Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – October 21, 2016

Persecution: In Jesus’ Day and Ours


1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed

The recent beheading overseas and now in the United States serve as a stark reminder of how vicious persecution can be.  In our days as well as the New Testament times, faith is often severely tested.  Peter writes that we should not ’be surprised’!   Persecution— especially for God’s people— has been a way of life.  One we should prepare for.

The Romans Caesars came to power about 50 years before Christ.  The Caesars— Julius who reigned 49-44 BC, and later Augustus Caesar (31 BC to 14 AD) exercised tremendous control over their subjects.  Statues extolling the Caesar’s as ‘gods’ were situated all over the Roman empire— including Judea.  It was customary for citizens, if they wanted to stay in the good graces of the Roman government, to offer sacrifices to Caesar.  This could include ceremonially burning incense to one of the statues, and /or swearing an oath of allegiance to Caesar before a magistrate.  Some form of Caesar worship was not only encouraged but required.  Say ‘Caesar is Lord’ and things would go well for you.  It was, however ‘anathema’ for both Jews and Christians.  They could worship only God, and God alone.  Roman persecution could often be sudden and severe.

And how about today?  Have you experienced persecution because of your ‘refusal’ to worship the ‘idols’ of the world?  Do you find it, as a Christian, difficult to live ‘in’ the world and yet not be a ‘part’ of it?

Simon Peter, in both his first and second letters, is constantly remind  believers that persecution will come— in one form or another.  1 Peter 4:1 ‘Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude’.  1 Peter 3:14…if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened’!  Peter even reminded the church that ‘ it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God (1 Peter 2:19) 

It is OK to pray against suffering in our lives… but it is more important to pray that we will hold fast to faith IF suffering comes our way!





Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – October 20, 2016

All Israel Will Be Saved


Zechariah 12:10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.

Romans 10:25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”

God is a Promise keeping God.  He always fulfills His Word..  He  keeps His side of the ‘bargain’ (or covenant) even when the other party fails.  And no group or people ever ‘failed’ more completely or disastrously than Israel!  The Fulfillment of every Jewish heart, the Promised One, the answer to their prayers— the Jewish Messiah had come.  And they rejected Him.  Even ‘voting’ to nail Him to a Cross while their leaders said ’Let His blood be upon us and our children’ (Matthew 27:25)

But did God reject them… these wayward and rebellious Children of Israel.  No!!

Both Zechariah and Paul (Romans 10) write about a day when Israel— all Israel— will come to Jesus.  Look at the verses in Zechariah… ‘they will look on me, the one they have pierced… and they will mourn.  Notice that God will pour out ‘a spirit of grace’ on His people.  Amazing grace!!  At that moment the entire nation of Israel will come to their senses— just like you and I did when ‘grace’ came upon us.  They will wholeheartedly embrace Jesus.  At that moment, as Paul writes in Romans ‘all Israel will be saved’ (vs. 26).

What could trigger such an incredible revival in that an entire nation of millions would be saved— almost instantaneously.  We don’t know for sure… but one suggestion makes a lot of sense:  the Rapture of the church when Jesus appears in the sky to take His Bride home.  Could it be, in that remarkable moment, they will look upon him whom they have pierced.  Very possibly! God will keep covenant with Israel.



Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – October 19, 2016

Sharing 4000 Years of History: the Old Testament


2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. (HCSB)

For many of us who want to understand the Bible, translating some of the details of the Bible to our own personal experiences is very helpful.  Distances, for example.  The journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, with Mary in her final trimester of pregnancy, was approximately 80 miles (or for those of us in southern Illinois— from Mt. Vernon to St. Louis).  Or how large is the country of Israel?  Approximately the size of New Jersey.

Even more helpful are the time frames and order of events in the Bible. Knowing these facts brings a genuineness, confidence and enthusiasm to us as we share about our belief in the Bible.  After all, would you buy a used car from a person who didn’t know how to open the hood, how many miles it had on the engine, and couldn’t find the title.  I don’t think so.  But sharing about our Lord and His Word is sometimes similar.  People are interested— until they discover how much we DON’T know about what we say is the most important thing in our life!!??!  So…  This devotion is about putting it all together (it’s not hard).

Let’s begin… Somewhere around 6000 years ago, God created Adam and Eve. They sinned and mankind became increasingly wicked.  So God said ‘Enough’.  He raised up Noah. Then He sent a Flood.  Some 300 years after the Flood, God calls a man named Abraham.  Abraham has Isaac. Isaac fathers Jacob.  And Jacob (whose name was changed to Israel) has 12 boys— the 12 tribes of Israel. Ultimately, the 12 boys and their families end up in Egypt.

They become slaves. So, God calls a deliverer named Moses to lead them out of Egypt and to a Promised Land.  The Israelites first settle the Promised Land and have Judges as leaders.  Then the people call for a King to lead them— so Kings Saul, David and Solomon (around 1000 BC) sit on the Throne of Israel.  Many kings later, the nation is conquered by a Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar.    Nebuchadnezzar destroys the Temple but captives like Daniel, Nehemiah and Ezekiel assure the people the Temple will be rebuilt.  Another King is coming,  they promise.  A King who will set us all free from our captors and our sinful ways.   These prophets were right.  Four hundred years later, Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

Congratulations!! You just explained the Old Testament.


Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – October 18, 2016

Healing (Part One)


Matthew 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them

The ministry of physical healing was a large part of the earthly ministry of Jesus.  We are familiar with the many, thrilling stories.  And as we read, most of us can’t help but think about our own day.  We all know people— people we love— who are sick or hurting.  Did the ministry of healing end with the days of Jesus and the Apostles? (No!) What do we need to understand about the subject?  How do we, as Christians, need to conduct or even train ourselves when it comes to this important, controversial and sometimes mis-applied subject?  For the purpose of this devotion, let’s seek to gain some understanding about the healing ministry of the Lord Jesus.

When it came to ‘healing’ Jesus did not have a ‘one size fits all, cookie cutter approach’.  Every encounter with a hurting individual was personal, compassionate and unique to the situation.  Jesus used many different means or modes to accomplish ‘healing’.  These include:

Anointing with oil: Mark 6:13

Touching Jesus cloak: Mark 6:56

Laying His hands on the sick: Luke 4:40

Speaking to the person or affliction: Luke 8:54

Using ‘spit’ or saliva: Mark 7:33/Mark 8:33

Applying mud made from saliva: John 9:6

A few observations about Jesus’ healing ministry.  Jesus dealt with each person’s ‘needs’ individually, which is what you would expect the Great Physician to do.   Jesus often asked questions before ‘healing’.  ‘How long have you been like this? What do you need? Do you believe? A second observation: Jesus did not do much ‘praying’! Not that prayer wasn’t a vital ‘foundation’ for Jesus’ ministry, but when you read the Gospels, you don’t see Jesus praying for the sick. He ‘acted’!  A last consideration… most of the ‘healings’ of Jesus involved a ‘touch’.  He was among the people and he most often reached out and made a physical contact.

Today, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you about this important ministry.


Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – October 17, 2016

Developing Wisdom and Grace in our Children


Luke 2:40 And the child (Jesus) grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

(To develop character, wisdom and grace in children, we need a plan.  Below are 25 activities to help you grow ‘character’ in your ‘kids’.

 Treasure Hunts (exploring is the ‘mother’ of learning)

  1. Wrestle (physical contact is very important— says “I accept you”)
  2. Reading (the gift of enjoying reading is a life long gift)
  3. Jokes (laugher is healing, therapeutic and necessary to handle stress of life)
  4. A ‘King/Queen for a Day’ Day’ (let the child plan events)
  5. Trips, Events (experiences are the ‘building blocks’ of decisions)
  6. Take Kids to Your Work (show them that work is part of growing)
  7. Cook (the most necessary of physical acts, a confidence builder)
  8. Cry (emotions, especially tears, communicate your values)
  9. Opinions (share your beliefs without demanding agreement)
  10. Watching (teach by commenting on shows, commercials, actors)
  11. Love on your spouse (if possible) (modeling, attitudes and affection are ‘caught’… and you are preparing them for their family)
  12. Intentional gifts (toys shape us, inform us of ‘what we can do’ and ‘who we are’. Toys that can become hobbies or careers are good)
  13. Talk with their friends (a relationship with kid’s friends provides window to yours)
  14. Share your failures (Failures are inevitable— learning from them isn’t; let them see your honesty and humanity)
  15. Subscribe to magazines in their name (everyone like ‘mail’)
  16. Sleep in air tent/cardboard box (it’s just ‘fun’)
  17. Reward character, not ability (Character is the ‘goal’)
  18. Place kids in ‘difficult’ situations (Visit nursing homes, children’s hospitals, inner city church, etc)
  19. Start a saving/ checking account in child’s name
  20. Go to restaurant and let them order (great way for kids to learn to think for themselves— and to deal with society)
  21. Teach them to do something no one else in class can do (anything— this way they can always have something to excel in)
  22. Use refrigerator as bulletin board (celebrate achievements)
  23. Develop family traditions (they will carry through the decades)
  24. Send money secretly to a needy family (develops compassion… Biblical concept of giving and helping those more needy)




Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – October 14, 2016

Following Jesus Around Jerusalem


John 5:Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.

It is sometimes hard to understand the stories, events, illustrations and comments of the Bible until we become more familiar with the geography.  That is especially true of the city and environs of Jerusalem during New Testament times.  (I can already hear some of you moaning ‘Not another map!’) Provided at right are two maps to help you LOCATE and UNDERSTAND the stories and comments of the New Testament.  For example…

In the passage above, we read about Jesus near the Sheep gate and pool of Bethesda (also known as the Israel Pool).  Jesus healed a paralytic there. On the right portion of map (near the Temple) you can see the Golden (or Eastern) Gate.  It was this gate that Jesus came through, riding on a donkey that Palm Sunday morning.  Other places on the map remind us of Biblical events… the Upper Room… High Priest’s home…the Kidron Valley through which Jesus often crossed to get to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane directly east of the Temple.

The bottom map provides us with the locations of the gates of Jerusalem.  This may seem insignificant to the casual observer, but Jesus used these gates— particularly the southernmost gates— to teach about an important subject: Hell!

Notice on the larger map the Hinnom Valley which borders Jerusalem on the south.  Notice on the smaller map the two gates that lead into this valley— the Dung Gate and the Tanner’s Gate.  It is sometimes call ‘Gehenna’ in the Greek from the Hebrew ‘Ge Hinnom’ or Valley of Hinnom.  More important is WHY Jesus often referred to this valley as synonymous with ‘hell’.  All of the dung, manure, and refuse of the city was taken out the Dung Gate and thrown into the Hinnom Valley. Through the neighboring Tanner’s Gate came the dead carcasses and entrails of animals whose skins would become leather.  Combine these ‘ingredients’ together in the hot Judean sun and you have a place where… the worm never dies and the fire is never quenched (Mark 9:48).  Imagine the stench, the smell, the flies and maggots. As Jesus taught about ‘hell’, the imagery surely spoke to all who heard.

Jerusalem in Jesus Day



Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – October 13, 2016

Eternity and ‘The Cross’


Rev. 13:8 … the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

1 Peter 1:18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.

The plan of the Cross was not an ‘oops’.  It was not an afterthought or ‘Plan B’ after humanity has gone awry.  It was THE plan of God before He created one molecule of what we now call the Universe.  The God who ‘knows the end from the beginning’ was completely aware of the pain He would have to endure to complete ‘redemption’.

In the Revelation passage above we read:  the Lamb slain ’from the foundation’.   John the Apostle is commanded to write what he sees on his ‘trip’ to Heaven.  At the center of Heaven is an amazing scene, described in Revelation 5 this way: ‘Then I saw a Lamb looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the Throne. (vs 6).  All Heaven and Eternity seems to focus on the plan of God— the plan fully realized 2000 years ago at the Cross of Calvary.

Notice that the Cross was God’s plan from Eternity.  First Peter tells us that Jesus was ‘chosen before the creation of the world’ (vs 20). BEFORE… not during or after the creation of mankind.  God the Son knew that He would come to earth, be rejected by the very humans He created, and crucified by the ones He was seeking to save. Looking back through history this ‘truth’ helps us understand stories like Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, the Passover Lamb of Moses and the prophecies of the Old Testament.

All this begs the question ‘WHY’?  Why did Creator God go ahead with the plan, knowing in advance the ‘crimes’ of humanity that would require the ‘Cross’ to redeem?


Only one answer: God so desires ‘us’… our presence with Him in Heaven for eternity… that He was willing to pay the price to gain our entrance. From the very first act of Creation when God said ‘Let there be light’ (Gen. 1:3), the Cross was on His mind.  You were on His mind. Rev. 4:12 states… and for Thy pleasure we are created.  The Father’s joy is in his children.  In his heart, the Cross was worth it all!