#DailyDevotions Be Emboldened By The Martyrdom Of Your Fellow Christians

#DailyDevotions Be Emboldened By The Martyrdom Of Your Fellow Christians

Phil. 112I want you to know, my fellow Christians, that what happened to me actually helped spread the good news 13so that the whole palace guard and all the others have found out I’m in chains for Christ. 14And so my chains have given most of our friends the confidence in the Lord to speak God’s Word more boldly and fearlessly than ever.

Paul has been imprisoned. This most likely after his appeal to Caesar when he was arrested in Jerusalem. It’s kind of ironic that he is writing from prison to the Philippians in that he was imprisoned in Philippi when he was preaching there.

Now Paul is being more than positive or he is doing more than positive thinking when he is penning his words here in verses twelve to fourteen. Paul is being faithful the promises he had received in Christ Jesus.  Being positive is trying to find the silver lining with no promise of one being there. Being faithful is having a good outlook on things because we have promises from God to trust. God promised Paul to work through him to convert the Gentiles to faith in Jesus.

So even though Paul is imprisoned, he sees God’s promises coming to pass through him in his circumstances. His imprisonment, instead of impeding Paul’s evangelism, actually helped spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Whosever palace is imprisoned at (probably Caesar’s at this point) the whole palace guard and others found out Paul is in chains for Christ. No doubt Paul is given witness to the free gift of forgiveness of sins and of eternal life there is in Jesus Christ. The message of eternal life in Jesus Christ must have resonated with those prisoners who were facing death like Paul was. Roman guards were not immune to death. Their job put them in peril’s way all the time. That there is a free gift of eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus no doubt resonated with their hearts as well.

Not only was the good news spreading throughout the palace but the friends of Paul, instead of becoming meek in preaching the good news of Jesus Christ for fear of arrest instead became emboldened to speak God’s word more boldly and fearlessly than ever. Paul faced death with face in Christ. He rescued others from the snares of death also. They also worked hard trusting they had eternal life and they were rescuing others from the peril of eternal death.

We too should be emboldened to spread the good news by Paul’s and the early church’s fearless proclamation in our age. We should be embolden by the witness of our brothers and sisters in Christ who hold fast to their confession of faith despite being sold into slavery, torture, imprisonment and death across the world even to this day for their faith in Jesus Christ. We must not let the world and the devil who is behind the world to curb our witness to the free gift of forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who put their faith in Jesus Christ. When you are made to feel meek about your faith by the devil’s working in your life, remember Paul, the early church and your fellow Christians suffering around the world today for their witness and get courage again to be bold and fearless about your faith. You are going to live forever in Christ Jesus. They can only hurt you for a while and made your body dead temporarily. In Jesus you have his kingdom forever.

Heavenly Father, grant us such faith as all the martyrs had in Christ Jesus so that when the world causes us to be meek about our faith we may be emboldened to witness about the good news of Jesus Christ to those around us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion God Just Doesn’t Think Like Us

#DailyDevotion God Just Doesn’t Think Like Us

Isaiah 556Search for the LORD while He can be found; call on Him while He is near. 7Every wicked man should give up his way, and every evil man what he’s thinking. If he comes back to the LORD, He will be merciful to him, and to our God, He will forgive him ever so much. 8“My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways,” says the LORD. 9“As high as heaven is above the earth, so far are My ways above your ways and My thoughts above your thoughts.

Indeed search for the LORD while he may be found and call on Him while he is near. But where should we search for him? Should we go to the mountain tops? Maybe the golf course or fishing hole? Maybe we should search inward into the depths of our heart and soul? Yet while the LORD is everywhere, he has not promised to be everywhere for you. So where should we search for the LORD where he may be found and how shall we call upon him?

In Exodus 20:24 the LORD says, “Every place where I have you confess My name I will come to you and bless you.” It is written, “I’ve built the temple for the name of the LORD, the God of Israel”(1 Kings 8:20) and ““My name will be there. Listen to Your servant as he prays toward this place.”(1 Kings 8:29) In the Mosaic Covenant, the people of Israel were to go to the temple where the LORD had placed his name. They were to look towards that place when they prayed. But we are no longer under the Mosaic covenant but the New Testament of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 18 Jesus says, 20“Where two or three have been brought together in My name, there I am among them.” Where his church gathers in his name there Jesus promises to be found. There he promises to be with us and for us with his word and sacraments. In John 13:14 Jesus also says, “I will do anything you ask in My name in order that the Son may glorify the Father.” It is with the name of Jesus that we told to call upon the LORD our God.

Now in the previous chapters of Isaiah we see the work of Jesus Christ, the suffering servant, on our behalf. We see in the previous verses how the LORD offers to us freely eternal life. Now he even entreats us wicked people to turn to him, give up our wicked ways and thinking. If we come to the LORD he will do what is most unexpected, he will be merciful to us and forgive us whatever we have done, said and thought, however horrible it may seem to us. The LORD has provided us with Jesus to be our atoning sacrifice, our peace offering, our whole burnt offering. The LORD, our Father has provided Jesus for us. It is through faith in Jesus’ work the LORD offers us this free gift of salvation.

It may seem strange to us that He would work this way. We generally think in terms that we must provide the sacrifice. We think our good works must outweigh our bad. Yet this is not how God our Father things. As he said above, 8“My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways,” says the LORD. 9“As high as heaven is above the earth, so far are My ways above your ways and My thoughts above your thoughts.” Let us then conform our thoughts and ways to the thoughts and ways of our heavenly Father and be saved by His thoughts and ways.

Heavenly Father, your thoughts and ways are far above our own. You have provided the sacrifice for our salvation, your only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Grant us faith that we may turn from our wicked ways and thoughts and turn to you and your ways and thoughts, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

#DailyDevotion As You Believe, So You Will Do

#DailyDevotion As You Believe, So You Will Do

Matt. 1828But when that slave went away, he found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and started to choke him. “Pay what you owe,’ he said. 29“Then his fellow slave got down on his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you.’ 30But he refused and went and put him in prison until he would pay what he owed. 31“When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were very sad and went and told their master the whole story. 32“Then his master sent for him. You wicked slave! he said to him. ‘I canceled all you owed me, because you begged me. 33Shouldn’t you also have treated your fellow slave as mercifully as I treated you?’ 34“His master was so angry he handed him over to the torturers until he would pay all he owed him. 35“That is what My Father in heaven will do to you if each of you will not heartily forgive his brother.”

And now you’re probably thinking, “What?!” Indeed, how could this servant who had just been forgiven more than the national debt go about collecting debts owed to him and not forgive the debt of this guy who owed him a few months pay? Imprisoning his fellow servant until he could pays just didn’t seem right. His fellow servant even begged him to give him time and he would pay just as he did to the king earlier. Why was his heart not moved to mercy as the king was earlier towards him? We’ll discuss that in a moment.

Well the news of what that wicked servant to his fellow servant got back to the king and the king called the wicked servant to appear before him. The king threw him in prison until he paid back every last cent. Now some may take these words from the king as if the servant could eventually pay back the king. No, Jesus is not talking about purgatory. No, you will never get out of hell if you go there. The point is, you can never pay back what you owe. You will never get out.

Now Jesus says those words which some of us cannot bear often, “That is what My Father in heaven will do to you if each of you will not heartily forgive his brother.” It’s not like this is a new teaching from Jesus. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, the only petition he mentioned was the fifth. Matt. 614“If you forgive the sins of others, your Father in heaven will forgive you. 15But if you don’t forgive the sins of others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” We try to come up with excuses as to why we can’t or won’t forgive those who have sinned against us. For certain, you have sinned greater sins against your Father in heaven than what your fellows have sinned against you. Why will you not forgive your fellows?

It’s very simple. The wicked servant was out collecting debts because he didn’t trust the king to come back to him to collect the debt he owed. He lent money to others and wanted it back so he had something to give to the king when the king changed his mind. You likewise don’t forgive from your heart those who sin against you because you don’t trust that God your Father actually forgave you. You want to point your finger at your fellow and accuse him on the day of judgment like Adam and Eve did in the garden so God won’t look at your sins. But it doesn’t work that way. He deals with us individually. If you believe God forgives you for Christ sake, you will forgive those who sin against you. If you don’t forgive, then God’s forgiveness certainly isn’t dwelling in your heart for yourself. You will be judged and found wanting.

Heavenly Father, grant us faith to trust in the words of forgiveness won for us by Christ Jesus so we may in turn forgiven those who have sinned against us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion God Is Crazy Generous When It Comes To Our Debts

#DailyDevotion God Is Crazy Generous When It Comes To Our Debts

Matt. 1821Then Peter came to Jesus and asked Him, “Lord, how often do I have to forgive my brother who sins against me? Seven times?” 22“I tell you,” Jesus answered him, “not seven times but seventy times seven times. 23“That is why the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began to do so, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents. 25But he couldn’t pay it, and so the master ordered him, his wife, his children, and all he had to be sold to pay the debt. 26Then the slave got down on his knees and, bowing low before him, begged: ‘Be patient with me, and I’ll pay you everything. 27“The master felt sorry for his slave, released him, and canceled his debt.

Since Jesus was talking about loosing and binding sins to some just earlier in chapter eighteen of Matthew Peter brings up the subject here of how often we should forgive someone who sinned against us. I’m told that Rabbinic Judaism of the time taught you should forgive someone three times. So when he asked Jesus how often should he forgive someone, perhaps up to seven times, Peter thought he was being magnanimous. However, Jesus would have none of this and to further blow Peter’s and the disciples’ minds tells them we should forgive someone seventy times seven times. When you get to that many times, have you even been keeping count?

To demonstrate what the reality is when God forgives us our sins Jesus tells us this parable of the wicked servant. There this servant who owes the king some ten thousand talents. You may ask yourself how much is a talent? A talent is about the yearly salary of the overage person. So we’re talking about ten thousand times whatever  your making yearly. It’s about the size of the national debt right now. How does a king let someone get that indebted to him in the first place? You’d really have to be mismanaging things to get into that much debt.

Well the king wanted to settle up the debts his slaves had with him. Well this one fellow who had this debt couldn’t pay it. The king ordered that he, his family and all his belongings be sold to pay the debt. Now you know that wouldn’t even begin to make a debt in what he owed the king. The slave knowing he was in big trouble begged the king to give him time to repay, however the king felt sorry for the guy and released him and canceled his debt. Well that was pretty generous of the king. The king must be pretty wealthy to cancel that much debt.

Well you are that slave who owes the king so much. Except you don’t owe money and the one settling accounts is Jesus at the end of the age. When you sin, you become indebted to God. The problem is you have nothing to pay back to God to get out of debt with him. Like the servant in the parable, you are unable to pay your debts to God. What are you going to do? You can only beg like this slave to God what Jesus taught us in Matthew chapter six, “Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven those indebted to us.” Our LORD Jesus Christ has indeed forgiven our debts at great costs to him. He shed his blood to pay our debt. He experienced death to pay our debt. The kit and caboodle of our sins he has canceled by his innocent suffering and death freely because like the king, he felt sorry for us, for you. He is crazy generous. For this is our due to give him thanks and praise.

Heavenly Father, even as we have sinned greatly against you, you felt sorry for us and sent your son Jesus Christ to pay our debt. Grant us such faith in his work for us that we never cease to forget it and continually give him and you continuous praise and thanksgiving with our lives. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion Don’t Criticize Your Fellow Christian

#DailyDevotion Don’t Criticize Your Fellow Christian

Romans 1410I ask one of you, “Why do you criticize your fellow Christian?” Or another, “Why do you despise your fellow Christian?” We must all stand before God to be judged. 11It is written: “As sure as I live,” says the Lord, “everyone will kneel to Me, and every tongue will praise God.” 12So each of us will have to give an account of himself to God.

In Romans we first learn that both Jew and Gentile alike are condemned by God’s law. There is no one good, no not one. God shows no partiality. It doesn’t matter who your ancestor or your father is, if you do not trust God and do not obey the law, whether written by Moses or your conscience, then you are a law breaker and you are condemned by God.

We also learned in Romans that we all have been justified, declared not guilty, declared righteous by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. None of us earned this gift of salvation. It is the free gift of God. It message is proclaimed alike to all people, both Jew and Gentile. It is faith that receives and believes this message and it is faith is also a gift of God.

Ultimately, if we are saved from the judgment of God, it is purely out of the generosity of God and not because of anything in us. If this is the case the what Paul says in the verses above should make all the more sense to us. We have no room in criticizing our fellow Christians as to how they live out their Christian lives. Now we are not talking about morality here, as it is obvious from all of Paul’s letters there is a way of death and there is a way of life and he gives numerous examples of both. A fair amount of chapter 1 and 12 give us plenty of examples of both.

But in matters in which God has given us no command or matters in which we have been freed from the ritual, ceremonial and cleanliness laws, we should not judge one another if one of us does one thing and the other another. What we wear or what we do for a living should not matter much. What we eat or what days we worship on should be practiced in Christian freedom. We could even bring this to what type of musical instruments we use in worship and the style we sing in should not draw the ire of our fellow Christians (this does not excuse vacuous, insipid or doctrinally wrong lyrics though). It doesn’t excuse not getting together with fellow Christians to hear God’s words or receive the sacrament.

Nevertheless, in our daily lives we are free to do as we please in the LORD. We will stand before the LORD and all our works will be judged by him with fire. As Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3, some build upon the Rock with wood, hay and stubble and others with precious gems, gold and silver. Each person’s work will be tested by fire and what remains is what makes it into glory. But it is only the fire of the LORD that judges our works, not our fellow Christians. How will our criticism of our fellow Christian’s life stand up to the fire of the LORD Jesus Christ? I doubt it will follow us into our LORD Jesus Christ’s kingdom. Thankfully, our judgment as Christians before the throne of God is not a matter of us getting in or not but rather how much of us makes it in. Paul warns us, some will be getting in like a man who escapes a burning building with just his clothes. But, by the grace of our LORD Jesus  Christ, we will make it in by faith in him.

Heavenly Father, grant us wisdom and discernment so we do not criticize our fellow Christians in things that do not matter, but with brotherly love give and receive rebukes to and from our fellows so we may live a life pleasing to you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion We Live And Die Unto The LORD

#DailyDevotion We Live And Die Unto The LORD

Romans 14 5One man thinks one day is better than the other; another thinks they’re all alike. Everyone should be thoroughly convinced in his own mind.6He who has a special day means to honor the Lord. He who eats does it for the Lord since he thanks God. And he who keeps from eating does it for the Lord, and he thanks God. 7None of us lives for himself, and none dies for himself. 8If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Paul continues with the line of thought he expressed yesterday. Why would one man think one day is better than another? He is probably thinking in terms of the Sabbath day and the other religious festivals the Torah taught the Israelites to keep. If you want to keep those, well and good, though their context may now change because Jesus is the fulfillment of the sacrifices made for those festivals.

Another man may think all days are alike. Oftentimes we may want to think this man treats everyday as common or profane. However, I think the opposite is true. He treats everyday as it is holy unto the LORD. As the author of Hebrews notes in chapters three and four, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Sabbath. He is our Sabbath. We find our rest from our works through faith in him.

So you may treat Sunday as holy, Christmas and Easter as holy, and other festivals of the Church as holy. You may also treat every day as holy unto the LORD.  Each of us should be convinced in our own minds. Convinced of what? That what we are doing is for the LORD.

Paul circles around back to eating and reminds us that when we eat or for what we eat we give thanks to the LORD. In everything, we live and die not for ourselves. If we live, we live for the LORD and if we die, we die to the LORD, because we belong to the LORD. We are not our own. We have been bought with a price: the blood of our LORD Jesus Christ. We need to remember the other person who we want to criticize also belongs to the LORD Jesus. We have not been called to criticize or judge how our brothers and sisters in Christ live out their faith in the LORD (unless they are living a life unworthy of the LORD as written and warned about in the scriptures). Should we be called to judge the actions of a brother or sister in Christ it is to be privately done to show them the error of their ways from the scriptures.

Christ died and rose again to be the LORD of living and the dead. By living, Paul means those who have faith in him, eternal life in their hearts. By dead, Paul means those who do not have Christ’s life in them yet. Both have been purchased and won by Jesus Christ by his death and resurrection. There is no one who is not his, who does not belong to him. Both Christian and unbeliever belong to Jesus. We are called to love both as Jesus Christ has loved us.

Heavenly Father, your son Jesus Christ has purchased us with his blood shed for us on the cross. Give us faith to live for Christ with the measure of faith he has given us that we may proclaim through our actions in our daily life the love you’ve shown for us in Jesus. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion The LORD Will Make Our Fellows Succeed

#DailyDevotion The LORD Will Make Our Fellows Succeed

Romans 14 Welcome a man who is weak in his faith and not just to argue about different opinions. 2One person believes he can eat anything, but a weak Christian eats only vegetables. 3If you eat, don’t despise anyone who doesn’t eat, and if you don’t eat, don’t criticize anyone who eats, because God has accepted him. 4Who are you to criticize someone else’s servant? He belongs to the Lord, Who is concerned whether he succeeds or fails. And he will succeed, because the Lord can make him succeed.

Sometimes we can get caught up in the Church over things that matter and things that really don’t matter. Yet, I guess the problem we have is determining what matters and what doesn’t matter. Sometimes those who think something really does matter can find some justification for what they are doing in the Bible while another person looks at the same passage and sees nothing.

Then there are those cases where the Bible really is silent on a point but a person’s scruples will not or cannot let them do something where another person feels perfect freedom in doing it. Both of these things can drive divisions in the Church of Jesus.

Paul brings up a couple of things here. One person thinks they can eat anything and another person eats only vegetables. Mark writes in chapter seven Jesus made all foods clean. Certainly the person who read this and eats what he likes has read this correctly and is living his life as he should. My best guess is the person who eats only vegetables is perhaps looking to Genesis chapter one or maybe reading Daniel and thinking since Christ has taken the curse upon himself we should go back to eating vegetables only. They would be wrong, but I can see a Christian thinking that. Then there are those people who completely ignore what Jesus did in Mark and follow the Mosaic food laws.

Paul tells us to accept one another in these things. He tells us not to condemn the person who eats or the person who does not eat. God has accepted both as his children and servants. What matters is Romans chapters 1-11. I guess it would matter if one was telling the other they had to do what they do in order to be saved. That would oppose everything Paul wrote in the earlier chapters. But as to how God wants us to live out our life of faith in loving one another, there is considerable freedom. God is concerned with whether each person called by his name succeeds or fails. He will bring us all to the point of the freedom we have in Christ. Paul tells us the LORD Jesus Christ will make him succeed.

If it is the LORD Jesus Christ who will makes us all succeed in following him and in loving one another, completing our work of faith until death, Paul says not to criticize our fellow Christians in things that do no conflict with the doctrine of salvation as he has presented it in the previous chapters. If they are incorrect, the LORD is responsible to bring them to the place of his peace and freedom. If their scruples will not allow something, they are correct for themselves. If your scruples allow something, you are correct concerning yourself. We put ourselves and one another into the hands our merciful, kind and forgiving LORD Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father, give us wisdom in reading the scriptures, determining your will for us in our lives, and patience as we look at the lives at our fellow servants in Christ. Lead us into all truth. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

#DailyDevotion The LORD Jesus Christ Can Even Use Our Wickedness For Good

#DailyDevotion The LORD Jesus Christ Can Even Use Our Wickedness For Good

Genesis 5015When Joseph’s brothers realized their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong we did him?” 16So they sent a messenger to Joseph to say, “Before your father died, he ordered: 17“Tell Joseph, “Please forgive the crime and sin of your brothers: they did wrong to you.” ‘ And so please forgive the wrong done by the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they talked to him. 18Then the brothers also came and bowed down before him. “Look,” they said, “we are ready to be your slaves.” 19“Don’t be afraid!” Joseph told them. “Am I in God’s place? 20You meant to do me harm, but God meant to do good. He wanted to do as He now has done— to keep alive many people. 21And so don’t be afraid! I will provide for you and your children.” So he comforted them and talked to their hearts.

Hopefully you know the account from Genesis how Joseph’s brothers, provoked by jealousy decided to kill him one day but then, at the request of one of the other brothers, sold him into slavery to some Midianites who sold him again in Egypt. Joseph ended up being a slave and did well until his master’s wife falsely accused him of taking advantage of him. Then he was thrown into prison. Finally, through the gift he received from the LORD to interpret dreams he was placed second to Pharaoh in all Egypt.

It was because of what they did to Joseph that the brothers are afraid. Joseph had already forgiven them when he revealed himself to them. They were afraid on that day but Joseph did not hold it against him. With the wisdom given him by the LORD he saw how the LORD used the brothers’ evil to save both him and his entire family during the famine and to have them prosper and grow in Egypt. They must have thought he only did it because of his love for their father, for now that Jacob is dead they are worried Joseph would now take out his wrath upon them. This shows a certain amount of distrust of genuineness and sincerity of Joseph’s earlier absolution.

So they lie and send Joseph a message hoping to appeal to his emotions for his father saying, “Tell Joseph, “Please forgive the crime and sin of your brothers: they did wrong to you.” ‘ And so please forgive the wrong done by the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept at this. I believe because his brother still did not understand the work that the LORD had worked on Joseph. They still did not trust him. I imagine our LORD Jesus Christ also weeps like Joseph when we do not believe God forgives us for Jesus’ sake. The work he did and the proclamation of it has not broken our hearts of stone and given us hearts of flesh.

Joseph again reminds them of the grace and mercy of God. He tells them while what they did was wicked, the LORD meant it for good. He is not in the place of God to judge them. He comforts them with the message of peace. Paul reminds us in Romans 828“We know that God works all things out for good for those who love God, who are called according to His plan.” As Jesus’ chosen people, like the Israelites in Joseph’s day, the LORD Jesus Christ has a plan in the midst of all our troubles, trials, tribulations and disappointments. You may see it soon, many years from now or maybe only at the resurrection. Just as Joseph saw how the LORD worked with evil, our LORD Jesus Christ knows how to work with the evil we experience every day. We just need to trust him like Joseph encouraged his brothers to trust the LORD.

Heavenly Father, grant us your Holy Spirit, so that when we live in evil days, we can trust you are using them for the glory of your Son Jesus Christ and for our good. In Jesus’ name. Amen.