Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Easy to Say, Often Hard to Accept

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
I think this is one of the most flippantly used verses in Scripture. A friend loses their job or their house burns down and we quote this verse. They lose a loved one and we quote this verse. We too often interpret it that God will make what WE want to be good come out of something that is very bad. That is not what it says.
We exist for God’s glory, not Him for ours. God wants to be continuously transforming us into His likeness. That is good, and while it might surprise us; that is the good God most wants in our lives. His “good” may not be the new house or job that we want. His good is that which will help us know Him better, trust Him more, and reveal His glory to others. That good will always be good for us; we just don’t always see that far ahead.
Dear Father, Help me to trust each day in your definition of good. Amen.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Earth is Pained by Sin

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” Romans 8:22
We all know the story of Humpty Dumpty. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. That truth applies to the world we live in. It is broken and it can’t be fixed. That doesn’t mean we have to break it more; but we must realize that because of sin it is in an unfixable state. Man alone is not fallen; all creation is fallen with us.
In the Garden God cursed four things or people. He cursed the serpent. He cursed Eve. He cursed Adam, and He cursed the earth. (Genesis 3:14-19) Since that moment the perfect creation has groaned under the pain of man’s sin. But it awaits the full redemption when Christ returns to set everything right; a perfect new creation without sin or the curse. Therefore Isaiah can say, “The trees of the field will clap their hands.” (Is. 55:12) What a wondrous day it will be when Jesus makes all things new.
Dear Father, Thank You for the promise that You will make all things new. Amen.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

No Condemnation!!

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1
Do you need hope today? Do you need peace today? Do you need a touch of assurance today? This is your verse: no condemnation in Christ! After all of Paul’s laments of his failures, he concludes with this great promise: no condemnation in Christ! Before Paul introduces us to the sublime truth that even now Christ intercedes for us in heaven, he boldly declares: no condemnation in Christ. “I may still sin,” Paul says, “but in reality I am dead to sin and Christ lives in me.” Therefore there is no condemnation in Christ.
This verse brings to mind two grand old hymns. The great evangelist Daniel Whittle wrote these words. “Christ liveth in me, Christ liveth in me, O! what a salvation this: That Christ liveth in me.” Charles Wesley’s great anthem, “And Can It Be” has this line. “No condemnation now I dread, I am my Lord’s and He is mine: alive in Him, my living Head, and clothed in righteousness divine.” Why? Because there is no condemnation in Christ.
Dear Father, Let me rejoice today in the perfection of Christ. Amen.

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Friday, January 26, 2018

I Failed Again

For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, I do.” Rom. 7:19
I have met some pretty uppity people in my time. They are so sure of their own righteousness that they barely deign to be in the company of sinners. These are people who believe that they have become perfect in the flesh and feel sorry for all the other poor Christian sinners who haven’t arrived yet. We all tend to this way of thinking to a certain extent. We have become “more” obedient than the next person because we do less bad things than we see them doing.
We all need a quick lesson from Paul. He says that he still gave into the flesh when he didn’t want to and failed to live in the Spirit when he did want to. He doesn’t say that he used to do that. He says that he is still doing that at the time he wrote this letter. He isn’t proud of it, but he is not going to deny doing it. He knows that his only hope each day is Christ, not self.
Dear Father, Help me not to get uppity toward those who I falsely assume are worse Christians than me. Help me understand my only hope each day is Christ. Amen.

Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Whose Slave?

Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves.” Romans 6:16
If I drive a Pepsi truck I will wear a Pepsi shirt. In their truck and in their shirt I have submitted myself to their control. I am their slave. I cannot drink Coke. It would be ridiculous to do so. I am not Coke’s slave. This is how it is with Christ. We are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:6) and that mark of baptism now signifies us as His slave. If we are Christ’s slave, we are not to be the devil’s slave.  
That we will still sin is a given. We still possess our flesh and we will still give into it. But, we are not supposed to think, “Oh, I think I want to go and sin today. I don’t want to obey my new Master.” No, we are not supposed to plan and scheme to sin. We will do enough of it by our own nature. We are Christ’s, and we are to live as slaves to His righteousness.
Dear Father, I confess that I sin, please forgive me and keep my mind steadfast on living for Christ. Amen.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Do What We Want License?

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” Romans 6:1-2
Throughout church history many groups have come along and stated quite boldly, that since Christ has died for our sins, it doesn’t matter how many more we commit. In fact, we prove his love daily by committing even more than yesterday. That may amaze some people, but it is a fact that there have been, and are today, groups that teach that lie.
Their problem is that they have neglected to read their Bible. Claiming grace while living in deliberate sin makes a mockery of the confession of faith. When we are saved the Holy Spirit now dwells within, and he hates sin. He is moving us to “live righteously and godly in this present age”. It is not that we won’t sin; it is that we will not want to live in sin. Daily we will want to become more like our betrothed Husband, Jesus Christ, and imitate His life, which was sinless.
Dear Father, guide me today to be more like Jesus and less like the devil. Amen.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Gift Available to All

By the righteous act of one, the free gift came upon all men” Romans 5:18
The famine increased and food grew scarce. Eventually the hungry people could take no more and stormed the grocery store and ransacked all the food. The store owner had installed a security camera and all the thieves were quickly identified and brought for punishment. Then one man stepped forward and said, “I know they have stolen and deserve punishment; but I wish to pay for all the food. Plus I want to pay for all the food for any other hungry person who comes here so that he doesn’t die of starvation.”
Some of the offenders rejoiced and loved the generous man. Others said they had their pride and would find their own way to pay. Payment had been made by one for all. All were included, but not all accepted the payment. Jesus paid for all the sins of all mankind from Adam onward. All are included; but some foolishly decide to try and pay their own debt. That is not the failure of the Savior but proof of the sinfulness of mankind. 
Dear Father, Thank You for freedom from eternal punishment through the gift of Your Son. Amen

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Monday, January 22, 2018


Whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood.” Romans 3:25
What does that big word mean? It means to “cause to be conciliated or reconciled”. How does that reconciliation take place? It takes place only through the blood of Jesus Christ. Imagine that we are on a snake, mosquito, and vermin infested island without any trees, which is surrounded by hungry sharks. We have been placed there because of our offenses against righteous authority. We want off. We can’t get off. We need help. We need to be reconciled to the authority on the other side. How can we do that if the authority has turned His back on us?
The authority must make the decision to provide a way. He sends his son into the shark infested water where the son is torn to bloody pieces. That blood then congeals into a bridge across the deadly water. Then the authority turns to us and beckons us to come to him.  That’s how we get across. That is the only way we can be reconciled, propitiated, to God – by Jesus’ blood.
Dear Father, Thank You for the sacrifice of Your own son that I may be reconciled to You. Amen.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

"NONE!" Declares God

There is none righteous, no not one; there is none who does good, no not one.” Romans 3:10, 12
If asked by others what kind of person we are, most would say a pretty good one. We don’t beat our wives, steal from our neighbors, or kill our enemies. Those “bad” people are in jail. Even in jail there is a pecking order of who is better than others. No one, after all, is bad; are they?
What if we got up one morning and looked in the mirror and saw what God sees in our human condition. We would be so revolted we would never want to look in the mirror again. We would be scared to death. The truth is there is no one who is good. God alone is good; Jesus said so. That is why we need a Savior; that is why Jesus came. He forgives who we are and creates in us an image of Himself. We really need that and need to understand it each day. We need to live with conscious intent to walk in our new resurrected relationship with God.
Dear Father, Thank You for loving me when I was unlovely. Help me to reveal Your loveliness each day. Amen.

  The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Wrath of God!

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness.” Romans 1:18
When I was young we had records. There were no cassettes, CD’s. We had records that spun at 45 rpm’s. Each of those records had a hit song on one side and a less popular song on the flipside. Romans 1:18 is the flipside of mankind’s view of God. We like all the stuff about love and the sacrifices He made for us. We like the healing and feeding. It is easy to talk about. But God is also righteous and will judge all unrighteousness.
For the first half or Romans 1, Paul lays out the power of Christ for salvation. The second half of the chapter is about the power of God for judgment. Paul pulls no punches as he lists what God hates. He pulls no punches on the just judgment of God against sin. We need to know both halves of Romans 1. We need to let the world know that there is a flip side to their view of God.
Dear Father, Help me not to be silent about Your power to judge as well as save. Let me not be silent about sin. Amen.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

How Shall We Live

As it is written: ‘the just shall live by faith’.” Romans 1:17
How big of a spark does it take to light an inferno? This verse was the spark God planted into the soul of Martin Luther and lit a fire of spiritual rebirth not seen since the days of the early church. “How can we be right with God,” he asked. Daily he strove to be right through confession, self-denial, prayer, fasting, and more good works. He was worn out and no closer to God than when he had begun. Then he realized the importance of this verse.
We are not justified by works, for all our works are tainted by our own selfish motives and sin. We are justified by the work of Christ on the cross where He died to forgive us our sins. It is faith in His finished work that gives us hope and peace and assurance of heaven. Then we can live joyfully -- not only for eternity but for today as well. Then we will learn to trust Him for our everyday life as well as eternal life. We will live by faith.
Dear Father, Thank You for doing the work through Jesus Christ so that I might be saved and live with hope each day. Amen.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Not Ashamed of Christ

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.” Romans 1:16
Young people can be very sensitive about their home life. If it is not, in their opinion, a happy home, they may never bring their friends there. I had such a friend in high school. He would take me to his house IF he thought his mother would not be home. One day she came home and I found out why he was ashamed.
Jesus Christ is our Home. He is our Head. He is our Hope. He is our Healing. Nothing He has ever done could possibly make us ashamed of Him. And yet too many people treat Him like my high school friend treated his home. Not being ashamed doesn’t have to mean just going door to door and handing out tracts, though it could. Not being ashamed means that the Name of Jesus is easily on our lips and a defense of Him is ready at all times to come from our mouths. We could all be a little more proud of our parentage.
Dear Father, Thank You for giving me Christ and making me Yours. May I never be ashamed! Amen.

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Monday, January 8, 2018

A Servant of Christ

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ” Romans 1:1
How do we like to view our relationship to God? Do we stop at the concept of Him being our Father, our Shepherd, and our Friend? Do we see Him as Paul saw Him – the Master? The word servant in this verse is a little misleading. Most servants were paid employees in the Master’s house. That isn’t the word Paul uses in his introduction to the Church in Rome. The word here is actually slave. That’s right, Paul saw himself as the bond-slave of God the Father.
Americans hate the idea of slavery. We love the idea of employee and even more love the idea of being boss. We don’t like situations where we have no options. A slave has no options. A slave just does what he is told. That is how Paul said he was to respond to God. This is exactly the same word that Peter uses in I Peter 2:16 to describe how we are to live our lives as well. Who will be the boss in our life is a truly critical question. Are we God’s servant, or are we are own master?
Father, You have bought me with a great price; help me to daily be Your humble servant. Amen.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Calming Grace

Are you familiar with the old gospel song “Master, the Tempest Is Raging”?  From childhood it has been in the top 10 of my favorites list.  It rolls like the raging sea.  It has huge crescendos followed by double pianissimos.  It is a song that is truly alive.  One day when I was filling the pulpit in a different church I mentioned that song in my sermon.  I received a lot of blank stares, but the few who knew it brightened considerably.  After the sermon the organist went to her instrument and played it by heart. 
  At the end of the first crashing verse, which is a full page long, the song hits the brakes into a slower speed and reduces from a double loud to double soft sound.  But then it builds again throughout the full page chorus to a rousing pitch before colliding with a new slower tempo and finishing with a double soft voice.  Wow!!  The last two lines of the chorus read, “They all shall sweetly obey My will, peace be still, peace be still.  They all shall sweetly obey My will, peace, peace, be still.” 
Does that song sound like your life?  Does it sometimes crash and rush and build to a frenzied pitch?  Do the events of your life sometimes to seem to rage out of control until you feel you are perishing?  In the third line of the first verse of this song you can hear the disciples cry out, “Carest Thou not that we perish?”  Have you ever been there?  Then there is grace for you.
It is called calming grace.  Jesus rose up in that boat and said, “Peace, be still” and it was.  Jesus is ever present to calm the rage and offer peace in the midst of the storm.  He is there to calm the grief and offer hope of reunion.  He is there; He is there; He is there!  I am not into mantras, but if you would really like to have one here it is, “Jesus is here.”  What He is doing here is pouring out His grace into the needs of our lives.  He is here to comfort and to calm.  He is here to settle our fears into His certainty and to assure us that His power supersedes our needs.  “Jesus is here.  Peace, be still.”  Here is the first verse and chorus of Mary Baker’s great song.
Master, the tempest is raging!  The billows are tossing high!  The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness, no shelter or help is nigh.
“Carest Thou not that we perish?” How canst Thou lie asleep, when each moment so madly is threatening a grave in the angry deep?

The winds and the waves shall obey My will, Peace, be still!  Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea, or demons or men or whatever it be, no water can swallow the ship where lies, the Master of ocean and earth and skies.  They all shall sweetly obey My will; Peace be still, peace, be still.  They all shall sweetly obey My will; Peace, peace, be still!

  The Friday Benediction
Until Monday, my friends, may the good God envelop you with His grace; may you prove the common confession of faith, “I believe in the holy Christian church and in the fellowship of the saints”, and may you be enriched with joy and hope as you exercise that confession this weekend.  Amen

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Binding Grace

While abiding grace is the presence of Christ in us, binding grace is the blessing of our unity with Him and with His children.  Otis Skilling’s “We Are One in the Bond of Love” and Bob Gillman’s “Bind Us Together” are musical representations of this aspect of grace.  It is the wonderful grace of God that can take the rich the poor, the professional and the laborer, the black and the white and have them all join hands in harmony and sing these songs.  It is the moving of God’s grace that breaks down the barriers of culture, education, station or income and make everyone see their unity in Christ.
Sadly this is a manifestation of grace that is often lacking in churches.  People gather on Sunday morning and sing together and then depart and see each other no more until the next Sunday.  The desired oneness in Christ is left in the pew.  Those seeking true fellowship and joy in the family of God can begin to feel pretty lonely in such an environment.  God created us to be in union and communion with other believers.  He calls us to “familyhood” in Him.  He calls the Church collectively His bride and we are each part of being that bride but we are not the bride in and of ourselves.  The unity of Sunday morning is not to pass away on Monday morning.  We are still to see ourselves as one in Him and one with each other.
Peter comments at the end of his second letter that we are to grow in grace.  It means that all the graces that God has in store for us need to be nurtured just as our bodies need to be nurtured to grow physically.  Christ has implanted binding grace into the very nature of His Church body.  God has implanted a gene for hair on our head in the DNA of our body, but He expects us to maintain our hair.  He has implanted a gene for teeth in our mouth in the DNA of our body, but he expects us to maintain our teeth.  He has implanted a gene for true unity and fellowship in the DNA of our new birth, but He expects us to maintain it so that it grows properly for His glory. 
In John 17 Jesus gave His high priestly prayer for the Church. He prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one.  He prayed that the world we see the oneness of God in the oneness of His Church.  That is binding grace and we need to grow in it for the joy of our Christian lives and the beauty of our testimony.  The best song ever written on this topic came from a pastor of a small church in rural England, “Blest Be the Tie that Binds”.
Blest be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love,
The fellowship of kindred minds, is like to that above.
We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear

And often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Abiding Grace

Are you uncomfortable going to funerals or visitations?  It is nearly a phobia for many people.  It is not the deceased they are uncomfortable with; it is the living.  The primary fear that exists is simply, “What do I say?”  The reality that nothing that is said will really matter too much.  It is the presence of a friend or loved one or a mere acquaintance that matters the most.  It is caring enough to abide with the grieving if even for only a few minutes.
Here is a grace of God that should bring each believer great comfort and consolation.  Jesus abides with us.  He gives us abiding grace.  When we believe the Gospel message then a simple and wonderful thing happens.  Jesus comes to abide in us.  The word picture can be seen as one who takes a tent stake and drives it deep into the earth so that the tent stays standing even in fierce storms.  Jesus drives the stake of His presence deeply into us.  He sets up shop, so to speak, in our lives.  The book of John puts it that we abide with Him and Him with us.  We dwell together in the tent of our new birth and life with Christ.
When the storms of life assail us, He is there.  When the joys of life uplift us, He is there.  When doubts and fears beset us, He is there. In the mundaneness of everyday living, He is there. When we are busy, He is there.  When we are lonely, He is there.  When we age and everyone else seems to pass us by, He is there.  When we are tempted, He is there.  When we yield to temptation, He is still there and He is ready to hear our confession and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  He abides with us. 
When Jesus ascended into heaven He spoke to His followers and said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”  He wasn’t waxing poetic.  He was speaking words of dearest comfort.  He said, “I am with you.”  That is what we bring to the grieving at a visitation or a funeral.  It is a simple statement made without words.  I am here and I care.  Jesus is with us always and He always cares.
Henry Lyte, who knew his health was declining and his ministry ending, wrote this simple song that has brought comfort to so many millions of people.  “Abide with Me.”
Abide with me, fast falls the eventide, the darkness deepens, Lord with me abide
When other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless, O abide with me.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day.  Earth’s joys grow dim, it glories pass away,

Change and decay in all around I see, O Thou who changest not abide with me.  

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A New Year with Unknown Things Ahead

For you have not passed this way before.” Joshua 3:4
Happy New Year! You have probably heard that simple comment many times already today. But what does it mean? Isn’t everything just the same old same old as before? Not really. Have you ever lived this next year before? Do you know what will happen in this year? Probably not. It isn’t just same old same old. It is new. There will be new people and some new experiences. Every year brings something new.
In this New Year we will all need guidance because we haven’t been this way before. That was God’s instruction to Joshua as the Israelites prepared to enter the Promised Land. They were going to confront many new things and God wanted to make sure that they had their eyes focused on him as they did so. The ark of God went before them. It contained God’s Law, our rules to live by; and it contained the budded rod, our promises of an all-powerful God; and it contained a jar of manna; the constant provision of the caring God. In this New Year we have to remind ourselves daily that we need this awesome God to guide us. We need to remind ourselves that He is the God who has never failed. We need to stand back every day and take account that we are strangers in a strange land and that every moment we will need the all-knowing God to lead us.

Dear Father, as we enter this New Year, keep our minds sharp to remember that only You know how to lead and can lead us successfully. Amen. 

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