you was worth nothing. 12 Dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles were—free from the law. 
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Highlight Passages: Galatians 5: 1; 5-6; 19-23… : [NLT] … {Paul wanted the Galatians Christians [as well as you and me] to know that they [we] have a choice to live in the bondage of sin or in the freedom offered freely by God’s Spirit in Christ. We choose to live, either under slavery to sin, resulting in the fruit of the flesh (see Gal. 5: 19-21] or as slaves to Christ, freed from the bondage of sinful living, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, which are living expressions of God’s character [see Gal. 5: 22-23 below].}  
1 So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law. … 
5 But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive everything promised to us who are right with God through faith. 6 For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, it makes no difference to God whether we are circumcised or not circumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. … 
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, your lives will produce these evil results: sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, 20 idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 22 But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law. 
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Highlight Passages: Galatians 6: 14-16… : [NLT] … { Get it straight! We are free in Him!!!} 14 As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world died long ago, and the world’s interest in me is also long dead. 15 It doesn’t make any difference now whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people. 16 May God’s mercy and peace be upon all those who live by this principle. They are the new people of God. 
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Reference Passage: John 8: 31-32 : [NKJV] … {Yes, Jesus said it too! And as Nichole sang in that song you hopefully heard earlier, in Him we are free indeed!!} 31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings. 32 And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” 

My Journal for Today: Today, I’m really not going to write much, because all that need be said in journaling on these three chapters in Paul’s letter to Christians – in Galatia and everywhere – can be summarized in the song I linked you to today and the words I’ve written above in bold text.

 So, I hope you’ve heard Nichole Nordeman’s touching song and read my words above; and I pray that we’re all free … IN CHRIST!

My Prayer Today: … Lord, in you I live and move and have my being! Amen

Friday, November 23, 2012

November 23, 2012 … It is finished!

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 328

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Galatians, Chapters 1-3 To study these chapters, go to this link
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Highlight Passages: Galatians 1: 1-5; 9; 13-16… : [NLT] … {This letter is directed by Paul just after his return with Barnabas from the fist missionary journey; and he’s writing back to a group of Christians living in a region of Asia-Minor (now Turkey), because he had learned that a group of misguided Christians – the Judaizers – were perverting the Gospel to demand that any Christian live according to “The Law,” i.e., Jewish tradition. Paul wanted Christians, in Galatia and once and for all to know that the Gospel frees all who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior to enjoy God’s saving and sanctifying grace. Paul wrote this letter from Antioch as a traveling letter to the Christians in Galatia just prior to the first council of the church in Jerusalem – about 49 AD – where the issue of Gentiles becoming Christian was debated, discussed, and decided. }  
1 This letter is from Paul, an apostle. I was not appointed by any group or by human authority. My call is from Jesus Christ himself and from God the Father, who raised Jesus from the dead. 2 All the brothers and sisters, here join me in sending greetings to the churches of Galatia. 3 May grace and peace be yours from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 He died for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live. 5That is why all glory belongs to God through all the ages of eternity. Amen. … 
9 I will say it again: If anyone preaches any other gospel than the one you welcomed, let God’s curse fall upon that person. … 
13 You know what I was like when I followed the Jewish religion—how I violently persecuted the Christians. I did my best to get rid of them. 14 I was one of the most religious Jews of my own age, and I tried as hard as possible to follow all the old traditions of my religion. 15 But then something happened! For it pleased God in his kindness to choose me and call me, even before I was born! What undeserved mercy! 16 Then He revealed his Son to me so that I could proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles. …  
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Highlight Passages: Galatians 2: 19-21 : [NLT] … {In Chapter 2, Paul discusses his confrontation with Peter, James, and the Christian leadership in Jerusalem and how he confronted the new “church” with its incorrect interpretation of “Jewish” Christianity; and Paul’s apologetics are succinctly described the last three verses of this chapter, as Paul, using his own conversion from living by “the law” to living under God’s grace is summarized. Paul was preaching – and living by – the truth that it is our FAITH alone in Christ which frees us from the Law; and it is God’s grace, not our works, which saves us and sets us free to live in Christ by the indwelling power of God’s Spirit.}  
19 For when I tried to keep the law, I realized I could never earn God’s approval. So I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ. 20 I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I am not one of those who treats the grace of God as meaningless. For if we could be saved by keeping the law, then there was no need for Christ to die.  
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Highlight Passages: Galatians 3: 5-9 : [NLT] … {And Paul declares to all believers in The Christ, with a comparison to how Abraham was saved by his faith, how anyone must be justified and saved – i.e., thru their faith in the finished work of the Messiah, with the Gospel being completed in the TOTALLY finished work of Jesus as the Messiah on the cross.}  
5 I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law of Moses? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. 6 In the same way, “Abraham believed God, so God declared him righteous because of his faith.” [see Genesis 15: 6] 7 The real children of Abraham, then, are all those who put their faith in God. 8 What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would accept the Gentiles, too, on the basis of their faith. God promised this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.” [see Genesis 12: 3] 9 And so it is: All who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith. 
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Reference Passage: John 19: 30 : [NKJV] … {Jesus said it, … He did it, … done deal!!!} When Jesus had tasted it, He said, “It is finished!” Then He bowed His head and released His spirit. 

My Journal for Today: Actually, in chronological reading order, we’re going back a bit; because yesterday I was led to read about Paul’s 2nd missionary journey in the Book of Acts; but Paul’s letter to the Galatians, from which I’m reading today, was written after the 1st journey and before the 2nd. And Galatians addressed a rather chronic dilemma which faced the early church; and that was the controversy of salvation coming from observance of THE LAW (i.e., Jewish legalism) or from simple faith in the completed works of Jesus, the Lamb of God, Who died on the cross, declaring as I’ve quoted above, “It is finished!”

 Paul had to confront even the leaders of the early church in Jerusalem, leaders like Peter and James, who had a rather skewed idea of the Gospel. And, as we read in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Galatia, the Christians there were led astray by those Judaizers who were preaching a false-gospel, … that one had to conform completely to the Law as well as have faith in Christ to be saved. The message that salvation, as it came to Abraham, can only come through faith in what the Messiah would do (or has done) to save God’s people, which included the Gentiles, was being perverted by these Jewish legalists; and Paul’s ideas of the Gospel prevailed after the first church council in 50AD.

It’s all there; and when one follows the gospel as preached by Paul in his letter to the Galatian Christians (and to you and me as believers), God, through His grace in the power of His Spirit, gives any/all Christians freedom from the Law … and salvation in Christ. I pray that anyone reading here has believes in that true Gospel and lives as written by Paul in Galatians 2: 20 [ from the NKJV – my memory version] …  

I have been crucified by Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me. 

That’s it! Done deal! Completed! Finished … in Christ!!!

My Prayer Today: … I live by faith in You, Lord! Amen

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22, 2012 … On The Road Again – For Christ

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 327

[Click on map to get a larger view]

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Acts, Chapters 15-16 To study these chapters, go to this link -
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Highlight Passages: Acts 15: 36-41: [NLT] … {From Chapter 15-16 of Acts, we read of God’s Spirit driving Paul and Barnabas to “hit the road” again for Christ; but they hit a glitch with Paul’s lack of willingness to take John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, with him, given Mark’s history of balking on Paul’s 1st journey in Cyprus, caused Paul and Barnabas to agree to disagree and split company; and Paul took Silas and Luke with him on his second missionary journey and they went to cover different territories than did Barnabas and John Mark. So, isn’t it cool how God even uses a confrontation and controversy to turn a negative into a positive as the two teams were willing to cover far more area and ministry for Christ by being separated. Also, if you read Col. 4: 7-11, you’ll see that Paul and John Mark were later reunited in Christ for the spreading of the gospel.}  
36 After some time Paul said to Barnabas, “Let’s return to each city where we previously preached the word of the Lord, to see how the new believers are getting along.” 37 Barnabas agreed and wanted to take along John Mark. 38 But Paul disagreed strongly, since John Mark had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not shared in their work. 39 Their disagreement over this was so sharp that they separated. Barnabas took John Mark with him and sailed for Cyprus. 40 Paul chose Silas, and the believers sent them off, entrusting them to the Lord’s grace. 41 So they traveled throughout Syria and Cilicia to strengthen the churches there.
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Highlight Passages: Acts 16: 1-10: [NLT] … { I can’t help but think of Willie Nelson’s famous old country classic, On The Road Again, [linked here from You Tube] when I think of Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke traveling together on Paul’s second missionary journey, referred to on the map provided. And the differences between Willie Nelson and the Apostle Paul really cause me to laugh inside. ;) }  
1 Paul and Silas went first to Derbe and then on to Lystra. There they met Timothy, a young disciple whose mother was a Jewish believer, but whose father was a Greek. 2 Timothy was well thought of by the believers in Lystra and Iconium, 3 so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek. 4 Then they went from town to town, explaining the decision regarding the commandments that were to be obeyed, as decided by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in their faith and grew daily in numbers. ... 
{And note how responsive was Paul and his companions to the calling and direction of God’s Spirit, allowing themselves to be guided and directed by God’s Spirit to directions of ministry/mission which they would have never sought in their own logic and focus.} … 
6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had told them not to go into the province of Asia at that time. 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not let them go. 8So instead, they went on through Mysia to the city of Troas. 9 That night Paul had a vision. He saw a man from Macedonia in northern Greece, pleading with him, “Come over here and help us.” 10 So we£ decided to leave for Macedonia at once, for we could only conclude that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.

My Journal for Today: I’ll not blog extensively here, having made some comments above bold text; but I hope you’ve read through Chapters 15-16 of Acts and gained (or regained) an appreciation of just how dedicated were these early missionaries. And Paul’s zeal, which at one time was for the destruction of Christianity, is now – in these chapters as documented by Luke – on display FOR CHRIST and the spreading of the same gospel he had once so adamantly opposed. Doesn’t God have the greatest sense of humor.

And I personalize this because once I, too, was a “devil’s advocate,” doing all I could to try to rip away the faith of Christians who openly witnessed for Christ. I made my former secretary’s life hell as she did all she could to show me the foolishness of my atheistic pronouncements; and she had a whole cohort of prayer warriors praying for me to be broken and see the eternal degradation of my ways. And some reading here have read or heard my testimony of being delivered by God from myself, coming to a saving faith in Christ on April 13th, 1983. And now I’m an ordained minister of the gospel, being called to minister to those who’ve become imprisoned by their addictions to sexual pleasure and sin.

Yes, though I’d never claim to be a missionary with the zeal and commitment of the Apostle Paul, we still BOTH are poster-boys for Paul’s pronouncement in 2nd Cor. 5: 17"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; … the old has gone and the new has come." I pray that anyone reading here has experienced the newness and transformation from God’s Spirit in the salvation and sanctification which can only come when one yields to the Spirit of God as Paul exhibited on his second journey for Christ.

As I write this journal entry today, it’s THANKSGIVING DAY, and it’s so easy for me to pray what I do here today …

My Prayer Today: … Lord, on this Thanksgiving Day, I’m so thankful You pursued me so that I could pursue You. Amen

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 21, 2012 … “Walking the Walk” of the Christian

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 326

Blogger's Note:   I apologize for the length of this journal entry; but being assigned all 5 Chapters of the Book of James, given the importance of James' writings, becomes very difficult to shorten or abbreviate significantly.   Hence my blogging this day is a bit wordy.  But I hope you'll be willing to go through what God gave me today.  Because this book is a real mirror of Christian truth for all who call themselves "Christian."

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: James, Chapters 1-5 To study these chapters, go to this link -
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Highlight Passages: James 1: 1-4; 22-25 : [NLT] … {James, the pragmatic brother of Jesus, who became the leader of the new and growing Christian “church” in Jerusalem after Pentecost, wrote this letter just about the time Paul was returning from his first missionary journey, directed to Jewish Christians (but to all Christians ultimately) to give Christians a “walk-the-walk” exhortation of truth. And the Epistle from James becomes a “how to live” manual for Christians, exposing, like a mirror of truth, those who might “talk-the-talk” but are not being willing to “walk-the-walk.”}  
1 This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is written to Jewish Christians scattered among the nations. Greetings! 2 Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. 3For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. …  
{If one is looking for a them passage in this Book where James lays out the reason why he’s writing this to the Twelve Tribes of Israel, this is the passage in James 1: 22-25.}
 22 And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don’t obey, you are only fooling yourself. 23 For if you just listen and don’t obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you keep looking steadily into God’s perfect law — the law that sets you free — and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. 
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Highlight Passages: James 2: 17-20 : [NLT] … {I’ll bet you’ve heard someone say, as a Christian, “Faith without works is dead!” Well, this is the chapter and passage from James from which tht truth is directed to Christians about their Christian living.} 17 So you see, it isn’t enough just to have faith. Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all — it is dead and useless. 18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” I say, “I can’t see your faith if you don’t have good deeds, but I will show you my faith through my good deeds.” 19 Do you still think it’s enough just to believe that there is one God? Well, even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror! 20 Fool! When will you ever learn that faith that does not result in good deeds is useless? 
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Highlight Passages: James 3: 1; 7-10; 13-14 : [NLT] … {Verse 1 of Chapter 3 always scares me a bit because I’m a teacher and my Spirit-given gift is teaching. But James’ exhortation with regard to Christian speech (i.e., sharing with “the tongue” or in these days “the keyboard”) should be a bit scary for all Christians, especially the way we use social/digital media these days. And then James tells us the essence of seeking true, Godly wisdom as a Christian, which, most certainly should be the goal of ever believer in Christ. It’s a lot of good “walk-the-walk” direction from a genuine Christian leader and pragmatist.} 1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged by God with greater strictness. …
  {And we’re exhorted to be careful in our use of speech or media.} 
7 People can tame all kinds of animals and birds and reptiles and fish, 8 but no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it breaks out into curses against those who have been made in the image of God. 10 And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right! 
{And finally, in this chapter, James helps us to recognize what the pursuit of true, God-led and God-provided, wisdom looks like.}
 13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth. And if you don’t brag about the good you do, then you will be truly wise! 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your hearts, don’t brag about being wise. That is the worst kind of lie. 
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Highlight Passages: James 4: 1-3: 15-17: [NLT] … {Feelings are so fickle and so often misdirect us to pursue selfish, feeling-driven pursuits, rather than other-directed, Godly, goals. James exposes this very human default, giving his readers a picture of the dangers of responding to feelings rather than truth.}  
1 What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you? 2 You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous for what others have, and you can’t possess it, so you fight and quarrel to take it away from them. And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it. 3 And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.  
{ And we so often do things on our own and if we “succeed,” we get over confident in self and tend toward self-reliance rather than Spirit-led Savior-reliance. Again, James wanted Christians to get their wisdom and direction from God’s Spirit, rather than self-directed feelings, … which will always lead man down the path of self destruction, committing the sins of omission as well as sins of commission.}  
15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.” 16 Otherwise you will be boasting about your own plans, and all such boasting is evil. … 17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. 
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Highlight Passages: James 5: 1-4 : [NLT] … {And James saw, in his time, how Christians were misusing the providence God had bestowed on some so generously; and Jesus’ brother wanted them to realize their selfishness and the blessings from God they would miss in heaven from their hoarding and misuse of God-provided resources.}  
1 Look here, you rich people, weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you. 2 Your wealth is rotting away, and your fine clothes are moth-eaten rags. 3 Your gold and silver have become worthless. The very wealth you were counting on will eat away your flesh in hell. This treasure you have accumulated will stand as evidence against you on the day of judgment. 4 For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.
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Reference Passage: Matthew 5: 16 : [NKJV] … {Shining Christ’s light by the way we live our lives. } …  Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. 

My Journal for Today: Another “big-gulp” chronological reading assignment this morning, … the entire Book (or letter) from James, the Brother of Jesus, who was not an Apostle but became the pragmatic leader of the first church in Jerusalem in the first century after the resurrection. Though James was raised in the same home with Jesus, whom he must’ve viewed as his prodigy sibling, he was probably somewhat jealous of all the attention and greatness other saw in his half-brother. And many scholars speculate that James really didn’t want to follow His brother at all until after the resurrection, when, as he writes in his own words, he became a “slave” to Jesus, his LORD, and THE CHRIST [See James’ greeting in James 1: 1].

And this book, authored by James, because of its emphasis on the “doing” part of Christianity became a bit difficult for some later Christian apologists, like Martin Luther, to stomach, because it seemed to point to works as the signature of salvation rather than the emphasis on saving grace as was written by Paul in a passage like Ephesians 2: 8-9. But we must remember in that latter passage, the reality of Ephesians 2: 10, which actually fits right in with what James was writing in his letter to the Jewish Christians of his day. Both Paul and James were saying, as written in the Ephesians 2: 8-10 passage that Christians are saved BY faith THRU grace UNTO good works. And though Paul seemed to emphasize that Christians were saved BY faith THRU grace, James posited that one could only know that a Christian was saved if the transformation of God’s saving grace from the faith of the believer could be seen in the good works produced by that process of salvation. And James wrote about what those good works look like.

I really like the summary chart for the Book of James provided by my the Parsons Commentary I use so often in my devotional studies. So, let me give it to any reading with me today …

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Chapter Summary of the Book of James 
Chapter 1 … Confident Stand … What a Christian has 
Chapter 2 … Compassionate Service … What a Christian does 
Chapter 3 … Careful Speech … What a Christian says 
Chapter 4 … Contrite Submission … What a Christian feels 
Chapter 5 … Concerned Sharing … What a Christian gives 
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In other words, James was putting forth an argument that unless we see the Christian ”walking-the-walk” of their faith, how can we know that they are truly saved by God’s grace by such “christians” just “talking-the-talk” of their faith? And I’ll leave it to you to read through this book of pragmatic faith written by one who grew up with Jesus and became the first real leader of the faith in the first church in Jerusalem.

And as you read and digest what I’ve written this morning in my devotional entry, we are challenged by James to ask ourselves, as I’m asking myself today, “Am I really walking-the-walk of my faith by pursuing the mind of Christ and living a Christ-like life, shining God’s light of truth by what others see me in my life?” … AND … “Am I living up to the challenge of Jesus to shine His light by my Christ-like living?” (i.e., see my reference to Matthew 5: 16 above)

My Prayer Today: … Lord, I pray that I’m shining Your light by the choice I make and the way I live my life. Amen

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 20, 2012 … Paul Hits the Road for Jesus

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 325
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{Click on map for larger viewing/study}

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Acts, Chapters 13-14 To study these chapters, go to this link -
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Highlight Passages: Acts 13: 4-5; 13-14; 38-39; 46-47; 50-52 : [NLT] … { Saul, who had become the Spirit-filled Apostle Paul, was led by God’s Spirit, traveling with Barnabas, his encourager, and John Mark, who would later author the Gospel of Mark, to the island of Cyprus; and then after John Mark left them to return to Jerusalem (probably in fear), Paul and Barnabas traveled onward by ship to Antioch, in Asia-Minor, which is now Turkey. The rigor of traveling, mostly by foot, across foreign lands like Cyprus and in Asia, is not fully captured in Acts 13-14. But with the encouragement of Barnabas and the courage of Paul, these men, led by God’s Spirit spread the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles alike; and many were saved because of these early church missionaries. } 4 Sent out by the Holy Spirit, Saul and Barnabas went down to the seaport of Seleucia and then sailed for the island of Cyprus [see map]. 5 There, in the town of Salamis, they went to the Jewish synagogues and preached the word of God. (John Mark went with them as their assistant.) … 13 Now Paul and those with him left Paphos by ship for Pamphylia, landing at the port town of Perga. There John Mark left them and returned to Jerusalem. 14 But Barnabas and Paul traveled inland to Antioch of Pisidia. 
{To the Jews and converted Gentiles to Judaism in Antioch [see map], they preached.} … 
38 “Brothers, listen! In this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. 39Everyone who believes in him is freed from all guilt and declared right with God—something the Jewish law could never do. …  {To the Gentiles they also preached the gospel, angering many Jews.} … 
46 Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that this Good News from God be given first to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life — well, we will offer it to Gentiles. 47 For this is as the Lord commanded us when He said, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’” {see Isaiah 49: 6} 
{After being “run out of Dodge” by angry Jewish mobs in Antioch [in Asia Minor – not the Antioch in Israel], the two gospel missionaries went on to Iconium [see map].}
50 Then the Jewish leaders stirred up both the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. 51 But they shook off the dust of their feet against them and went to the city of Iconium. 52 And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
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Highlight Passages: Acts 14: 1-2; 5-7; 23-26 : [NLT] … { Moving on in Asia Minor to Iconium, Lycaonia, and into the cities of Lystra & Derba (see map), these two preached boldly, often inciting angry Jewish mobs. Could you imagine going into places like Iran or China and openly and boldly preaching the Gospel truth today? You get the picture of what Paul and Barnabas were facing. But onward they went for Jesus! }  
1 In Iconium, Paul and Barnabas went together to the synagogue and preached with such power that a great number of both Jews and Gentiles believed. 2 But the Jews who spurned God’s message stirred up distrust among the Gentiles against Paul and Barnabas, saying all sorts of evil things about them. … 5 A mob of Gentiles and Jews, along with their leaders, decided to attack and stone them. 6 When the apostles learned of it, they fled for their lives. They went to the region of Lycaonia, to the cities of Lystra and Derbe and the surrounding area, 7 and they preached the Good News there.  
{If you read in Acts 14 of the challenges these two faced in Asia-Minor as they traveled, preaching truth and healing in the Name and authority of Christ, the men finally returned by ship to the other Antioch (in Syria [see map], having left converts and churches in Asia Minor on this Paul’s first missionary journey.} … 
23 Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church and prayed for them with fasting, turning them over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had come to trust.   24 Then they traveled back through Pisidia to Pamphylia.   25 They preached again in Perga, then went on to Attalia.  26 Finally, they returned by ship to Antioch of Syria, where their journey had begun and where they had been committed to the grace of God for the work they had now completed. 

My Journal for Today: If you read through the accounts of Paul’s first missionary journey, where he was accompanied by Barnabas, looking at the map and seeing the distances these men walked, as well as reading about the risks to their lives (where they were stoned and beaten for their faith and bold preaching), there is little that can be added by any weak journaling from yours truly. My blogging here likely detracts from what these men went through to take the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel to Cyprus and Asia Minor.

 As I said above, it reminds me of friends we have who are missionaries to hostile nations today, going into Iran, or living in Turkey or in Northern Africa, where some of their missionary friends have been murdered for preaching the Gospel. I really am paled by the courage of such dedicated Christians; and here I am sometimes afraid to share the Gospel with family or friends in this very protected USA … because I fear what they might think of me.

I am shamed by the study of Paul and Barnabas and their dedication to the Gospel message.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, give me the strength to overcome my fears and to share YOU with others in my very safe world. Amen

Monday, November 19, 2012

November 19, 2012 … “Christians” Causing Controversy

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 324

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Acts, Chapters 11-12 To study these chapters, go to this link
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Highlight Passages: Acts 11: 15-18; 22-26 : [NLT] … {Peter, returning to Jerusalem from missionary travels was challenged by Jews, who’d heard of Gentiles being saved. Peter explained what he had observed and what he reasoned.} 15“Well, I began telling them [i.e., the Gentiles] the Good News, but just as I was getting started, the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as he fell on us at the beginning. 16 Then I thought of the Lord’s words when he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 And since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to argue?” 18 When the others heard this, all their objections were answered and they began praising God. They said, “God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of turning from sin and receiving eternal life.” …  
{ We are introduced to Barnabas by Luke, who later became a companion of the Apostle Paul in missionary work for Christ. Here we also are first introduced to the first use of the term “Christian” being used to describe converts to Christ, either Jewish or Gentile. } … 
22 When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw this proof of God’s favor {i.e., Gentiles being filled with the Holy Spirit}, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. 24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And large numbers of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to find Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching great numbers of people. (It was there at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)  
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Highlight Passages: Acts 12: 1-5; 18-19 : [NLT] … {The persecution of the early Christians continued, under Roman appointed leaders, like Agrippa I, who executed the Apostle James and imprisoned Peter. }  
1 About that time King Herod Agrippa {the grandson of Herod the Great} began to persecute some believers in the church. 2 He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. 3 When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish leaders, he arrested Peter during the Passover celebration 4 and imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod’s intention was to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. 5 But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him.  
{Peter escaped by God’s intervention and returned to the people gathered, praying for Peter, in the home of John Mark’s mother. They we all astonished at Peter’s miraculous escape, as was King Agrippa.} … 
18 At dawn, there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. 19 Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while. {Shortly thereafter, Agrippa, was gripped by pride when people around him began to worship him as a god; and taking to this adulation, he was immediately struck dead by God.}

My Journal for Today: In Chapters 11-12 of Acts we read of how much controversy was being raised internally, within Christianity, over Gentiles being converted and filled by the Holy Spirit as well as Jews, as well as the political controversy being created for Roman rulers in Judea by this growing movement of “Christians” (the name being used for the first time in the Bible in Acts 11 in Antioch where a large number of Greek Gentiles were coming to Christ).

The controversy Christians cause when they openly live for Christ [which is true worship] is still found to this day in the world, … isn’t it? As soon as people in the world, ruled and master-minded by Satan, are confronted by even one Christian who worships Christ for Whom He is by living for Him, let alone a number of Christians making up a church assembly, there is friction; and God, pouring His empowering grace into His Church, will bring growth and conversions. Isn’t it interesting that even today, the church grows exponentially much faster in areas where there is oppression of Christians than it does in geo-political areas where the Church has little or no opposition. Look at how fast converts are being reported today in China and in the Muslim controlled areas of the world as opposed to here in Bible-belt of southern USA.

When Peter was imprisoned, as documented by Luke in Acts 11, the Christians gathered and prayed; and God intervened dramatically with Peter being sprung from prison. And when authorities, like King Agrippa, the first, clamped down on Christians, God even struck a leader, like Agrippa, dead.

It raises the question ... What if the church would ban together in this modern era of growing oppression of Christianity and humbly pray TOGETHER for God to intervene – perhaps praying like the prayer of 2nd Chronicles 7: 14 [linked for your study]- what would God do for/with His beloved Church?” I’ll leave it to you to ponder this reality … as I am this morning.

Perhaps we need even more rigorous controversy and oppression in our “Christian” world for us to be brought together, humbly praying for the Bride of Christ to be released and experience revival as was witnessed in the world at the time reported by Luke in these chapters in Acts.

My Prayer Today: … Lord, do what You must to bring Your Church together, humbly praying for You to heal our land. Amen

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18, 2012 … “You Da Man!”

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 323

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Acts, Chapters 9-10 To study these chapters, go to this linkhttp://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%209-10&version=NLT
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Highlight Passages: Acts 9: 1-5; 19-22 : [NLT] … { Paul’s dramatic conversion changed His life forever and he became, as I did, a poster boy for his own later writing in 2nd Cor. 5: 17, copied below as a reference. }  
1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath. He was eager to destroy the Lord’s followers, so he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains. 3 As he was nearing Damascus on this mission, a brilliant light from heaven suddenly beamed down upon him! 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” 5 “Who are you, sir?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 
{ After Paul’s conversion and some time of “recovery” in Damascus, Paul began to refute his own past life with gospel preaching that astounded those who knew of his reputation.} … 
19 Afterward he ate some food and was strengthened. … Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” 21 All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who persecuted Jesus’ followers with such devastation in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And we understand that he came here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests.” … 22 Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
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Highlight Passages: Acts 10:43-48 : [NLT] … { Peter, a staunch Jewish convert and a leader of the new Christian “movement,” began to interact with Gentiles who were receiving the message and being converted; and this Jewish versus Gentile controversy because one of the earliest stumbling blocks to the advancement of Christianity in the Jewish world and outward to the rest of the world. Preaching about Jesus to Gentiles early in Jerusalem, we read about how Peter and other Jewish Christians witnessed how God used Cornelius, a wealthy, influential Roman Officer and convert, to propagate the truth that Christ was for all mankind, including the Gentiles. So, here is Peter preaching to Jews and Gentiles alike … }  
43 He [i.e., Jesus] is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.” …. 44 Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who had heard the message. 45 The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles, too. 46 And there could be no doubt about it, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter asked, … 47 “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” 48 So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterward Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days.
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Reference Passage: 2nd Corinthians 5: 17 : [NKJV] … {Paul was his own best example of this truth; but my testimony make me a poster boy for this truth as well.} Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 

My Journal for Today: In today’s reading we see how Christianity had a rather curious and halting start early in Jerusalem with the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who became the Apostle Paul … and with Peter’s encounter with Gentiles who heard the gospel and were converted to Spirit-filled Christians. And I especially identify with Paul’s conversion story, documented by Luke, in Chapter 9 of Acts.

The Apostle Paul, other then Jesus Himself, had more to do with the spread of Christianity than any other man; and His conversion story is a radical illustration of a truth he would later write to a group, mostly of Gentile Christians, in Corinth concerning the power of God to change any who would believe in Christ as Messiah and receive Christ’s free gift of His Spirit to save those who believe … Jew or Gentile. I copied that truth from 2nd Cor. 5: 17 for any readers following me here; and like Saul who became Paul, I too am a poster-child for this truth … that being saved – IN CHRIST – changes the very nature of the one who is saved.

Saul of Tarsus went from Christian persecutor to Christian minister and missionary after he was converted; and so did I. Yes, when I was 35 years old, I used to do all I could to tear the faith away from any Christian I encountered. Like Paul before his conversion, I was a “devil’s advocate,” doing all I could to break Christians of their faith. But also like Saul/Paul, after I became a Christian, I became just as obsessive and compulsive about spreading the truth of God’s love to as many as now I can.

I’m a golf fan; and often when some pro golfer tees off in a tournament covered on TV, you’ll hear someone in the crowd yell loudly (likely trying to get his voice recorded on TV), “You DA man!!!” And that’s a good description of who Paul was described as becoming in Acts 9 and who Peter was becoming in Acts 10. And I hope you go back, as I have this AM, and use the link above to re-read these two character descriptions of men who were totally changed by the influence and power of their Christian commitment.

Peter went from an impulsive and cowardly follower of Christ before his real conversion to become a staunch and courageous proponent of the Gospel and a leader of Christianity in the middle-east. Paul went from being a die-hard persecutor of Christians to an even more convicted propagator of Christianity from Jerusalem outwardly to what we now know of as Asia-minor and Europe. These two men, whom we could loudly call “Da Man,” were most certainly living examples of the truth of 2nd Cor. 5: 17, … weren’t they?

What about you? Has Jesus changed your life after you were converted? Or if you became a true, born-again Christian early in your life, has God’s Spirit shaped you into someone others would call “Da man!” (or if it fits, “Da woman!”)

My Prayer Today: … Lord, thank You for examples like Peter and Paul in Your word to give us role models of Christians who shaped Christianity in its early days and are still doing so today. Amen

Saturday, November 17, 2012

November 17, 2012 … Going All the Way for Jesus

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 322

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Acts, Chapters 7-8 To study these chapters, go to this link
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Highlight Passages: Acts 7: 51-53; 57-60 : [NLT] … {After presenting a brilliant apologetic defense of the faith from a Jewish point of view, this Greek. showing a vast knowledge of Hebrew history and the faith of the fathers of these religious leaders from whom Stephen was defending himself, the leaders couldn’t stomach his stance of truth and justice; and they ordered Stephen stoned; and the ring-leader of this band of injustice was one Saul of Tarsus, who would, of course become the Apostle Paul. This incident no doubt had a deep impact on this young Pharisee and leader in the Sanhedrin.}
  51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? But your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, though you received it from the hands of angels.” … 
57 Then they put their hands over their ears, and drowning out his voice with their shouts, they rushed at him. 58 They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. The official witnesses took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. {This, of course, was Saul of Tarsus} 59 And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And he fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
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Highlight Passages: Acts 8: 1-4 : [NLT] … {Saul, who would become Paul, was one of the great character illustrations of just how God can change and transform a person; because here in Acts 8 we see him as a “hit-man” for the Sanhedrin, persecuting and jailing Christians, … even having them killed, as he was likely the supervisor of Stephen’s martyrdom. }  
1 Saul was one of the official witnesses at the killing of Stephen. … A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and all the believers except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria. 2 (Some godly men came and buried Stephen with loud weeping.) 3 Saul was going everywhere to devastate the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into jail. 4 But the believers who had fled Jerusalem went everywhere preaching the Good News about Jesus.
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Reference Passage: Romans 12: 1 : [NLT] … { It is interesting to me that later, after God’s transformation of Saul of Tarsus to Paul, the Apostle, God would write this truth through the pen of Paul. Note how this passage characterizes Stephen, who had become Christianities first martyred “living sacrifice.”}  
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. 

My Journal for Today: Yesterday, in my chronological reading segment in Acts 6, we were introduced to the first Christian faith martyr, Stephen, a brilliant Greek, who had become totally surrendered as a “living sacrifice” in his faith to/for Christ. And here today, in my reading of Acts, Chapters 7-8, we see just how far Stephen was willing to go in standing up for Christ in a hostile Jewish world. And as I said above in bold in my introduction of Acts 7, we read of Stephen, standing against the Sanhedrin and giving a brilliant defense of the truth, using Jewish history to show the religious Council the injustice they had committed in crucifying The Christ.

But the Sanhedrin would have none of Stephen’s claims; and just as they had done with Jesus, the Council convicted Stephen and ordered him put to death, this time by stoning. And in this first Christian martyrdom, we see a man who had become completely surrendered in his faith to Christ, even to the point of praying mercy for those who were killing him, just as Christ had done on the cross.

And I find it incredible irony that the one who likely supervised the “hit” on Stephen was Saul of Tarsus, who would later become the Apostle Paul and pen the wondrous truth, in Romans 12: 1-2, quoted above, about how Christians becoming “living sacrifices” when they are transformed by the power of God’s Spirit. Here was Saul, observing a Greek who had TOTALLY become a living sacrifice for His Lord; and later, after we read of Saul becoming Paul, this hitman for the Sanhedrin would also become that living sacrifice, transformed by his faith, as Paul also wrote about in 2nd Corinthians 5: 17.

And my study loudly (at least to me) declares the question, asking if we, as Christians, have become enough of a “living sacrifice,” as was Stephen, to give our all, surrendering to and for our Lord, and Savior, Jesus.

My Prayer Today: … Oh, how I pray, Lord, that I am one those like Stephen and Paul who have been transformed into a “living sacrifice” for You. Amen

Friday, November 16, 2012

November 16, 2012 … Standing in The Gap for Truth

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 321

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Acts, Chapters 4-6 To study these chapters, go to this link -
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Highlight Passages: Acts 4: 10-12; 18-22; 29-31 : [NLT] … { Peter and John arrested by the Sadducees and brought to the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem after they had healed a crippled man and claiming it was done by the power of the resurrected Jesus. }  
10 Let me clearly state to you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed in the name and power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth, the man you crucified, but whom God raised from the dead. 11 For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says, … ‘The stone that you builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ [Psalm 118: 12]12 There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.”
18 So they {the religious leaders, after deliberation} called the apostles back in and told them never again to speak or teach about Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? 20 We cannot stop telling about the wonderful things we have seen and heard.” 21 The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God 22 for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years. …   
{After Peter and Paul were released the believers in Jerusalem gathered to pray, praying …} 
29 And now, O Lord, hear their threats {from the religious leaders in the city and the people who blindly followed the leaders}, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching. 30 Send Your healing power; may miraculous signs and wonders be done through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After this prayer, the building where they were meeting shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. And they preached God’s message with boldness. 
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Highlight Passages: Acts 5: 17-20; 27-30; 38-42 : [NLT] … {The Jewish council in Jerusalem did all they could to stop the Apostles from teaching, preaching, and healing; but they couldn’t because the Apostles were empowered by God’s grace.}  
17 The high priest and his friends, who were Sadducees, reacted with violent jealousy. 18They arrested the apostles and put them in the jail. 19 But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, 20“Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!” 21 So the apostles entered the Temple about daybreak and immediately began teaching. … 27 Then they brought the apostles in before the council. 28 “Didn’t we tell you never again to teach in this man’s name?” the high priest demanded. “Instead, you have filled all Jerusalem with your teaching about Jesus, and you intend to blame us for his death!” 29 But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than human authority. 30The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead after you killed him by crucifying him. 
{The Council wanted to have the Apostles killed; but a Pharisee named Gamaliel, whom we later learn was a mentor of Saul of Tarsus, intervened and advised the Sanhedrin to avoid making martyrs of the Apostles and creating a riot among the growing number of Christians, who numbered well in excess of 10,000 at the time. Gamaliel said, …}
38 “So my advice is, leave these men alone. If they are teaching and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. 39 But if it is of God, you will not be able to stop them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God.” … 40 The council accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. 41 The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus. 42 And every day, in the Temple and in their homes, they continued to teach and preach this message: “The Messiah you are looking for is Jesus.” 

My Journal for Today: Today I take in three more chapters from the Book of Acts; and I’ll focus my journaling on Chapters 4-5; but since I’m going to be discussing the courage of the disciples in the face of oppression from the religious leaders in Jerusalem shortly after the resurrection, you may want to go the end of Chapter 6 of Acts where the first Christian martyr, Stephen, is introduced. Tomorrow, as I know I’ll be assigned to study from Chapters 7-8 of Acts, the execution of this Greek Christian will be brought out; and I’ll likely comment on Stephen’s courage then. But Stephen’s boldness as a Christian witness is the main theme I want to discuss today.

In that regard, in Acts: Chapter 4-5, Luke documents the courage and boldness of the Apostles, men like Peter and John, who stood in the gap, witnessing for truth and preaching the good news of Christ, in spite of the rigorous opposition of the Sanhedrin, the powerful Council of religious leaders in that day, who diametrically opposed what these new Christians were boldly preaching. And note the change of attitude in Peter and John, both of whom had bolted and ran in fear when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane before the crucifixion; and especially Peter, of course, who was an absolute coward then, denying Jesus openly three times.

However, in these chapters, these men, now filled with the grace of God from the Holy Spirit, became bold witnesses for Christ, just as Jesus had charged them to be (see Acts 1: 8), having empowered these witnesses, in their anointed roles as Apostles, to go forth and preach the gospel message, healing and teaching in the Name of Christ. And these men would not be repressed or silenced in this, coming very close, on more than one occasion, to being executed falsely for their faith in Christ.

I really have only one point to make here in my journal comments this morning, … a point out of conviction.   >>> What would happen if Christians, like yours truly, would be bolder in our times … where the world is trying to silence and eradicate Christian concepts, like “Christ” and “God,” from our public discussion? If we Christians were more like the Apostles and Christians, men like Stephen, standing strongly and boldly for the Name of Christ, what would be the result in our culture today? What power from God’s grace would come upon us if we stood in the gap for truth like the Christians we read of in the Book of Acts?

My Prayer Today: … Lord, give me Your power to declare Your truth more boldly in my life. Amen