Friday, January 15, 2016

Daily Bible Reading | Do Good; Show Mercy (Matthew 12)

And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other. Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. - Matthew 12:11-14, KJV
Is it not remarkable how little compassion the Pharisees showed their fellow man? 

Why in the world would they be angry with Jesus for healing someone? Shouldn't they have been happy that people were being delivered from the bondage of disease and misery--especially that sinners were repenting and trusting in God? 

But they were not happy. They were angry. They had no compassion. They had only self-righteousness that was threatened by One more righteous than they. It has always been so.

Cain was threatened by Abel because Abel was more righteous than he was, so Cain rose up against his own brother and slaughtered him. (See Genesis Chapter 4)

Joseph's brothers felt threatened by Joseph because their father loved him better and because God seemed to favor Joseph with dreams that one day his family would bow before him. So they rose up against Joseph, intending to kill him, but instead sold their own brother into slavery. (See Genesis Chapter 37)

Is it that remarkable that the Pharisees would rather see men and women remain in bondage than be set free on a Sabbath because of their man-made rules of what was and was not lawful to do on the Sabbath in order to be considered "righteous"? 

Unfortunately, it is not that remarkable when we understand human nature. 

How blessed we are to have a God who values us! How blessed we are to have a God who heals us! How blessed we are to have a God who cares! 

He demonstrates to us by His example, that it is better to show mercy and to do good than to keep the commandments of men. 
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? - Micah 6:8, KJV

Monday, January 4, 2016

Daily Bible Reading | The Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4)

“Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ””
Matthew 4:3, 5-6 NKJV,5-6.nkjv

“Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!””
Mark 1:23-24 NKJV

The demons knew exactly who Jesus was. Even when men were blind to the truth, the demons never were. They knew Jesus on-sight. So it is absolutely out of the question that the principle of the legions of demons--Satan--would be in doubt as to the identity of Jesus. You can be certain that Satan knew exactly who Jesus was. 

But Satan knows the truth and hates it! So he works to twist and turn it and corrupt it until it is unrecognizable. In the garden of Eden, he began by putting doubt in Eve's mind about the words of God: Did God really say...? And you can imagine Eve's response: I don't know...did God really say that? Maybe God didn't mean what I thought He meant...

If he can get you to doubt God's Word, he can get you to disbelieve, and then he has you; that is, he's gotten you to sin because unbelief shows a lack of faith in God's character. Basically, unbelief calls God a liar. 

So what did Jesus do when Satan called into question His identity--that is, what God had just said at Christ's baptism at the end of Matthew 3: This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased? 

Jesus fought back with the truth!! 

He reminded Himself and the devil of what is and always will be true. Doubt found no place in Jesus; He knew God and trusted Him; He knew the truth and was prepared to use it in battle against the enemy. 

When the adversary comes at you with doubts, trying to get you to disbelieve God, fight back with what you know to be true. Fight back with the Word of God!

“For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.””
Romans 3:3-4 NKJV

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Daily Bible Reading | Enemy? Or Friend?

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 
... Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men.   
- Matthew 2:1-3,16, NKJV
Contrast the response of the wise men with the response of Herod to news of Christ's birth: The wise men traveled untold miles to where the Child was born in order to worship Him; Herod on the other hand, became exceedingly angry and jealous of the Child born King of the Jews--indeed, he was so angry and so jealous that he sought to destroy the Child and did not care who he hurt in the process.

Here we see polar opposite responses to Jesus: The wise worship Him as the One true King; the foolish despise Him for threatening their autonomy.

The first is the response of those who love Him; the other the response of those who hate Him, and according to the Bible you are either one or the other, there is no middle ground (see Luke 19:27; Colossians 1:21; James 4:4). Some might consider this a false dichotomy but we are either God's enemies or our will has been overthrown by His great love and we have been made His friends.

Where are you in this story? Are you an enemy of God? Do you feel threatened by the promise that Jesus will return to reign in glory and to wreak vengeance upon His enemies? (see Revelation 19)

Repent today! Turn from your sins and turn towards God in faith and trust in Christ's life, death and resurrection on your behalf. Be reconciled to God! Do not remain His enemy, for none who stand against Him shall prosper!
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 
- 2 Corinthians 5:20,21, NKJV

Friday, January 1, 2016

Daily Bible Reading | Immanuel "God with us"

And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us. 
Matthew 1:21-23, NKJV
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is truly remarkable.

That the Eternal Son of God would condescend to become a man is astonishing enough, but that He should become a fetus in the uterus of a peasant girl from Palestine--that He should spend nine months in the womb and then pass through the birth canal like any other human baby--is so scandalizing that millions of people around the world utterly refuse to believe that it took place.

Jesus of Nazareth might have been an actual man who lived and died in Palestine 2000 years ago, but he cannot be God. At least, that is what they say; that is also what the religious leaders said in the time that Jesus lived. It is the same story circulating for centuries: God couldn't possibly have become a man; it is blasphemy even to suggest such a thing.

And it might have been blasphemy to suggest such a thing...if God had not ordained it. But God did ordain it. The immortal, invisible, only wise God became mortal.

But why? Why would God take on human flesh? Why would the immortal become mortal?

God became Man in order to die.

This is quite literally the crux of the matter: the cross.

The Eternal Son of God became a Man so that He could die for the sins of His people. He came to offer Himself as a ransom for many. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins, so Jesus came as a Man to freely give His blood to be shed for us.

Denying either the deity or the humanity of Jesus Christ strips His cross of its power to save. He must be Man in order to die, and He must be God because only a perfect sacrifice would make atonement--a Lamb without spot or blemish--and only God is perfect.

Jesus Christ is the only hope for a cursed and hell-bound humanity. Look to Him today and trust in His cross--that it was enough to satisfy God's justice against your sin--and in His death and resurrection--that it holds the promise that all who trust in Him will be raised to glory with Him forever.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 
John 3:16-18, NKJV

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Living According to the Word - L.A.W.: Psalm 119:9-12

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes.”
Psalms 119:9-12 NKJV

One of the simplest ways we can begin today to "live according to the Word" (L.A.W.) of God is by doing what the psalmist sings of in verse 11--we can start hiding God's Word in our hearts. We can start memorizing the Scriptures. Why? Notice the reason the psalmist gives. It is not so that he can boast of his knowledge. It is not so he can show off to his friends and family. It is so that he might not sin against God. That is a good reason for memorizing the Scriptures--so they become so much a part of you that when you are tempted to sin, the Word is there in your mind and heart to convict you and keep you from sinning.

On a practical note, the Bible is a big book. Where should a person begin? How about beginning with a Scripture that will be immediately helpful to you? Think of a sin that you are often tempted to commit (ask God to reveal it to you) then find a Scripture (or several Scriptures) that deals with that sin. 

For me, I am often tempted to fear man. There are many great verses about the fear of man:

“The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.”
Proverbs 29:25 NKJV

“The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”
Psalms 118:6 NKJV

“So we may boldly say: “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?””
Hebrews 13:6 NKJV

I recommend memorizing the Word in the version in which you like to read it. For me, that would be the New King James but for you, it might be the NIV or the ESV or the NLT. Highlight the verse in your Bible so that it stands out when you read it during your regular Bible reading so that reading your Bible also works to reinforce your memory. 

Let me know in the comments whether you tried memorizing Scripture this week. 

Lord, we thank You for the gift of Your Word. I know that I fail to appreciate it as I ought to. Help us, Lord, to love Your Word as the psalmist did. May we joyfully hide it in our hearts that we might not sin against You. May our sin grieve us as much as it grieves You. Thank You for loving us and calling us sons and daughters. We are learning how to love You more and more. Thank You, Abba! Amen!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

All Things: Romans 8:28 and Christian suffering

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28 NKJV)

If you have listened to the news at all this past year you will have heard something about the crisis in Syria and Iraq involving the militant Islamic group ISIS and their genocide against Christians. The atrocities they have committed in the name of their god are so evil, they are not fit to print.

But it is not only in Syria and Iraq that Christians and religious minorities are suffering because of their faith, but in Nigeria this past May the militant Islamic group Boko Haram kidnapped 300 school girls to sell them into slavery. Despite pressure from the international community the girls were never returned or recovered.

And it is not only under militant Islam but also under militant Hinduism that Christians are persecuted. After the Hindu Nationalist Party won the election in India this year, Christians have faced increased persecution from their Hindu neighbors.

North Korea, however, continues to be the most difficult place for Christians to live. Under an atheistic regime which makes gods of its political leaders, Christians, if discovered, are forced into labor camps and/or executed as enemies of the state.

With such horrific things happening to the church around the world, how do we read such verses as Romans 8:28? We know that all things work together for good to those who love God...? Not some things, but all. That means even the evil things, God intends for good. Remember Joseph in Egypt--you meant it for evil but God meant it for good (see Genesis 50). But do we really believe this?

As western believers we do not tend to have a good theology of suffering. But almost the entire New Testament was written in the context of suffering. Jesus and His disciples faced persecution from the Jewish leaders, the early apostles faced persecution from the Jewish leaders, and eventually the Church faced persecution from the Roman government. Early Christians knew what it was like to suffer for their faith. They came to understand that this was what they were called to do--suffer with CHRIST. Really, if you think about it, it isn't strange that Christians suffer so much in other parts of the world. What is strange is that we suffer so little.

Honestly, I do not know how to pray for my brothers and sisters. I have no idea what they are going through. But...God knows. Jesus knows. The Spirit knows. Not only is the Spirit interceding for them and for us, but He also helps us to pray. Let us ask God to teach us how to pray for our brothers and sisters under persecution. It is the one thing they ask of us. When we need prayer, be sure they'll be praying for us.

Friday, November 7, 2014

God is With You: Lessons from Joshua 1

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:5-9 NKJV)

I have a question for you. What would you do if you knew that you could not fail? What would you do for Jesus if you knew that He would give you success? What would you "risk" if you had the assurance that God was with you in everything that you did? I'm asking myself these same questions. I would probably "risk" a lot more than what I am now. Let me be honest and say that my service is often stunted by fear. I do not serve with the abandon that I wish I had because I am afraid of the consequences of living with that sort of abandon to Christ. Maybe I don't really believe that God is with me. Is the promise that God gave Joshua available to us as New Testament believers? I think it is (which means I need to believe it but more on that later). I want to show you from the New Testament scriptures that we have the same promises given to Joshua.

1. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life.
This verse made me think: Wow! I want that promise! And then the Spirit called to mind Romans 8:31 "If God is for us, who can be against us?" God is for us! He proved it at Calvary! Therefore, no one and nothing can stand before or against us as long as we live! Wow! Thank You God!

2. I will not leave you nor forsake you.
This promise is repeated almost word-for-word in Hebrews 13:5 "He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"

3. You will make your way prosperous and you will have good success when you meditate on the law of the Lord.
This promise is certainly to every believer. In His High Priestly prayer our Lord prayed that God would sanctify His people in the truth and He said, "Your Word is truth" (John 17:17). To be sanctified is to grow in godliness or Christ-likeness, and whatever Jesus asks for on behalf of His people the Father delights to answer that prayer, so you can be sure this prayer will be answered. We will prosper when we meditate on the Word of God.

4. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.
Again, we have Hebrews 13:5, but as that promise is stated negatively as a promise that God will never leave nor forsake us, do we have a promise stated in the positive like this one? If you're like me you might be struggling to think of a verse. But think again, believer. How is the Lord your God with you wherever you go? Yes! The indwelling Holy Spirit! 

Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (II Corinthians 1:21-22 NKJV)

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:13-14 NKJV)

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (Romans 8:9 NKJV)

So be strong! And very courageous, Christian! You have the same promises Joshua was given! Therefore be brave, be strong, let all that you do be done with love.

Now that you know them, believe the promises!

What will you do with God on your side?