To Save Sinners

FridayDecember 8, 20171 Timothy 1:15-17

8This devotional title is in reference not only to why Jesus came to this world but also to one of the commands of Jesus found in The Great Commission. We, too, are sent to the sinners of this world not to save them but rather to tell them how they can be saved. Actually, Paul refers to himself and that he was to be a “pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” With the words “in me first” Paul indicates that other believers are also supposed to be patterns showing Jesus to others by how we live our lives.8s

One of the greatest accolades a believer can receive in this life is for someone to let them know that how they lived their lives pointed them to faith in Jesus Christ. I think most of us have heard it said, “Your actions are speaking so loud I can’t hear the words you are saying.”  This is a truism that cannot be ignored. Another that lives alongside of that is that sometimes you even have to use words to show others the way to Jesus.  Over the years of ministry, I have enjoyed contact with many who have shown by their lives just who they belong to. I really appreciate hearing at the funeral of one of those saints how the way they lived and the things they said always went together and showed someone how to live as well.  What joy there is for loved ones to know that their departed family member made an impact for God. They lived for something. This Christmas season, are you making an impact for God?

As you read those words of the Apostle Paul to young Timothy, did they resonate with you? Verse 16 gives us the reason for Paul and us to obtain mercy from God through salvation in and through Jesus Christ. It was so he and we can become patterns (examples) of what God can do in and through us IF we will allow Him to show His mercy through us. Paul was willing. Are you willing to let God’s mercy be seen in you? Let this be your gift to Christ Jesus.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for offering your salvation to me through Jesus Christ, your Son. As Paul allowed You to do Your will through Your mercy in His life and saw many begin to follow the same pattern he was following in Jesus, I ask that You also work your mercy through me. Amen.

 

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To Be the Savior of the World

MondayDecember 4, 2017 – John 3:16-18

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So, how does one do another devotional on perhaps the best known scripture portion of all time? All pastors, writers, Bible teacher and even ordinary laymen try to find some new way to express this old truth. Maybe that is the problem. The old truth is still the truth. I distinctly remember this verse being the first memory verse for me. My grandma was a very wise woman who never forced things on us kids. We were grateful to have her on our side after our mother’s death from pneumonia back in 1948. She took three of us on right off the bat and then brought the two youngest back to live with the rest of us about two years later. That was a total of five kids for a woman who had already raised her family of three girls and was also in sorrow over the loss of her daughter. But grandma focused on our needs and helped us through a very difficult time. She was firm, yet gentle, with us. She never forced us to learn but4s encouraged us to memorize Bible verses. John 3:16 was my very first one (probably it was your first also) and all we had back then was the old King James Version, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This was followed by Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8, 9; and John 1:12 and many others over the years. About 2 or three years later, I was ready to accept Jesus as my Savior. Granma would simply ask occasionally if I was ready to accept Jesus as Savior. Finally, at age 10, I said I was ready and so I knelt by her rocking chair on the front porch of the old farmhouse and received Jesus into my heart. I wish I could say that I heard angels rejoicing and bells ringing and all that, but that was not the case. I slowly grew into being the kind of Christian Jesus wanted me to be. Growth in the faith is more of a process that includes “line upon line, precept upon precept.”

This sixteenth verse of John chapter one is John’s version of The Christmas Story. There is a whole lot of Christmas wrapped in these few words. John captured the whole measure of meaning in these few words. We don’t receive here the whole physical story of what transpired at that time. John cuts right to the heart of the matter. GOD LOVED THE WORLD – HE GAVE HIS SON – TO SAVE THOSE WHO BELIEVE! Do we really need more than that? Some have called John 3:16, “The gospel in a nutshell.” The Gift of God to a needy world (you, me, and everyone). All we have to do is accept Him for ourselves as God’s Son who came to save us!

Father God, this seems so simple yet so profound. Help me to really mean the words I have said when I accepted Jesus as my Savior. And Lord, help anyone reading these words to do the same. Amen.

 

The Crucifixion – Wine, Part 2

April 13, 2017 – Maundy Thursday
crucifixion
Read: Mark 15:33 – 40
Focus: v. 36

One man ran and filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

We enter now into the final verses of Jesus’ life. No longer are we talking about a final chapter. Time is getting very short. Jesus is still on the cross at this point and it follows a very long time of Jesus being awake. Nowhere is there any indication that, from sometime Thursday morning (likely at sunrise near 6:00 AM when He would have risen for a day which included partaking  of a Passover Feast with His disciples and ended with His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane), Jesus had an opportunity to sleep. From then on He was in the hands of the Temple guards and dragged from place to place for His trials and beaten severely. This became so bad that he could not even carry his cross to the place of crucifixion. It is unlikely that all this time after the Passover Feast that Jesus has had anything to eat or drink. We wrote in an earlier devotional that he was offered wine mixed with myrrh to deaden the pain of crucifixion and enable Him to live longer and therefore suffer longer. Jesus, we are told, refused that wine so that He would experience the full impact of His act of redemption on behalf of all mankind.

The crucifixion was at 9:00 AM and in our scripture reading for today it has reached about 3:00 PM. Jesus has been on that cross for six hours of excruciating pain throughout His body. He has suffered from loss of sleep, beatings and the continued bleeding from the crucifixion wounds as well as the wounds from His beatings. All this means tremendous pain. He is thirsty but receives nothing, according to Mark, until after He makes His final cry from the cross: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”  (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) After this, to mock Him, those standing by offer him “sour wine” (nearly vinegar) so they can hear if He says anything else. They thought he was calling to Elijah and wanted to see if Elijah came to take Him from the cross. Did Jesus accept the “sour wine”? Once again He refuses. Why? Because it was His responsibility to bear the full amount of pain and suffering from the crucifixion so that our sins would be paid for in full. He took no shortcuts to accomplish our redemption! Shortly after being offered the “sour wine” Jesus calls out loudly once more and “breathed His last.”

Salvation was now accomplished and Jesus was freed from this earthly life. Never again would He be bound by earthly things but after His resurrection would be free to return to His Father. Twice wine was offered to give some succor to the Savior and twice he refused. No one would be able to say He took any shortcuts to do the work the Father sent Him to do. In this respect also He is our example as believers. Do we take shortcuts while doing the Lord’s bidding?

A Stone’s Throw Away

April 10, 2017 – Monday
gethsemane
Read:  Luke 22:39 – 46, TLB
Focus: v. 41, TLB

He walked away, perhaps a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed this prayer: “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup from me. But I want your will, not mine.”

So, picture this: your best friend and you have been through an amazing few days culminating in a very moving farewell dinner where he tells you he is going away and you can’t follow. You head off up to a garden place and he says he needs time to pray about some momentous events ahead and he wants you to stay awake and pray for him and for yourself to be strong. He heads off a little ways away and is gone long enough that you fall asleep. He checks back a couple of times and wakes you up and asks again for prayer. Eventually he just gives up and tells you to go ahead and sleep – but what does that say about his friends that they can’t even prevail in prayer for him? He is just a stone’s throw away, sweating great drops of blood – and you fall asleep!

Jesus went to the cross for all to pay the price for sin and provide salvation – making a way for us to come to God. He was pretty much alone at the end (speaking in earthly terms). Today we are all just a stone’s throw away from someone in agony, who needs our prayers and our help: the homeless, the abused, the grieving, the hurting. Because of Christ’s work on the cross we have the Holy Spirit to help us to pray and give help to the ones God sends to us. Are we sleeping – or are we awake and praying and doing what we know to do? We are as close as a stone’s throw for a reason – let us get up and not sleep through the opportunity to minister in His name!

Day 5 – A Gift For All Eternity

Thursday – December 1, 2016

Read: John 3:16-17
Focus: vs 16
day-5

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
 that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Would any Advent devotional series be complete without using John 3:16? That is called a rhetorical question which means it doesn’t have to be answered because it is self-evident. This is a gift that must be received which in true Christmas tradition means it must be received and opened. In this particular case it also means that it must be acted on (believed in) to receive its full benefit of eternal life.

I do not remember ever going to Sunday school or church before the age of seven unless it happened during one of our rare visits to grandma and grandpa Trum’s farm (pronounced Troom). However, after moving to the country to live in the same house with them we all went to Sunday school and church practically from the first Sunday we arrived. Most times it meant a one mile walk but sometimes we caught a ride and for a while one of the pastors who served that little Baptist church would even pick up a number of us kids in the rural community where we lived, believe it or not he used a converted hearse. Uh, I mean converted to carry living passengers. After about three years of attending, I finally listened to my grandmother and invited God’s Son to come and live in my heart. I still had a lot to learn – still do – but I did receive God’s gift of His Son and as a result have been saved from my sin unto righteousness. The gift of His son led to my salvation.

The second verse of our scripture for today reminds us, For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17) There are two thoughts presented here. The first is that the Son did not come to condemn the world (put your name in place of “world”). Some who call themselves Christians have over-emphasized the condemnation of the world. Their whole focus has been on the terrible state of those terrible “sinners” out there who are on their way to that proverbial hot place. While that is true it is not the emphasis presented here. Paul penned, “1Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1-2) Second, we are reminded that salvation for the world (you) came through Jesus.

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Day 24 – But for this Purpose

Friday – March 4, 2016

Day 24 – John 12:20-36 purpose

Focus: vss. 27-28

27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”

The English Standard Version (ESV) translates a portion of our key verse as “But for this purpose….” That is where we got the title for this devotional. I guess the question that comes to mind is, “Do you have a purpose for being here?” Jesus knew His purpose for coming to the earth. I have been in some places where I have wondered just exactly why I was there. Now usually I am very aware of why I have been called to a particular place or situation but there have been times when I was unsure. Those times have called for a great deal of prayer and thought. Over time God has finally gotten through to me just why I was there. Sometimes it was even for my own spiritual growth. I had to depend more and more on the Lord just to carry on. As a result I grew spiritually in my relationship with the Lord. Other times I have known that others needed to be lifted up and, even occasionally, I knew I was called to give a word of caution to some who had overreached their authority within the Body of Christ. Thankfully, that has not happened often.

Jesus knew He was sent from God the Father for the purpose of bringing salvation through faith in His name to those who believe. This was His purpose for coming to this earth. Jesus Christ is at the center of our relationship with the Father. It is only through Him that we can enter into a real relationship with God.

How about you? Have you discovered your reason for being here? First, that is so you could begin to have a relationship with God through Jesus His Son. Second, in some form, your purpose is to also help others know about the possibility of a relationship with God. Most of the time we show this through our actions, how we live; but sometimes we just have to tell them why we live the way we do and how they can also live a full, productive and meaningful life through faith in Jesus Christ. What is your purpose for being?

Prayer Focus: Lord Jesus, we are thankful that You came to this earth with a purpose. You fulfilled Your Father’s will through your life, death and resurrection. Help me to fulfill Your purpose for me in this life and to fully do so in the life to come when we enter into Your Glory. Help me know Your will and plan for my life and strengthen me to fulfill it with Your help.  AMEN.

Day 5 – God’s Love Leads to Salvation

Sunday – February 14, 2016

Day 5 – John 3:1-21 Valentines.png

Focus: vss. 16-17

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Once a year we push everything else aside and celebrate Love – we call that day Valentine’s Day. It’s not so much fun when you’re single but when you are in a relationship it offers you the opportunity to be silly and romantic. We give cards and flowers and candy and we do special things for one another to show our love. Would you believe the number of marriage proposals that happen on Valentine’s Day? My wife and I got engaged on Christmas day but most proposals take place on Valentine’s Day. The number of proposals in 2013 was around 14 million with around 6 million of them happening on the Day of Love!

Let’s face it, there is enough hatred in this world that we need to think about Love as often as we can. I don’t think one day of romanticism and silliness is bad but it’s definitely not enough to overcome the bad we see in our world every day. It’s a moment of hope in a sea of despair. There is a deeper love that everyone can find this Valentine’s Day, whether you are single or in a relationship – it’s the love of God.

Our scripture passage for this day tells the story of Nicodemus, a Pharisee and Jewish Ruler, who comes to speak to Jesus under the cover of night. Jesus tells him that, in order to see the kingdom of God, he must be born again. Nicodemus was confused by but Jesus was talking about a spiritual rebirth. In response to Nicodemus’ line of questioning Jesus offers this response: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Jesus is God’s valentine to you – His gift of love. This valentine is offered not as a momentary romantic gesture or a card but as an eternal gift of salvation. It’s a marriage proposal, of sorts. God is saying, “Accept my gift and come live with me forever.”

The next verse after John 3:16 is an important one. It states the purpose of Jesus’ coming and it wasn’t to condemn the world but to save it. For some, Valentine’s Day is a day of rejection. It’s a day when they feel the loneliest – condemned to go through life alone. But, while John 3:16 is a reminder of God’s love, John 3:17 is a reminder of salvation rather than condemnation. This is the relationship that should matter the most.

Everyone deserves to be loved. If you’re feeling lonely this Valentine’s Day, look up John 3:16 and realize that God loves you so much that he thinks you’re worth saving. You are not alone – for the greatest love of your life is with you even now.

Prayer Focus: Dear Jesus, thank you for loving me. Thank you for your gift of salvation and your presence within my heart. Embrace my heart and love me as only God can. Amen.

It’s Time to Spike the Ball

12-22

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

I am a sports fan and I will admit that I can get pretty wrapped up in my teams and react in ways that don’t seem natural or appropriate for a given sports moment – the Hail Mary pass that wins the game, the fourth quarter comeback, or the game-winning grand slam that sends my team into the World Series. I know it’s just a game but I can get so wound up.

There is a word for how I feel when my team pulls out the big win – it’s called “exultation.” It’s that moment where all my pent up energy gets thrown into a big celebration as my team wins. It’s that moment when I jump up and down with my hands in the air screaming at nobody in particular about how wonderful life is at that exact moment. It is exultation and it’s what the angels are doing in verse 14.

The shepherds were out in the fields minding their own sheep when an angel shows up. I don’t know about what happens in your field but when an angel shows up in mine, it’s a time to pay attention – there’s a good chance this is going to be an extraordinary day. This angel brings the news of the birth of the Messiah and soon he’s joined by a whole host of angels to exult in the birth of Christ. They’re dancing around and raising a lot of hoopla. They’ve got their hands in the air and they’re running around screaming because God just won the game on a Hail Mary pass. Yeah, it’s that good. The shepherds closed their dropped jaws and hurried off to see the baby – wouldn’t you? It’s kind of a big deal when the Messiah shows up.

What’s your response when the Messiah shows up in your life? Is it Icky-Woods-Shuffle time? Is there a dog-pile at the pitcher’s mound? Does the crowd rush the field with hands in the air and screaming in celebration? The birth of the Messiah is worth the exultation and so is the salvation He accomplished in your life. Are you quietly moving through the Christmas season like it’s no big deal? Get your end-zone dance ready for the cameras because Christmas morning is on the way.

As you pray today, consider the magnitude of this event – the birth of your Savior. It’s a moment for exultation. What are you waiting for? Go express your joy in the birth of King Jesus. Exult in what God has done!

The Revelation Of the Son

12-20

1 “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all thing, and through whom He made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.  After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So He became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs.”

Revelation!  Have you ever had a problem and the answer just would not come to you?  I have.  While we were missionaries in Zambia, Africa, I had to try to keep the mission vehicles running.  One day I was working on the mission truck (called a lorry).  It was a Datsun diesel.  The problem was that if I could get it to start, it would not continue to run.  I had worked on this problem most of two days and we really needed to use this vehicle the next day to get supplies for the medical work and the missions.  Finally, I just laid my tools down, went in the house and told Myrna, “I quit.”  This was certainly out of character for me, I do not give up easily.  I sat down in my favorite chair, our little dog and very cross-eyed cat came and got on my lap and I laid my head back, closed my eyes and dosed off.  Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, I sat up and exclaimed “that’s it!”  I hurriedly went out to the truck and using the “revelation” information, made several small, seeming insignificant adjustments, got in the cab, hit the starter and – WOW – it started and actually continued to run.  Understand I am not a certified diesel mechanic so where did this information come from?  I believe it was revealed to me by God’s Holy Spirit. Did we continue to use this vehicle?  Yes, for several years, and I continued to work on it at various times, but I never had that same problem again.  Praise God for His assistance.

God has given us the revelation of His Son whose birth we celebrate in a few short days.  Thru that gift, we have been granted Salvation that leads to eternal life.  As you prepare to celebrate His coming this year, take the time to pray that God will reveal Himself to you and that in that revelation you will allow His Holy Spirit to work in your heart and life.

 

The Healing Power of Christmas

12-12

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you,  24 leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

As we approach the Celebration of our Savior’s birth, our thoughts turn to gifts.  What are we going to give _______?  What are we going to get?  The Scripture for today refers to a gift, not for another person, but for God, and our theme is “healing”.  How do we link these together and what are the results?

Have you been healed by the Spirit of God?  Spiritually, if we are saved, we all have!  How about physically?  I know that God has placed His healing touch on several of you.  In 1967 God touched my wife, Myrna, with a physical healing when we lived in Grants, N.M.  She was afflicted with “Bell’s Palsy”!  Her face was “drooping” and she had no control over such basic functions as blinking one eye or smiling.  A group of Godly, praying women in the Methodist church where I served as minister of music, decided it was time to concentrate their prayers on healing for Myrna.  God heard and answered those prayers.  How we praised God, and what an encouragement this was to us and to that body of believers.

While physical healing is wonderful, there is a healing that is even greater and better.  That is the healing that comes when, through belief in Christ and His redeeming power, we are saved.  It doesn’t stop there, though.  Sometimes there have been hurts in our lives that do not affect us physically.  These emotional and spiritual hurts can be very damaging and destructive. These hurts within the family are even worse.

Christ says in our Scripture, “if, as you worship (offering your gifts to) Him, you remember a hurt that your brother (in Christ) has against you, leave your worship, go and make it right, then come back to worship.” Notice Christ did not say if you remember a hurt you have against your brother, NO, He said, “your brother (or sister) has against you”.  A very big difference.

This Advent Season, as you pray and praise God for sending Christ to heal you, ask Him if there is something in your life that needs to be “cleared up” between you and someone else – especially if it’s within the family. Take the time to allow God to speak to you and then go and be healed by clearing this from your life.  May this Christmas be a time of healing for your family – then you can celebrate the true meaning of Advent.