Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas reflections

Revelation 15-18

My wife and I went hunting several days but didn't get anything.  As we were sitting in the blind on the third day, we held hands, bowed our heads, and prayed out loud that the Lord would provide a buck for us to have food.  Within half an hour, out walked a buck, and the Lord blessed us with 50 pounds of venison.  Considering the hunting license, ammunition, and so forth, it was about a dollar per pound.

This past Sunday, we went to church with my wife's family, and the service was very nice.  We celebrated communion together as a family, which was meaningful. The pastor preached on pursuing righteousness.  He made the point that during this life, God is molding us into the image of Christ, based on Romans 8:29.  It won't happen instantaneously at the end of my life, it happens consistently day-in, day-out.  He encouraged us, according to 1 Timothy 4:7 "... discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness", to grow in the practice of 10 spiritual disciplines:
  1. Bible Intake (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
    Study? Pondering? Memorization? When? Where?
  2. Prayer (Col. 4:2)
    When? Where? How?
  3. Worship (Rev. 5:13)
    Daily? Lifestyle? Corporate?
  4. Evangelism (Acts 1:8)
  5. Service (John 13:17)
    Exercise of spiritual gifts? How?
  6. Stewardship
    Time? Money?
  7. Fasting
    Private? Congregational?
  8. Solitude (Luke 4:42)
    Frequency? Duration?
  9. Learning (Mark 12:30)
    When? What?
  10. Fellowship/Community
    Is coming together with the Body of Christ a privilege or a convenience?
As I reflect on this list, I am challenged with several of these points.  The Lord has grown in me the discipline of reading the Scripture every day, but I need to ponder and meditate so that the Scriptures strengthen my spirit and soak into my soul. 

I need considerable improvement in my prayer life.  I need structure, and I need to pray consistently and persistently.  With respect to worship, I need to incorporate praise into my daily routine.  I want to consciously worship God with my attitude (uh-oh) and actions, all day, every day. 

Frankly, I need to be more intentional in evangelism with my friends and coworkers.  I need to be careful about what I say and how I act so that I am always reflecting the person of Christ around them. 

Over the course of this past year, I have felt confirmation from respected Brothers and Sisters that the Holy Spirit has given me gifts of teaching and encouragement, and I need to grow more in the Spirit-led exercise of these gifts, to build the Body of Christ.

Stewardship is tough.  That's why we have a bunch of obese Americans buried in credit card debt.  It is easy to intake calories and easy to spend money on credit.  I know it seems cliche, but I do need to eat a healthier diet, and I need to practice consistent physical exercise.  My wife and I tithe, and we support ministries beyond the tithe, but I think we need to give more money to support the Kingdom of Christ around the world, especially Voice of the Martyrs.  With respect to time, I need to be diligent about getting enough rest (which includes, but is not limited to sleep).

I have also grown in the practice of fasting this past year, but I still don't understand it.  But I think as I continue to avail myself to the Holy Spirit through fasting, He will continue to guide me and grow me, so I need to consider how I may grow in fasting.

Solitude is something that is difficult in our society.  Recently I have realized that my wife and I both very much enjoy the outdoors, but we rarely get out.  I think solitude could be easily incorporated into getting outside and enjoying the Lord's creation.

I have several books on various topics that I read hit-or-miss.  While I don't want to get side-tracked with good-intentions, I do think I could incorporate a few minutes of learning-reading into my daily routine.  I think this would be helpful.

I think we Americans significantly under appreciate community and fellowship, mostly from our emphasis on individuality and personal freedoms.  I think we need to get together more often, discuss tough subjects more transparently, and our community definitely needs to celebrate communion more often.

Heavenly Father, by your grace, please lead me to grow more rapidly into the image of Christ this upcoming year.  Please help me with my attitude; I need the mind and heart of Christ!  I am so selfish and proud; please deliver me and humble me.  Lord, I praise you because you are able to defeat the enemy, and you will defeat the enemy!  I know this because of the person and work of Christ Jesus, in whose name I pray. Amen.

Friday, December 19, 2008

objectives and hope

1 Peter 2:13-5:14, Jude 1:1-16

4:7The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. 8Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. 9Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. 11If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

5:10And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, I sense the imminence of Christ's return, and I pray that I will live a holy and righteous life that honors you and leads others to know you, love you, and express you.  I trust that it is your good will and pleasure to do so.  May I humbly submit to your will.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

live and teach righteously

Titus 1-3, 1 Peter 1:1-2:12

It is my goal to live righteously - to demonstrate the lifestyle of an elder or an overseer:

Titus 1:6 An elder must be blameless, the husband of but one wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. 7Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

I have been teaching a Bible study for almost a year, and these verses are very challenging to me:

Titus 2:1You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. 2Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. ... 6Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. 7In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness 8and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. ... 11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. 15These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

Heavenly Father, I know that to try to live righteously from my flesh is vain, and it would only lead to more pride and hypocrisy.  So, Lord, would you please kill the flesh in me and raise up the righteousness of Jesus Christ in me.  I pray that you will deliver me from heresy and hypocrisy and empower me by your Holy Spirit to live rightly before you and men and teach others to follow the Way.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

orthodoxy and orthopraxy

1 Timothy 3-6

A clarification of the identification and roles of leaders in the church:
  • Bishops (επισκοπης): pastors or overseers of multiple pastors (1 Tim. 3:1)
  • Elders (πρεσβυτερος): "directors of the affairs of the church" who may also serve as preachers or teachers (1 Tim. 5:17)
  • Deacons (διακονος): servants (Acts 6:1-6, 1 Tim. 3:8)
Why do we pray before we eat, and why is it acceptable for us to eat meat?

4:1The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. 2Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. 3They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. 4For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.

Should we exercise?  Yes, both physically and spiritually:

4:7Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

What should I believe, and how should I live?

4:9This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance 10(and for this we labor and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe. 11Command and teach these things. 12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. 13Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

What about money? (This is definitely a relevant question in the USA.)

6:3If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. 6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. ... 17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

How should I live, and what should I believe?

6:11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, as you have been merciful to me, please show me much more mercy and grace.  Dear God, please help me believe and live your commands!  Please write them on my heart.  Please make your Truth practical in me.  Make me a man who is worthy of your name; that is, make me into the image of Jesus Christ.  May you receive all of the glory and honor, and may you be blessed and pleased with my life.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior of all men.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

humility and purpose

Philippians 3:1-4:23, 1 Timothy 1:1-2:15

These are some of my favorite verses in the whole Bible:

Phil. 3:7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

We have to look forward to the future glory!  It is so critical that we keep our eyes off of the temporary and on the eternal!

Phil. 3:12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Practically, how do I do that?

Phil. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Who am I, and what is my purpose?

1 Tim. 1:12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Heavenly Father, please give me focus and clarity into the spiritual reality. May I rejoice in your identity, and I thank you for the promise that you are near.  Please set my mind on the Spirit and the eternal.  I pray that I will have a proper, humble perspective of myself, and I ask you to use me to build up your kingdom for your glory.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Monday, December 15, 2008

walk worthy

Philemon 1:1-25, Philippians 1:1-2:30

As I've been reading these Pauline Epistles, I've noticed a common catch-phrase:

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

Colossians 1:10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

Philippians 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel 28without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God.

Heavenly Father, I pray that you will forge me into a man that walks worthy of your grace.  Lord, I recognize that this is impossible apart from the Holy Spirit empowering my spirit.  Lord, may I fellowship with you closely, and may you be honored by the way I live.  I pray that you will correct me where I am wrong, and mold me more into the image of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, December 12, 2008

big picture

Acts 28:11-31, Ephesians 1-3

Basically, the Roman government provided for Paul's trip to Rome, and he had the opportunity to present the Gospel all over the continent.

Ephesians is so dense!  I am impressed by two big-picture concepts from the first three chapters of Ephesians:
  1. The goal is to bring everything under the Lordship of Christ.  (Eph. 1: 9-10, 22)
  2. Gentiles are a part of God's redemptive plan - included in His family with the Jews, reconciled in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, as I consider the birth of Christ this Christmas, may I be conscious of your good pleasure, good will, and good plan brought to completion in the miraculous divine-human person of Christ.  I pray that I will be amazed by your kindness and love to bring me, a Gentile, into your family.  I pray that you will use me to build up the Church, the body of Christ, and the temple building of your presence.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Acts 25:23-28:10

Paul had the opportunity to share his testimony before a bunch of really important people, and he simply shared how Jesus became his Savior and Lord (26:4-23).  He told them who he was before Christ, his faith experience, and then his life after that point.  I really appreciate his boldness and simplicity.  It doesn't have to be complicated, just genuine.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the example of the Apostle Paul.  Please give me boldness to genuinely share the truth of Jesus Christ.  Lord, please use me in the relationships that you've given me to bring glory to your name.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Acts 23:12-25:22

I am impressed with how efficiently Satan can use religion as an instrument/motivator to incite wickedness:

23:12The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14They went to the chief priests and elders and said, "We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here."

These guys were supposed to know God better than anybody else!

Heavenly Father, please don't let me live a life of hypocrisy and religion.  O Lord, please rescue me from complacency, religion, and idolatry - enemies of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Lord, please fill me fresh with your Spirit, and anoint me to do your will. Father, I pray that I will genuinely seek to know you and love you.  Please make me aware of Satan's schemes against me so that I will not naively participate in wickedness in the pretense of religion.  O Lord, please deliver me from my bad doctrine and bad religion that I am not even aware of.  Lord, please shine your light on me and lead me to walk more closely with you.  I pray that my life will demonstrate the Lordship of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

suffering and bigotry

Acts 21:1-23:11

Paul knew that it was God's will for him to return to Jerusalem, and he knew that it was going to involve trouble.  Be he was resolved to obey God in faith:

21:10After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, "The Holy Spirit says, 'In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.' " 12When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13Then Paul answered, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus." 14When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, "The Lord's will be done."

Indeed, he did suffer for the name of Christ:

21:30The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. 31While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.

But in the midst of that suffering, he had opportunity to tell the people his personal story of how Christ intervened in his life and how he repented to follow Christ.  I am appalled at the bigotry of the Jews!  I am afraid that even some people in the church today think that they are somehow better than unbelievers.  They, like the Jews listening to Paul, totally miss the truth that God loves all humans, that we are all created in His image, and that all of us have sinned and are in need of Salvation:

22:21"Then the Lord said to me, 'Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.' "  22The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, "Rid the earth of him! He's not fit to live!"

I had a good conversation with my Brother JJ last night, and we talked about the suffering of dedicated saints and our own apathy and complacency.  I think that suffering is the cure for apathy.  I told him about a sermon that I heard a while ago - the pastor was preaching about suffering (Job).  The pastor said that it is not really the answer to the question "Why?" that we seek, it is the presence of God in the midst of suffering that ultimately satisfies the longing of our hearts.  We want to experience the truth that Jesus is Emmanuel:

23:10The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks. 11The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome."

Heavenly Father, I want to seek you with all my heart.  Lord, I want to live out the plan you have for my life according to your good, pleasing, and perfect will.  Lord, please shine your light on me, and use me to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those around me.  Lord, please turn my heart toward you.  Father, please deliver me from apathy, arrogance, and complacency.  O God, be near!  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Romans 15:1-16:27, Acts 20:7-38

In my opinion, the following verses suggest that we should be celebrating the Lord's Supper more frequently than we currently practice:

Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. ...


Romans 15:5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. ... 13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 20:32 "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and grace.  Lord, I pray that you will give me endurance and encouragement.  Lord, please give me and my wife a spirit of unity; please give our Bible study group a spirit of unity; please give our congregation a spirit of unity; and please give the whole Church a spirit of unity so that we may have one heart and mouth to glorify you.  Please fill us with your joy and peace, especially this Christmas season.  May we overflow with the hope of Christ and eternal life, by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I pray that we would be committed to you and the Word of your grace; please build us up into your Kingdom.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

sovereignty and election

Romans 8:18-11:10

8:28And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

9:10Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. 11Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12not by works but by him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated." 14What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. 19One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

It is comforting to know that God is in control, but it is impossible to understand God's decisions - especially election.  We must be driven to humility when we consider the grace and mercy He has shown us.  And while it may seem (from the verses above) that God already has it all planned out like we are all robots, we must remember the following verses:

10:6But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Christ down) 7"or 'Who will descend into the deep?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9That 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. 10For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  14How, 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? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"

Heavenly Father, I praise you because you know everything, and you are able to perfectly plan and accomplish your will.  Lord, thank you for showing me mercy and grace.  I pray that I will share the Gospel of Grace with everyone so that they may, by faith, experience your mercy.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Romans 5:1-8:17

My cousin Neill is a pastor, and Romans 5:12-21 is one of his favorite passages because of the simultaneous simplicity and profundity: sinful nature and death infected humanity by one man's disobedience, but grace, righteousness, and life have entered by the Second Man's faithful and obedient death.

5:17For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

I also especially appreciated these verses this morning:

6:1What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. ... 11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. 14For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.

Unfortunately, there is a great battle within me (as Paul describes in chapter 7) that prevents me from simply living out the verses above. Paul later explains the key to experiencing the life of Christ:

8:1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. ... 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus Christ who brings life to a dying world. Lord, please help me set my mind on the Spirit so that I may be your slave of righteousness and experience your life and peace. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Romans 2-4

3:20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. 21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

4:16Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. ... 23The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

It is clear that we are right with God by faith, yet we make it complicated with our religious systems.

Herb's bus arrived at the same stop just a few seconds after mine, and he told me that he is now in Leviticus.  He made a great statement about the content, "It's a good thing Jesus showed up, because we would have a really messy religion - there was blood everywhere!"  True.  The wrath of God would have my blood on the ground were it not for Christ.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the blood of Christ which was shed once and for all, and for me.  I pray that I will be a man of the Gospel of Christ.  May I demonstrate simple faith and obedience.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of my faith.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

life objective

2 Corinthians 11:16-13:14, Romans 1

In Christ's prayer in John 17, He said,

"3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."

Paul summarized the Gospel and our objective in life in his greeting to the Romans:

1:1Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. 5Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith.

Paul encouraged the Corinthians to consider whether they have true faith:

13:5Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

If you are in the faith, then the Holy Spirit is sanctifying you, and your life is demonstrating Christ's Lordship.

I need to be more conscious of the Holy Spirit and allowing God to work through me.  I think that one of the most important battlegrounds between the Spirit and the flesh in my life is with my conversations with people.

Heavenly Father, I want to experience the eternal life of knowing and experiencing you.  Lord Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice and resurrection which reconciles me to God.  I pray that I will live a life of faith in obedience to the Holy Spirit.  Please give me love, joy, and peace, and please kill my arrogance.  Lord, please use me to bring glory to the Name of Jesus Christ, in which I pray.  Amen.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


2 Corinthians 7:1-11:15

7:1Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

Financial giving has been on my mind recently.  Our congregation had our annual giving commitment and harvest offering service not too long ago, and I have realized two great tragedies:
  1. our congregation carries an enormous financial debt for the facilities we are using, which (according to my simple calculations) we could be using to support over 1000 children through Compassion International or local missionaries through Gospel for Asia.
  2. the majority of our congregation apparently does not tithe or give offerings beyond the tithe (else, we would not be in the aforementioned predicament).
It's amazing how the Lord has blessed the average US citizen with more discretionary income that the majority of the world, yet we suffer from so much financial debt.  It's also amazing to me that it's a social taboo to talk about money and how we should spend it, because it's "my" money.  It's also amazing to me that Christians under Grace could give less than a Jew under the Law.  Well, Paul had a few things to say about giving:

8:9For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 10And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. 12For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.  13Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, 15as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little."

9:6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9As it is written: "He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever." 10Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

I am becoming more and more convinced that the American Dream is the antithesis of Christianity.  We should give so much that it hurts because that's how much Christ gave and because there are Believers around the world who are hurting because we are not giving as we should.

Heavenly Father, thank you for blessing me so richly.  O Father, I pray that you will empower me to give sacrificially, according to the Holy Spirit's work of Christ's Grace in my heart.  Lord, I pray that you will show me and my wife how to give and that we will lead others to give sacrificially.  I pray that the Church will be characterized by it's sacrificial giving.  May you be honored, and may people be helped practically and spiritually with the gifts that you are giving through us.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who gave His life on the Cross.  Amen.

Monday, December 1, 2008

death of me

2 Corinthians 2:5-6:18

Last week one of the Brothers that I meet with regularly challenged me to mutual encouragement with God's promises.  Here's another promise that we must cling to:

3:18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

I've recently been praying that the Lord would give me humility.  Well, I had several conversations this weekend through which He revealed more of my arrogance to me.  It's one of those things that is only remedied by crucifixion, which is a painful process.

4:5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness,"made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.

Heavenly Father, please help me.  I am in desperate need of your saving grace, every day because I am such a knucklehead.  Lord, please deliver me from my selfish pride.  I pray that you will kill this flesh and raise up the Life of Jesus Christ in me.  O Lord, please renew a right spirit within me.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Praise the Lord!

1 Corinthians 5:1-7:40

I submitted the first draft of my dissertation proposal last night!  Woohooo!  I could definitely tell that people were praying for me because the Lord really helped me a lot!

I'm headed back to the flatlands for Thanksgiving, and as I sit in the airport, I realize how blessed I am and what a trouble-free life I live.

Heavenly Father, I pray that my life will glorify you.  I pray that I will experience true Thanksgiving, most especially for the Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation He offers.  I pray that I will make profitable gain for the Kingdom with the blessings you have given.  I pray that your name will be praised.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


1 Corinthians 1:1-4:21

1:17For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. ...  20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. ... 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

2:2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.

4:For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10We are fools for Christ ... 11To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

Does that sound like my life?  Or, does my life sound like, "I don't want to be a freak, so I'll just blend in and when they see that I'm just like them, they'll want what's different about me."

Heavenly Father, I pray that you will lead me away from esteeming the wisdom of the world.  Lord, please help me focus on Christ, who is Wisdom.  Father, please make me a fool to this world.  I pray that I will preach the Gospel of Christ purely.  Lord, I pray that you will live through me so that I will bless when cursed, endure persecution, and show mercy when offended.  May I be crucified to this world, and may the life of Christ be resurrected in me.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Monday, November 24, 2008


2 Thessalonians 2:1-3:18, Acts 18:18-19:41

I am trying to finish the first draft of my dissertation proposal by tomorrow evening, so I'm a little stressed right now.  I keep praying, "Lord Jesus, please help me."  I know that He is helping me, but I still feel tired, frazzled, and stressed.  I know that I have been very productive this past week, and I know that it is because people are praying for me and God is answering their prayers.

Here are some encouraging verses (manna) that I need to chew on today:

2:16May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.

3:5May the Lord direct your hearts into God's love and Christ's perseverance. ... 16Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. ... 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

I am also reminded of the following passage:

Phil. 4:6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your Holy Word that is the manna of Jesus Christ.  Thank you for encouraging me and lifting me up on the eternal rock of your Word.  Thank you for the beautiful morning.  Thank you for good health and a place to live.  Thank you for giving me a reliable job and a great education.  Thank you letting me grow up in a wonderful family that loves me.  Thank you for my sweet wife who loves and respects me.  Thank you for friends who care about me.  Thank you for this intellectual challenge that you have provided.  Thank you for the professional desires that you have placed within me.  Thank you for the gifts and talents that you have blessed me with so that I can bless you and other people.  Thank you for a good adviser and office mate who are very helpful.  Thank you for challenges that force me to rely on you and not on myself.  Lord, please help me honor you with the way I live.  I pray that I will demonstrate a righteous balance between working diligently towards my responsibilities and knowing my limits.  Lord, please keep me pure in mind and devoted to you.  I pray that my life will be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to you.  I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice.  Amen.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Acts 15:1-16:40

Religious people naturally add restrictions, caveats, corollaries, and other rules and regulations to grace.  It is amazing how fast I can slip into the routine of religion.  It's so easy - I just stop investing, and the natural consequence is mindless routine.  The truth is, Grace is Grace.  It comes through Faith in Jesus Christ.

15:5Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." ... 7After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: ... 11No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

16:13On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there.
14One 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.

Paul and Silas's experience in the prison challenges me to be singing praises to God all of the time.  I doubt they spontaneously began singing when they were in the prison; I think it was a regular practice for them, so it didn't matter if they were locked up in the stocks inside a jail cell - they simply praised God.  This is possible because God never changes - He is always good.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the grace you have shown me through Jesus Christ.  Lord, I pray that you will put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.  Lord, as you opened up Lydia's heart, I pray that you will open up my heart to trust you more.  I also pray that you will open the hearts of the people I come in contact with that I will be bold in sharing the Gospel, and that the joy of my salvation will be evidence of your reality.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Galatians 4:8-6:18

Freedom is through the person and work of Jesus Christ, by the power of the Spirit!  When set our mind on the Spirit (Romans 8), the Holy Spirit leads our spirit to obey the law of zoe life.

5:1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. ... 16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. ...  22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

6:8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. ... 14May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ... 18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

My goal is to be a Spirit-spirit man, as was the Lord Jesus Christ.  I can in no way crucify my self, but by drawing near to Christ through His Holy Spirit, the crucifixion of Christ is effective on my own flesh.

Heavenly Father, please fill me with your Holy Spirit and anoint me to do your will.  I pray that I will set my mind on the Spirit and allow you to produce in me the fruit of your life.  Please make me a man after your own heart, to be completely satisfied in you.  I ask for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ to be with my spirit.  May I sow diligently to please the Spirit, and may I never boast of my self but only the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Lord, please deliver me from the enemy, this world, and my own self.  May I enjoy and share the freedom that comes from your life, love, and light.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

the poor

Galatians 1:1-4:7

As Paul and Peter were leaving to go preach the Gospel to the Gentiles and the Jews, respectively,

2:10 All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

I think many churches today have lost this perspective.  Our pastor said it this past Sunday morning, "Social programs from the government would cease to exist if the Church would do what we were supposed to be doing."  (i.e., helping orphans, widows, and foreigners)

What proportion of the average evangelical church budget is spent on helping the poor?  Tragically, I think many churches have shifted to an inward focus instead of a Great Commission focus, which necessarily involves getting outside your comfort zone.  Truth is, I don't do much in the way of helping the poor.

Heavenly Father, your heart is full of love for humanity.  You are moved with compassion towards all of the people that are poor and hurting.  Lord, will you please fill me with your love and compassion, and will you please use me to give physical and spiritual aid to the orphan, widow, and foreigner?  I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, who cares for the hurting.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

encouraging conversation

Acts 13:1-14:28

Paul and Barnabas went traveling around:
  1. filled with the Holy Spirit
  2. fasting and praying
  3. preaching the Gospel
  4. healing folks
What a simple and yet powerful challenge to live a substantial life!

I'm a long way from there, but by God's grace, He is growing me into that lifestyle.  Some time ago I sat next to a guy (Herb) on the bus, and he engaged me in conversation about the Bible.  Several times since then, I've had the chance to have spiritual discussion (and share the Gospel) as we walked from the bus stop to our offices, which are in adjacent buildings.  I don't see him as often because I ride a different bus route, but this morning I caught the bus that he was on.  Would you believe it?  He was reading a Bible on the bus!  He told me as we were walking to our offices that he found a Men's Devotional NIV Bible at Halfprice books, and he's simply reading through it; he just finished Genesis!  Hooray!  We had a great conversation about Joseph being a picture of Christ, and I gave him a heads up about some symbols of Christ and our Christian experience in the book of Exodus.  I pray that the Lord will draw his heart to Him and give him understanding!

Heavenly Father, thank you for the encouraging conversation this morning.  I praise you for your goodness and love, and I thank you for involving me in the process.  May I be more willing to cooperate with your redemptive and regenerative plan.  I pray that you will fill Herb with your love, light, and life!  Please open up the Scriptures to come alive inside him.  Lord, may I be filled with your Holy Spirit today.  I pray that you will teach me how to fast and pray.  Please give me opportunities and boldness to preach the Gospel, and I pray that you will heal people through my obedience to you.  Please grow your Church to be the hands and feet of Christ.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Precious Savior.  Amen.

Monday, November 17, 2008


James 4:1-5:20, Acts 11:19-12:25

These are some of my favorite verses:

James 4:4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? 6But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
   "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble."
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

I did a little digging and found that the book of James was probably written by James the half-brother of Christ.

Yesterday in our Bible study, we talked about suffering for the name of Jesus Christ (John 12:23-33 and 1 Peter 4).  This morning, I was impressed with how the Lord chose to allow James, the brother of John, to die by the sword for his faith in Christ, yet God delivered Peter from death (Acts 12).

Heavenly Father, I pray that you will use me as you please.  God, I pray that I will hate this evil world and love you.  I pray that my spirit will be in harmony with your Holy Spirit.  Please give me grace; I can't do anything on my own.  Lord, please help me humble myself before you and submit to your will.  Show me how to resist the devil.  I pray that you will teach me how to draw near to you.  Father, please draw near to me.  Lord, please purify me and wash me with your Word.  I am nothing apart from you, please fill me with your ZOE life.  May I not be double-minded; please give me discernment.  I pray this according to your Word and in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Friday, November 14, 2008

ordination and baptism

Acts 7:54-9:31

I discovered a while ago that the religious bureaucracy of the denomination that my congregation is a part of requires that someone may be baptized only by an "ordained minister."  I just read about ordination of deacons yesterday (Acts 6:1-6), so I'm not knocking the concept of ordination itself, but I think the following two passages of Scripture challenge the validity of the aforementioned baptismal requirement.

Matthew 28:18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Who was Jesus addressing?  The Apostles.  So, some might argue that since Jesus gave this command to the Church leaders, then church leaders should be the ones to baptize.  But, I think that's dangerous because here baptism is sandwiched between "making disciples of all nations" and "teaching them to obey".  So, if you're going to reserve baptism only for the spiritual elite, then you have to take evangelism and discipleship with it.  If, however, Jesus gave the Great Commission to all believers, then shouldn't all believers have, under authority of Christ, the privilege and responsibility of baptizing?

Acts 8:34 The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.  36As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" 38And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.

Who was Philip?  He was one of the seven original deacons.  What were the seven original deacons ordained to do?  The were distributing food daily to widows.  They were SERVING! Wow! There is a concept.  Deacons serving the church - can you imagine what our church would look like if all of the "deacons" were really deacons?  But I digress.  The point is, Philip is just a humble bro, sensitive to the Holy Spirit, preaching the Gospel, and explaining who Jesus is.  So, when the Ethiopian eunuch professed faith in Jesus Christ, the appropriate think to do was for Philip to baptize him.  It's too bad Philip wasn't an "ordained minister"; I guess the eunuch's baptism wasn't legitimate.

Another tough issue around baptism is whether or not we should baptize babies.  If Communion is the New Covenant fulfillment of the Passover type, and baptism is the New Covenant fulfillment of the circumcision type, then maybe we should baptize babies when they are eight days old.  From the following passage, I see two reasons why I don't think it is necessary to baptize infants:

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. 13Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

  1. "believed ... baptized", "believed ... baptized" - You see this throughout the New Testament.  It seems like the Biblical model is that baptism follows the profession of faith.
  2. v. 12 "they were baptized, both men and women" - Why didn't it say "both men, women, children, and infants"?  Matthew 14:21 records, "The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.", so why are children omitted in Acts 8:12?  Maybe the infants/children weren't baptized until they made a profession of faith.
My goal as I read through Scripture is not to figure out how to support the doctrine that I have been taught, but to compare my doctrine and my lifestyle to the Scriptures.  We are all heretics and hypocrites; we just don't know how bad we are.  I seek the Truth in the Word and allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate my mind and life.

Heavenly Father, would you please sanctify me.  Please reveal yourself to me so that I may have a better understanding and experience of who you are.  Holy Spirit, please guide me into all Truth.  I pray that you will lead my congregation and the whole Church to orthodoxy and orthopraxy.  Please break through our religion, idolatry, and preconceived doctrine.  May we be refined by the crucible of suffering in the Name of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray.  Amen.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

persecution and suffering

Acts 5:17-7:53

5:17Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20"Go, stand in the temple courts," he said, "and tell the people the full message of this new life." ...  40[Gamaliel's] speech persuaded them. They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  41The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. 42Day 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.

6:8Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. ... 12So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. ... 15All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

  1. Persecution and suffering are natural extensions of living a Spirit-led, Spirit-filled life.
  2. We should rejoice at the opportunity to suffer for the Name of Jesus Christ.
  3. Our perseverance in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in spite of persecution validates to the world that He is real and alive.
  4. Proclaiming the Gospel should occur in public/civic/social settings as well as private community.
  5. It is through persecution and suffering that the Person of God is able to shine through us.
I've been trying to think about how this would look in my practical daily experience.  I know I could be a lot more bold with my friends at school.  I need to pray for opportunities, and seek the Holy Spirit's prompting to share with my friends.  The thing is, it's not about who is better or worse or who is right or wrong.  It's about being forgiven and restored to a relationship with God.  And if God is really that amazing, then why is my life not DRAMATICALLY and RADICALLY different?

Heavenly Father, please fill me with your Life so that I am simply sharing with others out of the abundance of my experience with you.  Lord, please give me boldness and opportunities to share your Love with others.  Please help me walk with you according to the Spirit, crucifying the flesh.  I pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ, for which you lead me to suffer.  Amen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Faith in Jesus Christ

Acts 3:1-5:16

Faith like a child, right?  Man, I wish I had faith like a child.  I wish I had faith like Peter and John demonstrated when they told the crippled beggar at the Beautiful gate that they didn't have any money but they could give him healing in the Name of Jesus Christ.  I wish I had faith like Peter when he told the growing crowd, amazed at the healed beggar:

3:19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.

Of course, the Sadducees got hacked off that Peter was preaching in the resurrection, and Jesus on top of that.  I wish I had the faith to speak in boldness like Peter did, straight to their face:

4:12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.

I wish I had the faith to sacrifice my own desires, to give up my rights to my own life and to give my all for the Kingdom, to be used in the Church according to the Holy Spirit:

4:31After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.  32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.  33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all.  34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

I wish I had faith like that because the result would be God working miraculously through me:

5:12The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade. 13No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.

To be honest, that sure doesn't look like anything I've seen in my congregation.  It's probably because we're so buried in the American Dream that we can't see the real Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If I just had faith like a child ... man, would things be different!

Heavenly Father, please give me faith like a child.  Lord, would you please lead me to give up my idols and religions so that I can know you and love you?  Would you please show me that you are really more satisfying than anything in this world?  Father, would you please call me to a life of holy obedience - to give up everything for the Name of Jesus Christ?  Lord, would you please break through the callouses of my heart and revive me?  Please fill me with your Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in boldness, to love people with your agape love, and to worship you in spirit and in truth.  Please take my life and use me.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who was obedient, even to the Cross.  Amen.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bread from Heaven

Mark 16:9-20, Acts 1:1-2:47

I've always been impressed with how Peter knew that they should replace the empty spot left by Judas Iscariot.  The Holy Spirit brought seemingly obscure Scriptures to bear on the situation.  My Brother Ari says, "The language that the Holy Spirit speaks to us is called 'Bible'."  It is the Living Word, alive in the hearts of those who Believe.

I am growing to appreciate the Lord's Supper more and more.  I don't understand it, but I know that it is important.  Sadly, for fear of over-emphasis or religious routine, I think our congregation errs with too little celebration for Communion.  There is something sweet about the celebration of Christ's infinite work in the simplicity of bread and wine.  I think this simplicity is especially important in our society.  It is easy for church members to get lost in the machinery of a myriad of Bible studies and other activities, but we find substance in the organic simplicity of the bread and wine.  This has become evident to me as I read Acts 2:

42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Heavenly Father, thank you for communicating your love to me through your Holy Spirit and your Holy Word, which is Jesus Christ.  Thank you for the shed blood and broken body of Jesus Christ which gives us justification before the Holy Judge and life with the Creator.  Lord, please lead me to a greater appreciation of the celebration of the Lord's Supper.  I pray that I will neither neglect it nor let it be undermined by religion.  I pray that I will always celebrate Communion in a way that honors you and edifies the Body.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Bread from Heaven.  Amen.

Monday, November 10, 2008

experiencing the resurrected Christ

Matthew 28:11-15, Luke 24:13-43, John 20:19-31, Matthew 28:16-20, John 21:1-25, Luke 24:44-53

While the religious Jews had to lie to themselves and others about Christ's resurrection, there are others whose hearts burn within them as they experience the resurrected Christ.  And how did they recognize him?  In the breaking of bread.  Now tell me again why we don't celebrate the Lord's Supper more often?

When we come to grips with the reality of Christ's death, and the supernatural power of His resurrection, we simply respond like Thomas:

John 20:27Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe." 28Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 29Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." 30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

When we consider the magnitude of our sin and the intensity of the wrath Christ bore on the cross for our sin, when we consider the infinite love of the Father to provide His only begotten Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sin, we will embrace His desire for all peoples to know this amazing love:

Matthew 28:18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of your Son Jesus who died on the Cross bearing your wrath for my sin.  Thank you for the promise of resurrection life because Christ was resurrected.  Lord Jesus, I believe in you; please reveal yourself to me like you did to those two on the road to Emmaus.  Please let me experience you each and every day.  Please fill me with your Holy Spirit, and anoint me to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and do the Father's will.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the One with scars on His hands and feet.

Friday, November 7, 2008

calloused heart

Mark 15:6-15, Matthew 27:15-26, Luke 23:13-25, John 18:39-19:17, Mark 15:16-21, Matthew 27:27-32, Luke 23:26-32

Pilot tried to get out of a jam, but the Jews incited the crowd to demand Pilot to release Barabbas, and Pilot finally gave in to the crowd.  Peer pressure is powerful, especially when it is connected to your job.

As I read of Christ's interrogations before the Pharisees, Pilot, Herod, and Pilot again, I am nearly unmoved.  As I read of Christ being flogged and mocked, I am moved so little.  How can my heart be so hard towards the most incredible display of patience and love?  How can my heart be so calloused that I am not overwhelmed by the magnitude of His love.

Heavenly Father, please break my hard heart for the sin that broke Christ's flesh on the Cross.  May I be captivated and motivated by the pain and suffering He endured, and may I be empowered by His death and resurrection.  Please help me appreciate the reality of Christ's sufferings, not for the sake of emotional sensationalism but for the sake of the Gospel.  I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, by whose stripes we are healed.  Amen.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

stinking religion

Matthew 27:1-10, Luke 23:1-12, Mark 15:1-5, Matthew 27:11-14, John 18:28-38

Matthew 27:6The chief priests picked up the coins and said, "It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money."

They knew that they had paid to have Jesus killed (which is wrong), but they were so religious that they didn't put the money in the treasury.

John 18:28Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover.

They didn't want to compromise their religious status by entering the place so they could participate in their religious ceremony.  It is especially tragic that the True Passover Lamb was right there in front of them, but they were so stuck in their religion that they missed the God of the universe.

I heard a preacher say that there are two principal enemies of the Gospel: idolatry and religion.  Both are missing true worship which is simply communicating to God that we love Him and obeying Him to discover in Him our ultimate satisfaction.

Heavenly Father, would you please give me life today?  Lord, please fill me with your Holy Spirit, and lead me to follow you.  I pray that heart will desire you more than anything in this world.  Lord, please keep me from slipping into empty religious practice without your presence.  I pray that my life will be a sweet song of obedient worship to you.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

sad day ...

Mark 14:43-52, Matthew 26:47-56, Luke 22:47-53, John 18:1-11, Mark 14:53-72, Matthew 26:57-75, Luke 22:54-71, John 18:12-27

How could you be one of the most educated Jews in Jerusalem, be that close to the physical fulfillment of all of those Messianic prophecies, and miss it?

Mark 14:60Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" 61But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
      Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"

 62"I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."

 63The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. 64"You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?"  They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.

What is especially sad is that if I were there, I would have done the exact same thing.  I would have punched Christ and spit in His face because I am a sinful, depraved, insolent, proud, and rebellious man.  I need His saving grace.  O how I need His grace to love him more.

Heavenly Father, please give me grace to love you and trust you more.  Jesus Christ is the Messiah!  May I never deny this Truth.  I ask for your grace in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.