January 17 – Believe and Follow

“We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” – 1 Thessalonians 1:2 (NASB)

It was about A.D. 51 when the Apostle Paul wrote from Corinth this letter to those believers in Thessalonica. They constituted the church which was founded on Paul’s second mission trip. With Paul was Timothy and Silas, so it is those three that make up the “we.” Paul was a man of prayer and he with his companions prayed frequently for the all those who were in the church. Paul uses a favorite three-fold combination of faith, hope and love. The Thessalonians’ response to the preaching of the gospel in their midst established indisputable proof of their salvation. The evidence of God’s love for the Thessalonian believers was His choice of them unto salvation. From the Greek word translated chosen (eklogēn) comes our English “election.” That God has chosen to bless some individuals with eternal life is clearly taught in many places in both the Bible. Likewise clear, is the fact that God holds each of us personally responsible for our decision to trust or not to trust in Jesus Christ. Verse six affirms their choice as they followed Paul and in his submission to Jesus as Lord and Savior. 

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January 16 – His Mercy Brings Life

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor.” – 1 Timothy 1:12-13 (NASB)

Our passage comes from the first letter to Timothy. This letter to Timothy was written after Paul was released from his first Roman imprisonment. Paul acknowledges his gratitude to Christ for: a) having imparted strength to him, b) having judged him to be trustworthy and c) having appointed him to the ministry. Paul acclaims the mercy God showed to him. For as a very great sinner Paul was not only saved, but was even considered worthy to be entrusted with the ministry of the apostleship! Before his conversion the apostle had been of the very category of terrible sinners whom he describes as unholy and profane persons (1 Timothy 1:9-10). Yes, the apostle had been a blasphemer (Acts 26:11), ridiculing the name of Christ; he had been a persecutor for his very breath had been a threat of murder (Acts 9:1) making him  nothing less than “a wanton and violent aggressor,” who committed horror and outrage against those who were of “The Way.” Our promise is that God saves the worst of sinners who in faith believe and all are equally in need of salvation. It is by the mercy of God that we receive the faith to believe and receive eternal life. 

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January 15 – Consider Again the Potter

“Thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am fashioning calamity against you and devising a plan against you. Oh turn back, each of you from his evil way, and reform your ways and your deeds. But they will say, ‘It’s hopeless! For we are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’” – Jeremiah 18:11-12 (NASB)

Not too many days ago we considered the illustration of the potter which God gave to Jeremiah. From the same passage we learn how the people facing conquest, destruction, and exile respond to the lesson. Warned and exhorted to pay attention to the plans of God they call such action “hopeless.” It is a dangerous thing to hear a warning from God’s Word and to hear such exhortations and say “No thanks, we have our own plan to follow.” Jeremiah brought them to the point where they actually stated their condition honestly. The prophet’s threats were useless because they were so far gone—abandoned to their sins and the penalty. All hypocrisy was abandoned in favor of honesty, without repentance. Let’s not go there. Israel could have repented and avert judgment but they were so far down the rebel path even Jeremiah was told to not pray for them. Let’s listen to God and learn from this lesson to heed God’s instructions. After all we are the clay and He is the potter. He is making us into beautiful and useful vessels. Let’s be the clay and become the vessels God wants us to be. 

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January 14 – Hope With No Shame

“ …and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” –  Romans 5:4-5 (ESV)

Aren’t there times for each person when what is hoped for ends in deep disappointment and even shame? We stake our hope on uncertain outcomes and when it fails us, we may well be downcast for a time. This isn’t the kind of hope that we receive as believers from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We’ve learned that even the times of sufferings are times that produce good traits in us. Endurance, character, and hope are mentioned in our verse. In this promise is this hope. A hope than will never result in our shame or disappointment. The hope comes from God and is built upon His Word and His promises. How is it we can be so certain that this hope won’t disappoint us? Because it comes as a result of God pouring His love into our hearts. This is the ministry of His Holy Spirit. This is why God gave to us His Spirit dwells within us never to leave us without His encouragement and counsel. We’re assured by God and so our hope is in that assurance. We are His precious people and He our marvelous God.

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January 13 – He Knows and Gives Hope

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

The verse selected for today is often a favorite. Many take the promise in this verse as if it is given directedly to each believer. In a much larger sense it is true but not in the primary sense. Jeremiah, was sent to give God’s messages and warning to the His people in the Kingdom of Judah. (The northern Kingdom of Israel was gone and its people dispersed.) Warnings of conquest and destruction were repeatedly given to them by God through Jeremiah and each was ignored, mocked, and disregarded. They treated Jeremiah treacherously with malice and physical torture. But look one verse back to Jeremiah 20:10 we have the necessary context. God promises a time to bring the captives back from Babylon after seventy years in exile. Not all came back but God is promising in verse 11. God promised welfare and no longer calamity. He promised a future and a hope. While not directly in this verse, God has promised each believer a future and a hope. We too have this promise of welfare and not calamity from God from God. We find these promises many places. He gives us hope that is absolute and never disappoints.

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January 12 – No Fear!

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” – Hebrews 2:14-15 (ESV)

What do we fear the most in our lives? There is no need because there really is for us a state of NO Fear!  However, most people have a certain level of fear of death. Maybe for no other reason than the fact that we don’t know exactly what’s next. We who by faith believe because of the gift of God can rest with assurance that God will fulfill the promises regarding our life with Him after we die. But that doesn’t always come without questions and even doubts. For the believer, “death is swallowed up in victory,” (1 Corinthians 15:54). What Jesus Christ did as the Founder of Salvation, was to bring an end to the fear of death and its spiritual bondage. That’s a promise we can trust and which can change our lives. This is the ultimate purpose of the incarnation: Jesus came to earth to die. By dying, He was able to conquer death in His resurrection (John 14:19). By conquering death, He rendered Satan powerless against all who are saved. Are you saved by grace through faith that God has given to you? Your death holds no mysteries that cause you to fear.

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 January 11 – Wisdom For Each Day

18“The wicked earns deceptive wages,
but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.

19 Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
but he who pursues evil will die.
20 Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the Lord,
but those of blameless ways are his delight.
21 Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished,
but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.” – Proverbs 11:18-21 (ESV)

In the book of Proverbs are found many promises. Proverbs has a concentration of parallel lines, or antithetical parallelism.  These proverbs look at the same truth from opposite perspectives. One line promises results of blessings and the other line promises the converse results of loss and even death. All the verses in Chapter 11 are such proverbs. Each one promises results from righteous living compared to results from the ways of evil living. 

  • Verse 18 – The efforts of the wicked deceiver do not yield the riches his deception seeks, but the righteous receive a reward from God. 
  • Verse 19 – Righteous living is rewarded with life and the wages of sin is death.  
  • Verse 20 – The abominations defined throughout Scripture and especially in Proverbs, involve attitudes and behaviors which God hates*.
  • Verse 21 – Individually or in collaboration, the wicked cannot be freed from duly and just punishment, while the unassisted children of the righteous find deliverance because of their relationship with God. 

God gives us here and in other passages the clear promise that wicked living has a losing result. However, righteous living is what He wants and will help us have. The wisdom is easy to see.

*What are the abominations? Proverbs 11:20; perverse living, (means crooked or distorted);  Proverbs 12:22; lying;  Proverbs 15:8; hypocrisy; Proverbs 15:9; wicked conduct; Proverbs 15:26; wicked thoughts; Proverbs16:5; pride; Proverbs 17:15; injustice; Proverbs 20:10, 23; dishonesty in business; 

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 January 10 – A Day To Rejoice Every Day

“This is the day which the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” – Psalm 118:24 (NASB)

Everyday without fail, this promise is fulfilled. Everyday without fail, we have reason to rejoice in the day the Lord God has given to us. But the day spoken of in this verse was perhaps intended for one specific day. To understand this we need the context and look back to verse 22. “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.”  Peter identified the chief cornerstone as Christ*  And in the parable Jesus told of the vineyard**, the rejected son of the vineyard owner is likened to the rejected stone which became the chief cornerstone. Christ was that rejected stone. The rejection of Jesus by the Jewish leaders – who were pictured as builders of the nation – led, by God’s plan, to make Christ the capstone of the Kingdom which included the whole world in God’s promise of redemption. At the memorial service for a recently departed friend, today’s verse was shared as his life verse. It is this promise which Van Craddock would quote each time he spoke to a group of people. A promise for us as well each day as we praise God for His gift of salvation.

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January 9 – Divinely and Parentally Reimaged

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” –  Galatians 4:4-5 (ESV)

This is a verse that demonstrates a need to close a gap in our means of interpretation. Adoption, in the time that Rome ruled the world and Paul wrote his letters to the churches in the first century was not like the adoptions we are familiar with today. It was not babies or young children but adult men that were adopted by families seeking to have an heir to carry on the family name and business. It was different in many ways to adoption familiar to us. “Adoption” is the act of bringing someone who is the offspring of another into one’s own family. Since unbelieving people are by nature not children of God, the only way they can become God’s children is by spiritual adoption. Indeed, we are made members of our Father God’s family”. With respect to this adoption, it surpasses anything that takes place on earth. It confers upon its recipients not only a new name, a new legal standing, and a new family-relationship, but also a new image, the image of Christ. We are adopted by God because He has chosen us to become one of His family. It is a permanent action and standing. 

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 January 8 – More Than We Can Think

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

Can we say that the promise in today’s passage is the promise of God’s power working within us? Yes, we can. For this is just what the Apostle Paul is praying for with confidence for all believers. This power is abundant to the point of exceeding our ability to ask or imagine. Beyond our thoughts. But, again we need the context to understand more completely how this power is made available. Spiritual power is a mark of every Christian who submits to God’s Word and Spirit. It is not reserved for some special class of Christian, but for all those who discipline their minds and spirits to study the Word, understand it, and live by it. Paul’s prayer included requests for: strength for our inner person; the dwelling of Christ in our hearts through faith; solidly grounded and rooted in love; ability to comprehend the fullness of God’s love which surpasses knowledge; and filled with the fullness of God. When these conditions are met, God’s power working in and through believers, is unlimited and far beyond any comprehension. All for His glory in Christ Jesus and His church forever. That is God’s promise of power for us.

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