Friday, November 30, 2018

Gentled by love

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Philemon 1-25;
 Psalm 24

"It's as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus—that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains." Philemon 9,10.

There is something in Paul's voice that is sweet and appealing. Perhaps it's his reference to himself as old. Or maybe it's the helplessness he implies with the use of the words "prisoner" and "chains."

The tone with which he requests mercy for Onesimus could have been far bolder, he reminds Philemon: "... although in Christ I could ... order you to do what you ought to do..." Paul softens his request. It's tempered with love: "Yet I appeal to you on the basis of love" - Philemon 1:9.

I'm thinking that our relationships, within our human families and the church family would run more smoothly, and that there would be a greater will to comply with each others wishes if we communicated with the same gentleness. May God fill our hearts with the oil of love to lubricate our relationships and our speech.

Dear Father, I need Your love to pervade and gentle my interactions with others. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: Philemon (Read Scripture Series)

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptures quoted in this meditation are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Thursday, November 29, 2018


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Titus 1-3; Psalm 23

TO CHEW ON: "For there are many insubordinate both idle talkers and deceivers ... whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not for the sake of dishonest gain .... Therefore rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith." Titus 1:10-11,13

A friend was sharing the story of her spiritual journey with me the other day. She told of a time, about a year into her walk with Christ, when substitute teaching jobs kept coming up on the day of her women's Bible study. Feeling the need for more money, she almost always accepted them.

One day when she again phoned her Bible study leader to tell her she would be away, the woman confronted her. "You know," she said, "you're a new Christian and you need this Bible study. You need to get off the fence."

"My leader's words really made me think," my friend said. "We don't reprove or rebuke people much these days."

My friend is right. Rebuke, reproof, confrontation—whatever word you use for it—our tolerant society isn't very tolerant of such corrective speech. But this is what Paul told Titus to do when he encountered the idle talkers [mataiologos  = speaking that lacks reason and worth and gives evidence of an undisciplined lifestyle - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1720] and the deceivers who influenced entire families against the gospel with motives of personal gain.

Titus isn't the only place the Bible mentions rebuke/reproof.

  • Proverbs speaks of the people who rebuke the wicked as having delight and gaining a blessing (Proverbs 24:25). However, the writer is realistic and also warns of the bad reception such rebuke may cause (Proverbs 9:7).
  • Luke tells us to rebuke with care, and forgive when the wrongdoer repents (Luke 17:3).
  • Paul tells his readers to expose the deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). He lists "rebuke" as one of the routine duties of the pastor, along with "preach, exhort, convince, and teach" (2 Timothy 4:2). He tells Timothy to rebuke publicly so that onlookers will examine their own actions (1 Timothy 5:20) and Titus to rebuke sharply (our reading) and with authority (Titus 2:15).

Have you ever been rebuked? Have you rebuked someone? Maybe this is a biblical practice we should do more of, with the intention of helping people mature (Titus 1:13) and as an expression love to fellow members of God's family (1 Corinthians 4:14).

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to have the courage to rebuke a fellow Christian if there is a need. But more, help me to accept rebuke. Help me to see it as an act of love. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: Titus (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Last days religion

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Timothy 1-4; Psalm 22

TO CHEW ON: “Having a form of godliness but dying its power. And from such people turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:5.

I have been following with interest the story of Gretta Vosper, the atheist pastor of a United Church in Toronto. That there should even be a debate over whether she keeps her job seems to me the big story here. Of course Ms. Vosper is free to believe what she likes. But to call herself a minister and leader of a faith in which belief in God and the Bible are the foundation while she has bluntly stated she “… does not believe in God or the Bible” shows how far down the path we as a society have wandered toward the last days scenario of “having a form of godliness, but denying its power.” (In early November 2018, her "heresy trial" was called off and she was assured a continuing position with the United Church despite her beliefs that go against the doctrinal statement of the denomination.)

Such a theological symptom is part of a quite horrendous list of self-absorbed behaviours:
“Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self control, brutal, despairs of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” - 2 Timothy 3:2-4. 

(Had Paul been watching, in prophetic foresight, one of our newscasts?)

A little further along in the passage, Paul gives more insight into “last days” religion: “… always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” - 2 Timothy 3:7.

This reminds me of the description of a modern stream of the Protestant church called "Emergent" found in the book Why We’re Not Emergent:
“Certainty for the emergent church is the same as pinning down Jesus and summing up God, while uncertainty is a breath of fresh air.”
 The authors quote Brian McLaren (a man prominent in the Emergent church movement): 
“‘ Drop any affair you may have with certainty, proof, argument—and replace it with dialogue, conversation, intrigue and search … since reality is seldom clear but usually fuzzy and mysterious, not black-and-white but in living colour’” - Kevin DeYoung & Ted Kluck, Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be, Kindle Location 522, Brian McLaren quote source: Adventures in Missing the Point, by McLaren & Campolo, 84.

What does Paul advise Timothy to do in the face of such beliefs and behaviours? He says simply: “And from such people turn away.”

[“Turn away” - apotrepo - means to turn oneself away from, shun, avoid.]

It might be tempting to get a little involved in the self-first behaviours that are so common today (often whipped up and spurred on by social media). Doubt is cool. It’s sophisticated to keep one’s belief options open to any and every belief system. But, Paul tells Timothy and us, that isn’t the path of the Jesus follower who lives by the certainty of God’s word - 2 Timothy 3:16,17.

PRAYER: Dear Father help me to detect any side trips I may be tempted to take into the realm of self first and denying of the truth and power of Your word. Amen. 


The Bible Project VIDEO: 2 Timothy (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

What to pursue

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Timothy 5-6; Psalm 21

TO CHEW ON: "But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness." 1 Timothy 6:11

It is more probable that we will succeed in reaching a goal if we focus on the positive (the thing or action we are striving toward) rather than the negative (the thing or action were are to avoid). Paul, after warning Timothy about the dangers of pursuing "these things" — he's been talking about the love of money — tells Timothy what to pursue:

Pursue [Strong's #1377) Dioko] means to press on. Figuratively it is used of one who in a race runs swiftly to reach the goal.] In this context it is pursuit without the idea of hostility, to run after, follow after; to pursue or to seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavour to acquire. In plain words, to go after something with all one's might.

Righteousness: [Strong's #1343  Dikaiosune means in a broad sense to be in a condition acceptable to God. In a narrower sense it is used of someone who is just and gives each his due.]

Godliness: [Strong's #2150  Eusebeia  means to have reverence, respect and piety towards God.]

Faith: [Strong's #4102 Pistis refers to the conviction of the truth of anything; belief. In the NT faith implies a conviction or belief about man's relationship to God and divine things.] This includes the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ. Relating to Christ, it is a conviction that Jesus is the Messiah through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the Kingdom of God. Toward men, it implies qualities of fidelity or faithfulness — we say we have faith in someone because he can be relied on.

Love: [Strong's #26 Agape is brotherly love, affection, good will, love, benevolence.] For a practical description, read 1 Corinthians 13.

Patience: [Strong's #5281 Hupomone is steadfastness, constancy, endurance.] Patience (also translated "perseverance" in the NT is the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.

Gentleness: [Strong's #4236 Praotes refers to gentleness, mildness, and meekness.] A "Word Wealth" article in my Bible says about gentleness:
"A disposition that is even-tempered, tranquil, balanced in spirit, unpretentious, and that has the passions under control. The word is best translated "meekness" not as an indication of weakness but of power and strength under control. The person who possesses this quality pardons injuries, corrects faults and rules his own spirit well." New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1706
(All emphases mine)

What a list! Where to start?

If you're like me, the quality or characteristic that you're currently pursuing will change from circumstance to circumstance. If you're speaking with someone who argues persuasively against the existence of God, your faith may need shoring up. If you are having issues with a difficult neighbour, your attention will be drawn toward pursuing love. If you're living with a wilfull child, your focus may be on pursuing gentleness.

One thing is sure: If we give ourselves fully to these pursuits, we won't have a lot of time or energy left to chase after money, fame, power or any of "these things" about which Paul warns Timothy.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me focus on pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness in my life. Amen



Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Invocation for a project—even a life

Cross on a banner
Cross on a banner - RGB Stock Image
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Timothy 3-4; Psalm 20

TO CHEW ON: "May He grant you according to your heart's desire;
And fulfill all your purpose.
We will rejoice in your salvation,
And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions." Psalm 20:4,5

This psalm of David's has three margin notes in my Bible:
- Book project Bezalel - 2009
- Entered Word Alive Contest - 2011
- Finishing edit - March 2012

It was obviously a significant passage for me as I worked on, completed and published my novel Destiny's Hands. I can see why. It touches on four elements that make it a sustaining prayer passage for any project, season, or even a life:

  • Desire: "May He grant you according to your heart's desire…"
What a wonderful thought—that God might give us our desires!  While this could easily degenerate into something selfish, other passages help us sort out what worthy desires look like. Passages like: "Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desire of your heart" - Psalm 37:4 (see also Psalm 27:4; Isaiah 26:9; Luke 6:21).

  • Purpose: "…And fulfill all your purpose…"
Is this saying our lives have a point—there is a reason we're here? Yes—a purpose that may be way older and more established than we have ever imagined, according to Paul: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" - Ephesians 2:10.

  • Battle: "We will rejoice in your salvation / And in the name of our God we will set up our banners!" - Psalm 20:5
[Banner: "Generally a standard raised in battle as a rallying point for armies. God is described as Israel's banner in recognition of his powerful defence of his people" - The Dictionary of Bible Themes.]

Here is the celebration of victories in the skirmishes where we've been successful and the invocation of God's presence and help through the battles yet to come, as we rally under His banner: "The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace" - Exodus 14:14.
  • Prayer: "May the Lord fulfill all your petitions"
Don't we all want to claim this promise. it's a promise reiterated in many places in the Bible, often with the condition we find in 1 John 5:14,15:"… if we ask anything according to His will He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him" (emphasis added).

May these words be the prayer of our hearts today over our still incomplete projects, seasons, and lives

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for promises of Your presence through our projects to cover everything including our very lives. Help me to continue to claim this victory passage for my works in progress. Amen. 


The Bible Project Video: Public Reading  of ScriptureTheme

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Pray for authorities

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Timothy 1-2; Psalm 19

TO CHEW ON: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." 1 Timothy 2:1-2

The instructions to pray for rulers and authorities must have been especially difficult for members of the early church. Their rulers were often cruel and repressive with no qualms about giving Christians a bad time. Followers of "The Way" were frequently scapegoats, accused of and then killed for crimes they had never committed.

In spite of this, Paul tells Timothy to instruct the people in his congregation to intercede and give thanks for all in leadership and authority positions. Still today, whether we like them or not, agree or disagree with their politics and decisions, we are to pray for those who rule and have authority — in our land and all over the world.

Dick Eastman in his book Love On Its Knees gives us some specific ways we can pray for leaders and authorities. First, he lays out a general "Micah Plan." It is based on praying out of Micah 6:8 — Micah's description of the lifestyle and conduct of a leader:
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" 

From this Eastman suggests:

"- We must pray that a particular leader will do justly....that he or she will govern truthfully with a spirit of sincerity.
- We may pray that a leader will love mercy. This means he or she will govern compassionately with a spirit of generosity.
- We may pray that the leader will walk humbly with God. This means he or she will govern modestly and with a spirit of sensitivity."

Eastman then goes on to list seven specific things we can pray for leaders of our country and countries around the world:

1. That unjust leaders will make mistakes that help advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Psalm 109:26-29).

2. That tyrannical leaders will fall from power by receiving unsound advice (Psalm 5:10).

3. That godly leaders will discover spiritual wisdom to govern their nations (Proverbs 28:2).

4. That all leaders will receive a personal message of God's love (Isaiah 52:7).

5. That leaders in troubled nations will grow weary of continuing bloodshed in their lands (1 Kings 5:3-4).

6. That corrupt leaders will recognize their evil ways and turn to God (2 Chronicles 33:11-13).

7. That all leaders will realize that God alone gave them their positions of authority (Daniel 2:20-21) — Dick Eastman (Dick Eastman On Prayer: Love On Its Knees, excerpted from pages 97-101).

Let's spend some time praying for those in authority today.

PRAYER: Dear God, I confess I have often neglected to pray for the leaders of my land, province and city. Today I pray for my Prime Minister (or president or king...), the premier of my province (or governor of my state...), and the mayor of my city. May they be blessed with Your wisdom, have a personal sense of Your love, and acknowledge Your role in bringing them to their position and helping them carry out their responsibilities. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: 1 Timothy (Read Scripture Series)

MORE: More authorities to pray for...

Elected, appointed, or self-appointed political rulers are not society's only authorities. Many other people have such positions, not formally recognized perhaps but by reason of their influence. Other authority figures for which we can and should pray could be:

1. Judges and members of law enforcement, including the police and the military.

2. Educators which would include teachers, college and university professors, even our kids' sports coaches.

3. Cultural authorities such as entertainers and sports figures.

4. Commercial authorities such as business leaders, and members of the media.

Perhaps you can think of even more...

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

A guard against deception

TODAY’S SPECIAL: 2 Thessalonians 1-3; Psalm 18

TO CHEW ON: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive a love of the truth, that they might be saved.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9,10

In this interesting chapter of 2 Thessalonians, Paul gives his readers (who are confused about whether Jesus has already returned) some signs to watch for that will precede “that day.”

  • It will be a time of “falling away”people losing their faith in Jesus and the gospel - 2 Thessalonians 2:3.
  • A charismatic leader will come on the scene. He will demand everyone’s allegiance, even worship. He will work miracles by Satan’s power - 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4,9,10.
  • People will be gullible because restraint has been removed - 2 Thessalonians 2:6,7. (There are varying opinions about “what is restraining” [vs. 6] and “He [or he] who now restrains” [vs. 7] is—the Holy Spirit, the church, human government. I think it is safe to say whatever that restraining power, God is behind it being in place and then being removed.)
  • People will be ripe for deception because they’ve rejected the truth. Paul’s words are explicit here: “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteousness deceptions among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.”

What we can take for our lives from this passage is that a love of the truth is a guard against deception. This is more than just a head knowledge or intellectual assent, though. John Piper expresses it well in this sermon on 2 Thessalonians 2:

“Notice: it is not merely an issue of knowing or believing in a merely mental sense: it is an issue of loving….Therefore the only defense against this appeal (signs and miracles of the man of lawlessness) will be a deeper desire for God. If Christ is our portion and our treasure, if he satisfies our longings, and if we love the glory of his gospel, then the mystery of lawlessness will not overcome us, and our love will not grow cold and we will endure to the end and be saved”  
- John Piper, quote from message on the DesiringGod website (emphasis added). Read or listen to entire…

PRAYER: Dear God, help me to know, love, and live by the truth of Your word. Please make me sensitive to deception in whatever form it comes. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: 2 Thessalonians (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The final transformation

White robe
Graphic courtesy
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 3-4; Psalm 16

"And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints." 1 Thessalonians 3:12,13

Sometimes I have a little trouble sorting out exactly what Paul is saying in his maze-like and run on sentences. But after puzzling the long sentence in our focus verses, I'm hearing him say that he wants the Thessalonians to abound in [have plenty of, be rich in] love toward each other and the world beyond the church walls. He wants them to be as rich in love toward others as he (Paul) is rich in love toward them.

The result of pursuing such love will be that God establishes their hearts "blameless in holiness"—something that will be completed, however, only at the coming of the Lord Jesus.

As we continue to focus on the theme of Christ's second coming through 1 Thessalonians, these verses give us more insights about that anticipated event. They tell us:
  •  the love we cultivate toward each other is preparation for Christ's return.
  • this process of making love abound in us and establishing us blameless in holiness—we call it sanctification— is "brought to glorious completion at the Second Coming of the Lord" - Reformation Study Bible.

The truth of God completing the work of sanctification in us at His return is repeated many times in the Bible: 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 1 Corinthians 1:8; Philippians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:3; Jude 24.

What a relief, that God makes provision to complete this process. My Bible's explanation of the world "holiness"  here gives us an idea of what a deep-clean it is and will be:

["Holiness - hagiosune - is the principle that separates the believer from the world…. It causes every component of our character to stand God's inspection and meet His approval" - Dick Mills, "Word Wealth," New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1686, emphasis added.]

Dear God, thank You that my lifelong pursuit of holiness and blamelessness will be divinely completed at Jesus' return. Amen. 


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

In the meantime—holiness

playing guitars against the sunset
Image courtesy
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 5; Psalm 17

TO CHEW ON: "Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Thessalonians 5:23

Today we complete our reading of 1 Thessalonians. This read-through we've followed the theme of the return of Jesus. We have seen that:
  1. Our lives should show that we expect this event (A waiting lifestyle).
  2. The hope of someday meeting Jesus is a great motivator (Someday we'll meet Jesus).
  3. His return will complete the work of sanctification in us (The final transformation).
  4. The Bible gives us details about Christ's return and Christians being caught away with Him—often called the "Rapture" (Caught away).
  5. We need to be ready for His return at any time (The ready lifestyle).

Our focus verse today is Paul's affirmation / prayer that these Thessalonian Christians are and will be ready for this event. Paul speaks again about how God will complete their sanctification (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

But Paul has just listed a whole lot of dos and don'ts for living (1 Thessalonians 5:12-22)!

So which is it? Is their sanctification an act of God? Or are they to work at it by living a certain way?

I love how Jerry Bridges tackles this question in his book The Pursuit of Holiness. Some of his helpful insights:

In Chapter 3 ("Holiness is not an Option"), he delves into 1 Corinthians 1:2, and focuses on the word "sanctified." "Sanctified" in 1 Corinthians 1:2 is the same Greek word hagiazo that is rendered "sanctify" in 1 Thessalonians 5:23. He says of that word:
"The word 'sanctified' here means 'made holy.' That is, we are through Christ made holy in our standing before God, and called to be holy in our daily lives" - Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness, Kindle Location 230 (emphasis added).

Then he goes on to explain the relationship between God's actions and ours:

"Scripture speaks of both a holiness which we have in Christ before God and a holiness which we are to strive after. These two aspects of holiness complement one another, for our salvation is a salvation to holiness" - K.L. 230 (emphasis added).
"… we may say that no one can trust in Jesus Christ for true salvation unless he trusts Him for holiness. This does not mean the desire for holiness must be a conscious desire at the time a person comes to Christ, but rather it means that the Holy Spirit who creates within us saving faith also creates within us the desire for holiness. He simply does not create one without the other" - K.L. 244 (emphasis added).

So according to Bridges' explanation, it's both. It's God and us and God in us, working on the project of our sanctification. And, Paul assures us, when Jesus returns, He will "sanctify you completely" or finish the work of making us holy—the project that began the day we got saved, the project that includes attending now to the practical attitudes and actions of holy living Paul lists in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, come soon! This study has whet my appetite for Your return. In the meantime, help me to be obedient to the Holy Spirit's training in holy living. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A waiting lifestyle

Church steeple against clouds
Photo courtesy
TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Thessalonians 1-2; Psalm 15

TO CHEW ON: "For they themselves declare concerning us, what manner of entry we had to you and how you turned from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come." 1 Thessalonians 1:9,10

In the next two days we're going to read all the way through 1 Thessalonians. As we begin today, here are some background facts about the book to help us understand its setting.

1. 1 Thessalonians was the first of Paul's letters that has been saved and the first book in the New Testament to be written. My Bible's introductory notes date it at A.D. 50—written before the Gospels, though they describe earlier events.

2. Paul founded the church in Thessalonica on his second missionary journey. It was on the route he took after having the vision of the Macedonian man begging, "Come over to Macedonia and help us" - Acts 16:10.

3. On that trip (about 49 A.D.) Paul went to Philippi (Acts 16:12-40) and then to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9). His stay there was brief and controversial but life-altering for that "...great multitude of devout Greeks and not a few leading women" who believed Paul's gospel message.

One of the main themes in 1 Thessalonians is the return of Christ. In fact, a reference to it appears in each chapter. It is a theme thread we can follow as we read through the book.

In today's focus verses, Paul is complimenting the Christians there for their stellar reputation.

(The "...they…" ["For they themselves declare concerning us… etc. - vs. 9] who speak so glowingly of the Thessalonian believers refers back to the other believers in the region: "… all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe…" - 1 Thessalonians 1:7.)

It's interesting to note what these early and quite new Christians were known for:
  • Faith in God - 1 Thessalonians 1:8.
  • A dramatic lifestyle change as they turned from idol worship to worship and serve God - 1 Thessalonians 1:9.
  • An attitude of expectancy. These people had a reputation of waiting for Jesus' return - 1 Thessalonians 1:10.
  • A serenity about the future as they no longer feared the "wrath of God" - 1 Thessalonians 1:10.

I wonder how the expectant lifestyle of these Christians looked. Maybe they had stopped collecting stuff, like property and clothes. Maybe they were making sure all their relationships were tended to. They probably spoke of their expectation to family, friends, and neighbors so that their dear ones would believe too and not be left behind. It's clear that they had a reputation for sounding forth their beliefs (1 Thessalonians 1:8).

A good question to ask ourselves is, what sort of reputation do we have as believers? Are we known for our faith in God? Have we turned from our old pre-Christian ways? Do our lives give any evidence at all that we expect Christ to return? (Or do we really expect that?)

Dear God, I am challenged by the simple yet bold faith of these one-year-old New Testament Christians. Please help me to firm up my expectation inYour return so that it becomes evident in my lifestyle. Amen. 


The Bible Project VIDEO: 1 Thessalonians (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

We can sift our words and actions through this

flour sifter
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Colossians 3-4; Psalm 14

TO CHEW ON: "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." - Colossians 3:17

In Colossians 3:1-16 Paul gives his readers back in Colosse and us now, a list of specifics—ways to act Christianly:
- control your thoughts (Colossians 3:1-4).
- stop responding to sinful urges (Colossians 3:5-6).
- clean up your speech (Colossians 3:8,9).
- become blind to race, adherence to religious practices like circumcision, and social status among Christian brothers and sisters (Colossians 3:10,11).
- adopt the right attitude toward fellow believers being quick to forgive, and governed by love (Colossians 3:12-14).
- cultivate peace and gratitude in your own heart (Colossians 3:14,15).
- spend so much time in the word that it flows from your lives (Colossians 3:16).

In verse 17, it's as if Paul is saying, 'If I've forgotten anything'—"And whatever you do in word or deed"—it's included in this command:  "... do all in the name of the Lord Jesus..."

  • Doing something in someone's name is to act as their representative or stand-in. In a way, this verse is another way of phrasing the popular saying, What Would Jesus Do?
  • Acting in someone's name has overtones of authority. A policeman who levies fines and makes arrests doesn't do this in his own name but in the name of the government that employs him. In Acts we see an interesting example of two parties using the authority of Jesus name to exorcise evil spirits (Acts 19:11-17).
  • There is also an ambassador-type relationship implied. As people who call ourselves Christians (Christ-ones) and in this way identify with Jesus, we are ambassadors of the kingdom He represents and is establishing—the kingdom of heaven.

What an awesome privilege—to live ("whatever you do in word or deed") in the name of the Lord Jesus. At the same time it's sobering. This verse becomes a kind of screen through which we can sift all our words and actions, asking: Is this thing I am planning to say, write or act on, something I can do in the name of Jesus?

Dear Jesus, please remind me of these words and how I am to live in Your name as I go through the activities of this day. Amen. 


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The preeminent Christ

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Colossians 1-2; Psalm 13

TO CHEW ON: "And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence." Colossians 1:18

Don't our hearts just thrill to read Paul's deep, grand descriptions of Jesus in Colossians? Don't our imaginations get a workout as we try to understand His roles as creator, reconciler, head of the church, and more? I am so thankful for Paul who, early in the church age, not only grasped the theological implications of who Jesus was and did, but wrote these things down.

A sidebar article in my Bible is a compilation of the many ways that Paul describes Jesus as THE BEST in Colossians.


In universal government
- the visible image of God - Colossians 1:15
- The agent of creation - Colossians 1:16
- The sustainer - Colossians 1:17
- The head of the church - Colossians 1:18

In reconciliation
- Reconciles us through His death - Colossians 1:21-22
- Lives in us as our hope of glory - Colossians 1:27

In wisdom and knowledge
- The source of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge - Colossians 2:2-3
- Worldly philosophy does not conform to Him - Colossians 2:8

In religious observance
- We are alive in Him - Colossians 2:11-13
- No need for legalism and ritualism - Colossians 2:16-23

In Christian living
- The source of our new life is in Him - Colossians 3:1,3,4
- In Him we die to the power of sin - Colossians 3:3-5

("The Preeminent Christ" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1672.)

What a treasure we have in Jesus! He deserves all our adoration, worship and praise.

 Jesus the Very Thought of Thee

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, the thought that You, in whom are all the grand things above, would come to earth and die for me is amazing and wonderful. I think and praise You for the amazing God and Saviour You are. Amen. 


The Bible Project VIDEO: Colossians (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The upward call

Image: wdietz /
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Philippians 3-4; Psalm 12

TO CHEW ON: "Not that I have already attained or am already perfect, but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Philippians 3:12

For those of us who believe God has a plan and purpose for each individual life, this is an interesting verse to puzzle over and explore. It sounds like Paul here is striving ("press on") to  understand ("lay hold of") that destiny, purpose, or life work for which God "laid hold of" him (love the wordplay!).

Don't we all want to discover the same thing? Why did God draw me to Himself yet leave me on this earth? How am I meant to spend my time here?

Pressing toward the goal of the resurrected life

A question we ask as we begin to slice and dice this verse is, what is Paul referring to when he says, "Not that I have already attained" - Philippians 3:12? To what has he not attained?

A hint of what he is striving to attain is found in Philippians 3:11: "… if by any means I may attain to the resurrection of the dead."

He seems to be telling us he hasn't attained to the resurrection of the dead (obviously, because he's not dead) but also, if we read further on, that to a point this resurrected life can be realized in this life ("Nevertheless to the degree that we have already attained…" - Philippians 3:16) though the real essence of it is to come ("For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior … who will transform our lowly body…" etc. Philippians 3:20,21). So he appears to be striving, as much as possible, to live the resurrected life during his mortal life.

How to make progress toward that goal

Paul goes on to list some things he does to make progress toward the goal of living the resurrected life here on earth:

  • He leaves the past behind - Philippians 3:13.
  • He keeps the goal in mind, that final goal of getting "the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." In other words, receiving God's commendation for fulfilling the destiny for which he was saved - Philippians 3:14.
  • He works for unity with fellow Christians - Philippians 3:15,16.
  • He seeks to live what he preaches, i.e. set an example that others can follow - Philippians 3:17.
  • He reminds himself of his real citizenship - Philippians 3:20.

In the light of today's passage I ask myself, what is my goal? What is yours? Some earthly glory or perk, comfort or pleasure? Or does it involve some of the things Paul dreams of: God's "Well done"? The resurrection life future, and present? And what does how we live say about the goals we really have (not just claim to have)?

Dear God, please tattoo permanently into my spirit the truth of my identity and destiny in You. Help me begin living out the resurrected life here on earth. Amen


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Poured out versus self-directed life

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Philippians 1-2; Psalm 11

TO CHEW ON: Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” Philippians 2:17

Several times in his writing Paul uses metaphors of sacrifice for his life. These are word pictures that take us back to the Jewish sacrifices. He does that in Philippians 2: “… I am being poured out as a drink offering…” vs. 17.

The IVP New Testament Commentary Series explains the drink offering metaphor:

“The metaphor itself is taken from the Jewish sacrificial system. Pictured is the burnt offering (thysia, ‘sacrifice’), the service itself (leitourgia) and the drink offering poured out at the sanctuary (spendo) in connection with (not ‘on’ in Jewish ritual) the sacrifice (cf. Num 28:1-7)....

“Most likely, then, the whole clause is a metaphor for the present suffering that both he and they are experiencing at the hand of the Empire. He pictures his imprisonment as the drink offering that goes along with their 'burnt offering,' their present struggle in Philippi." (IVP Commentary accessed through the free resources at

Our experience may not include seeing or being part of such a ritual. But even so it’s clear, I think, that Paul is talking about complete relinquishment of his life to the purposes of Jesus.  His life is some sort of liquid—water, or wine, or perfume—poured out.

A more modern voice that sounds a lot like Paul’s on the matter of living the sacrificial life is Oswald Chambers. Here are some things he says in the book Biblical Ethics (all emphases added):

“The attitude of Christians toward the providential order in which they are placed is to recognize that God is behind it for purposes of His own” - Biblical Ethics, Kindle Location 554.

“The only way one can ever be of service to God is when one is willing to renounce all one’s natural excellencies and determine to be weak in Him. ‘I am here for one thing only, for Jesus Christ to manifest himself in me.’… We have to form the habit of letting God carry on His work through us without let or hindrance - Op. Cit. K.L. 3317.

“There was no ‘show business’ in the life of the Son of God, and there is to be no show business in the life of the saint. Concentrate on God, let Him engineer circumstances as He will, and wherever He places you…” Op. Cit. KL 3344.

What a contrast such a life is to Paul’s description of a group of people he calls “all” a little further down:
“For all seek their own, not things which are of Christ Jesus” - Philippians 2:21.
“For the others seek [to advance] their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ the Messiah” - Philippians 2:21 AMP.

Sin is literally self-centered rule, a disposition that rules the life apart from God.” Chambers, Op.Cit. KL 4502.

I ask myself, as perhaps you do too, what sort of life am I living? A poured-out, drink offering life, or a self-centered one?

PRAYER: Dear Father, I find myself so often defaulting to self-rule. Help me to live the poured-out life, completely at Your disposal more consistently. Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: Philippians (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (

Friday, November 16, 2018

The smells God loves

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 5-6; Psalm 10

“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.” Ephesians 5:2

Paul's description of Christ’s sacrifice as a “sweet smelling aroma” only makes sense when we put it into the context of the Old Testament.

The first instance we have of the connection between God and the smell of a sacrifice is when Noah left the ark and made a burnt offering. Then “… the LORD smelled a soothing aroma…” and determined to never again curse the ground or wipe out humanity - Genesis 8:20,21.

The Old Testament sacrifice system was full of smells;
  • The aroma of sacrificed (burning) animals, animal parts (like fat), and grain (Leviticus 1:9, 8:21).
  • The aroma of a specially concocted anointing oil to be used exclusively for setting  aside people and things as holy (it contained the fragrances of myrrh, cinnamon, sweet-smelling cane, and cassia) - Exodus 30:22-33.
  • The aroma of incense, burned on a special altar—the Altar of Incense in the Tabernacle and in censers which only authorized people were to offer in the prescribed way (Leviticus 10:1,2).

Here, in Ephesians, when Paul speaks of Christ in His death as being a “sweet-smelling aroma,”  keeping all the above in mind, we get it.  Jesus’ death was the appeasing smell of sacrifice to God like the smell of the OT animal, grain, and incense offerings had been. (Of course we realize this is metaphorical because Jesus wasn’t burned; there was no literal smell of smoke involved in His death.)

  • Paul also speaks of aroma as it applies to our witness in 2 Corinthians 2:15,16.
  • In Hebrews 13:15, 16 the writer speaks of us bringing a “sacrifice of praise” (though no smell is actually mentioned).
  • And in Revelation 5:8, the prayers of the saints are described as “golden bowls full of incense.”

What strikes me about the connection of fragrance with worship is what it signifies of being set apart (in the case of the anointing oil) and destruction (sacrifice, burning) of the thing being sacrificed (animals, grain, incense).

Romans 12:1 comes to mind:

“I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”

I ask myself, I ask you: are we that “sweet-smelling aroma” to God in death to self, holiness, witness, worship, and prayer?

Dear Father, I pray that my life will be a “sweet-smelling aroma” to You today. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Revealing speech

TODAY’S SPECIAL: Ephesians 3-4; Psalm 9

TO CHEW ON: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Ephesians 4:29

Paul sets out a high standard for how a Christian should act in everyday life in Ephesians 4. In verse 29 he talks particularly about speech. There are three parts to his advice:

1. What speech should not be: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth…”

“Corrupt” (sapros) means rotten, putrefied, of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless.]

The Amplified Bible spells out quite clearly what such corrupt speech sounds like: “Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word, nor unwholesome or worthless talk [ever] come out of your mouth…” - Ephesians 4:29 AMP.

This says to me that certain words, some humor, and certainly unkindness and viciousness toward others (gossip, slander) are inappropriate.

2. What speech should be:
“…good for necessary edification…”

“… but only such [speech] as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others as is fitting to the need and the occasion…” (AMP).

This says to me that helpful speech comes out of knowing the need of the person you’re talking to, out of empathy, and out of an awareness of the spiritual dimension of the situation. Good speech builds up rather than discourages.

3. What speech should accomplish: “… impart grace to the hearers.”  
“… that it may be a blessing and give grace (God’s favor) to those who hear it” AMP.

[“Grace” (charis) is that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, grace of speech, good will, loving-kindness, favor.]

Of course behind all speech is the mind/heart of the speaker. Jesus’ words (“‘…For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks’” - Luke 6:45) remind us that at its root, speech is a heart issue.

If we’re finding the above speech standards difficult or impossible to uphold, maybe our energy would be best spent looking at and dealing with what’s in our hearts.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please help me to see speech problems as symptoms of a heart that needs Your touch. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible,
Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission." (

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Passing through foreign territory

Image: Pixabay
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ephesians 1-2; Psalm 8

"And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience." Ephesians 2:1,2

Do you sometimes feel like the society in which you live is against many of the things you value? Marriage and the family are under attack. Public education removes any reference to God. The people most honored, admired, and influential are the beautiful, wealthy, and entertaining who charm and excite through movies, music and sports.

Feeling like we're misfits, traveling through a foreign land shouldn't surprise us. One of the reasons why is found in Ephesians 2:2 where Paul talks about a character, "the prince of the power of the air," who directs these things. The writer of my Bible's study notes describes his influence:
"The mood and manner of society is shaped by the prince of the power of the air, a title for Satan as he exercises influence globally and within each culture" Jack W. Hayford,  New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1646.

We see Satan referred to as a princely ruler in other places:

  • He tempted Jesus on the basis of this position: "'And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish'" - Luke 4:5,6.
  • Jesus predicted, and God the Father agreed, that Jesus' death would "'cast out'" the "'ruler of the world'" as He (Jesus) would " '…draw all peoples to Myself'" John 12:28-32.
  • Satan and his system had no claim to or presence in Jesus - John 14:30.
  • Jesus, before He died, told the disciples of the Holy Spirit who would come to them after He left. One of the Holy Spirit's functions would be (and is) to "…convict the world of sin, and of righteousness and of judgment …. of judgment because the ruler of this world will be judged.'" John 16:11. In other worlds, through the Holy Spirit we understand that God will someday judge this world's ruler and the system he oversees.
  • Satan has power over the minds of those locked in his system - 2 Corinthians 4:3,4.
  • And in our passage—Ephesians 2:2—Paul describes those in the clutches of this prince as "dead in trespasses and sins."

So maybe we should view our discomfort within our society and our sense of living at enmity with it as a good thing. When we feel like "strangers and pilgrims" it's a sign that we are really citizens of a different tribe, traveling through this earth system to a "homeland" and "heavenly country" - Hebrews 11:13-16.

Dear Father, help me to know how to conduct myself while I'm in this world system controlled by the "prince of the power of the air." Amen.


The Bible Project VIDEO: Ephesians (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The force in us

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 5-6; Psalm 7

TO CHEW ON: "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." Galatians 5:6

Paul states his position about the need for circumcision. He says it doesn't "avail" anything.

Different Bible translations use different words for "avail": "… neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything" (AMP); "… means anything" (NASB); "… has any value" (NIV);  "…amounts to anything" (MSG); "… there is no benefit" (NLT).

[Ischyo is the Greek word translated "avail."  It means to be strong in body, robust, in sound health; to have power, be a force, avail, be serviceable, able.]

What does avail? It's "… faith working through love." That sounds wonderful and simple, though also somewhat ethereal. What does "faith working through love" look like in real life? Other places in the Bible help fill in the picture.

  • This love is a fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22.
  • It grows in us as we make a home for Christ in our hearts and He reveals to us the extent of His love for us - Ephesians 3:17-19.
  • It is demonstrated through the body-like workings of the church - Ephesians 4:16.
  • As individuals "faith working through love" looks like:
    • Obedience: "But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfect in him. But this we know that we are in Him" - 1 John 2:5.
    • Love for our brothers and sisters: "He who loves his brother abides in the light and there is no cause for stumbling in him" - 1 John 2:10.
    • Avoiding the things that are against what the Father stands for: "Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" - 1 John 2:15. "World" is defined in the next verse as the "lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, pride of life" - 1 John 2:16.
The Message translation of this passage is so clear: "Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father" - 1 John 2:15,16 MSG (emphasis added). (See also 1Timothy 6:9-11.)

Wow! We might concur with the sentiments the Galatians may have had when they understand the extent of what "faith working through love" meant—Circumcision was a lot easier! But thank God they weren't left to do achieve this by themselves and neither are we. For it's all Jesus working both the faith and the love in us and through us by the Holy Spirit.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I need this force of faith working through love strengthened in my life. Thank You for living in my heart through Your Spirit and broadening my practical understanding of that what truly avails (counts, means something, has value, amounts to something, benefits). Amen. 


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked AMP are taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (

Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973,1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scriptures marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 12, 2018

An effective ransom

Charles Lindbergh Kidnapping poster
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 3-4; Psalm 6

"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." Galatians 4:4,5

Kidnapping is a crime that strikes fear into a parent's heart. Though the demands for ransom that sometimes accompany kidnappings give a glimmer of hope, the stories of abduction victims never redeemed but found dead even after ransom was paid, are chilling (10 Unsolved Ransom Kidnappings).

God is a parent whose human children were, in a sense, abducted—kidnapped by Satan. As such they (we) were in bondage, not tied up in the trunk of a car or hidden in an out-building, but prisoners to Satan and his workings in circumstances and through our enemies, captive to our default setting of sin, to our inability to keep God's law, to the curse of sin on creation, and to death.

But, praise the Lord, our kidnapping has a happy ending. The ransom paid—Jesus' death on the cross—was effective. Because of it we are or can be redeemed from:
  • circumstances - Psalm 34:19-22.
  • enemies - Psalm 69:18.
  • the bondage and guilt of sin - Psalm 130:7,8.
  • the need to keep the law - Galatians 4:5.
  • And we look forward to a time when this ransom will effect the release of nature from the curse of sin (Romans 8:19-23), including death (Psalm 103:2-4).

Do we appreciate God's ransom—His Son Jesus become human for us, dying for us? Have we applied it personally to our own lives? Do we live by faith, as freed sons and daughters of the Father who has redeemed us?

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for sending Jesus who laid down His life as a ransom for me. I no longer belong to Satan but to You. When I forget this, please remind me by Your Spirit that I am Your daughter—that You are my "Abba" - Daddy. Amen.


Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Taking a principled stand

Peter and Paul by El Greco
"Peter and Paul" by El Greco
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Galatians 1-2; Psalm 5

TO CHEW ON: "And I went up by revelation and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles." Galatians 2:2

In Galatians 1, Paul told the Galatians (a collection of churches in Galatia) that he had special revelation from Jesus (Galatians 1:12). In chapter 2 he goes on to explain how, after fourteen years of ministry, he went to see the leadership in Jerusalem to explain his position.

What was his position? That Christ's work on the cross alone was sufficient for salvation. The law-keeping work of circumcision was not needed to be saved (Galatians 5:1-6).

But in Jerusalem he got push-back.  Some "false brothers" insisted Titus (a Greek) be circumcised. He and Titus resisted this (Galatians 2:3-5).

The Jerusalem leadership did eventually accept his message and ministry to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7-9), but not without reluctance from Peter, who had started avoiding fellowship with Gentile Christians. Paul pointed out the hypocrisy of this. Peter had earlier championed freedom from dietary laws so why was he now reverting back to separating himself in a "holier-than-thou" way (Galatians 2:11-14)?

What I admire about Paul here is his principled stand and how he stuck with it no matter what others said. He wasn't swayed by "false brethren." Nor did he change his message for "those who were of reputation"—the church leadership.

There's a lot of pressure on Christian leaders to change message of Christianity these days. That pressure is coming form outside the church and within it, to soften official positions especially in the realm of sexual ethics.

Though the Bible takes a clear position on things like adultery, fornication, homosexuality and gender identity, pressure is exerted from all sides (within and without the church) for churches to move from biblical positions of calling these things sin to accepting them as normal. Will our pastors and leaders have the courage to continue to uphold what the Bible says, even when it's unpopular? What about us in the pews?

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to live first and foremost for Your approval. Help me especially to not be swayed by social pressure. Amen. 


The Bible Project VIDEO: Galatians (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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