Monday, December 31, 2012

Advent Archive: Acts 10

Acts 10 outlines a truth that is repeated over and over in Scripture. For centuries, the Jews prided themselves on being the ones to whom God had chosen to minister. Sadly, for many of those centuries they missed the ultimate calling of God that He had chosen them not only to minister to, but that He had chosen them to minister through. You see, they saw the great pouring out from heaven of God’s truth and God’s justice and God’s love. However, instead of obeying the biblical command to love their neighbors, with a jaded perspective they basked in the thought that God only loved them. Christ “hints” at the blindspot of this view when speaking to Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews, in John 3:16, when He said “God loves the world.” This must have chafed Nicodemus’ mind and understanding of God’s love for His people. Finally, God opened Peter’s eyes in Acts 10. A man who had always thought he was special before God, who argued with John over who would be most revered in heaven next to Christ, Peter had some real favoritism issues. Finally though, God broke through that. Through a vision and a little teaching, Peter soon came to realize v. 34 “God is no respecter of persons.” Finally the gospel of Jesus Christ became pan-national. No longer was the church a Jewish thing, but now hitting any nationality and any ethnic background, Jesus was for all men. God really does love “the whole world.”
Food For Thought: What verse(s) in Galatians 3 points toward the tearing down of hateful racism in those who find Christ?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Advent Archive: Acts 9

Many times we see our enemies, and read the imprecatory prayers of David in the Psalms. Quickly we become judge and jury and plead our case before God for the swift and deft destruction of those who stand in our way. We view our aims as the ultimate and ourselves as the only holy servants of God. Any who oppose, must be ministers of Satan, whether government officials, or leaders of other religions, or pagan God-haters. However, when you read Acts 9, God presents you with a paradox. It comes on the heels of Jesus’ teaching “pray for them which despitefully use you.”  Quickly, we agree and say “yeah, pray that they choke on their food and die!” But the portrait of redemption painted in Acts 9 says something completely different. You see, for years Saul butchered Christians. He was good at it, so good, that scripture said he “wreaked havoc” on the church. However, God saw fit not to smite Saul dead in his tracks on the way to Damascus, rather, the greatest glory to God came when God smote him down and called him to Himself. Where most Christians would pray for the defeat and destruction of Saul, God was concerned with his conversion. You see, our flaw is in seeing Saul and men like him as our enemy. However, they are not. They and all men are God’s enemies, and while God gets great glory while laughing as the banal attempts to overthrow Him by His enemies, God also is extremely concerned with reconciling His enemies to Himself. This is the point of the gospel. It is about time we start treating others the right way and pray for their repentance not their destruction.
 Food For Thought: What should be our reaction to those who we consider to be our enemies?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Advent Archive: Acts 8

Acts 8 tells the stories of two men. The first, Simon the sorcerer, ends tragically, with the reader wondering whatever became of the man. The second, the Ethiopian treasurer, ends with a joyous acceptance of Christ and a changed life. The difference in outcome really has everything to do with how these two men treated the gospel. When presented with the gospel by Peter and John, Simon saw the gospel as something he could add to his repertoire of magic tricks. He saw Peter and John heal people and cast out demons. Simon coveted these gifts and viewed the gospel as his “genie in a bottle” to get him these new powers. When he found out that these powers were retained only by the apostles, he tried to purchase the powers from them with money. Inherent to his response to the gospel Simon was saying in effect, “This gospel is only good for what it can get me. I don’t want to change, I just want to add this new magic trick to my list.” Arrogance cannot receive the gospel. The Ethiopian, however, was a different story. From the onset of the story, you find the Ethiopian asking questions and inquiring about the text of Isaiah. Quickly, the Ethiopian saw his need and humbled himself. He told Philip that he needed to be changed. The gospel could take effect in his heart. It is not in the heart that contrives or seeks its own, but in a humble heart that sees God’s design and submits to it. The gospel serves in our lives to bring newness, not to ensconce the evil deeds of our past.
Food For Thought: What were the two responses to the gospel in Acts 8?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Advent Archive: Acts 7

- Alan Obrien
There are several details about Acts 7 that I would love for you to think on as you read it today. And you need to read it! First of all, I want you to notice the way Stephen submitted his life to knowing and understanding Scripture and how God used Scripture in his life. The majority of Acts 7 is Stephen presenting the gospel to the Jewish government. Notice how well he knew the storyline of the Bible as well as how close he stayed to Scripture, quoting much of it rather than relying on his intellect and reasoning. Sounds much like Paul in 1 Corinthians 2, right? Second, I want you to notice that all of Scripture is used by Stephen to illustrate God’s plan of redemption. Stephen starts way back in the day of Abraham in order to show these Jews, who loved and revered Abraham, that it was God’s ultimate plan to bring forth Jesus, Whom they murdered, and He brought Jesus into the world through Abraham. In other words, they were rejecting God’s plan.But finally, I want you to notice how the Sanhedrin received Stephen’s message of correction. Verse 54 tells us they were under deep conviction and instead of repenting, they gnashed on him with their teeth and then, when sin was finished, it brought forth death and they murdered Stephen. Friends, hear me on this… that is how all of us naturally respond to being corrected. We hate it as well as those who bring it into our lives. But you know as well as I do that we NEED Biblical correction. It has always been God’s plan to use man to fix man.
Food For Thought: How should you respond to correction? How do you respond to correction? 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Advent Archive: Acts 6

-Amber Allen
Most often murmuring is a really bad thing. If you remember the Hebrews in the wilderness, they constantly had judgment come upon them because of their lack of faith and complaining attitude. In this chapter of Acts, some believers are murmuring; and although I do not think God approves of how they brought up the issue, they had a legit complaint. The widows in Greece were being overlooked when the food was passed out (a charitable exercise they did for needy widows). So they complained to the church leaders. However, the problem was these leaders had too much to do to spread the gospel. They had to choose--feed the widows or get people saved. Because they could not starve the poor ladies, they delegated men to do the job.
This church impresses me because they see the problem, and they systematically take care of it so the church can continue to grow. Another thing that impresses me is that they didn't just pick some guy off the street and say, "go feed those old ladies." They chose men who were obviously on fire for God and full of wisdom. It makes me wonder--if you or I were a member at this church, would our testimony to our brothers and sisters make us a candidate? Let's strive to be like the seven men chosen--full of the Spirit and wisdom.

Food For Thought: What was the phrase that defined the men that were chosen to serve? What does this phrase mean?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Advent Archives: Acts 5

This story of these two people astounds me every time that I read it. They devised such a creative little plan to sell some property and give the money to the church. The only problem is that they didn't give all of it, though they told everyone that they had. The thing that blows my mind is that God chose to take their life for their lie. Ironically though, it's not like they got caught for something and tried to lie their way out of it. They came up with the whole idea; they could have just kept their money or given some of it anonymously, but they chose to say they had given every penny. Obviously, they wanted people to think more of them than they were worth. Their first mistake was to go before everyone and brag about their gift. God doesn't enjoy a haughty giver. What we have, He has given to us anyway and it is not our own. So for these people to brag about their generosity is their first mistake, and they really overdid it by lying about it. Let this story come to your mind the next time you want to tell somebody how great you are; remember God gave you everything you have. If you want to brag, brag on Him. I think the story would have been a little different if these two had bragged how wonderful God was for selling their land.
Food For Thought: Where should Ananias and Saphira have directed the bragging instead of to themselves? Do you think that God is concerned with the purity of His church?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent Archive: Acts 4

When Jesus met with Nicodemus, He told him that ‘men love darkness’ by nature. He went on further in John 3 to say that because they ‘love darkness’, they ‘hate the light.’ It isn’t good enough to like ignorance, they can’t help but absolutely despise the telling of the truth. This is the case in Acts 4. The Gospel has begun to take root in the areas around Jerusalem. In doing so, however, it is starting to reveal the discrepancies in the theology of the ruling Jewish leaders. Because those in darkness not only love darkness, but have an aggressive dislike for light, verses 1-3 tell us how that these leaders attacked the preachers of the Gospel and locked them up in prison. The oppression began here, and did not stop until the blood of Christ-following martyrs flowed in the streets of Israel. This is the case among all who hate God’s work. The call is for Bible-believing Christians to be ‘tolerant’ or to pay the consequences. The irony is those who claim we should be tolerant do so in a very intolerant way. Be loving. Christ told you to, but “to love” doesn’t mean the same thing as “to accept.” Oh yeah, and don’t be afraid, because 1 John 4:4 says “greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” Spoiler alert: Your side wins anyway.
Food For Thought:  What is the dual reaction of those that dwell in darkness in regards to truth and ignorance?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent Archive: Acts 3

The gift of healing would be a cool thing to have. The only issue with healing is that it would be incredibly tempting to take a cool gift like that and use it to brag about me with it. For example, I think that if I could touch people and heal them, I would probably go get a really flashy white suit and a million dollar haircut and wear lizard skin shoes. I would probably get several rings (especially on my pinky fingers) and would have a $10,000 wrist watch...or at least that’s what I think I would do based upon what modern day “healers” do. You see, in Acts 3 the emphasis was never on the one healing, or the one being healed. Rather the emphasis was on the God in heaven who was running the whole thing. See verse 8, when the man was healed by Peter, he didn’t collapse on the ground and convulse for a few minutes. Rather, he leaped to his feet and PRAISED GOD. When everyone focuses on man, they quickly become man worshippers instead of God worshippers. Do you do this? Do you find yourself more impressed with spiritual people than the God that gives them the daily strength to serve him. The best way I have heard it said is this: “there is no such thing as ‘great men of God,’ rather, there are only ‘men of a great God’.” Where’s your focus?
Food For Thought: Who should be the focus of all things accomplished both great and small? In what areas have you missed that recently?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent Archive: Acts 2

God views unity as a vital part of the church. Nothing will impede the progress of the gospel and evangelism like disagreement and disharmony. It is for this reason that Paul says in Philippians 2:2, “fulfill my joy that ye be...of one accord,” in essence, “unified.” There will be plenty of reasons to fight, but don’t. We have an enemy who would desire nothing more than to undermine the work of God. When we read Acts 2, we find this same reality of unity as the descriptor of what the followers of Christ had when the Spirit came down and filled them with the desire and ability to proclaim the gospel on an unprecedented level. Verse 1 says, “they were all with one accord,” speaking to this idea that although they could probably have found things to disagree on, they instead looked to be unified for the cause of Christ. How are you doing with this? Does it seem easier to find something wrong with the Christians around you? Do they just not understand God like you do? Do you seek to shame them for their lack of spirituality? If so, you are not seeking to be in one accord. Don’t compromise on sin, but at the same time, don’t lose sight of what really matters.
Food For Thought: What are some things that you should break fellowship with someone for? What are some things that you should not break fellowship for? 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent Archive: Acts 1

During this season, I will be posting archive Devo's from last year. Several were written by guest authors, so if you see a name on them, that person is the great contributor for the day.
Acts was written by Luke to a man named Theophilus. Luke was an amazing historian who gathered many details in order to explain the events of the life of Christ and the beginning of the church.Acts 1 really is a bridge to show the connection between Christ’s earthly ministry and the ministry of the Apostles. In other words, Acts 1 is a time of transition. Their leader is now gone and will not be walking with them as before (vv.9-11), and they had been betrayed by their friend Judas who was now dead (vv.15-19). But I want you to notice what they did…In their time of transition they did two things: 1) they were dependent on and committed to the Scriptures (v.20), and 2) they were men and women of prayer (v.24). This doesn’t mean that they did everything perfectly, or that all they did was 100% correct. What I want us to see today is that when we are committed to the Scriptures and when we are committed to prayer, God will direct our steps and decisions in order to accomplish things the way He wants them accomplished!
- Alan Obrien

Food For Thought: What is one of the main purposes the book of Acts was written?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

1 John 2:25-29

And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.

Is Jesus the only way to God? How can Christians arrogantly claim that Jesus is the only way to God? Perhaps, the world is a land of many caravans that trail their way to God, and Jesus is just leading one of the caravans. Perhaps, all who sincerely try hard enough find peace in the end, and make their way to the great Spirit of the universe, whether that’s God or Allah, or whoever or whatever that Spirit is. I guess, we could open the Bible and see if Jesus could shed some light on the eternal situation. Let’s start with John 14:6, And Jesus said unto him, “I am the way…no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Or, we can go to “John 10:27-28, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish.” Or we could go hear one of His followers in Acts 4:8-12, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them…’By the name of Jesus Christ…Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”  Biblical Conclusion: Jesus is the only way. There is no other. He is not simply “a way.” He is “the way.” He personally claims exclusivity, and His followers after Him concur that He is the only way. To say anything else, requires a reader to discard Jesus as either a liar or crazy. He can only remain legitimate if He is seen as He claims Himself to be - “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Eternal life can only be found in Jesus. We receive eternal life through Him, alone. And with love and compassion, we must address the false claims of those around us who would argue that Jesus is “a way,” and not “the way.” Love compels us to liberate the blind with the light-giving truth of Jesus’s exclusivity. Eternal life is too important to miss, and those that look for it anywhere but in Jesus will certainly miss it.
Food For Thought: What does Jesus say about His exclusivity? What did Jesus’s disciples say about His exclusivity? What should we say about His exclusivity?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

1 John 2:18-24

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are thee many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you which ye have heard from the beginning, if that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.

“Antichrist” - This is a term that both religious and irreligious alike have come to know and even to some extent fear. The portrayals through film or in modern novels often show a charismatic figure who swoons the world with his charm only to reveal his evil, hellish intentions in the end through massacre and misdeeds. In short, “Antichrist,” and more specifically, “the Antichrist,” is not a concept with which people are unacquainted. John, however, speaks here of “antichrists.” These are precursors to the real one that is coming at some point in the future. So what defines a modern day “antichrist?” The one who is an “antichrist” is the one who “denies that Jesus is the Christ,” or that says that Jesus is not the Messiah and Redeemer of mankind. Any who say that Jesus is not the only way, is “antichrist.” John says, in essence, “the real Antichrist is coming some day, but for now, there are many replicas of him travelling about peddling his false teaching and lies.” He then warns his readers to watch out for these little antichrists who are trying to destroy the church with their false teaching. They peddle the lie that Jesus isn’t the only way to God. They mislead others with the false concept that right standing before God comes through anything other than the propitiating work of Jesus. They do this in a number of ways. Some will say that Jesus is “a way,” just not “the only way.” Others will say that “Jesus was a good teacher, but not in any way Divine (God).” Still yet others, will just pollute the gospel and make the work of Jesus ineffectual by saying that it is “Jesus + something else (good deeds, church membership, baptism, reading your Bible, prayer) that will accomplish the redemptive work of God in your life.” This just simply isn’t the case, and any of the things that substitute the simplicity of Jesus singlehandedly accomplishing the work of salvation for fallen men, is a lie of the Antichrist and is being peddled by his miniature “antichrists.”
Food For Thought: Why does John use the term “antichrist” to describe the false teachers who are undermining God’s work?

Monday, December 17, 2012

1 John 2:15-17

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

“Love not the world,” has been the calling card of many well-meaning Christians. They view it as the impetus to be set apart. They have heard sermons preached about “not loving the world,” and they purport that the key to living well is living with this perspective. God truly desires His people to be distinct. He desires them to look different, to believe different, and certainly to act different. Unfortunately this desire for His people to “be distinct” is taken too far in many cases. In a desire to be a “peculiar” people, some modern evangelicals strive to be as peculiar as humanly possible so that they can convince themselves they are more “godly.” This is not God’s design, and this certainly is not God’s desire. God makes it quite clear that there is a distinction between “loving the world,” and “loving God.” Immoral things are vile and wrong and should be avoided, but amoral things are not inherently wrong because they are not Christian. For example: Hobby Lobby and Chick-fil-a are not inherently better than Wal-mart or McDonald’s. God’s distinction that He is trying to make is that some Christians miss the command to “love God.” They live their entire lives “living for God” as they see it, but they never truly become enamored by His grandeur; they don’t get plugged into His liberating truth; they don’t see Him as valuable; instead, they see Him as a list of uncomfortable and often embarrassing rules that they must awkwardly follow in order to earn heaven or a happy life. The point of this text isn’t that the world is full of soul-destroying darkness that will devastate you and disappoint God. Rather, it presents the truth that your “love of the world” is devastating to you and frustrating to the purposes of God in your life and in the lives of others. The driving desire of this text is not to create unsightly “followers of Jesus,” but rather that you walk away with a renewed desire to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Food For Thought: Why does God desire that we not “love the world?”

Saturday, December 15, 2012

1 John 2:7-14

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning, I have written unto you, young men because you are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.

What if I told you that one law sums up all the others? What if I told you that if you obeyed it, you would not have to worry about any other laws ever? This is John’s perspective here in 1 John 2. He says in verse 3 to keep Christ’s “commandments,” but then in verse 7 and later he talks about a “commandment.” So, what is it, commandments or commandment? Well, both, but basically, just the one. Are you confused yet? Obey them all. Obey the one. What is he talking about? Well, in today’s text John is talking about the command to “love one another.” This is the high command. It trumps all other laws between men. Followers of Christ will obey God’s law. But God’s law is not painfully obnoxious. God’s law is not ostentatiously overbearing. God’s law is quite humbly, simple. Love. That is the command. Love. The implications of such a command are far reaching, but the command itself is not complex. It is not self-serving, rather it is the antithesis of selfish, it is selfless. It is not proud, but rather it seeks the praise of others. It does not get greedy or unrighteously angry, instead it is a classification in which all truly deep-set good deeds dwell. Love, simply, is the best law. Who murders those they love? Who steals from the ones they love? Who can “lovingly” act inappropriate with someone who is not their spouse? Love causes obedience to all of God’s laws, and it is painstakingly simple. Love is also a purifying remedy for the self-righteous. Their muddied self-glorying in the failure and sinfulness of those around them melts under the weight of love in their hearts. Their minds seek not the praise for themselves and destruction of those around them, but rather, lovingly they seek the healing of others even at the expense of their formerly desired stack of fleeting praises.  Love is the law that liberates. It is not a poison that pollutes the holy life, rather it is the antidote to a poisoned sinful life.  And this is how Jesus lived – according to this law, love. Now, go, and fulfill the law in this same way.
Food For Thought: Read Romans 13:8-14. What connection to love does the Apostle Paul make with the rest of the law?

Friday, December 14, 2012

1 John 2:3-6

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.

Christianity is not a list of “dos” and “don’ts.” The point of the gospel is that Jesus already “did” all that needed to be done for us to have right standing before God. Any who come afterward and say that in order for you to be saved you must “do this”, or “be that”, just simply isn’t reading the Bible. “For by Grace are you saved through is a gift of God, not of [our] works.” We can’t “do” enough, but thanks be to God for what Jesus has “done.” So then, what is the connection of law and command with the Christian life? If salvation isn’t all about us doing something, why is there so much Old and New Testament scripture about “doing?” If Jesus already accomplished what needs to be done, what is there that is left to do? 1 John 2 says that if we know Him, we should keep His commandments. It has to do with obedience. We are saved by faith. But as Christians we are called to obedience. This is not only an outward obedience, this is an obedience that comes from a heart that truly desires to please God. It is not to appease a God that threatens wrath or judgment, it is to please a God that has already offered love and forgiveness. The basis is love not fear. His desire when He extended His grace was not just that you would be liberated from the penalty of your sin, but that you would also find freedom from the power of sin in your life. A truly “saved” person finds the identity of their Christianity in this – an eternal reality of redemption, and a present Spirit-empowered autonomy from the former master, sin. This present emancipation then stands as a signal of our new life in Jesus and of our right standing before God. It is not itself the saving work, it is just the outworking of the saving work. Your godly living does not save you, but it does indicate that God has done a transforming, saving work in your heart.
Food For Thought: How are we saved? What phrase from today’s text is the God-given indication of the reality of His saving work in our lives?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

1 John 2:1-2

My little children these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

God is just and holy. Man is by nature and deed sinful. Because of sin, all men are condemned to a righteous punishment under the just wrath of God. But God is also merciful and gracious, and in His grace He sent Jesus, His son, to pay the penalty that all mankind owed, namely judgment under the wrath of God. It isn’t that God forgives and forgets sins, rather, He forgave the sins of those who put saving faith in Him, and judged Christ in their place. In doing so, He accomplished what Paul says in Romans 3:26, He is “just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” He never compromised His justice, for the sin did not go unpunished, but rather, Jesus felt the full weight of the condemnation that we deserved. So, God, the Just, became the Justifier of sinners. This then is the idea of propitiation: we stand before God uncondemned, robed in the righteousness of His Son who died for us. Where once we were enemies of the Holy, we are now forgiven and accepted. This is not just a past reality. This isn’t just a concept that plays out at the point of God’s grace in justification, rather, according to 1 John 1:1, in this reality, Jesus, the One Who willingly became the sacrifice for our sins sits as our advocate with the Father for sins that we still commit. He is the propitiation for the sins that we have committed and for the sins that we do commit. What should our reaction be, knowing that our Propitiation sits next to God, constantly working forgiveness on our behalf? According to verse 1, we should strive to not sin. With excitement because of forgiveness, we should live our lives in a way that says, “Thank you, Jesus, for your work, I will let it change me from one who pursues wickedness, to one who seeks the purpose that you saved me for and called me to.”
Food For Thought: How can God still be “just” even if He doesn’t punish us for our sins?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

1 John 1:9-10

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Many people view God, as a great cosmic power with a set of balancing scales. On one side of the scales He places all of the good things that we do, and on the other side He places all the bad things we do. These people live their lives with this mistaken perspective and see their main goal as “do as many kind things as possible, and perhaps the good will outweigh the bad.” This is not the truth of scripture. This is not how the God of the Bible interacts with people. There are no scales. There is only “sin” and “not sin.” And we commit that sin- all of us. Because of that sin, according to 1 John 1:6, we have no fellowship with God. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have fellowship with God. 1 John 1:7 says that by turning from our sin through faith in the work of Jesus, we can have access to God. But what about when we sin again? Do we blow it? Have we lost our chance with God? No, verse 9 says, if we confess our sins, we receive forgiveness for them. He is not a God who banishes those who mess up, rather He is a Father Who beckons us to fellowship with Him. He offers us access to Himself through Jesus. And when we mess up, He offers us forgiveness and restoration.  He interacts with us, not based upon a scale of how well we can perform, rather with the love of a Father Who understands that His kids aren’t perfect. He knows that you mess up, yet lovingly, patiently, and caringly, He draws us back to Himself and the joy that comes with a right relationship with God. What a good God we serve, Who instead of coming to us with an impossible scale in His hand, comes instead with forgiveness. May we live in a way where we don’t abuse that grace. May it be said of us that we strive to live so that He wouldn’t always have to continually forgive. And then let us thank Him that He continually does.
Food For Thought: What is lost in the relationship with God when we sin? How can  that aspect be repaired?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

1 John 1:8

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Imagine that you were experiencing severe pain in your arm, so you went to a doctor and explained that every time you lift something your arm hurts. Even at times when you are just sitting around, it starts aching and throbbing. The doctor takes an x-ray and finds out that at some point in the past you had unknowingly broken that arm. As it healed itself, it had healed wrong, and as time progressed the situation only got worse and worse, until now the pain was largely unbearable. The doctor then sits you down in conference and says, “I want to help you. I want you to live a pain free life. I want you to be happy and to be able to play sports and to be able to enjoy the rest of your life without the constant aching and throbbing in your arm, what do you think?” Your reaction no doubt would be the same as every rational human being, “Absolutely!” Unfortunately, the doctor proceeds to explain how this joyous thing is going to happen. “You see, I have to re-break the bone, and do surgery on the fracture, and dig out scar tissue, and put in a metal rod, and tighten screws into the bone. The whole process will take about six months, but after that, you will be as good as new, no more aches and pains.” Sadly, faced with the agony of surgery, many turn away and live in pain the rest of their lives.
In verse 8, the apostle John is sitting in conference with you, saying, “Your life is broken. You don’t have true lasting joy, and I want to bring that to you. But we have to do deep, cutting, soul-searching surgery. We will have to start by slicing through your self-righteous thinking. You are not perfect, only Jesus was. You sin. Now get it right. Healing can happen and joy will come. Don’t walk away because you fear the pain of the scalpel. Joy is within reach. Surgery hurts, but trust me, it‘s worth it.”
Food For Thought: What is the benefit in v. 4 that John mentions will come from this “soul-surgery”? What realization must we come to in v. 8, before we can get the benefits of v. 4?

Monday, December 10, 2012

1 John 1:5-7

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

What is at stake in this passage? The focal words of this text are a contrast of “light”
 and “darkness,” and the possession of “fellowship with God” in relation to that “light and darkness.” Let’s peel apart what this is meaning. Light and darkness can be simply understood from the context in verse 5, the main message of Christ, God is “light,” and He has no “darkness.” If we walk away thinking this anything to do with light bulbs we have completely missed the point of the text. Jesus says in John 3, that the ones that do evil “dwell in darkness,” those that do what is right draw towards “the light.” The contrast is between doing what is right and holy, or sinning. Verse 5 basically says, “God is perfect and sinless, and he has no wrong.” Therefore, verse 6 says if we do what is wrong, then how can we have “fellowship” with Him? If He truly is pure and holy, and He is, then sinful creatures cannot come to Him and have a good and right relationship.  Furthermore, if they are sinning and say that they are having any type of relationship with God, they are deceiving themselves and lying. Fellowship with God can only happen when we are no longer living in the darkness of unrepentant sin. It is not that God is totally inaccessible, it is just that He doesn’t allow sinfulness to come before Him. This is why verse 7 is so important. Since we all dwell in “darkness,” we cannot of our own “dark” accord access the God Who epitomizes “light.” But thankfully, it doesn’t end there. Rather, Jesus lived perfectly in the “light,” and now through Himself offers us access to God. If we have put our faith in the work that Jesus accomplished and repent of our sins, we can have access to the God of all things. Before, we stood condemned, in darkness, but now, because of Jesus we can have access to God. “Fellowship” with the God of the Universe can take place, because Jesus cleanses us from the darkness of our sin.
Food For Thought: Why do you think that God uses the terms “light” and “darkness” to describe the two opposing sides of “holiness” and “sinfulness”?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Weekend Nugget:

Malachi 3:6
“I am the Lord, I change not.”
Often when people explain their problem with believing the Bible, they reference the “genocidal, maniacal, murderous God of the Old Testament.” They say things like, “How could a loving God have ordered the senseless murder of so many people?” Their main problem isn’t in admitting that God slaughtered men, women, and even babies; their main problem is that God sent men to do the slaughtering. It becomes to them a moral dilemma, when men are ruthlessly killing in the name of God. They then make the comparison with the God of the New Testament, Who, to them, is painfully nice and forgiving. Who instead of telling His followers to kill their enemies, tells them to love their enemies and pray for them. So why does God change? Well, God doesn’t change. How God is working through men, has changed. In the Old Testament, God ruled directly in a theocracy, where His punishment for the sins of people groups was doled out on those who had obtained “full wrath” status. For the Amalekites, this took about four-hundred years. In a true theocracy, God used the people of Israel to act out His judgment on the sinful and rebellious nations. However, those who were not sinful and rebellious, had nothing to fear from the just and merciful God. (Lev. 19:34), rather, it seems He had their best interests in mind.  In the New Testament, God relates to the people of the world through His church. This is not the same as a theocracy, so there is no call by God for the church to execute the judgment of God. He has delegated that authority to human government. (Rom.13:1-5) Rather, the church has the duty to draw men to God by extending His grace to them and telling of the redemption that can be found in the gospel of Jesus. As for the question of God changing, God’s wrath didn’t end at the close of the Old Testament. The same sin-punishing God reveals Himself again in the last few pages of the New Testament in Rev. 6-20.  God is God, and He never changes.
Food for Thought: Is God different between the two Testaments? Why then do people get a different perspective of God in the two?

Friday, December 7, 2012

1 John 1:3-4

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.

A good author has a purpose before he starts writing. As he pens his thoughts down, and they work out sequentially from his mind through his hand, his way of thinking is revealed. Here in 1 John, John doesn’t hide his motives. He plainly lists a multi-layered purpose for writing this epistle to his readers. First – the things that he saw Jesus do and heard Jesus say, he wants to tell and teach to the readers. But this is not purely didactic. He is not simply striving to layout a systematic theology for his readers to embrace and to subsequently live with a new set of rules “from the mouth of Jesus.” It’s not true to simplify his motive as teaching his readers WWJD (what would Jesus do?). Rather His motive goes deeper. It is a far greater purpose for his readers than to simply inform them of Who Jesus was, and what Jesus did. Rather, He had a second layer of purpose in instructing them in the truths of Christ. This second purpose is expressed clearly in 1 John 1:4 – “These things write we unto you, that your Joy may be full.” He is saying, “Without this life-changing, soul-liberating truth from the life and mouth of Jesus, you will not fully understand what it means to find joy.” “Learning this truth isn’t just so you can answer all the right questions about your faith, but so that in your life of faith, joy and purpose can be had.” John wanted to make sure his readers understood that he had their best interests at heart as he began this massive treatise on life and holiness in the light of God’s truth. And God has our interests at heart when He gives us the truth of this epistle. God is not a stoic, joy-hating God. Rather scripture seems to argue here that greatest joy is found in a deep knowledge and understanding of the truth of Who Jesus is and what He desires from us.
Food For Thought: Read Psalm 16:7-11. In this text, what is the connection of increasing in the understanding of God’s truth and finding joy?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

1 John 1:1-2

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands we have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;)

John begins both his gospel account and his epistles with this truth: Jesus is from the beginning. He means that Jesus literally predates all of the created things. He was existent before all other things were. In essence, in a time when only God existed, Jesus existed. By conclusion, Jesus then is God. As God, according to John 1:14, He became human and dwelled among other humans. John further says in 1 John that He preached a specific message “which we have heard;” His transfiguration took place in a way “which we have seen with our eyes;” He died a grueling death for the sin of all mankind on a cross while “we looked upon [Him];” and He physically arose from the dead and “our hands have handled” Him.  After John had witnessed Him live a life of perfect submission to God and absolute sinlessness, John could not help but relay the message of truth and hope that could be found in the saving work of Jesus. The eternal life that God offered through Jesus had been at the heart of  Christ’s appearing and incarnation. The invitation went out then, and it goes out again even now from John: a saving One has come. Life and Hope can be had, and they can be had in the person of Jesus Christ. So, John starts this letter with this reality. The theology that follows in the epistle hinges on the following realization: Eternal life is found in the One Who is truly eternal. We were hopeless until He came in His grace with mercy and offered forgiveness and redemption through His own work. The saving work has been done. It has been accomplished in Jesus, and now we must simply humble ourselves under the Grace of an Almighty Saviour.
Food For Thought: What were some of the things that John would have heard from Jesus?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

2 Peter 3:17-18

Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now an for ever. Amen.

Don’t be misled by anyone. Don’t allow anyone to pollute and question the theology that God has taught you from His Word. Who He is never changes. What He says does not waver. His desires are the same from everlasting past to everlasting future. The ones who want to change your thinking do so for their own personal gain from you. Do not be deceived by them. Whether they use their own wisdom, or enticing opportunities, or scoffing, or any other type of subversion, rest in the truth that you have learned. And grow in that truth. Do not take their lies as truth. Take the Words of God as truth. Take what He teaches and shows you as the only source of truth. There is no extra-biblical text that contains His truth, there is no extra-biblical person who is His special mouthpiece carrying His hidden never-before-revealed truth. What He wants to say to you, He already has, it is now just a matter of listening to His Word as it is written and allowing it to change you. Grow in truth. Dive deep into His Word and discover that it isn’t necessarily the new things that are invigorating and exciting, but rather the gems of truth that He spoke thousands of years ago to His penmen that are life-giving and joy-bringing. Grow in grace. Allow His grace to invade your life, focus the lens of your perspective off of the circumstances of life and onto the Providence of a God who is gently working in you His plan and purpose through those circumstances. Open your eyes to see His Sovereign design and power. Grow in the knowledge of Jesus. See who He is in the pages of the Gospels. See His tender ways. See His gentle treatment of those who didn’t believe, and His harsh words against the ones who hid the truth of God from others through their self-righteousness. See Him incrementally teach those who He longed to see grow, and see that He works this way still today. Don’t be shaken, and only look to Jesus.
Food For Thought: What two things does Peter tell you to grow in? What does growth in these areas look like?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2 Peter 3:14-16

Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Some will say that the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul were in conflict and did not agree. I recall a conversation with a lady that I once had, where she made the assertion that “We all know that Paul taught a different gospel than Peter did, and the Catholic church followed the teaching of Peter, and the Protestant churches like the Baptists follow the teachings of Paul. You see, the flaw with following the teachings of Paul is that unlike Peter, he never was there with Jesus and came later and changed the teachings of Jesus to what he wanted…” There is almost too much to address in her assertions at this time, but one thing that I do want you to grab from today’s text is that the assertion made by this friend of mine and by many like her, just isn’t true and finds no basis in the Bible. As a matter of fact, as you read today’s text, you will find that Peter views Paul as a “beloved brother,” who was full of “wisdom.” Those are usually not terms that you give to someone who is doctrinally unsound. I don’t look at Joseph Smith of the Mormon cult and say, “Now there is a beloved brother, full of wisdom that God gave him.” Bleh…just typing that felt so wrong! Joseph Smith is not a beloved brother, and he only taught heresy and lies, not wisdom. The assertion that somehow Peter and Paul were diametrically opposed theologians could not be further from the truth, they were in fact both followers of Jesus, who taught the message that Jesus had taught to both of them – salvation by God’s grace through our faith alone. My Catholic friend did not have her theology right (ironically, her thinking doesn’t even really line up well with Catholic doctrine either). There is not inconsistency in God’s men, and there is no conflict between the doctrines that these men teach. We can come to God’s Word and read with confidence the accounts of Paul and the accounts of Peter, learning from both the truth of our God and of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Food For Thought: How do we know that the Apostle Peter did not disagree with the Apostle Paul’s teachings?

Monday, December 3, 2012

2 Peter 3:10-13

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

Christ will come back, and when He does, it will get very hot. A loud noise will shake the cosmos, and the rattling stars will be destroyed. The earth and all therein will melt like a stick of butter in the microwave. It won’t have a chance. All that exists will one day be a puddle of molten earth goo. This view of the stuff around us as eventually burned up and melted helps us with the value system that we place on our stuff. One preacher said, “knowing that it will all burn up one day, why do you still keep piling up stuff?” He took the analogy further and said that instead of fulfilling the great commission to save men’s souls, men rather accumulate wheelbarrows full of sawdust to dump in the fire. All things will one day be consumed, the only thing that will last for eternity is the souls of men. Why then would we spend our lives investing in something else? The disciples of Christ apparently caught this vision from Jesus, which is why you see them within a few decades travelling around the world proclaiming the gospel to those who are lost. So what will you accumulate? Wood, hay, stubble? Will you boast that you have more wheelbarrows full of fire fuel? Or, will you, with eyes like our Savior, see your purpose as far greater than just an accumulator of stuff and trinkets? Will you not be enamored by the fleeting “stuff” of culture, and rather pursue a deeper and greater purpose in the retrieval of men’s lives from the fire? Will you see yourself as one who holds the truth needed to rescue millions from eternal destruction, and then like William Carey, Ion-Keith Falconer, and Jim Eliot spend your life drawing men to life and purpose in Jesus? “You only have one life, and it will soon be past. Only what is done for Christ will last.” – C.T. Studd
Food For Thought: What item in this devo illustrated the accumulation of stuff? What does this illustration mean?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Weekend Nugget:

Haggai 1:5 says “Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.” God sent Haggai to take His message to His people. This takes place in Palestine, when the Jews had been sent back by the commission of King Cyrus to rebuild their temple. However, fifteen years later, the temple had not been built, and they were going around with life as usual. They had taken time to build their own houses, and open their own shops to trade goods in, but they had not accomplished the one thing that they had been sent to do, build a temple for God. God finally spoke to them through Haggai, and said, “Consider your ways.” In essence, “think about what you are doing.” They had not accomplished what God had called them to, because they had sought to accomplish their own things. Ironically, they had not been largely successful at accomplishing for themselves. It seemed like they couldn’t make any money. It seemed like their fields wouldn’t grow any crops. They found themselves frustrated that nothing seemed to work like it should. A loving God had been trying to use fruitlessness in their lives to chasten them back to His glory and their joy in their obedience to Him, but they thought they should build their kingdom first and then build His. So finally, because of their blindness, He said, “Consider your ways.” I think of Proverbs 3:5, “In all thy ways acknowledge Him,” and I think that if they had acknowledged Him, His temple would have already been built and they would be living in their own houses with crops and provision for their families taken care of. But they had gotten their priorities out of order, and had turned their focus on themselves and accumulation of stuff for themselves. So a loving God stopped them and sent His Words through His man, Haggai, to offer correction and an adjusted vision for their benefit and for His glory. They did well to “Consider their ways,” and eventually they did build the temple, and God was magnified and they found true joy.
Food For Thought: How can we sometimes end up living life like these Jews that didn’t build God’s temple? Hear God now speaking to you, “Consider your ways.”

Friday, November 30, 2012

2 Peter 3:5-9

For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise.” This was the answer that Peter offered the scoffers and the mockers. So, “Why does God not return yet?” would be the question that was raised often, and Peter would look to his followers and say “God is longsuffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” If God were to come back last year, there would be countless thousands who would not yet have put their faith in Him and would be lost for all eternity. God in His love desires that the unreached be called to salvation before the scroll of time is closed. He is not willing that any should perish, and so He sends His message with His messengers into the far reaches of His globe - “The day of judgment is coming. The day of destruction is coming, those who truly believe will be saved and set in the presence of the gracious God who saved them, but those who do not believe by that day are already condemned and will be cast into utter destruction and separation from the presence of God.” We do not pack our bags and sit idly by, waiting like we are at a bus station about to take a ride. Rather we are called to an active waiting. We look for His coming, with anticipation and hope and excitement, and work to build His kingdom of believers here until the day He appears. When will that be? Only God knows. So we then with faith and hope draw men to Him constantly. God has been merciful to continue to extend grace to all men for the past two-thousand years, we must not get side-tracked by the scoffers who do not understand the grace of God. We see the days not as days that we laboriously wait, but rather days that God desires us to be the hands and mouthpiece of His longsuffering grace to other men. Now see yourself with purpose in these days of waiting for His coming.
Food for Thought: According to Peter, why has God not come back yet?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

2 Peter 3:1-4

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.

Scoffers always exist. Their existence is as certain as the air we breathe. If there is someone working hard at something, there will be someone criticizing the work being done. If there is someone who sets their will on something, you can usually find someone else who is ready to be a “killjoy” and explain how the desire that the person has will never work out. It is just natural. These scoffers consider themselves extremely wise, because they can listen to another’s words and point out all the idiosyncrasies and contradictions, the stutterings and mis-speakings. They jeer and mock, and use the ridicule that they play out as a means to uplift themselves. Instead of accomplishing or striving, they find it easier to work a reactionary position that just mocks and tears down those around them. With no effort, they constantly deride those around them and in doing so, they consider that they are elevating themselves to a “higher position” than others. Talk show hosts like David Letterman, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck are masters of  “scoffing.” They will find something that the President said and then mock it until they feel as though those around them view the scoffer as more prestigious then the one being scoffed. This arrogance is not healthy, and never brings help. Solomon says in Proverbs 22:10, “Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.” The best place for scorners and scoffers is “cast out.” Scorners bring nothing to the table except negativity. Peter knows that scorners will always mock. He knows that in the days to come scorners will come and mock the fact that the Lord has not yet returned, and he tells his followers to remain in the hope of His coming. Rest in what Christ has accomplished and trust that as He has justified you, and is currently by His grace sanctifying you, one day He will glorify you. Now realize that scoffing comes from the mouths of the miserable who desire you to join their company in misery and doubt. Trust and hope in Christ, don’t be shaken by mockers.
Food For Thought: What is the term that means “one who mocks”? Are scoffers inherently happy people? What is a negative byproduct of people being scoffers?