Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – December 6, 2016

The Great Commission

FOCUS VERSES

1 Peter 2:2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Growing up in our salvation is the task and goal of the rest of our lives.  Understanding what Jesus ‘did’ for us, and why, should be a ‘joy-filled’ focus and pursuit.  Like a baby ‘craving milk’ or a child who searches for grandma’s cookies, we can develop a ‘sweet tooth’ for the things of God.  Most importantly, understanding his ‘salvation’.

We most often think of an automobile as one single object.  The truth is an automobile consists of many parts or systems— engine, electrical, hydraulics, chassis and body.  Put them all together in the proper order and one has what we commonly call a ‘car’.  Similarly, when we think of the work of ‘salvation’ accomplished by Jesus, we should understand that the term ‘salvation’ has many parts.

Saved from the Penalty!:  Jesus’ BLOOD shed on the Cross PAID THE PRICE for our redemption.  The debt of ‘sin’ had to be accounted for— and in the only acceptable ‘currency’— blood!  Jesus was ’without sin’!  He owed no debt for Himself, therefore  he could, if He chose, use his currency, his blood, to pay for the debts of others.  Jesus chose to pay the debt for our sin with his blood.

Saved from Corruption: Jesus’ RESURRECTION from the grave broke the stranglehold of death on humanity.  Even though the ’sin debt’ was paid by Jesus’ blood, we were still enslaved to ‘flesh’… our earthly bodies and would eventually ‘die’.  But on that Sunday morning, Jesus broke the chains of hell and death, and as the ‘FIRSTFRUIT’ from the dead, he open up our access to a NEW BODY’ that would live for eternity.  No more ‘death’s sting’ or ‘grave’s victory’.  Not only are we ‘free to go’ (our debt is paid) but now we have a ‘vehicle’ in which to travel into Eternity— a resurrection body.

Saved to Eternity: For five weeks and four days after His resurrection, Jesus remained on Earth.  He revealed Himself to hundreds of followers, teaching and reassuring them. Then, atop the Mt. of Olives, Jesus demonstrated what would happen to us: he ASCENDED from Earth. Jesus’ final act of salvation was to ‘go to prepare a place for you’ so you can someday follow him to your ETERNAL HOME!

 

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – December 5, 2016

 The Life of Paul

FOCUS VERSES:

Acts 9:15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

God’s plan always begins with a man.  For the plan to bring the gospel to the Gentile world, the plan was a man named Paul.

But WHY Paul? Like Moses, who was trained in the courts of Pharaoh, Paul was the man with the CREDENTIALS.  It was as if God had been preparing Paul as the perfect vessel to carry the Gospel to the Roman world.  (He had been!) Paul was a Roman citizen.  None of the Twelve Disciples were Roman citizens but Paul’s citizenship enabled him to preach before governor, and kings.  Paul was a Pharisee, trained under Gamaliel in the strictest Jewish study of the Law.   He was an intellectual, well read in the Greek and Roman poets and writers of the day, two of which he referenced in his sermon on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:28).  Also among Paul’s credentials was the fact he had once been an enemy of the Gospel, arresting, pursuing, persecuting the ’hated’ Christians.  And now he WAS one!

Another reason Paul became ‘God’s chosen instrument’ was his personality.  Paul was a man of passion and zeal, who beliefs were easily turned into actions.  Throughout the book of Acts, Paul was always on the move, eager to go to new places to talk about his beloved Jesus.  What would have ended the ambitions of someone less committed simply seemed to drive Paul on.  He was beat, stoned, robbed, shipwrecked, imprisoned and harassed.  Yet Paul never flagged in his evangelistic zeal or his love for the church.

A Description of the Apostle Paul (found in an extra-Biblical source) gives us some insight into his  physical characteristics:

And he saw Paul coming, a man small in size, balk-headed, crooked thighs [note: bow-legged], well-built, with eyebrows meeting, rather long-nosed, full of grace.  For sometimes he seemed like a man, and sometimes he had the countenance of an angel.”

The Apostle Paul wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament (Romans thru Philemon) and is the man most responsible for bringing the Gospel to the Roman and Greek world.  He personally traveled at least 14000 miles in his four missionary journey (some by ship but much of the journey on land— walking).  He was indeed ‘God’s chosen man’!  And the world has never been the same!

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – December 2, 2016

The Stoning of Stephen

FOCUS VERSES

Acts 7:54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

The second century church historian Tertullian wrote in 197 AD that ’the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’.  No where is that statement proved more true than in the blood of it’s first martyr, a Spirit filled Deacon named Stephen.

Stephen was a powerful and courageous witness for Jesus in the months after Jesus ascension.  He performed miracles and spoke with great wisdom in the Temple courts of Jerusalem— so much so that his enemies plotted against him.  Soon, Stephen was arrested and standing before the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of the Jews composed of at least two dozen men.  Here, in this moment, with his life on the line, the anointing of God falls upon this young deacon.   Those in the chamber reported that Stephen’s face was like ‘the face of an angel’ (Acts 6:15).  His words, however, would cut to the soul of all in the chamber.  In a fit of rage, (and a violation of  Jewish and Roman law), they lay hold of Stephen and stoned him to death.

Some observations concerning this first martyr for Jesus.  First, notice the fury and irrational hatred exhibited by those supposed to be spiritual leaders.  We should not be surprised when people respond to our witness for Jesus with fury and disdain.  Most often they can’t explain WHY they despise Jesus— they just do.  Secondly, we see    that Jesus was ’standing’ at the right hand and not ’seated’.  It’s as if Jesus rose to welcome Stephen, the first of millions of martyrs whose lives would be taken from them because of their faith in Jesus. And of course, don’t lose sight of the impact that Stephen’s death would have on the young man holding the ’robes’ of the ’stone-throwers’.   It would be some time before  ’Saul’  would become the Apostle Paul, but Stephen’s death planted a ‘seed’ in Paul’s heart!

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – December 1, 2016

What About the People Who have Never Heard?

FOCUS VERSES

Romans 1: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

Romans 2:14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them…

It is one of the toughest questions most Christians encounter from skeptics:  What about those living in foreign countries who have never heard about Jesus and so can’t believe in Him?  It is an honest question— and deserves a Biblical answer.

Before directly considering the question, we need to remind ourselves of what exactly it is that saves us.  The ’thing’ that saves us is FAITH!  Romans 4:9 tells us that Abraham’s ‘faith was credited to him as righteousness.’  Again in Romans 4:13 ‘righteousness that comes by faith.  Abraham lived approximately 200 after the Flood and 1800 years BEFORE Jesus… yet the Bible says that Abraham was ’saved’ (which is what the term ‘made righteous’ means).  It was Abraham’s faith, faith in the COMING SAVIOR… a Savior whose name he did not know… that saved Abraham.

For those of us who have been ’introduced’ to the Gospel of Jesus— who can look back to the Cross and the One who died on it— it is easy to have ’faith’ in Jesus.  We can see it.  We have been taught it!  We can read the record.  Our decision is predicated on what we ‘know.

Such is not the case for everyone, though. The last words of Christ in the gospel of John are these:  John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  There are indeed  those who HAVE NOT SEEN and yet HAVE BELIEVED!

Maybe an illustration will help us understand this difficult and often puzzling subject.  All of those living BEFORE the Cross were looking forward to Jehovah God providing a way to pay for sins, remove the debt and open up the doorway to Heaven.  For the Jewish ’seeker of God’, this  involved blood sacrifice and obedience to the Written Law.

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To the non-Jewish ‘seeker of God’ (who did not have the Law of Moses), this involved a ‘natural law’ ‘written on their hearts’ (Rom 2:15).

God is very clear about this fact.  Every man that has ever lived has known the law of God ‘instinctively’…  Romans 2:14 ‘when Gentiles who do not have the Law, do instinctively the things required by the Law’, they are revealing that our Creator has written his law into the DNA, the conscience, the very souls of ALL MANKIND!  Romans 1:19 tells us that all men are ‘without excuse’ because ‘what is known about God… His invisible attributes‘His eternal Power and Divine nature’ is ‘clearly seen and understood… through what has been made. 

 Psalm 19 echoes t truth— that all mankind knows not only that God exists but also the very ’law’ or ’nature’ of God.  Through Creation. Through an ‘inner witness’. Through our relationships, God has ‘written eternity on the hearts of me (Eccl. 3:11) The question that faces every mature human heart is this: will I, in faith, seek for the God my heart is ’revealing’ or will I turn aside to wicked substitutes that can never satisfy.  Or save me! Forward or Back, it is the Cross!

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – November 30, 2016

The Great Commission

FOCUS VERSES

1 Peter 2:2 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Growing up in our salvation is the task and goal of the rest of our lives.  Understanding what Jesus ‘did’ for us, and why, should be a ‘joy-filled’ focus and pursuit.  Like a baby ‘craving milk’ or a child who searches for grandma’s cookies, we can develop a ‘sweet tooth’ for the things of God.  Most importantly, understanding his ‘salvation’.

We most often think of an automobile as one single object.  The truth is an automobile consists of many parts or systems— engine, electrical, hydraulics, chassis and body.  Put them all together in the proper order and one has what we commonly call a ‘car’.  Similarly, when we think of the work of ‘salvation’ accomplished by Jesus, we should understand that the term ‘salvation’ has many parts.

Saved from the Penalty!:  Jesus’ BLOOD shed on the Cross PAID THE PRICE for our redemption.  The debt of ‘sin’ had to be accounted for— and in the only acceptable ‘currency’— blood!  Jesus was ’without sin’!  He owed no debt for Himself, therefore  he could, if He chose, use his currency, his blood, to pay for the debts of others.  Jesus chose to pay the debt for our sin with his blood.

Saved from Corruption: Jesus’ RESURRECTION from the grave broke the stranglehold of death on humanity.  Even though the ’sin debt’ was paid by Jesus’ blood, we were still enslaved to ‘flesh’… our earthly bodies and would eventually ‘die’.  But on that Sunday morning, Jesus broke the chains of hell and death, and as the ‘FIRSTFRUIT’ from the dead, he open up our access to a NEW BODY’ that would live for eternity.  No more ‘death’s sting’ or ‘grave’s victory’.  Not only are we ‘free to go’ (our debt is paid) but now we have a ‘vehicle’ in which to travel into Eternity— a resurrection body.

Saved to Eternity: For five weeks and four days after His resurrection, Jesus remained on Earth.  He revealed Himself to hundreds of followers, teaching and reassuring them. Then, atop the Mt. of Olives, Jesus demonstrated what would happen to us: he ASCENDED from Earth. Jesus’ final act of salvation was to ‘go to prepare a place for you’ so you can someday follow him to your ETERNAL HOME!

 

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – November 29, 2016

Psalm 22 and the Death of Jesus

FOCUS VERSES:

Psalm 22 is a prophetic Psalm concerning the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus.  Written 1000 years before Christ, it gives specific predictions that were uniquely fulfilled at the Cross.  This devotion gives the prophecy and it’s fulfillment!

Ps. 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

(Matthew 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, )why have you forsaken me?”

 Ps. 22:7 All who see me mock me;  they hurl insults, shaking their heads:

(Matthew 27:39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” )

 Ps. 22:8 “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him.  Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”

(Matthew 27:41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’)

 Ps. 22:9 Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast.  10 From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

(Luke 1:41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

 Ps. 22:12 Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. 13 Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.

(Matthew 27:27 Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.)

 Ps. 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint.  My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me.

(John 19:33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.)

 Ps. 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd,  and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death.

(John 19:28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” )

 Ps. 22:16 …they have pierced my hands and my feet.

(Luke 24:36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.

Ps. 22:17 I can count all my bones;

(John 19:32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. 33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

 Ps. 22:18 They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

(John 19:23 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.24 “Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another. “Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – November 28, 2016

The Women Who Walked With Jesus

FOCUS VERSES

 Luke 8:8 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Mark 15:40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there

We often think of the men who walked with Jesus— especially his Twelve Disciples— but the band of followers Jesus attracted was large and included many ladies.  We might ask ‘why’ a group of ladies would care to follow this itinerant Prophet from Galilee. That is until we think of Jesus’ ministry— sick children healed, poor people fed, and a message of freedom, liberation and equality for all.  If you, your child or spouse had experienced the ‘touch’ of  Jesus, would not your heart be inclined to follow this Man.  And many did.

The ladies who followed Jesus were diverse and helpful to the ministry.  Just like many churches today, the ‘faith’ as well as the ‘compassion and service’ was often more displayed in the ladies.

Look at the names in the two passages above. One familiar name is Mary of Magdala (Magdalene). The other names might not be:  Joanna (whose husband worked for Herod), Salome (who may have been the mother of James and John… and perhaps the sister of Jesus mother Mary) and another Mary (the mother of James the Younger or ‘Alphaeus’— one of the Twelve disciples of Jesus). Both passage also talk about ‘many other women’ who traveled as part of the Disciples group.

Whatever the reasons, the Bible tells us these ladies ‘helped support’ the Disciples with their finances (Lk 8:3) and ‘cared for the needs’ (Mk 15:41).  Very practical, very selfless, very ‘mother-like’.  A lesson we could learn as well.  Praying is good and Bible verses minister… but sometime what a disciple needs is a hot meal, a hug and a few bucks.