Sunday, December 26, 2010

FLIGHT TO EGYPT

Read Matthew 2:1-15
     Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”    Matthew 2:13 NKJV
* * *
     Centuries before this, God instructed the family of Jacob (Israel) to settle in Egypt because of a great famine in the land. Now the family of Messiah, descendants of Jacob are forced to flee to Egypt once again. This time just until the death of Herod, but still a significant event in the light of prophesy.
     What was to both generations a time of sorrow and testing was actually the moving of the providence of God in bringing about the salvation that is so freely offered to us today. Jesus, the Son of God, was also a descendant of Jacob through his mother Mary, and the fulfillment of a promise made to Jacob. God's perfect plan was being worked out in spite of the acts of wicked sinful men.
* * *
     Lord, help us to trust you and your plan for our lives, in spite of the circumstances we face. You are the God of history and You have our future in Your hands. Help us to never forget that as we look with dismay at threatening world events shaping up around us.
* * *
     When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”   Matthew 2:14-15 NKJV

Friday, December 24, 2010

PROPHESY FULLFILLED

RACHAEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN

Read Matthew 2:1-23; Genesis 35:9-19; Jeremiah 31:15
* * *

     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 who died in childbirth. 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

Monday, December 20, 2010

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  predicted His coming. The priests and rabbis knew that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem – a prophesy they explained to Herod and to the Kings from the East.  We know that even the common people were taught this prophesy because later, after Jesus began His ministry, they 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 Christ was born in Bethlehem during the time of  the census though his home was in Nazareth. They 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. The wise kings sought to worship Him, but Herod caused the murders of thousands of children in his attempt to destroy Him.   
* * *
     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, my 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, December 16, 2010

REVEALER OF HEARTS

SIMEON
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 NIV
* * *
     Holding the newborn baby in his arms, Simeon spoke prophetic words: 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.
     Mary 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 accept Him as Messiah? No doubt, Mary prayed that her other children would receive 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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

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 has 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

Monday, December 6, 2010

TIDINGS OF JOY

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 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, November 29, 2010

BETHLEHEM

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 ruler of Rome declared that a census be taken, forcing everyone 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.
* * *
    Life is not always convenient or comfortable - sometimes  circumstances may be 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. (Romans 8:28)
* * *
    "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

Monday, November 22, 2010

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Corinthians

[13]

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, November 15, 2010

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Corinthians

[12]
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 and benefit from all God has given 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

Friday, November 12, 2010

A FAITHFUL WIFE AND MOTHER

     I recently read the book “Searching for Mrs. Oswald Chambers” by Martha Christian. I was interested in reading about this faithful woman who drew no attention to herself, but published her husband’s words for all of us to cherish long after they were both in Heaven.

     The author of this biography interviewed Biddy Chamber’s daughter in England for insights into her mother’s life. I was blessed and challenged by a personal poem that Biddy’s daughter wrote about her:

Not merely in the words you say

Not only in the deeds confessed

But in the most unconscious way

It is expressed.

Is it a beautific smile, a holy light upon the brow?

Oh no, I felt His presence while you laughed just now!

For me was not the truth you taught,

For you so clear, to me still dim

But when you came to me you brought

a sense of Him.

And from your eyes He beckoned me and

From your heart His love is shed

‘til I lose sight of you and see

The Christ instead.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

ONE HEART

[11]
A SPIRIT OF UNITY

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 is that we are responsible to edify and encourage our Christian brothers and sisters. Instead of insisting on our own point of view on questionable matters, we should “accept one another, then, 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 ask 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

Monday, November 1, 2010

A LIVING SACRIFICE

DO NOT BE CONCEITED

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 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
* * *
     I am so thankful that the gospel was presented to me along with your merciful gift of faith to believe it. I am praying for those precious people who seem unable to come to faith and receive your gift of salvation.
     Lord grant me wisdom as I share Your Word in a way they can understand.  Draw them by the influence of Your Holy 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, October 24, 2010

BEAUTIFUL FEET

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Romans

HOW SHALL THEY HEAR?

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, he said, 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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

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 letters from afar, 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. He also has a future plan for them which was in place before they were even 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

Thursday, October 14, 2010

THE SPIRIT WITHIN

[7]

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Romans

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. 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, October 6, 2010

THE INWARD STRUGGLE

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Romans

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

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NO LONGER SLAVES

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Romans

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 Jesus, 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)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

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 a lifetime 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. Abraham died without seeing the promised Messiah, but he is with Him now as the recipient of eternal life.
     In the fullness of time, God 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 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

JUSTIFIED BY FAITH

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 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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ENCOURAGEMENT

LETTERS TO THE CHURCHES - Romans

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 them 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)
     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) But in spite of this 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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

GOD'S PLAN MOVES FORWARD

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 from the nucleus of Jews who believed the gospel during the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem. At the time Paul wrote this letter to the Roman church, he was in 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.
* * *
     Paul had been on three missionary journeys preaching the gospel to those who had not yet heard which 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 he will be able to come to Rome after he delivers a gift to the believers there.
* * *
     Later in Jerusalem, Paul was arrested for preaching the gospel and taken before the authorities, where he claimed his rights as a Roman citizen. Because he appealed to Caesar, he was taken to Rome, where the authorities allowed him to live in his own rented house under a guard.
* * *
     Three days after his arrival, he 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.
* * *
     Lord, I praise You that your plan for reaching men and women is not limited to our efforts and vision for the future. What a wonderful thing that the apostle Paul, under house arrest, was still able to preach the gospel to all who came to him. Help me to remember that it is still Your Holy Spirit who draws men, women and children to You.
* * *
     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

Friday, August 20, 2010

FINISHING WITH JOY

[84]

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 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

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A FAITHFUL COUPLE

[83]

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

Sunday, August 1, 2010

SUMMER READING

     On March 31st we began reading through the Acts of the Apostles. These are the stories of the men and women who walked with Jesus and witnessed His resurrection. It is also the account of those who came to know Christ through the preaching of the Apostles and spread of the gospel by believers. 
     The most compelling real life story is that of Saul who was converted after Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus where he carried letters from the high priest  "so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem." (Acts 9:2)
     Renamed the apostle Paul, this chosen man went on to become a missionary to the Gentiles, plant churches and write the inspired letters that make up most of the New Testament.
     The book of Acts tells us about the founding of the early churches and the lives of ordinary men and women who trusted Christ.  We will be spending our summer reading through this amazing book and learning to trust Him for great things in our own lives.
     In the fall we will begin with the inspired letters (epistles) written to the churches which were planted during this time. I would like to encourage each of you to read through the book of Acts as we continue this study. I know that many of you will be vacationing during the summer, but all of the weekly posts will remain online and it will be easy to catch up with the readings you miss.
     In September we will begin reading the letters to the churches intended for all who would believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope."  (Rom 15:4  NKJV)
     I want to thank all of you who have been subscribers to THE GOD WHO SEES ME - A Devotional Prayer Journal since we began in February, 2008. For those of you who have just joined us, welcome to our journey through God's Word.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

AN UNKNOWN GOD

[82]

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 by referring to their monument 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 Holy Spirit enabled him to present the gospel to secular philosophers. Lord, I need this kind of discernment to be ready to give an answer to people I meet out in the marketplace of ideas.
* * *
"In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent."  Acts 17:30 NIV

Saturday, July 24, 2010

MORE NOBLE CHARACTER

[81]

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, July 16, 2010

SINGING IN PRISON

[80]

IMPRISONED IN PHILIPI

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. 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, said, "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 hour of the night, Paul spoke the Word of the Lord to the jailer's family and they believed and were baptized.
* * *
     Lord, Your chosen ones were in every place the apostles traveled: A city given over to demons, a cold dark prison, a prayer group by the river – all known to You 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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

COME HELP US

[79]

LYDIA OF PHILIPPI

Read Acts 16:6–15

     And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us."  Acts 16:9 NKJV
* * *
     Paul, Silas and Timothy attempted to enter Asia on their second missionary journey, but the Holy Spirit prevented them, closing the door on their plans. Paul saw a vision as he slept, of a Macedonian man pleading with him to come and help them.
     When the three men arrived in Philippi, Macedonia, they stayed for several days. On the Sabbath they went to the riverside where prayer was customarily made. What they found was not a man, as Paul saw in his vision, but a prayer meeting for women.
     One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message. (16:14 NIV) Lydia opened both her heart and her home for the apostles to stay, planting a church at Philippi and beginning what would become a lighthouse of the gospel in Europe.
* * *
     Lord, how glad I am that You value the ministry of women like Lydia, Mary, Martha, and so many others who helped to start the early churches. May our home be a welcoming lighthouse and may our influence be multiplied through our children.
* * *
     When she and her household were baptized, she begged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay."  Acts 16:15 NKJV

Thursday, July 1, 2010

DISAGREEMENTS

[78]

TIMOTHY

Read Acts 15:36-41; 1Timothy 1; 2 Timothy 1:5–7

     He came to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived, whose mother was a Jewess and a believer, but whose father was a Greek.    Acts 16:1 NIV
* * *
     Many of the believers in Antioch were taking on the responsibility of teaching and preaching, so Paul said to Barnabas, "Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing." (Acts 15:36)
     Barnabas insisted on taking John Mark along, but Paul sharply disagreed because Mark deserted them on the first journey. So Paul chose Silas, while Barnabas continued with Mark and they went their separate ways. God blessed the ministry of all these men.
* * *
     It must have been a heartbreaking loss for Paul to break fellowship with his friend, but soon after that, Paul met another man with the gift of encouragement, Timothy. Paul would later say of him, "Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel" (Philippians 2:22)
* * *
     Lord, sometimes we are saddened when believers disagree. But You are always faithful to provide the encouragement we need to keep going. Help us to trust in Your perfect provision.
* * *
     "For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church."    1 Corinthians 4:17 NKJV

Friday, June 25, 2010

A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES

[77]

TO THE JEWS FIRST

Read: Acts 13:13–52

'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" Acts 13:47 NIV
* * *
     Paul and Barnabas, led by the Holy Spirit, set out on a journey to Cyprus where they spoke in the synagogues. From there they traveled to Pisidian Antioch where the synagogue rulers sent word to them, saying, "Brothers, if you have a message of encouragement for the people, please speak." (13:15)
     Paul stood up and motioned with his hand, "Men of Israel and you Gentiles, who worship God, listen to me …We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus…" (13:16, 32-33a)
      The people, eager to hear more, invited the apostles to speak the next Sabbath when almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. (13:44-45)
      The desire for power in these men blinded them to the truth that their Messiah had come and offered them forgiveness of sin. By rejecting Him, they were giving up the gift of eternal life.
* * *
     Lord, I am so thankful that You offered that gift to us also, so that we could share the good news with others, both Jews and Gentiles.
* * *
     "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles."  Acts 13:46bActs 13:13-52

Thursday, June 17, 2010

UNEXPECTED ANSWER

[76]

KING HEROD'S PERSECUTION

Read Acts 12:1–24

     (King Herod) had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword… So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.  Acts 12:2, 5 NIV

* * *
     On the last night before Peter's trial, the disciples gathered at John Mark's home to pray for his deliverance. What they did not expect, was that their prayers would be miraculously answered that very night.
     A young servant girl, Rhoda, came to answer the door, and we are told that "when she recognized Peter's voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, "Peter is at the door!" "You're out of your mind," they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, "It must be his angel." (12:14–15)
     While they tried to process what was happening, "Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished." (12:16)
* * *
     Lord, I wonder how many times I have prayed without really expecting an answer. It is a comfort to me that You worked this miracle, not because of the strength of their faith, but on the basis of Your Almighty power in answer to earnest prayer.
* * *
     …Herod, (who had murdered James) wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.   Acts 12:21–23 NIV

Thursday, June 10, 2010

SON OF ENCOURAGEMENT

[75]

BARNABAS

Read Acts 11:19–30, 12:24–13:3

     They sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.   Acts 11:22-23 NIV
* * *
     Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, received a new Christian name from the apostles. They called him Barnabas, which means "Son of Encouragement." He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord through his ministry. (11:24) He went to Tarsus to find Saul, and brought him to Antioch, where the two of them ministered for a year. In later years Saul, also called Paul, would write of Barnabas and his cousin John Mark, "They have proved to be a comfort to me." (Colossians 4:11)

     Barnabas possessed the gifts of encouragement and discernment. He was quick to recognize the Spirit of the Lord in a new believer and slow to write him off when he failed. His cousin John Mark ran away during a time of persecution, but later rejoined Barnabas in powerful ministry.
* * *
     Lord, help me to be an encourager like Barnabas. Grant me the wisdom to teach our children how to encourage each other as well. As with Barnabas, fill us with the Holy Spirit and faith so that we can encourage other Christians to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. (11:23-24)
* * *
     The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Acts 11:26 NIV

Friday, June 4, 2010

WHAT GOD HAS CLEANSED

[74]

PETER AND CORNELIUS

Read Acts 11:1–18

     But the voice answered me again from heaven, 'What God has cleansed you must not call common.' Acts 11:9 NKJV
* * *
     Up to this time, the apostles preached primarily to the Jewish people. Even at Pentecost, the people from various nations were professing Jews. To come to God, Peter believed a person must become a Jew and follow the Jewish laws, abstaining from unclean foods.
     But God told Peter that he was going to do a new thing through him. He directed him to an Italian centurion named Cornelius whose heart was prepared to hear the gospel. Today he and his household were going to hear the good news, believe it, and receive the Holy Spirit; bringing Gentiles into the New Testament church.
* * *
     Dear heavenly Father, help me to remember that before I ever speak to someone about Christ, You have already paved the way. You said, "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,"(John 6:44 NKJV) I pray for the drawing of the Holy Spirit in the lives of our children and grandchildren. Speak to their hearts, so that our words will fall on willing ears.
* * *
     If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?"      Acts 11:17 NKJV

Friday, May 28, 2010

THE EARLY CHURCH - Persecutor forgiven

THE MAN WHO RAISED HAVOC

Read: Acts 9:23–31

     All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name?" Acts 9:21 NIV
* * *
     After Saul's conversion, and recovery from blindness, he began to preach openly, that "Jesus is the Son of God." Believers were afraid of him, and Jews wanted to kill him; so his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall. (9:25)
     From there he traveled back to Jerusalem to join with the believers, but they didn't think he was sincere. With the help of Barnabas, he told his story to the apostles, and was accepted into the church. For a time he spoke boldly to the Jews about his newfound faith, but persecution began again, and Saul now called Paul, left for Tarsus.
* * *
     Lord, I can just imagine how those early Christians must have felt. Saul was the one who stood by while Stephen was martyred. He was the one who dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Not only did they need to believe him, they also had to forgive him. Thank You for forgiving me, and help me to learn to forgive others who have "caused havoc in the church."
* * *
     Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit; it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord. Acts 9:31 NIV

Saturday, May 22, 2010

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES - A SPECIAL APPOINTMENT

PHILIP AND THE ETHIOPIAN
     Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, "Go south to the road-the desert road-that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." Acts 8:26 NIV
* * *
     God had a special appointment for Philip on a desert road leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. Though he didn't know it, he was to meet with the chief treasurer for Queen Candace of Ethiopia. This man was sitting in his chariot reading aloud from the book of Isaiah the prophet. (Isaiah 53:7-8)
     Philip approached and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" "How can I," he said, "unless someone explains it to me? …who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" (Acts 8:30b-31a, 34b)
     The passage read, "He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice…For his life was taken from the earth." (Acts 8:32–33 NIV) Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. (8:35)
* * *
     Philip didn't know why he was told to go to the desert, but God had a specific reason for sending him there. Lord, when I am worried, help me to trust Your leading for our family, knowing that You have a purpose for our lives, and perhaps that purpose will be to influence and encourage other people along the way.
* * *
     Then…Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing.   Acts 8:38-39 NIV

Friday, May 14, 2010

WHO ARE YOU LORD?

[71]

SAUL

Read Acts 8:1–3; 9:1–22
     Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Acts 8:2-3 NIV
* * *
     The day that Stephen was martyred, a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem. The young man, Saul, asked for official approval to go to Damascus, and arrest any who belonged to "the Way," whether men or women. (9:2)
     Saul did this believing that he had God's approval as well. Later he would say, "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers." (Galatians1:14) On his way to Damascus, this fiery zealous young man had a massive change of heart. He met Jesus who said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" His immediate response was, "Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 9:4–5)
* * *
     Dear Jesus, You are the One who knows men's hearts. Help me to believe that even those who seem to oppose the gospel may have a heart that is searching, and when You speak to them, they will recognize Your voice, because they are Your chosen ones.
* * *
     "God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles… " Galatians 1:15-16a NIV

Friday, May 7, 2010

INFLUENCE THROUGH SACRIFICE

[70]

STEPHEN MARTYRED

Read Acts Chapters 6 ─ 7


     These men began to argue with Stephen, but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. Acts 6:9b–10 NIV
* * *
     The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith. This was a major threat to the powers in control, so not finding anything with which to accuse Stephen, they lied about him and brought him before the Sanhedrin.
     Amazingly, in the face of death, Stephen began by giving a complete overview of Israel's history – ending with, "Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous one. And now you have betrayed and murdered him…" (7:52 NIV)
* * *
     Stephen was chosen by the church to be a deacon. His job was distributing food among the widows, but he also faithfully continued to teach and preach about Jesus Christ. God had a particular Pharisee for Stephen to influence and we are told that "the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul." (7:58 NIV) Later this man would be converted and become the Apostle to the Gentiles, renamed Paul, who would write letters from prison which are now included in Holy Scripture.
* * *
     Lord, we never know what You will accomplish through those we influence, especially our children. Help us to be faithful as we share the good news of the gospel in our day.
* * *
     While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:59-60 NIV

Sunday, May 2, 2010

WE MUST OBEY GOD

[69]
THE APOSTLES IMPRISONED

Read Acts 5:12–32

     Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him . . . laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.  Acts 5:17-18 NKJV
* * *
     Through the preaching of Spirit-filled apostles, "more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number." (5:14 NIV) The result was that the High Priest and other Sadducees were filled with jealousy, and had them arrested.
     After a miraculous escape from prison, the apostles were again taken to the High Priest who said, "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,…yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching…" Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men! (5:28-29 NIV)
     One of the most convincing proofs of the power of the Holy Spirit was the courage of these ordinary uneducated men. But with God's help, they became extraordinary witnesses for the kingdom.
* * *
     Lord, I pray that You will give this ordinary woman an extraordinary filling of Your Spirit today. Help me to keep eternal values in view as I do my daily tasks, and try to love my family and other people as You love me.
* * *
     Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.  Acts 5:42 NIV

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A SURE FOUNDATION

[68]

JESUS THE CORNERSTONE
Read: Read Acts 4:1–22

     This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Acts 4:11 NKJV
* * *
     The religious leaders were in a dilemma: A man had been healed and Peter and John insisted that the healing was in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the One they had crucified.
     The apostles claimed that Jesus was a fulfillment of Isaiah's prophesy: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed." (Isaiah 28:16 NIV) But this same Jesus had become to them "…A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense." (Isaiah 8:14 NKJV)
* * *
     They stumbled because they refused to receive the Lord as Savior, in spite of His miracles and fulfillment of prophesy. But God has something better in mind for those of us who have received Him:
     "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, And to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy," (Jude 24 NKJV) to Him be the glory! Thank You Lord Jesus!
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     'Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 NKJV

Friday, April 23, 2010

IN THE NAME OF JESUS

[67]

A LAME MAN HEALED

Read Acts 3

        Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Acts 3:6 NIV
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     After Pentecost the Apostles were granted the gift of healing that Jesus had promised they would have after He went to the Father. When this man began to walk and praise God, the people were astonished because they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. (3:10) Peter said, “Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” (3:12b)
     This was a moment when Peter and John could have taken credit, but instead Peter began to preach a disturbing message: He proclaimed to them, “you killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this…” (3:15)
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     Lord, I pray that whatever ministry you accomplish through my life, that I will always give glory to You. Help me to be sensitive to the kind of message that will be received, speaking boldly or gently as the occasion requires. You have promised to give the wisdom I need. Thank You, Lord.
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     By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. (Acts 3:16 NIV)