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Matthew 23-24: How Should We Respond to Hypocrites?

Christian Living, Matthew, Teaching

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Acts 27-28: Is It God or Is It Us?

Acts, Calvinism, Christian Living, Glorifying God, God, grace, humility, providence

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Acts 23-24: Procrastination is the Same as Rejection

Acts, Bible study, Christian Living, Surrender

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II Corinthians 8-9: Outward Compliance vs. Real Service

Christian Living, Growth, II Corinthians, Law, Sacrifice
Wordle of Second Corinthians chapters eight and nine

2 Corinthians 8-9 (ESV) by Wordle*

Today’s reading is 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15.

“For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints–” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4).

What a powerful example. Outward compliance is one thing. This shows inward motivation.

This is what I need to have and instill in others. The Macedonians did not give because Paul convinced them it was a rule to give. They begged for the opportunity to take part in this. They saw obedience and sacrifice as an opportunity, a favor. They saw it as grace itself.

Too often I spend trying to figure out what the rules are to decide what I’m going to do or to manipulate others into doing what I think they should. But then what is accomplished? Simply a controlled compliance that is useless to our souls. I’m not saying there are no rules, but if we are only doing something because it is the rule, then our hearts are not right with God.

I need to thank God today for the favor of getting to serve and sacrifice for Him. He is the great and loving God who saved my soul, why would I want to do anything else?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. What struck you in today’s reading? You can add your input by clicking the following link: Post a Comment

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*Today’s illustration was generated by the creative tool at Wordle.net. You can find all my wordles here.

 

 

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I Peter 5-II Peter 1: Clothed with Humility

Christian Living, humility, I Peter, Relationships

Today’s reading is 1 Peter 5:1-14; 2 Peter 1:1-21.

“Likewise, you who are younger; be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

I don’t mind the next verse so much. It says I should humble myself before God. But this one says I should clothe myself with humility toward you. I don’t always like that one. I would much rather you clothe yourself with humility toward me. But that isn’t God’s way. Didn’t God Himself do this for me when Jesus clothed Himself in humble flesh to die for me. How much more should I do this for you.

I have found that only when I humble myself do I gain the grace to overcome my sins. As long as I am puffing myself up as if I’m the one who should be served or I’m the one who has been wronged or I’m the one who has rights, I find that sin, depression, struggle abounds. But when I’ve humbled myself to clean up my side of the street, freedom rests with me.

Today, I must clothe myself in humility toward God and toward you.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

PS. What struck you in today’s reading?

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Galatians 5-6: Boast in Christ

Christian Living, Crucified with Christ, Faith, Galatians, grace, holiness, righteousness, salvation

strength by Victoria Morse VICTORIAMORSE.NETToday’s reading is Galatians 5:1-6:18.

Paul said, “For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:13-14).

I think I’ve often viewed this passage as talking about how hypocritical all the Jews must have been. They wanted the Christians to be circumcised, but they didn’t actually want to keep the law themselves. I’m not sure that is the case. I think there were plenty of sincere Jews who wanted the Christians to be circumcised. I think plenty of them tried to keep the law. The issue was not that they didn’t care about the law. The issue was that everyone sins and falls short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). All those who claimed they could be justified by the law had simply proven over and over again that they would fall short of the law no matter how much they attempted to follow it. That is why those who try to be justified by the law only end up under a curse (Galatians 3:10). Really, anyone who tries to boast in keeping the law is eventually going to have to get around to admitting, “But I messed up here, and here, and here…” Of course, that is why those who boast in the law eventually get to the point of boasting that they are better at law keeping than someone else. Can anyone say “Pharisee and Publican?” 

Instead of boasting in law-keeping, Paul would boast in Christ and not simply in Christ but in the cross of Christ. All those sins Paul had committed while striving to keep the law were taken out of the way by the cross. That was where his righteousness came. It wasn’t his own, it was a gift from God through the death of Jesus Christ because of Paul’s faith.

Here is my fear for me. In what do I boast? Do I boast in how often I “go to church”? Do I boast in how much money I give in the contribution? Do I boast in how many sins I haven’t committed? Do I boast in how many acts of righteousness I have done? Do I boast in how well I hold to the pattern of sound words? Or do I boast in the cross of Christ? Sadly, some hear this and think I’m saying how I live doesn’t matter. That is not the case at all. If I live by faith (Galatians 2:20), I’ll live by the pattern of sound words. I’ll assemble with the saints, contribute to the work of the church, strive to overcome sin, strive to live by righteousness, etc. The question is in what do I boast? Do I look at all the great things I do under the New Covenant and boast in that? Or do I look at the cross of Christ and boast in that?

The fact is, whether old law or new, if I’m going to boast in my law-keeping, I’m only going to be able to admit that I’m a sinner and really have nothing in which to boast. I need to put my faith in Christ. When I put it in me, I fail. 

So, today, I’ll boast in Christ and not me or my law-keeping. Certainly, I’ll strive to obey Christ, but I won’t stand before Christ and try to act like He should forgive me because look at how awesome I am. That just won’t work.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

P.S. What struck you in today’s reading?

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John 5-6: “I Can Do Nothing On My Own”

Christian Living, Creation, John, Sacrifice, Surrender

Today’s reading is John 5:1-6:71.

John 5:30 grabbed my attention today. Jesus said, “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”

What really gets me is the one saying this was spoken about in John 1:1-5.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

I know this is talking about Jesus because in John 1:14 the text says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”

Here is the one who created all things, but He cannot do anything on His own? Of course, contextually, this doesn’t seem to be saying He can’t do anything by His own power but rather He won’t do anything from His own will. Perhaps both statements are true. But either way it is an amazing statement.

If we want to take it the way it first hits us, that He can’t do anything by His own power, we should be greatly humbled. If God the Son, God in the flesh, Jesus Christ could not do anything on His own but relied on the power of His Father for all His work, who are we to think we can do anything on our own? We must acknowledge God in all our ways (Proverbs 3:6). If He were to remove His grace completely and totally from our lives, we would be dissolved into speechless, powerless, hopeless blobs of matter. He is the one who grants life, breath, and all things (Acts 17:25). So many of us settle for mediocrity in life because we only do what we think we can accomplish on our own. Perhaps if we began to realize we accomplish nothing on our own and therefore fully rely on God, His power might work through us mightily (II Corinthians 12:7-10; Ephesians 3:20). Who knows? We might lead Israel out of Egypt on the heels of 10 amazing plagues, part the Red Sea, kill a giant, bring down walls, withstand lions. Mere people like us do amazing things when they quit relying on their own strength.

If we want to take Jesus’ statement in the more contextual sense that He does not do anything from His own will but only as His Father has directed Him, we should still be greatly humbled. Jesus is as much God as the Father is. He is divine in every sense. He has the power of deity. He has the mind of deity. Yet, He doesn’t go His own way. He submits to the Father. He surrenders to the Father. If Jesus will only do what is the Father’s will, how much more should we? We are not to go our own way. We are not to pursue our own will. Rather, we are to sacrifice ourselves to God’s will (Romans 12:1). We are to crucify ourselves and live by faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:20). We are to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Sadly, many today laugh at the idea of seeking authority for all that we do from God’s word, but Jesus could do nothing from His own will, but only did the will of His Father. We need to be like Jesus and only do what God wills.

However, notice that Jesus didn’t simply say, “I will do nothing of my own.” He said, “I can do nothing of my own.” Why do you think He phrased it that way?

***Question: What do you do to stay within God’s will?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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I Corinthians 8-9: Doing God’s Will Should Be Its Own Reward

Christian Living, Growth, I Corinthians, loving God, Obedience, Working for God

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 8:1-9:27.

1 Corinthians 9:18 caught my attention today. “What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may preesnt the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.”

Wait a minute. That is no reward. That is the action that ought to be rewarded. Or at least so it seems to me. Yet, that demonstrates the great difference between me and Paul. Too often, I’m doing special things because I expect some greater reward. “God, I’ll do this great work because I want to get this great reward.” But Paul thought differently, he so wanted to be part of God’s plan that his reward was getting to be part of God’s plan.

I need to learn to want to do God’s will so badly that just getting to do it is a reward in and of itself.

***Question: What do you enjoy about getting to do God’s will?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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Luke 21-22: How to Get God to Say, “Yes,” to All Your Prayers

Luke, Prayer

Today’s reading is Luke 21:1-22:71

We read Jesus’ most famous prayer in Luke 22:42. “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”

We know from Matthew’s account that Jesus prayed this prayer for about an hour and then did so again two more times. The writers have whittled down the prayer to its main thrust and given it to us in encapsulated form, however, this brief description of the pray packs a punch.

In fact, it provides the key to having God say, “Yes” to all our prayers.

Sadly, some who have been attracted to this post by the title, aren’t going to like what they read. Too many people view prayer as the means to bend God to our will. They think prayer is treating God like a vending machine. Drop in a couple prayers and out pops our order. It is just not like that.

Prayer is actually about bending us to God’s will. If we want God to answer, “Yes,” to our prayers, we need to align our will with His. As we become more like Him, our wants and wishes will be more in line with His and He will grant our requests. Of course, there are those issues where we don’t know God’s specific will. That is where Jesus’ prayer is such a blessing. We can lay out our desires before God, but show our submission by pointing out that more than our will, we want God’s will. We know we are finite and do not see all the sides of every issue. We know God is wiser and will do what is right if we will only surrender to Him. 

We can pray as Jesus does, “Here is what I want, Father. But more than what I want, I want whatever it is that You want.” God will always say, “Yes,” to that and at that point, prayer will truly have worked its power in our lives–not because we got what we prayed for, but because we allowed prayer to make us more like God.

***Question: What do you do to help keep your prayer life on track?

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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2 John-3 John: Demetrius or Diotrephes

Christian Living, III John

Today’s reading brings two men to mind. One was a self-centered egotist. The other was a man trusted by even the apostles.

It is too easy for me to be Diotrephes. That is, instead of seeking unity through the Lord’s will, I often seek unity through my will. I have the idea that if everyone would just do things my way, they would be better. How easy it is to get into this mold. This is a problem all by itself. True, my will may be within the confines of God’s but not everything has to be done my way to be within God’s will. But this especially becomes a problem when doing things my way means I won’t even submit to the word of the apostles. 

On the other hand, I should be Demetrius. Granted, we don’t know much about the man. However, he received a good testimony from everyone, including the apostles. No doubt, he lived by Paul’s principle in Philippians 2:3-4. He viewed others as more important. He definitely accepted the word of the apostles as inspired and submitted to them.

Today, I need to be Demetrius and not Diotrephes.

Keep the faith and keep reading,

ELC

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