1 Thessalonians 5:11 (KJV)

Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (KJV)

Monday, February 24, 2014

Sin: The Great Societal Equalizer

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Romans 3:9

What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin.

Thoughts for Today:

Our passage today is almost a summary of the first three chapters of Romans: those who have never heard of the Bible are indicted with evidence of God by creation; intellectuals who pretend to have gained higher principles are accused by their own conscience; and the Jews are charged by the commandments given to them by God. The Lord has spoken clearly to all men throughout every generation leaving no excuses -- we are all guilty of sin.

In God's court it doesn't matter if we are high or low, good or bad, rich or poor, powerful or powerless -- who we are today is meaningless. As far as God is concerned we are all the same -- sinners. And the penalty is death.

Questions to Ponder:

Have you fallen into the trap that who you are, where you were born,
perhaps the color of your skin makes you better or worse than someone else?
Sin is the great societal equalizer. I think that is what makes our witness so powerful in a country like Nepal: "If a rich American would come all this way to humbly admit he is a sinner just like me -- then maybe I should listen to his testimony."
Have you spoken of your faith in Jesus recently?
Have you expressed your relief that your sins are forgiven by
the blood of Jesus not by anything you have done?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Error with Eternal Consequences

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Pocket Devotions

Day 553:

Romans 3:4
Not at all! Let God be true, and every man a liar. As it is written: 'So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge.'

Thoughts for Today:

In 1 John 5:10, John writes: "Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son."
It is the same concept Paul is speaking about in our passage today: Although God provides the invitation for anyone to believe in Him, He knew some wouldn't. Therefore, Paul proposes this unbelief of the Jews proves God was right.

This might be stated another way: When a non-believer rejects God's testimony about His Son Jesus he calls God a liar. It's a pretty serious accusation and many will suffer eternal consequences for their error

Questions to Ponder:

I always find it interesting to meet people who embrace the teaching of the Bible and Jesus personally, yet reject Him as Lord and Savior. Either Jesus is accepted for who He and the Bible says He is or He is the biggest liar who walked the face of the earth.
Is God a liar or is man? It is a very simple question.
Are you making a error with eternal consequences or
will you trust in God's truthfulness?

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Biblical Repository?

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Pocket Devotions

Day 551:

Romans 3:2
Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.

Thoughts for Today:

In our previous devotion, Paul asked the rhetorical question, "What advantage is there in being a Jew if the Gentiles have now been placed at the same level (in terms of salvation) as the Jews?" He now answers the question, "First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God."

For thousands of years, the Jews had the word of God imprinted upon their culture -- within their very nature as His chosen people. Despite this fact Paul tells us in Romans 11:11: "Because of their [the Jews] transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious." Some would propose therefore that God is finished with the nation of Israel -- the Jews were merely a Biblical repository. In my opinion, this is not supported by Scripture. God made many promises to the Jews as a people which were uniquely their own and have yet to be fulfilled. God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12 is just as valid today as His promise to us in John 3:16. God is not through with the Jews and He certainly is not finished with you and me.

Questions to Ponder:

You have been entrusted with the very words of God just like the Jews --
what are you doing with this great gift?
Are you reading, studying, and meditating upon it?
Are you sharing it with children, friends and strangers?
Are you relying upon it?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

How Great is Your Debt ?

Romans 1:14
I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish.

Thoughts for Today:

The original Greek word used for "obligated" is "opheiletes" which means: a person indebted. In our passage today, Paul considered himself "in debt" to a lost world. Why? Because of the grace God had so lavishly heaped upon him -- regardless of the great mistakes he had made in the past.

Jesus explains this in Luke 7:40-43, [Jesus speaking to a Pharisee] "Simon, I have something to tell you." "Tell me, teacher," he said. "Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?" Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled." "You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

Have you ever noticed at church how some people are so enthusiastic in worship -- standing, singing, raising hands, laughing and crying -- all in praise to God. A non-Christian might wonder why so much emotion is involved. I know why -- because I feel the same way -- relief that my debts have been cancelled by the sacrifice Jesus made for me. It is just that sometimes our perception of the "size" of the debt released governs how much joy we feel.

Clearly Paul felt a lot of relief and joy -- which he expressed with his enthusiastic commitment to spread the Gospel. His new debt was to all of mankind ("both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish") to share this Good News!

Questions to Ponder:

How much joy do you feel for the debts God has forgiven?
A little or a lot? 
Don't be fooled;
It is not how much or how little sin has been forgiven that matters,
because our destiny is either heaven or hell.
Some questions you might want to consider:
How do I express the joy of my salvation?
Is it solely between the Lord and myself, or
do I, like Paul feel a sense of "obligation" to share the Gospel with everyone?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Establishing the Right Priorities"

Romans 1:16c
...first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Thoughts for Today:

The Jews were God's chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6), "For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." If we had been present when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), we would have observed a room full of Jews -- no Gentiles.

On Paul's first missionary journey with Barnabas in Acts 13:44, he took the Gospel first to the Jews: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles."

However, the Lord's specific instruction to Paul given through Ananais in Acts 9:15 was in reverse order -- the Gentiles first, next their kings, and then the Jews. "The Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.'" Paul would keep trying to minister to the Jews first, and continued to be frustrated as a result. I believe this is how we sometimes get upset in our own ministries -- we don't understand or aren't obedient to the Lord's plan. We serve the Lord our way first -- not His way.

Questions to Ponder:

The Lord's plan was for the Jews to hear the Gospel first, then the Gentiles.
It just wasn't the Lord's plan for Paul.
Have you been feeling a little frustrated in your service to the Lord?
Is your ministry floundering a bit?
Could it be that your priorities are out of order?  
What were the Lord's instructions to you specifically?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

An Outward Sign Only ?

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Pocket Devotions

Day 545:

Romans 2:25
Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised.

Thoughts for Today:

Circumcision was the sign of God's covenant with His chosen people -- but it was only an outward sign, there was no other value in the practice itself. Circumcision demonstrated a man's belief in Mosaic Law. So what if the man didn't subsequently obey the Law? Paul said it would then make a mockery out of the act of circumcision.

The same is true for our own practices within the church. For example, a water baptism is an outward expression of an inward change -- a work of God in the heart. Only God knows our hearts, but it would seem to be a charade if there is no evidence of behavioral transformation in the person.

Questions to Ponder:

Are you a Christian in name only --
in the practice of baptism, church membership, and communion?
What are some of your behavioral changes?
Should there be more evidence?
What else needs to change ?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Because of You

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Pocket Devotions

Day 544: Evidence of Responsibility, Part 6 of 6:

Romans 2:24
As it is written: "God's name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you."

Thoughts for Today:

A man wrote to a publication recently asking for advice. His sister had just become a born-again Christian and was making the entire family crazy. He complained her nose was always buried in a Bible, she regularly ran off to Church, prayed before meals, and talked to anyone who would listen about Jesus. She was making quite a nuisance of herself. He asked the author of the publication for help. The author responded with these comments: There was nothing much the brother could do about his sister's new found faith -- other than let it run its course (perhaps he might consider listening). In the meantime, he would have a front row seat to witness some of the more amazingly unselfish acts of kindness and charity (performed in the name of Jesus), he would ever see in his lifetime -- so enjoy it while it lasts.

If these "amazingly unselfish acts of kindness and charity" lasted a lifetime -- wouldn't it bring honor and glory to God, rather than His name being cursed? Too often Christianity is about judging and condemning the behavior of others, or claiming higher moral character -- only to fall short, disgraced in full public view. Paul tells us, "God's name is cursed by the Gentiles because of you." That's a pretty serious accusation, and one we should all be concerned about

Questions to Ponder:

When was the last time you performed an
"amazingly unselfish act of kindness and charity" in the name of Jesus Christ?
When your behavior brought honor and glory to our Lord?
How can you serve?
Will you make a daily commitment?
Will you begin today?