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.