Thursday, July 21, 2016

CHOSEN AND ACCEPTED


Read Ephesians 1–3


   …He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love… to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4, 6 NKJV

* * *
   Paul in writing to the believers in Ephesus reminds them of the wonderful gift of the gospel. “But now in Christ Jesus,” he says, “you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13) In the fullness of time, God carried out His plan that the Gentiles would be included in His church. For both Jews and Gentiles salvation came by the grace of God as a free gift.
   For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. (2:8-10)
* * *
   Lord, I will be eternally thankful that You offered salvation to all who would believe. I am grateful that I did not have to earn it by good works. I am also thankful that you had good works planned for me before I even knew You. Help me as I share the good news of Christ’s love with all who will be willing to receive it.
* * *

   “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height -- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Eph 3:17b-19 NKJV

Monday, May 9, 2016

SERVE THROUGH LOVE

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

Read Galatians 5─6

     For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13 NKJV
* * *
     There were those in the Galatian church who insisted that Gentile believers must become Jews and keep the ceremonial laws. Paul writes, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-7)
     He then goes on to explain the role of the law in the lives of New Testament believers: “...the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3:24-25) They were to defend the true gospel in a spirit of love; For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14
* * *
     Lord, when I run into Christians who are influenced by false teaching, help me to be patient and kind, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in my life and attitude. Give me the wisdom to stand fast and defend the gospel in a way that will glorify You.
* * *
     But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5:22-23a NKJV

Friday, April 1, 2016

JARS OF CLAY

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Corinthians


Read 2 Corinthians 4-5

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV
* * *
In this letter Paul encourages the Corinthian church to endure in their trials. He said of himself and his companions, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death.” (2 Corinthians 1:8b-9a)

Though they themselves were “jars of clay”, he said, they endured because of the all surpassing power of God. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day...” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

In view of eternity and what Christ accomplished for us on the cross, Paul reminds them, “...he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again” ( 2 Corinthians 5:15)
* * *
Lord, I will probably never face the kind of opposition that Paul and the early church had to face, but I know that there are Christians throughout the world who are being persecuted. Lord, show your all-surpassing power to them, and help me to remember that I too have access to this power in my life through your Holy Spirit.
* * *
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us... 2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

THE LAST ENEMY

NO MORE DEATH

Read 1 Corinthians 15

     For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 1 Corinthians 15:22, 26 NIV

* * *
     One thing we all have to face is the reality of death. No matter how healthy we are, eventually it will catch up with us. By receiving the free gift Christ has purchased, we have the promise of eternal life, but we will see physical death in this body – unless of course, He returns in our lifetime.

     Paul writes, Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. (15:51-52)

     He assures us as believers, that when we die, we will immediately enter His presence clothed with immortality, never to see death again. For when the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."(15:54)
* * *
     Lord, thank you for the promise that death is not the end. I will see my loved ones who are already in Heaven and will spend eternity praising You for all You have done for us in this life and the one to come.
* * *
      Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.   1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV

Thursday, January 28, 2016

THE GREATEST GIFT


THE GREATEST IS LOVE

Read
1 Corinthians 13

     If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
* * *
      After a discussion in chapter 12 about the various spiritual gifts, and a call for unity in exercising those gifts in the church, Paul says, “…But eagerly desire the greater gifts. (those that edify and build up the body) And now I will show you the most excellent way...” (12:31)
     No matter what the gift or talent God has bestowed upon you, it is worth nothing if not exercised in love ─ and this, writes Paul, is what love looks like:       "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (13:4-7)
* * *
      Lord, this is a tall order for anyone, but absolutely necessary in our relationships with other believers. Obviously, those early churches had to struggle with their issues just as we do today. Love certainly requires forgiveness and humility. Help me to keep no record of wrongs.
* * *
      And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.    1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM


THE WISE MEN AND HEROD

Read Matthew 2:1–12 , Micah 5:2

When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: Matthew 2:4–5 NIV
* * *
     Long before Jesus was born, the prophets had predicted His coming. The priests and rabbis knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem – a prophesy they explained to Herod and the Kings from the East. We know that even the common people were taught this prophesy, since later–when Jesus started His ministry–the people said, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" (John 7:41b-42
     They must not have realized that He was born in Bethlehem during the census. The Jews of Jesus time really had no excuse for not recognizing their Messiah. Had they truly been looking for Him, they would have known who He was–just as the Wise Men and even Herod did. 
* * *
     Lord, I praise You for the reliability of Your Word. Help me to be willing to share the message of Your coming with my children, their friends and all who might be seeking for truth. As the Christmas cards say, "Wise men still seek Him."
* * *
"Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Matthew 2:2 NIV

Thursday, September 17, 2015

THE GREATER GIFTS

THE GREATEST IS LOVE

Read
1 Corinthians 13

     If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
* * *
      After a discussion in chapter 12 about the various spiritual gifts, and a call for unity in exercising those gifts in the church, Paul says, “…But eagerly desire the greater gifts. (those that edify and build up the body) And now I will show you the most excellent way...” (12:31)
     No matter what the gift or talent God has bestowed upon you, it is worth nothing if not exercised in love ─ and this, writes Paul, is what love looks like:       "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (13:4-7)
* * *
      Lord, this is a tall order for anyone, but absolutely necessary in our relationships with other believers. Obviously, those early churches had to struggle with their issues just as we do today. Love certainly requires forgiveness and humility. Help me to keep no record of wrongs.
* * *
      And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.   1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV

Monday, March 9, 2015

IS CHRIST DIVIDED?


FOLLOW THE LEADER

Read 1 Corinthians Chapters 1 – 3

     Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? 1 Corinthians 1:12-13a NKJV
* * *
      The church at Corinth had several gifted teachers, each with his own style of ministry. The new converts were lining up contentiously behind their favorite leaders, causing division in the church. Paul writes,
     “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” (3:5-6) He urges them to come together in unity saying, “Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor." (3:8)
      It is human nature to get our eyes on men instead of God. Many a ministry has been hindered because of this wrong focus. Paul reminds them and us,
"Therefore let no one boast in men. For all things are yours… And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's. "(3:21, 23)
* * *
      Lord, keep us from being critical of leaders who are doing Your work, but not in the way we would choose. Help us to be gracious and thankful that we have so many resources available to us. Above all, help us to build faithfully on the foundation of Your Word.
* * *
      For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  1 Corinthians 3:11 NKJV

Saturday, January 31, 2015

A SPIRIT OF UNITY

ONE HEART

Read Romans 14–15

       For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:7-8 NIV
* * *
      As a mixed congregation of Jews and Gentiles with different backgrounds, the Roman believers also had differences of opinion on what was acceptable behavior. Some wanted to celebrate certain holy days and others did not. Some had convictions about buying meat that had been sacrificed to idols, and others did not. Paul says, “… let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way." (14:13)
      The principle here is that we are to edify and encourage our Christian brothers and sisters. While being true to our own convictions, we should “accept one another, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (15:7)


* * *
      Lord, I pray that nothing I do will be a stumbling block to another Christian. I pray for a spirit of love and unity, even when I may have strong opinions about a matter. I pray that what comes out of my mouth will glorify You, and build up the fellowship of believers.
* * *
     "May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."   Romans 15:5-6 NIV

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

GOD'S IRREVOCABLE PROMISE

A DAY OF AWAKENING

Read Romans 11–12


     As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved… for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable. Romans 11:28a-29 NIV
* * *
     In this section Paul addresses the believers who were saved as a result of his ministry to Gentiles. Paul’s own people (the Jews) have for the most part, rejected the gospel, but one day there will be an awakening in Israel. He writes,
     “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved… (11:25-26a NIV)
     Paul reminds the Gentile Christians that God still has plans for the Jews who are now opposing them: He says, “Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you. (11:30-31 NIV)
 
     In view of this great mercy to them and to us, what are we to do? "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." Romans 12:1 NKJV
* * *
     Lord, I am so thankful that the gospel was presented to me with the gift of faith to believe it. I am praying for the many people who seem unable to come to faith and receive your gift of salvation. Give us wisdom as we share Your Word in a way they can understand, and draw them by Your Spirit to become part of the family of Christ.
* * *
     For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.  Romans 12:3 NIV

Sunday, December 28, 2014

RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN

 
     When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under– Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: Matthew 2:16–17 NIV
* * *
     More than 1400 years before Christ was born, the patriarch Jacob buried his beloved wife, Rachel. We read, "So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel's tomb." (Genesis 35:19–20) The prophet Jeremiah predicted a future day when children would be slaughtered near Rachel's grave. (Jeremiah 31:15) This was fulfilled when Herod killed all of the male babies under two, trying to destroy the Jewish Messiah.
* * *
     We live in a day where it could be said "A voice was heard in America of weeping and mourning for children, because they are no more." The travesty of millions of babies aborted over the past thirty plus years must grieve your heart, Lord. Don't let us become apathetic to the cries of unborn babies, or the grief caused to women in our day.
* * *
     "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." Matthew 2:18 NIV

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

THE WISE MEN AND HEROD

WISE MEN STILL SEEK HIM

 Read
Matthew 2:1–12 & Micah 5:2


     When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the  law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:  Matthew 2:4–5 
 
* * *
       Long before Jesus was born, the prophets had predicted His coming. The priests and rabbis knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem because of a prophesy they related to Herod and the Magi. We know that even the common people were taught this prophesy since later–when Jesus started His ministry–the people said, "How can the Christ come from Galilee? Does not the Scripture say that the Christ will come from David's family and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?" (John 7:41b-42)
      The people must not have realized that He was born in Bethlehem at the time of the census. The Jews of Jesus time really had no excuse for not recognizing their Messiah. Had they truly been looking for Him, they would have known who He was–just as the Wise Men and even Herod did.
* * *
      Lord, I praise You for the reliability of Your Word. Help me to be willing to share the message of Your coming with my children, their friends and all who might be seeking for truth. As the Christmas cards say, "Wise men still seek Him."
* * *
      "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Matthew 2:2 NIV

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

SIMEON'S PROPHESY

REVEALER OF HEARTS

Read Luke 2:21-40

     Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined… to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too." Luke 2:34–35
* * *
     Holding the newborn baby in his arms, Simeon spoke words from God: Mary's life would be filled with both joy and sorrow. Her baby would be at the center of controversy. Her Son would be the revealer of hearts – even her own. She would have to learn to step back, be silent, and continue to ponder things in her heart.
    Shepherds could praise Him, Pharisees would curse Him and children would adore Him – but Mary could only quietly pray for Him. He was her son, but he was also her Savior. God's plan would proceed as she stood by and watched.
* * *
     Lord, I know You have a plan for each of our children. Mary had some very human sons and daughters in addition to her perfect Son, Jesus. Would they ever see Him as their Messiah?
     No doubt, Mary prayed that her other children would accept Him as their personal Savior. It wasn't until after the resurrection that they truly believed – but in God's perfect time – Mary's prayers were answered.
* * *
     And Joseph and His (Jesus) mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. Luke 2:33 NKJV

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

GOD WITH US

IMMANUEL

Read
Isaiah 7:10-14, 9:1-7; Matthew 1:18-2:6

      All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"-which means, "God with us." Matthew 1:22–23 NIV
* * *
      The book of Isaiah was written about 700 years before Christ was born and is filled with prophesies about the coming Messiah. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Joseph, he quoted Isaiah 7:14:
       “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Jesus would be called, "Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (
Isaiah 9:6b)
* * *
      Isaiah prophesied that this Holy Child would live "In Galilee of the Gentiles.” saying, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined." (Isaiah 9:1b-2 NKJV)
* * *
      Dear Lord, You truly are my Wonderful Counselor and I am so thankful that the light of the gospel shined on me. Just as Isaiah foretold the coming of Jesus, help me to tell the good news wherever I go, especially to members of my family. Keep me faithful in reading Your Word so that I will have something fresh to share with my family and friends.
* * *
      "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6 NIV

Saturday, December 6, 2014

FULLFILLED PROPHESY

TIDINGS OF JOY

Read Luke 2:8–20

     "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10–11 NKJV
* * *
      Exhausted but happy, Joseph wraps his newborn babe in swaddling clothes and lays him at Mary's side. They are alone, in the city of their birth, but not their home. Only the sounds of nearby animals disturb their quiet conversation. What will life be like with this child of God? Soon they will be able to consummate their marriage and build a family together.
      Meanwhile, out in the nearby fields, a lowly group of shepherds are in for a big surprise. Suddenly an angel appears in the night sky surrounded by the glory of the Lord. He announces, “There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (2:11) Lonely quiet places - this stable - those fields - where all of history would be changed. Even today we date our lives from this event.
* * *
      Lord, help me to value the lonely, quiet moments of my life. They are so few and yet so valuable. Speak to my heart this morning with words of peace. Like Mary, I truly desire to understand Your ways and ponder them in my heart.
* * *
      "All those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:18-19 NKJV

Monday, December 1, 2014

BETHLEHEM

JOSEPH AND MARY

Read Luke 2:1–7; Micah 5:2
    
 Joseph also went up… to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.   Luke 2:4–5 NKJV
 
* * *
     Mary was in the last stages of her pregnancy when something very distressing happened. The Caesar of Rome declared that a census be taken, forcing the people to go to the city of their birth to register. Hardship or not, they had to comply with this order.
   Joseph must have been deeply concerned about his wife during the trip to Bethlehem. He probably did not consider at the time that prophesy was being fulfilled. Over 700 years before, the prophet Micah predicted that the promised Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.
* * *
     Sometimes life is not convenient or comfortable; sometimes circumstances are overwhelming. Lord, give us peace in those times, knowing that You are a God who cares and watches over us. Help us to remember that all things work together for good to those who love You and are called according to Your purpose.
* * *
     "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to me the one to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting."  Micah 5:2 NKJV

Thursday, October 16, 2014

HOW SHALL THEY HEAR?

BEAUTIFUL FEET

Read Romans Chapters 9 –10

      That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 NIV
* * *
      Although the church at Rome was started by Jewish believers, the larger growth was among the Gentiles. Paul’s heart was that his own Jewish brethren would be saved, but God had called him to spread the Word to all who would believe. He now makes his case for the importance of evangelism. He asks them, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?”(10:14)
     The Jews had heard the message by way of the prophets, though most had not accepted their Messiah when He came. But the way of salvation was the same for both Jews and Gentiles, For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile-the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." (10:12-13)
* * *
      Lord, I pray for the day when Israel will recognize their Messiah. I am so thankful that the gospel was preached to people groups who passed it down to us. May we be faithful to tell others that As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." (10:11)
* * *
     ...And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"  Romans 10:14b-15 NIV

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

GOD IS FOR US

WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?

Read Romans 8:28–39


     And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.   Romans 8:28 NKJV
* * *
     In the early days of the church, believers faced opposition among their own people, sometimes in their own families. Rome certainly had no great love for the Truth and the Jews saw it as a threat to their long established traditions. Paul is writing from afar, teaching by the written word, giving encouragement that was sorely needed in the lives of these new believers.
     He first reassures them that God knows and sees everything they are going through. Not only that, He has a plan which was in effect even before they were born. He says, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”(8:29)
     He tells them that just as they are now justified, they will one day be glorified in His presence. “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (8:31-32)
* * *
     Lord, never let me take for granted that You have a plan for my life, You knew me before I was born and All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalms 139:16 NIV) Nothing can separate me from Your love.
* * *
     For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   Romans 8:38-39 NIV

Saturday, August 9, 2014

OUR ULTIMATE HOPE

THE SPIRIT WITHIN
Read Romans 8:1-27

      You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. Romans 8:9 NIV
* * *
      Paul has presented the dilemma of our struggle with sin and its solution through the sacrifice of Jesus. We still, however, must live with the presence of sin and in a physical sense we will one day face death, unless Jesus returns in our lifetime.
     So Paul goes on to say, “...if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (8:10) –so what is our ultimate hope?
  “...And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (8:11)
     We not only stand as righteous before God because of the death of Jesus, we also have the hope of eternal life because of His resurrection. This life begins today with the Spirit who dwells within us.

     “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children ." (8:15–16)
* * *
      Thank you, Father that I am your child and I do not need to fear death. I thank you also for the abundant life you have promised us through your indwelling Holy Spirit and that no matter what my circumstances are from day to day, I can be secure in your love for me.
* * *
      And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.   Romans 8:27 NIV

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WHO WILL RESCUE ME?

THE INWARD STRUGGLE

Read Romans 7:1–8:2

     I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature, for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.   Romans 7:18 NIV
* * *
     All of their lives the Jewish believers had been taught the laws given by God to Moses. Did this new teaching mean that Moses was wrong? “What shall we say, then? Paul exclaims, Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’” (7:7)

     The problem, he explains, is not with the law; the problem is with us ─“We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.” (7:14-16)
     The righteousness we could not attain because of our constant struggle with sin – God purchased for us through His Son. “…Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God–through Jesus Christ our Lord…!” (7:24-25)
* * *
     Lord, I see myself in this passage, striving to have the perfect attitude and to do the right thing, but so often getting off the path into self pity, resentment and just plain carnal thinking. How thankful I am that You are the perfect one and Your Spirit dwells in me, enabling me to be forgiven and start anew whenever I fall short of Your Word.
* * *
     Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.   Romans 8:1-2 NIV

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

UNITED WITH HIM

NO LONGER SLAVES
Read Romans 6

     What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Romans 6:1-2 NIV
* * *
      We as believers were once slaves to the sinful nature we inherited from the first man, Adam. The penalty for sin is death, and the price was paid by the one perfect man, the Son of God. Paul explains that If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. (6:5)
     One day we will stand before him rescued from our old sin nature. We have already been rescued from the penalty of sin, and because of this, we should give ourselves to the service of the one who bought us with His blood. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin- (6:6)

     Though we will often struggle in this earthly body to resist our sinful nature and submit to God, Paul reminds believers that “since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him…In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." (6:9, 11)
* * *
     Lord, I praise you for the mercy and grace that sent Your Son to the cross for my sin. I thank you also that through your Spirit I have the resources to live a life of victory over my sinful nature.
* * *
     Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.” (6:12)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

JUST THE RIGHT TIME

LIFE IN CHRIST

Read Romans 4–5
     You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly─ God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6, 8 NIV
* * *
     After giving the example of Abraham’s faith in waiting for God’s promise of a Savior, Paul tells the believers in Rome that Jesus came “at just the right time.” Certainly God’s time clock is different from ours. In the fullness of time, He sent His Son into the world to pay for the sins of all who would receive Him, for …where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (5:20b-21)
     Abraham died without seeing the promised Messiah, but he is with Him now as the recipient of eternal life. Abraham believed God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness." The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness–for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. (4:21-24)
* * *
     Dear Father, I cannot find the words to express the gratitude I have in my heart that you sent Jesus “at just the right time.” I not only have eternal life through the death of Your Son, I have an abundant life today through His life in me.
* * *
     For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Romans 5:10 NIV

Monday, April 21, 2014

TOUCH ME AND SEE

THOMAS BELIEVES
Read: Luke 24:36–43; John 20:24–31

But he (Thomas) said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." John 20:25 NIV
* * *
Eight days before this scene, the disciples stared in amazed unbelief. Jesus suddenly appeared, and they thought they were seeing a ghost. Then He asked for something to eat and said, "Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." (Luke 24:39)

Now Thomas is unconvinced, since he has not yet seen the Lord. When Jesus appeared again, and showed him his hands and side, Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28) Jesus had been telling His disciples all along that he would rise from the dead, but this was something they couldn't comprehend.
* * *
We have the advantage of the complete Scriptures, explaining how all these things fit together with Old Testament prophesy; yet Lord, there are times I struggle to understand Your plan for us. Perhaps it is just enough to say, "My Lord and my God!"
* * *
Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."  John 20:29 NKJV

Saturday, April 19, 2014

EASTER SUNDAY

MARY MAGDALENE

Read: John 20:1–18

     They (the angels) asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him."   John 20:13 NIV
* * *
     Mary Magdalene was one of the devout women who supplied the needs of Jesus and His disciples throughout His ministry. She had been delivered from demon possession as were some of the others who followed Him. She was one of those who remained at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus witnessing his horrible crucifixion. 
     Three days later Mary went to the grave to grieve – but instead she had an encounter with angels at the empty tomb. Jesus was still there, so changed that she did not realize that it was He ─ until He spoke her name,"Mary." Then she turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (20:16)
     Mary Magdalene was forgiven much and she loved much. Her life was dedicated to Jesus' ministry and to being a friend to other believers. God chose her to be the first one to see her risen Lord.
* * *
     Thank You Jesus that You came to set people like Mary free from their sin. Thank you for dying for my sin. Help me to show my love for you as Mary did by serving other believers.
* * *
     Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" John 20:18 NIV

Sunday, April 13, 2014

FRDAY'S HERE BUT SUNDAY'S COMING!

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed .   1 Cor 15:51-52 NKJV
* * *
     Easter is coming late this year, but in just a few days it will be here.  I prefer late April - in March it always takes me by surprise.  Easter came as a surprise to believers in Bible times as well. No matter how many times the Lord told them that He would die and rise again the third day, they couldn't seem to comprehend. They were ready to see Him as King, Messiah, Promised One - but suffering, death and resurrection - that was unthinkable!
* * *
    Our hope comes not just from Friday (the cross) but from the Sunday that follows. Jesus died for our sins on Friday - but He conquered death on Sunday, so that those of us who receive Him need not fear death any more.
* * *
     For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.   John 3:16
     Have you believed in the only begotten Son of God?

Monday, March 31, 2014

FINAL INSTRUCTIONS

ABIDE IN ME

Read
John 15:1–17

     "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."   John 15:5 NKJV

     These final words of Jesus to His beloved apostles are of utmost importance, both to them and to us. He was going away and they would carry on the work of spreading the gospel to the world. They did not yet have the indwelling Holy Spirit – but soon they would.
     Jesus said, "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…" (15:16) How were they going to be able to accomplish this?
      Jesus said, "…The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine…If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you." (15:4, 7)
* * *
 
     Dear Lord, I know that apart from You we will not see lasting fruit in our lives. I come to You this morning as an act of abiding in You. Speak to me from Your Word and plant Your will deep within my heart. I am asking and You have promised that it shall be done. I claim that promise today.
* * *
 
     "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." John 15:11 NKJV

Thursday, March 20, 2014

PEACE I LEAVE WITH YOU

LET NOT YOUR HEART BE TROUBLED
Read John 14:1–31

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me." John 14:1 NKJV
* * *
     The disciples still did not quite understand the clues Jesus had given of His coming death and resurrection. Thomas questioned Him about where He was going, and would not fully comprehend until after it took place.
     Philip said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father…" (14:8–9)
     Then He promised, "I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever– the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." (14:16-17)
* * *
     God the Father would send His Holy Spirit not only to dwell with them, but in them. The Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – all working together to abide in us forever. Thank You Lord for this incomparable truth –"Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:27 NKJV)
* * *
     "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27 NKJV

Monday, March 10, 2014

THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Romans

Read Romans Chapters 2 ─ 3

     Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.   Romans 3:20 NIV

* * *
     Paul speaks especially to the Jewish believers in these chapters. He teaches them the reality that every human being has sinned in God’s sight. Some are obviously sinners by the wicked deeds they do – but then he goes on to tell them that they too have transgressed God’s laws.
     The only hope for all of mankind is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (3:22-24)
     These new believers needed to be taught that just as they had received Christ by faith, now they needed to live their lives in that same faith. A truly righteous life would not come from merely observing the law, but by trusting in the Son of God who wrote the law.
* * *
     Thank you Lord, that in spite of my sin, You paid the price on the cross so that I could live an abundant Christian life by faith. Help me to apply this truth to everything I do for my family, in my church and out in the world – that in everything I would trust in You.
* * *
     Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith.   Romans 3:27 NIV

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

MUTUAL ENCOURAGEMENT

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - ROMANS

ENCOURAGEMENT

Read Romans 1:1-19
     I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong– that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith Romans 1:11-12 NIV
* * *
     The church at Rome was established by Jewish believers who came to faith at Pentecost. (Acts 2) Paul wrote this letter to encourage and build them up in a full understanding of the Truth. He also encouraged them to build each other up through the abilities God had given them.
     Reports of the ongoing spread of the gospel brought tremendous encouragement to Paul. He said, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.” Romans 1:8 NIV
     Paul had suffered much for preaching that Jesus "was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead… "(1:4)   he said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (1:16)
* * *
     Dear Lord, grant me the ability to share my faith, realizing that it is not my ability to convince, but the power of the Holy Spirit that will bring men to faith. Help me to be a source of encouragement to other believers.
* * *
     For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." Romans 1:17 NIV

Monday, January 13, 2014

HOUSEBOUND BUT FREE

INTRODUCTION TO ROMANS
Read Acts 25:1-12; 28:16-31
     Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God- the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures…To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:1–2, 7 NIV
* * *
     The church at Rome grew out of the congregation of Jews who believed the gospel during the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem. At the time Paul wrote this letter to them he was in the city of Corinth and had not yet been to Rome. This inspired letter contains very concise doctrinal teaching for both the Jews and Gentiles who made up the church in Rome.
* * *
     Paul had been on three missionary journeys preaching the gospel to those who had not yet heard, as he believed was his primary calling. He wrote,I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another. I have written you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again…” (Romans 15:14-15a)  He then tells them that he is going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to him there, but he hopes that he will be able to come to Rome after he delivers a gift to the Jerusalem church.
     In Jerusalem, Paul was arrested for preaching the gospel and taken before the authorities, where he claimed his rights as a roman citizen and appealed to Caesar. Because of his appeal, he was transferred to Rome, where the authorities allowed him to live in his own rented house under a guard. 
     Three days after his arrival, Paul called together the leaders of the Jews. "From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe."   Acts 28:23b-24 NIV
     When the unbelieving Jews left him, rejecting the message, Paul said, "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!" (Acts 28:28) and so it was that the church in Rome grew through the ministry of a preacher confined to his house, yet free to carry out God's perfect plan.
* * *
     Thank you Lord for sending the message of the gospel to the Gentiles and ultimately to those of us today who have listened and believed. Thank you that you were able to use the Apostle Paul, even when he was confined to his house. Help me to realize that my circumstances need not hinder the ministry you have planned for me. 
* * *
     For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.  Acts 28:30-31 NIV

Thursday, January 2, 2014

FINISHING WITH JOY

FROM EPHESUS TO JERUSALEM
Read Acts 19:21–41; 20:17–38

     Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more.   Acts 20:37b–38a NKJV
* * *
     For the first three months in Ephesus, Paul preached in the Jewish synagogues, but when opposition to the gospel escalated he began to reason daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus. This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord. (19:9b–10 NIV)
     After three years of ministry in Ephesus, Paul was forced to leave. Later, when he arrived at Miletus, he sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church. When they arrived, he said,
    "And now compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me." (20:22–23 NIV)
* * *
     Paul traveled on three missionary journeys, planting churches everywhere. Then he would go on to prison and accomplish the greatest task of all – writing inspired letters that are still ministering to us today as part of the Word of God. Lord, help us to build carefully on the foundation others have laid and be faithful to pass on the message of Your grace.
* * *
     But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.    Acts 20:24 NKJV

Monday, December 9, 2013

LONELY QUIET PLACES


THE SHEPHERDS

Read Luke 2:8–20

      "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:10–11 NKJV
* * *
      Exhausted but happy, Joseph wraps his newborn babe in swaddling clothes and lays him at Mary's side. They are alone, in the city of their birth, but not their home. Only the sound of animals disturbs their quiet conversation. What will life be like with this child of God? Soon they will be able to consummate their marriage and build a family together.

      Meanwhile, out in the nearby fields, a lowly group of shepherds are in for a big surprise. Suddenly an angel appears in the night sky surrounded by the glory of the Lord. He announces, “There is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 NKJV) Lonely quiet places - this stable - those fields - where all of history would be changed. Even today we date our lives from this event.
* * *
      Lord, help me to value the lonely, quiet moments of my life. They are so few and yet so valuable. Speak to my heart this morning with words of peace. Like Mary, I truly desire to understand Your ways and ponder them in my heart.
* * *
      "All those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:18-19 NKJV

Monday, November 4, 2013

MINISTRY OF ENCOURAGEMENT

AQUILLA AND PRISCILLA

Read
Acts 18

     There he met a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had ordered all the Jews to leave Rome. Acts 18:2 NIV
* * *
     Leaving the city of Athens, Paul traveled to Corinth where he sought work. He met Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish believers who had recently been banished from Rome. As natives of Pontus, Aquila and Priscilla may have heard the gospel on the Day of Pentecost and fled to Rome during the dispersion of the church from Jerusalem.

     Now by God's sovereign design, He used them in the evangelistic ministry of Paul, traveling with him to Ephesus, where they stayed and worked with the Ephesian church. Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. When Priscilla and Aquila heard Apollos' dynamic preaching, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. (18:26)
* * *
     This faithful, mature couple set an example of patient endurance, hard work and fruitful ministry. Lord, I pray that our home will always be a welcoming place where other believers are encouraged and built up in the Word.
* * *
     When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. Acts 18:27 NIV

Friday, October 18, 2013

AN UNKNOWN GOD

Read Acts 17:22–34

    "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Acts 17:22b–23a NIV
* * *
     After fleeing to Athens, Paul found himself in a very different setting. He went to the marketplace daily, preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection to all who would listen. This was easily done since "all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas." (17:21)
     A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers disputed with him about Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Paul began his argument with what they knew, their altar to An Unknown God:
     "Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth…" (17:23b-24a)
     "From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…”(17:26-27)
* * *
     Paul was trained in the Jewish law, but the Spirit enabled him to present the gospel to secular philosophers in a way they could understand. Lord, give us this kind of discernment to be ready to give an answer to people we meet from different walks of life.
* * *
     "In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent." Acts 17:30 NIV

Monday, October 7, 2013

MORE NOBLE CHARACTER

THESSALONICA AND BEREA

Read
Acts 17:1–15

     Paul reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ."  Acts 17:2-3 NKJV
* * *
     For three Sabbaths Paul taught in the synagogue at Thessalonica before opposition began. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks, both men and women. These would become the founders of the Thessalonian church.
     But the Jewish leaders were jealous and hired some evil men to round up a mob and cause a riot. When word of this arrived, the believers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea.
     "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men." (Acts 17:11-12 NIV)
* * *
     Lord, help us to be like the Bereans, getting to know Your Word and teaching it accurately to our children, so that they can recognize the difference between truth and error and find Your perfect will for their lives
* * *
     When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. The brothers immediately sent Paul to the coast, but Silas and Timothy stayed at Berea.   Acts 17:13-14 NIV

Friday, September 20, 2013

SINGING IN PRISON

WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?

Read Acts 16:16–40


      At midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25 NKJV
* * *
      One day on the way to the place of prayer a demon possessed girl followed Paul and Silas shouting "These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved."
     Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the demon, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" (Acts 16:17-18) 
     This act of compassion for the girl resulted in a loss of profits for her owners, so they arrested and flogged Paul and Silas, threw them into prison, and fastened their feet in stocks.
     At midnight, as they were singing hymns, a violent earthquake caused the doors to open and everyone's chains to come loose. The frightened jailer cried out, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household." (Acts 16:30-31)
     At that very hour of the night, Paul shared the gospel with the jailer's family and they believed and were baptized. After they left the prison, Paul and Silas  went to the house of Lydia, the "seller of purple" who had opened her home to believers.
* * *
      Lord, Your chosen ones were in every place the apostles traveled: A city given over to demons, a cold dark prison, a women's prayer group by the river – all known to You from before the beginning of time. Thank You for including us in this vast multitude of believers.
* * *
      So they went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when they had seen the brethren, they encouraged them and departed. Acts 16:40 NKJV