October 16, 2021

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Read – Daniel 5

What does it say?
King Belshazzar rejected God’s warning to repent. Daniel interpreted the writing on the wall as God’s warning of imminent judgment.

What does it mean?
King Belshazzar repeated the sin of Nebuchadnezzar, his father: arrogance toward the holy God of Israel. God evaluated the king’s leadership and gave him the opportunity to repent through Daniel’s interpretation. Rather than heed Daniel’s warning, Belshazzar persisted in pride, continued in his revelry, and showed contempt for the Lord. His reign ended that night because he refused to humble himself before God. God has authority over world powers and holds them accountable.

How should I respond?
When God gives people positions of authority, He expects them to lead with godly character. God’s moral and spiritual standards, found in Scripture, are the standards by which our character will be judged. Only Jesus met those standards perfectly. It stands to reason that living by His power through the filling of the Holy Spirit is the only way you can live righteously. In what areas do you have God-given authority? Are you a parent, boss, church or community leader? As such, how does your character reflect Christ? Ask God to reveal any areas of arrogance in how you lead. You can live each day filled with the Spirit and empowered for the work God has for you.

October 15, 2019

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Read – Psalms 111-112

What does it say?
The psalmist praised the Lord for His great works, His righteousness, His compassion, and His redemption. Those who delight in His commands find enduring righteousness.

What does it mean?
Psalm 111 praises God’s works, wonders and wisdom, while Psalm 112 describes the attitudes and actions of those who acknowledge who He is as revealed in His Word and by what He has done. Having “fear” or reverential respect for God and His Word brings the wealth of God’s wisdom. The person who puts that wisdom into daily practice will experience real joy, steadfast trust, and security even in the face of extreme difficulty. People who set aside time to ponder who God is and what He has done in their lives will know that He is worthy to be praised, loved, and obeyed.

How should I respond?
Being a follower of Christ should also mean being a student of who He is. The more you examine the truth of Scripture the more clearly you’ll see how God’s power and wisdom are revealed in the world. Seeking God, however, is more than an academic pursuit; you gain firsthand knowledge of who He is by respectfully putting into practice what He shows you in His Word. How often do you take time to ponder God? Take a few minutes today to draw closer to Him and experience His presence by saying this psalm as a prayer to Him. Knowing Him better changes who you are and how you live.

October 15, 2021

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Read – Daniel 4

What does it say?
Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, warning him to renounce his sin and do what was right. The king refused to repent, so God fulfilled the dream.

What does it mean?
Nebuchadnezzar’s knowledge of the Lord came only from observation. Keeping his distance while he watched God act on behalf of others allowed the king to maintain his pride and polytheistic beliefs. God intervened so Nebuchadnezzar would know firsthand the greatness of His power. After being humbled, the king acknowledged his place before the God of Heaven, who has authority over all yet is active in the lives of individuals. Nebuchadnezzar realized that the God of Israel had power to accomplish His will in and for him personally.

How should I respond?
God still intervenes in the lives of individuals. He is a self-revealing, caring God who desires that we know of Him in order to know Him personally. Do you only observe God at work in someone else’s life, or have you gained firsthand knowledge of Him? When you spend time with the Lord in prayer and reading Scripture you recognize things about yourself and gain greater understanding of His character. Knowing God is more than just reading the Bible; actively listening engages your thinking and your will in order to interact with God. Will you talk to God and listen to His Word in order to know Him?

October 14, 2019

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Read – Hebrews 2

What does it say?
Everything is subject to Jesus, who is crowned with glory and honor because His sacrifice broke the power of death.

What does it mean?
The first chapter of Hebrews focused on the superiority of Christ because of His deity. This passage deals with the superiority of His humanity. Jesus did what no other human being could do – He took the death penalty for the sins of every person who would place their faith in Him. On the cross, Jesus defeated Satan and released mankind from the fear of death. Jesus’ perfect humanity means He is perfectly suited for the task of being High Priest, interceding to the Father for believers and helping when they are tempted. Readers are warned not to spiritually “drift” but to rely on Christ alone for their salvation.

How should I respond?
Do you feel as if no one understands what you’re going through? Jesus understands you fully. Because He was fully human, He knows how each difficulty or temptation you face feels. Because He was simultaneously fully God, He can redeem and rescue us from sin. He shared in our humanity in order to die in our place. What temptation are you currently facing? In what area have you started to drift spiritually? Jesus, the “merciful and faithful High Priest,” is willing and able to help you. Will you ask Him for help right now?

October 14, 2021

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Read – Daniel 3

What does it say?
Daniel’s friends refused to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image and were thrown into the fiery furnace. God was with them and protected and delivered them.

What does it mean?
In an amazing display of courageous faith, Daniel’s friends chose obedience to God in the face of imminent death. These Jewish exiles must have felt political and religious pressure to bow to the king’s image. Their refusal to submit led to experiencing the companionship of their powerful God in a way they never could have imagined. As a result, all the Babylonian empire heard that the God of the Jews is more powerful than any authority. The prophetic significance of this event pictures a future time when a Gentile ruler will put to death any who refuse to worship him during the Tribulation.

How should I respond?
There are times when obeying God is more important than life itself. God is with you when you are called to suffer because you choose to please Him. When you suffer for honoring God and doing what is right, He may allow you to go through the trial or deliver you from the consequences. Either way, you will have the opportunity to expe- rience His companionship in suffering with an awareness of the Lord’s close presence that is seldom experienced any other way. What change in your behavior would reveal a personal belief that obedience is necessary regardless of the consequences?

October 13, 2019

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Read – Hebrews 1

What does it say?
Jesus, God’s Son, is superior to the prophets and angels.

What does it mean?
One main thought runs throughout the book of Hebrews: Jesus is superior to anything. The readers are challenged to follow Jesus, not the traditions of religion. God had spoken to their forefathers through prophets, but now they have heard and seen God Himself in Jesus. Even the angels are created beings sent to minister to and serve God’s people. The characteristics of Jesus in this chapter outshine them all: Heir of all things, Creator, the expression of God’s glory, a perfect representation of God, Sustainer of all things, Savior and Lord. Jesus is God, deserving worship, honor, and praise.

How should I respond?
In our society, many people seek spirituality but tend to reject God as revealed in the Bible. It’s generally accepted to talk about and even worship angels; but if you mention the name of Jesus, you’re labeled a fanatic. Do you consider yourself a spiritual or religious person? On what is your evaluation based? As you read Hebrews, keep a record of the character traits of Jesus. Mark every time the writer says Jesus is “better than.” Don’t settle for being religious when you can have an intimate relationship with Jesus.

October 13, 2021

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Read – Daniel 2:24-49

What does it say?
Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The king acknowledged Daniel’s God as the Lord of kings.

What does it mean?
Daniel was God’s messenger who revealed mysteries fulfilled in his day as well as prophecies yet to be fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar’s prophetic dream not only revealed his place in history, it also demonstrated God’s sovereignty over earthly authorities. The Rock in the dream represents Christ, who will one day establish His millennial kingdom on Earth. Daniel’s God-given insight caused this conquering king to fall pros- trate, taking his rightful place before the Lord of kings and giving praise to Daniel’s God. God is all-knowing, in charge of history, and has ordained each person’s place in His plan.

How should I respond?
Every generation has its measure of challenges. You face exhilarating and disturbing events as you live through your segment of history. God is never surprised by world events or your actions and reactions to circumstances. How do you cope with the highs and lows of life? As you grow in knowledge of God, your relationship with the Lord of history should impact your attitudes and actions. Ultimately, Christ will rule over all. That fact enables those who know Him to live confidently without fear and worry. Will you trust the God of Heaven with your concerns today, serving Him right where you are?

October 12, 2019

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Read – Philemon

What does it say?
Paul appealed to Philemon to graciously receive his runaway slave Onesimus who had become a Christian.

What does it mean?
The story of Onesimus is a beautiful representation of God’s grace. Paul showed a picture of Christ’s love as he pleaded for Philemon to accept Onesimus no longer as a slave, but as a beloved brother. When a person accepts Jesus as Savior, Christ goes before God the Father and asks Him to no longer see that person as a slave to sin but as His brother or sister redeemed by His precious blood. Paul was ready to pay any debt Onesimus owed just as Jesus willingly paid every believer’s sin debt on the Cross.

How should I respond?
Do you ever wish you could go back to the past and fix mistakes? We all do. That’s why this story is so personal. It reminds us that once we accept Christ, the past is gone. Have you asked Jesus to cover your sin debt? If so, you can rejoice as Onesimus did that your sins have been forgiven. Take a moment to ponder how much God loves you, and thank Him for all He has done for you. If you have not repented and asked God to save you, there is no better time than now. You may never completely forget your past sin, but knowing Jesus means that when it does come to mind, you can focus on His gracious sacrifice, not your own failures.

October 12, 2021

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Read – Daniel 2:1-23

What does it say?
King Nebuchadnezzar’s disturbing dream led to a death sentence for all Babylon’s wise men. Daniel and his friends sought God, and He revealed the mystery to Daniel.

What does it mean?
The most disturbing situation became an opportunity to seek and glorify God. Daniel, calm and courageous, asked for time to seek God in order to do what was humanly impossible. He sought his friends and challenged them to pray for God’s mercy. They asked God to do what only He could do: reveal the dream and its meaning. When God revealed the mystery, Daniel expressed gratitude for intimate knowledge of God and exalted Him openly. Daniel was certainly an impressive man, but the reason was not found within himself but in his relationship with the God of Heaven.

How should I respond?
How do you normally respond when faced with an impossible situation? Do you rely on your own good sense, or is it your habit to seek God and ask friends to pray? You may be blessed with good intellect and sound judgment, but you are not alone or on your own when you face struggles that seem impossible. As you pray and study the Bible, God will direct you with commands, prohibitions, and principles that can be drawn from His Word. Pray. Ask reliable followers of Christ to pray with you specifically; then look to your all-knowing God to direct and work in your difficult circumstance. Determine today to rely on the Lord rather than on your own reasoning.

October 11, 2019

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Read – Titus 3

What does it say?
Paul closed his letter to Titus with a discussion of the will of God, the work of God, a warning from God, and the workers of God.

What does it mean?
Paul reminded Titus that God’s will for believers is to be obedient to authorities and to be gentle and considerate to everyone. Because of the good work God has done, His followers should always be prepared to do good work for those in need. God warned Titus to avoid controversial issues that could hinder the work of the church. Those stirring up trouble should be dealt with systematically. Paul closed his letter by directing Titus to provide aid to the other workers of God and make sure that they have everything they need for their travels.

How should I respond?
God has graciously provided a plan for you to be free from the guilt of sin through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus. This gift should be the motivation for all you do and how you live. Are you following God’s will regarding submission to authority, kindness, love for others, and faithfulness to the teachings of Scripture? Your actions and beliefs will determine the health and productivity of your church. Are you currently a help or a hindrance to your church body? Ask God to show you ways to live out these verses today.

October 11, 2021

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Read – Daniel 1

What does it say?
Judah was conquered by the Lord’s instrument of judgment, Babylon. Daniel was taken captive and chosen to be trained to serve King Nebuchadnezzar.

What does it mean?
Daniel made a courageous appeal when he was ordered to do something that violated his beliefs as a descendant of Judah. God blessed Daniel and his friends with sound reasoning skills along with insight and discernment to interpret the events around them clearly. They were enabled to honor God even while they served the pagan king. Daniel maintained godly standards in a time of great pressure and insecurity. Their chief desire, as God’s children, was to please Him and maintain their resolve to do what was right in difficult circumstances.

How should I respond?
Obedience to God requires personal resolve. You make choices every day about things that may wound your conscience or break fellowship with the Lord. It’s impossible to follow Christ and participate in all that’s available to you. Is it your habit to refuse things that are not pleasing to God? What questionable situation at school, at work, or in your family comes to mind? To whom should you appeal or offer a different plan? Ask God for courage to trust Him while also maintaining an attitude that pleases Him. Challenging situations are opportunities to prove the faithfulness of God in your personal life.

October 10, 2019

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Read – Titus 2

What does it say?
Paul gave instructions to Titus concerning groups of people in the church.

What does it mean?
Paul urged Titus to teach sound doctrine to members of his church. Paul explained how members of the church should conduct themselves and be examples to one another. Specific behaviors are listed for both older men and women to model to the younger generation. Men should control themselves and be faithful to God and their families (Titus 2:2). Women must refrain from gossip and show respect, love, kindness, and purity (Titus 2:3-5).

How should I respond?
What kind of example are you? Are your attitudes, behavior, and speech a reflection of what God has done for you? Who around you could benefit from a godly example? As a Christian, you have the responsibility of living a godly life and encouraging others to do the same. Which characteristics in this chapter do you need to develop? The Christian life isn’t easy. Chances are someone you know is struggling. We can all benefit from someone who has “been there, done that.” Be aware of opportunities to encourage and instruct others in their faith today.

2 Thessalonians: Stand Firm, God is Faithful

2021-10-10

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

As we discussed last week, Paul planted the church in Thessalonica during his 2nd missionary journey. He only stayed about a month, but the impact was unmistakable. He writes this second letter to the church to once again encourage them due to false teaching and counterfeit theology.

 

2 Thess. 2:1-2 (NLT) Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him. Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us.

 

1. Thankfulness produces faithfulness

2 Thess. 1:3-4 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing. We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering.

  • One of the best weapons for fighting Satan is praise. In spite of his pain, Job was able to say, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord!’ So, the next time things go wrong and you are tempted to get impatient, turn to God and give thanks.”[1] – Warren Wiersbe
  • A thankful heart produces endurance which produces faith
  • 1 Thess 5:18 (NLT) Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus

 

2. Faithfulness allows us to remain strong when under attack

2 Thess. 2:15 (NLT) So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold to the traditions you were taught, whether by what we said or what we wrote.

  • Faithfulness to His Word
  • Faithfulness to what we’ve experienced in our faith journey
  • Verse 2 of chapter 2 – “Don’t be so easily shaken…

 

3. Faithfulness leads to deliverance

2 Thess. 3:1-3 (NLT) In addition, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.

  • Though Satan is real and active
  • 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT) Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.
  • The two mistakes Christians make in talking about Satan are that we either joke about him or we ignore him. According to this verse, neither of these is an option.”[2] – C.S. Lewis
  • The clear and present danger for all believers today lies in the reality of the attacks of Satan. But fear not, Jesus has overcome.s

 

John 16:33 (NLT) I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 192.

[2] David Walls and Max Anders, I & II Peter, I, II & III John, Jude, vol. 11, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 93.

October 10, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 48

What does it say?
Land will be divided among the twelve tribes of Israel. Upon establishment of Jerusalem, the city will be given a new name.

What does it mean?
God, as He had promised, will bring the restoration of Israel to fruition. Israel’s people from all over the world will be brought together to live in the land that had been pledged to them. The glory of God, which had departed from Jerusalem (Eze. 10:18, 19), will return (Eze. 44:1, 2). This city will be like no other because the glory of God will dwell in the sanctuary of the temple. The returned presence of the Lord will never again depart, and the inhabitants will enjoy His continuous fellowship. Henceforth, the new name of this city will be, “The LORD is There.”

How should I respond?
God’s future presence in restored Israel typifies His presence today in those who have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. At the moment you became a Christ follower, the Holy Spirit took up permanent residence within you. He is closer than your heartbeat and offers an unlimited supply of fellowship. You have to be intentional to experience this relationship fully. Are you passionately pursuing God through His Word, prayer, and worship, or do you remain on the perimeter of all He offers? How great is your desire to know the Lord intimately? His presence and power are available right now.

October 9, 2019

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Read – Psalm 110

What does it say?
The enemies of the Lord will be His footstool, and He will rule over them as a priest in the order of Melchizedek.

What does it mean?
Psalm 110 predicts the eternal priesthood of Christ. Christ is depicted as God, King, Priest, Judge, and a mighty Warrior. This prophetic psalm relates a conversation between God the Father and God the Son. David, divinely inspired by the Spirit, spoke about the coming King who would be not only his son but also his Lord. This psalm is quoted in the New Testament more than any other psalm. Jesus quoted from it when He asked Jewish leaders how the Christ could be David’s Son and also his Lord (Matthew 22). The teachers of the law had no answer because they could not understand the fact that the Messiah (Christ) must be both human and divine.

How should I respond?
Part of the prophecy in Psalm 110 has been fulfilled by the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of Man and the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. The other part of the prophecy – the judgment of those who reject Christ and the reward for those who have received Christ – will be fulfilled as promised. He currently acts in the lives of His followers as both King and High Priest. Do you know Him as such? The message for us today is clear – God will also come as Judge and His plan will be accomplished. What difference has that truth made in your life? How will you use your time on Earth to make it count for eternity?

October 9, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 47

What does it say?
Ezekiel’s guide showed him a river flowing eastward from under the temple. The boundaries to be used for dividing the land are specified by God.

What does it mean?
In His future kingdom, the water flowing from the Lord’s temple will be a reminder of the presence and blessings of God. This river is a beautiful picture of the mercy and grace extended through Jesus Christ. As the endless flow of life-giving water deepens, so the grace of God increases to meet every need. He alone has the power to transform death into life, as will be evidenced by the desert blossoming (Isa. 35:1). Trees will bear perpetual fruit for food and leaves for medicinal purposes. Israel and believing Gentiles will live in the Promised Land under the blessing of the Lord during His 1,000 year reign.

How should I respond?
No one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy and grace. Regardless of what you may have done or how broken you may be, the Lord freely offers living water to you (John 4:10). Jesus was referring to the Holy Spirit, Who not only gives eternal life but offers satisfaction in this life as well (John 7:37-39). His transforming power has the authority to forgive, cleanse, and heal. What areas of your life need to be saturated with God’s living water? Will you allow His Spirit to flow in and through you?

October 8, 2019

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Read – Psalms 108-109

What does it say?
Praising God for His love and faithfulness, David petitions Him for help and calls on God to take vengeance on his enemies.

What does it mean?
David opened each of these psalms with praises that reminded him to whom he was praying. He poured out his heart to God in an expression of indignation over his enemies who – without cause – were attacking him and God’s chosen people. David wondered why God seemed to delay His response to what was going on. Some scholars think that the Old Testament saints didn’t know about a day of judgment, so they asked God to exact His full justice immediately. In the end, David did not seek vengeance himself but turned to God for help, knowing that human strength alone would not be enough.

How should I respond?
Are you experiencing opposition without any fault on your part? Your circumstances don’t overwhelm God. You are not alone in the conflict. Even though the situation does not change right away, or if it seems that God is silent, remember that He sees, knows, and cares. Pray, telling Him exactly how you feel, and wait for Him to act on your behalf. Today, will you depend on your strength or God’s strength to get you through? Instead of focusing on the problem, trust and praise the One who has the solution – the Lord Jesus Christ.

October 8, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 45:13-46:24

What does it say?
The sacrificial system will be reinstated. The prince will be responsible for collecting the offerings from the people and sacrificing them to the Lord.

What does it mean?
Jesus’ once-for-all sacrificial death provided deliverance from sin and made the need for a sacrificial system obsolete; however, God will reinstate this system. Why? This will be Israel’s opportunity to worship Jesus as the Christ. The sacrifices they offer will be memorials of Christ’s death. Just as believers today partake of the bread and cup in remembrance of Jesus’ death, Israel will commemorate His sacrifice as the Lamb of God. The daily offering of a lamb without blemish may demonstrate the rededication of their lives to Him each day. All worship and praise will be due Christ the Lord!

How should I respond?
God is interested in every detail of your worship. Even though there is no sacrificial system in place today, how you choose to live each day is your personal, living, and holy sacrifice to the Lord (Romans 12:1). How can you give anything less than a life of dedication to the One who gave His life for you? As you dedicate yourself daily to the Lord’s use, you will continually live out your service of worship. What God-given abilities and resources will you offer to the Lord for His purposes today?

October 7, 2019

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Read – Titus 1

What does it say?
Paul talked to Titus about the role of elders in the church and warned him against false teachers and legalism.

What does it mean?
On Crete, Titus was dealing with false teachers who were preaching Jewish legalism and fables. The insistence of some that circumcision and other Jewish customs were still necessary for salvation was causing confusion among the people. These false teachers were not preaching out of concern for the people, but rather for their own gain. Paul urged Titus to strongly rebuke and silence these legalistic teachers because their corrupt teaching and actions were ruining entire families.

How should I respond?
Legalism is a problem in churches today just as it was in biblical times. Cultural and generational issues, such as types of music, Sunday attire, or use of modern technology can be subjects for heated debate within the church. Legalists will argue their intentions are good or even justified by Scripture. In reality, their biblical understanding and views are skewed by pride and personal convictions. Often these attitudes lead to anger, frustration, and conflict. Legalism must be dealt with for a church to thrive. In what area are you in danger of having a legalistic attitude? How can you resolve this issue?

October 7, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 45:1-12

What does it say?
The Lord gave Ezekiel instructions for future allotments of Israel’s land: first to the Lord and then to the priests, the prince, and the Israelites.

What does it mean?
First and foremost, Israel will offer a portion of land to the Lord to be used for holy purposes. Even though the whole earth belongs to the Lord, this offering is essential as an act of obedience and worship. This sacred area will be the site of the temple, and its central location will provide equal access to all. The temple’s location wonder- fully illustrates the fact that God must be the center of the lives of His people. Ezekiel used the future blessings of inheritance and a fair government to urge the leaders of his day to repent of their oppressive ways and to begin protecting the people’s rights.

How should I respond?
What do you own? Maybe you began mentally listing your possessions, or maybe you responded with, “Everything I have is mine.” However, Psalm 24:1 tells us that God owns everything. He has graciously entrusted you with what you have during your time on Earth. As you give to further His work and help others, you are worshiping the Lord through your gifts. Keeping an open hand after receiving God’s blessings allows you to release those blessings as gifts back into His service, but a closed hand cannot. Which “hand” does the Lord see when He searches your heart?

October 6, 2019

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Read – 2 Timothy 4

What does it say?
Paul charged Timothy to keep his head and endure hardship in order to preach the Word, just as Paul had fought the good fight and kept the faith.

What does it mean?
Paul was constantly aware that Jesus was coming back and would reward those who had faithfully served Him. Striving for a future prize from the hand of Christ motivated Paul to remain faithful in His work for the Lord. He compared his life to a distance runner crossing the finish line, claiming a hard fought victory. Paul wanted Timothy to live with that same awareness so he would share in the victory. He knew that keeping eternal rewards in mind would affect Timothy’s attitude toward his work as he went about his duties for the church.

How should I respond?
Have you ever completed a difficult task or gotten through a hard time by focusing only on how good it will feel to have it finished? Like a runner visualizing a finish line miles away, we live differently when we focus on our purposes or goals. That is what Paul wanted for Timothy and for you. When you face temptation or discouragement, imagine what it will feel like to stand before Jesus and be rewarded for staying faithful. Take time every morning to anticipate that moment. Live your day in that joy. Begin with the end in mind, knowing by faith how fulfilling that moment will be.

October 6, 2021

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Read – Ezekial 44

What does it say?
The east outer gate of the temple will remain shut. Only Levitical priests from the line of Zadok will be permitted to perform priestly duties.

What does it mean?
A lifestyle that honors God will be established during the Messiah’s 1,000 year reign on Earth. The glory of the Lord will return to Israel through the same gate from which it previously left (Eze. 10:18,19). His glory will fill and sanctify the temple, never again to depart, as signified by the closed gate. Ezekiel’s spontaneous worship at the sight of God’s glory exemplifies the type of authentic worship worthy of the Lord’s continual presence. Because of their faithfulness, Zadokite priests will teach the people how to respectfully approach God and how to live holy lives set apart unto Him.

How should I respond?
As a follower of Christ, your body is the present-day temple of the Holy Spirit. Even though God’s Spirit will never leave you, it’s possible to stifle His work in your life. We need to guard against grieving the Spirit and determine to live holy lives set apart to God. Galatians 5:16 tells us to “walk by the Spirit.” When you obey the commands of Scripture, you submit yourself to the Spirit’s continual control. He will personally empower you so that holy living and authentic worship become your lifestyle. As you study God’s Word, what changes do you find His Spirit persuading you to make?

October 5, 2019

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Read – 2 Timothy 3

What does it say?
People will love pleasure rather than love God in the last days. Timothy was to continue in what he had learned from the Holy Scriptures that had equipped him for good work.

What does it mean?
Paul began his warning to Timothy with a list of ungodly characteristics that will eventually consume people who love themselves more than they love God. These types of people have always existed, but there will come a time when their attitudes will pervade the culture. Although they will constantly seek knowledge, they will avoid the truth. Paul reassured Timothy that the truths of Scripture would teach, correct, and train him even in the midst of such ungodliness. Everything God wanted Timothy to do could be done if he held on to what he knew to be true.

How should I respond?
In a culture so wrapped up in pride, selfishness, and deceitful ambition, it is comforting to know that there are certain important truths that will not change or lead you to harm. Read – What are you doing to keep the truths of the Bible stored in your mind? Choose three or four verses and write them on index cards. Keep them in your wallet or purse or out on your desk at work. Write new ones down regularly and swap them out. God will use His Word to equip, teach, train, and correct you every time you read them. Will you be ready for the “good work” God puts in your path today?

October 5, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 43:13-27

What does it say?
Ezekiel was given the specific plans for the altar and for the sacrifices that would be made on it in order to dedicate it as a pure place to make sin and fellowship offerings.

What does it mean?
Ezekiel’s prophecy looks forward to the millennial age but also points to the cross of Christ. By offering the blemish-free sacrifices for seven days, the priests of the Millennial Temple will mirror the completed work of Christ on the cross, as both the High Priest and the pure Lamb of God. The observance of the seven days of sacrifices is significant because seven is the number of completion in Scripture (Ex. 29:35; Lev. 8:33). The cross would be the altar making restored fellowship between man and God possible. As the people bring offerings to God, the completed work of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus will be remembered.

How should I respond?
The span between God’s holiness and your sin was bridged at the altar of the cross. Your salvation is complete by accepting His sacrifice. However, temptation to sin still exists. Enjoying continued fellowship with the Lord comes by bringing your sins before Him daily. Today, renew your heart to complete fellowship with the Lord by asking Him for forgiveness where you’ve messed up. Your life will be marked by either the shame of sin or by the sacrifice of Jesus. Which does God see when He looks at you today? You can’t cross the gap between God’s holiness and your sin, but Jesus can.

October 4, 2019

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Read – 2 Timothy 2

What does it say?
Paul told Timothy to be strong in the grace of Christ Jesus, endure hardship, avoid quarreling and godless chatter, and flee evil desires.

What does it mean?
Paul warned Timothy to not get distracted but to focus on his mission – teaching the truth of the gospel. Paul particularly cautioned him to be careful around people who constantly tried to draw him into foolish religious arguments which can spread like an infection within the church. Timothy was to respond with gentleness, knowing that showing kindness can bring people to their senses faster than winning arguments. Paul didn’t tell Timothy to avoid biblical discussions. Instead he encouraged Timothy to correct wrong beliefs with humility, causing the other person to recognize the truth and turn to God, not from Him.

How should I respond?
What argument or disagreement has currently “entangled” you? Winning arguments by crushing someone else is not really winning, is it? We need to make sure that we are not the reason someone rejects God’s offer of forgiveness. Check your daily conversations by asking yourself, “After what I just said, could I share Jesus? Would it seem hypocritical?” If it would, make it right immediately. Get in the habit of apologizing any time you find yourself speaking in a way that does not show Christ’s love and grace. The goal is not winning an argument, but winning them to Jesus!

October 4, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 43:1-12

What does it say?
When the glory of God returns to the temple to live forever, Israel will never again defile His holy name.

What does it mean?
The Lord will one day take His rightful position at the center of worldwide worship when His presence returns to the Millennial Temple. His glory had previously departed the temple due to all Israel had done to defile His name and His dwelling place with idolatry. One day, God’s people will fully acknowledge their sin, paving the way for restored fellowship with Him. God wanted Ezekiel to communicate His desire for holy living, according to His law, in the present as well as in the future. He laid out the clear expectation that His people would build a community centered upon glorifying Him.

How should I respond?
Worship is a lifestyle, not an event. You offer your life back to God as an act of worship by getting rid of anything that doesn’t honor Him and by being set apart from the world as we discussed yesterday. The Lord does not simply accept a “both … and” approach to worship. He alone belongs at the highest position in our lives. What elements of “and” are included in your worship? What might be causing you to look more like the world and less like Him? Today, be aware of the Lord’s presence. Make each decision and reaction an act of worship by choosing to glorify Christ.

October 3, 2019

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Read – 2 Timothy 1

What does it say?
Paul longed to see Timothy and reminded him to use his God-given gifts.

What does it mean?
Paul began by explaining how Timothy’s faith was an encouragement to him during his time in prison, even though Paul’s imprisonment had greatly discouraged Timothy. Paul brought Timothy back to the roots of his faith, reminding him that Jesus took his death on the Cross and that the Holy Spirit provided the power to live for Christ and to faithfully serve Him. Timothy needed to rekindle his God-given gift of leadership in ministry because it was greatly needed by the church. Paul urged Timothy to focus on the grace and love of Christ, along with what Paul had already taught him.

How should I respond?
Any follower of Christ can become discouraged. Discouragement can lead to neglecting the very things that would help you the most. You can refocus your attention and energy by going back to the roots of your faith: spending time in prayer, studying God’s Word, talking about Jesus, and using your gifts to serve your church. What spiritual disciplines do you need to rekindle today? Maybe you need to pray for a specific need, share a hard truth with a friend, or help someone God keeps bringing to mind. Take Paul’s advice and think first about Jesus and the strength that comes from His love for you. Let His grace be the motivation that fuels your faith – regardless of your circumstances.

1 Thessalonians – Keep it Going

2021-10-03

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Paul visited Thessalonica during his second missionary journey and planted the church to which he now writes. His mission in this letter was to celebrate their faithfulness, encourage them to be steadfast and point them to the blessed hope God has in store for us all. This message, like Paul’s other writings, are meant to be an encouragement to all Christ followers to stay the course and trust the heart of God.

 

1 Thess. 1:2-3 (CSB) We always thank God for all of you, making mention of you constantly in our prayers. We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor motivated by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

 

1. Our faith should drive us to action

Vs 3a We recall, in the presence of our God and Father, your work produced by faith…

  • Paul gives us the first glimpse of his later writing in 1 Cor. 13 here…”faith, hope, love” – the importance of these cannot be minimized
  • Our faith in Christ should produce good things
  • We are not saved by faith plus works, but by a faith that works.”[1] – Warren Wiersbe

 

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 160.

2. Our action should be reflective of our love

Vs 3b … your labor motivated by love…

  • Labor (ko-pos) conveys the idea of “toil and trouble”
  • This was not a simple act on the part of believers but a deliberate action because of their love for others

 

3. Our love is strengthened in our hope

Vs 3c … and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Endurance (He-poe-mo-NAY) = residing, staying for the long haul
  • They were willing to go the distance because of what was ahead
  • 1 Thess. 4:13ff is a picture of the promised future

 

4. Our witness will change the world

1 Thess. 1:7-10 (CSB) As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. For the word of the Lord rang out from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place that your faith, in God has gone out. Therefore, we don’t need to say anything, for they themselves report what kind of reception we had from you: how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath

  • Their faithfulness to God’s Word and God’s will became an example not only at home but it spread throughout the world because they were willing to “go”
  • What you do here impacts there!

 

5. Stand strong no matter what

1 Thess. 2:4 (CSB) Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please people, but rather God, who examines our hearts

  • Paul had been severely mistreated in Philippi but he shares here that he was not deterred in his mission
  • Verse 2 states they were “emboldened” in their work because of their opposition
  • This boldness came because they knew their mission was to serve God, not man
  • “If there is ineffectiveness within the church or the individual, it has little to do with methodology, persecution, leadership vacuums, or ecclesiastical structures. Instead, it comes from being less than convinced that we deal with truth (the message). It comes from trying to please anyone or anything other than God (the motive).”[1]

– Knute Larson

[1] Knute Larson, I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, vol. 9, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 22.

October 3, 2021

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Read – Ezekial 42

What does it say?
Ezekiel was led into the area of the temple where the priests would change their garments and eat the most holy offerings.

What does it mean?
In the Millennial Temple there will be a measurable difference between the spaces for the people and the place where the Lord dwells. The priests will have their own rooms close to God’s dwelling, where they’ll eat, dress, and prepare to enter His presence. In the holiest spot of the temple, an avenue will create a boundary between the perfection of God and the people’s shortcomings. The priests can present sin and guilt offerings there on the people’s behalf. As the priests come back to the common spaces, the people will be reminded of their need for reconciliation through Christ, the Great High Priest.

How should I respond?
The boundary lines of reverent behavior have been blurred in our society. Respect for sacred things has all but disappeared. Ezekiel’s prophecy of the Millennial Temple is evidence that God still maintains sacred boundaries. Just as the priests prepare to enter God’s sanctuary, we prepare to live daily in His presence by respecting the boundaries He sets for a holy lifestyle. Any habit or friendship that pulls you to your old lifestyle or old way of thinking is outside God’s boundaries (1 Peter 1:14-16). When you stay close to Christ, your life looks less like the ordinary world and more like His holy character. What might be blurring the boundaries between holy and ordinary living in your life right now? Choose to be set apart from the common things of the world today. When you see a boundary line, don’t cross it.

October 2, 2019

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Read – Psalm 107

What does it say?
The Lord is good! His mercy endures forever. The redeemed of the Lord should give thanks for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds.

What does it mean?
The writer recounted several of the Lord’s remarkable acts for His redeemed people. God was faithful in each dire situation, yet it appears that they didn’t stop to thank Him, to praise Him, or to tell others about His unfailing love. Israel had to be reminded to show gratitude for God’s intervention in the experiences of their lives. He worked in the circumstances of His children to accomplish His plan for their lives. Recognizing God’s loving involvement with a heart of gratitude is a sign of wisdom.

How should I respond?
God cares about every detail in your life. That doesn’t mean that life is trouble-free, but God can use any situation – no matter how difficult – to accomplish His purposes in and through your life. Through adversity, the Lord can grow your faith, your dependence on Him, and your gratitude for His involvement. In what situation have you seen God’s intervention? What has God provided for you this week? Take time today to thank Him and to tell someone else what His great love means to you.

October 2, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 41

What does it say?
Ezekiel described the outer and inner sanctuary of the temple from his vision. Between the two areas, he noticed what was called, “The table that is before the Lord.”

What does it mean?
Details like the beautifully carved wooden doors signaled to Ezekiel that the inner sanctuary was truly set apart and special. Just before the Most Holy Place, he saw the only piece of furniture mentioned, “The table of the Lord,” which is believed to be where the bread of presence will be placed during Christ’s millennial reign. In previous temples the twelve cakes of showbread provided nourishment for the priests, who ate it on the Sabbath after the twelve fresh loaves were placed on the table. It represented the Lord’s continual presence with His people as the Sustainer of life.

How should I respond?
Christ Jesus called Himself, “the Bread of Life,” identifying with the bread of presence that was placed on the table just outside the Holy of Holies (John 6:48). The word picture is a vivid reminder of the sacrifice He made to connect us with the presence of God the Father. Though you can’t see Jesus with your eyes right now, you can find sustenance for your should be accepting His sacrifice, enabling you to live a holy life. Are you hungry for God’s presence in your daily life? Remember today that Jesus is your Sustainer – the Bread of Life.

October 1, 2019

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Read – Psalm 106

What does it say?
The people of Israel forgot God’s works, worshipped idols, despised the Promised Land, murmured in their tents, and sacrificed their children, but God was faithful.

What does it mean?
The unfaithfulness of Israel described in Psalm 106 stands in sharp contrast to the faithfulness of God illustrated in Psalm 105. They forgot, but God remembered! The Scottish preacher George Morrison wrote, “The Lord took Israel out of Egypt in one night, but it took Him forty years to take Egypt out of Israel.” God’s people fell prey to the godless culture around them rather than leading godly lives that honor their holy Lord. Phinehas is the only ray of light in this dark account – he believed God, intervened, and was counted as righteous. Although Israel did not trust and obey God, He remained faithful to His eternal covenant and delivered them when they cried out to Him.

How should I respond?
What actions and attitudes depicted in this psalm describe your life – envy, grumbling, disobedience, rebellion? We can learn from the mistakes of the Israelites so that we won’t fall prey to the godless culture around us. As a matter of fact, the Apostle Paul lists the sins of his forefathers as a warning not to fall into the same pattern of sin (1 Cor. 10:1-13). How has God been good to you this week, despite your sinful thoughts or attitudes? His faithfulness should inspire gratitude and humble submission to His will. How can your life be an example so that others are encouraged to trust and obey God?

October 1, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 40

What does it say?
God showed Ezekiel the future temple in the land of Israel through a vision. He was to observe all that he witnessed and share it with the house of Israel.

What does it mean?
God wanted His people to grasp the importance of holy living, even in their period of exile. He cast the vision to Ezekiel by revealing the blueprint of the temple which will stand during the millennial reign of Christ. The Lord’s plans left no wasted space. Whether it’s a gateway, closet, public area, or the most sacred of spaces, God intends to use every inch for His purposes. The Lord wants His presence to be the central standard of measurement for the holy lifestyle of His people. Everything is to be built around His holiness.

How should I respond?
God still expects His followers to be holy. Every inch of space in a believer’s life is to be centered on His holy presence and ruled by His holy Word, which reveals God’s plan and purpose. Holiness, then, results from committing to do what is right, getting rid of known sin, and submitting to God’s discipline (Rom. 6:19; 2 Cor. 7:1; Heb. 12:10). By what standard are you measuring each area of your life? What area of your heart doesn’t quite measure up to His standards? Today, ask the Lord to help you observe and obey His plan for holiness and share it with someone else.

September 30, 2019

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Read – 1 Timothy 6

What does it say?
Paul reminded Timothy that the goals and expectations of a believer should be spiritual, not material.

What does it mean?
This passage is rich with insight on the subject of contentment. Contentment comes from God, not money or things. God is eternal, and material things are only temporary. Paul warned that a strong desire to get rich is a trap that can ruin a life rather than improve it. Loving money is not only foolish; it leads to sin and destruction. Paul urged Timothy to guard himself from these desires, pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness instead. God provides everything a believer has or needs.

How should I respond?
Discontentment begins when you confuse your needs with your wants. Are you content with what God has provided for you and your family? Contentment is simply being satisfied with who you are and what you have. It’s characterized by inner peace, regardless of outward circumstances. Which warnings from this passage is God using to get your attention? What financial goals and expectations do you need to change in order to pursue the things of God more than wealth? Lasting satisfaction can only come from a relationship with Christ; money will never love you back!

September 30, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 38-39

What does it say?
Ezekiel prophesied the defeat of Gog when he attacks peaceful Israel.

What does it mean?
During the end times, God will initiate and supernaturally defeat an assault on Israel by a coalition of nations. The greatness and holiness of Israel’s God will be undeniable as He wields natural disasters like weapons against her enemies. Scripture describes the awe and spontaneous worship that result from even a glimpse of God’s glory (Exod. 34:29-35; Isa. 6; Ezek. 1). It’s no wonder that this awesome display of the glory of the Lord will initiate the long-awaited spiritual restoration of Israel, ushering in the New Jerusalem.

How should I respond?
The foretelling of the events in today’s passage causes us to stop and consider aspects of God’s character that can be difficult to grasp. We can get so caught up in the “who” and “when” of end times prophecy that we miss God’s revelation of Himself. Recognition of God’s character should result in worship and life change. Are you in need of spiritual renewal today? Spend a few minutes focusing on God’s character in private worship. A fresh sense of God’s glory and holiness can provide a new perspective on your day.

September 29, 2019

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Read – 1 Timothy 5

What does it say?
Paul gave advice concerning older and younger men, older and younger women, widows, and church elders.

What does it mean?
Becoming a follower of Christ increases family and social responsibility. Believers have a God-given responsibility to provide for their children’s needs while also making sure that elderly members of a family are properly cared for as they face the challenges of aging. Likewise, a local church body is a family that respects and cares for one another. Older members are to be respected like mothers and fathers, while younger members are to be loved like brothers and sisters. Churches are to be especially mindful of widows. In Paul’s day, many of the widows were without provision and protection.

How should I respond?
There was a time when respect for older members of society was not only taught but also expected. While it isn’t obsolete, it has become a rarity. What is your attitude toward older members of your family? How can you help meet the physical needs of a widow in your church? If you’re part of an older generation, look for younger men and women with teachable attitudes who can benefit from your experience and wisdom. Generation gaps will always exist. Nevertheless, each generation has a responsibility to care for the one before and after it. That’s how you put your “religion into practice.”

September 29, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 37What does it say?
The Lord will restore Israel to Himself one day, just as His word raised dry bones back to life. Israel and Judah will be reunited as one nation in their own land.

What does it mean?
This passage gives a picture of what it looks like to have all signs of life and hope totally gone. Israel was in a seemingly hopeless state, like the dead, dry bones surrounding Ezekiel. The nation’s identity in the Lord had rotted away. Just as the dry bones were resurrected by the power of God’s Word, He will one day restore Israel and Judah to Himself. He will breathe new life into their hearts and restore their nation. They will have a renewed identity as God’s people, marked by His everlasting presence and peace. God’s power is able to revive what was once dead and reunite what was once broken.

How should I respond?
Scripture compares salvation to being born because the Spirit of God brings new life (Rom. 8:1; John 6:63). Your spiritual birth offers a new identity in Christ and a life filled with His presence and peace. Sin, on the other hand, is always associated with death (Rom. 5:12). Entertaining any form of sin is like inviting decay into your life. Eventually, you’ll feel spiritually dry and hopelessly separated from the Lord. But the power of God‘s Word restores spiritual vitality. What sin might be separating you from fullness of life in Christ? Make the choice to turn from it today. Ask Jesus to revive your heart and breathe new life into your dry bones.

September 28, 2019

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Read – 1 Timothy 4

What does it say?
Paul wrote about spiritual discipline and warned against misleading practices.

What does it mean?
Every person has a conscience that is guiding his or her moral decisions and standards of behavior. Paul warned Timothy that teachers with a seared conscience would emerge within the church, leading others to think they could find favor with God by following a set of rules. Because their conscience wasn’t guided by God, their words couldn’t be trusted. These teachers were liars who were influenced by demonic power to distract believers from true faith. God, not fables, myths, or old wives’ tales, should guide the conscience. Paul urged Timothy, as a young minister, to exercise and teach this kind of spiritual discipline and doctrine.

How should I respond?
It’s good to let your conscience be your guide. However, your conscience is only as reliable as the source that influences it. Who or what has been allowed to speak into your conscience? Some spiritual influences are actually a mixture of mystic belief and wrong doctrine. Even within Christian circles, there are those who associate outward behavior and rule following with being spiritual. What do you need to cut out in order to guard your thoughts and beliefs? You will either adjust your behavior to match your beliefs, or you will change your beliefs to match your behavior.

September 28, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 36:16-38What does it say?
God told Ezekiel that He would rebuild Israel’s land and bring His people back with purified hearts – all for the sake of His holy name.

What does it mean?
Israel had done the opposite of bringing glory and honor to the holy name of the Lord. The conduct of His people had given other nations a wrong view of the one true God. Yet He graciously promised to restore Israel’s land and honor His covenant. The nation did not deserve restoration, but God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises to Israel will serve to proclaim His righteous character. One day, the nation of Israel will turn to the Lord and elevate His holy name for the entire world to witness.

How should I respond?
For many, the name of Jesus is only uttered as profanity. As Christ followers, we have the responsibility of honoring the name of the Lord by reflecting His character to the world around us. At times, though, we not only fail to honor God’s name, we actually disgrace it by how we live. What do your friends, family, and coworkers think of Jesus by watching you? Honoring God’s name by your words and actions is an intentional, moment-by-moment choice. The name of our faithful, gracious God deserves our highest praise. How will your life testify to His great name today?

September 27, 2019

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Read – 1 Timothy 3

What does it say?
Paul gave qualifications for pastors and deacons in the church.

What does it mean?
Christianity was new and being watched closely by those inside and outside of the church when Paul outlined the importance of believers’ lives being above accusation, blame, or criticism. If the lives of church leaders weren’t aboveboard, they would have brought disgrace to the entire church and the name of Christ. God holds Christian leaders to a high ethical and moral standard because they represent “the church of the living God.”

How should I respond?
It’s heartbreaking when church leaders disqualify themselves from public service because of immoral or unethical behavior. The negative effect on the cause of Christ is no different today than in Paul’s day. Even those who aren’t followers of Christ expect Christian leaders to have impeccable character. Do you pray for your pastor and his family? What about your worship leader, church administrator, and deacons? Stop and pray for your church leaders right now. Ask God to protect their homes and give them wisdom. Then, find a way to let them know you are praying. It will be a huge encouragement!

September 27, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 35:1-36:15What does it say?
Ezekiel prophesied against Mount Seir because its inhabitants harbored hatred toward God’s people and treated them cruelly, while Israel’s future restoration was prophesied.

What does it mean?
As descendants of Jacob, Israel inherited the Promised Land and the blessings of being God’s chosen people. The Edomites, descendants of Esau who lived in the region of Mount Seir, had passed down animosity toward Israel since the days of their forefathers. The Sovereign Lord observed Edom speak and act against His people while elevating their godless, self-centered values. Edom, along with all other nations against Israel, will be judged; their mountains and inhabitants will be left desolate. The people of Israel, on the other hand, will enjoy permanent restoration to the Lord and to their land during the millennial reign of Christ. The mountains of Israel will elevate the Sovereign Lord.

How should I respond?
When you drive into the mountains, you notice the highest peak first. Similarly, what we choose to elevate is obvious to others, even at a distance. Our own values and desires can sometimes occupy the highest priorities in our lives, robbing God of His rightful place. What are you elevating today? Ask God to help you surrender each “mountain range” of your life to His control so you can enjoy the freedom and hope of your new life in Christ. He is still Sovereign ruler of all – elevate Him as such today.

September 26, 2019

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Read – 1 Timothy 2

What does it say?
Paul provided instructions concerning the importance of praying for authorities and the role of men and women in corporate worship.

What does it mean?
Four different words for prayer show up in the first verse of this chapter. A mature prayer life is multi-faceted, not focusing on personal requests alone. Praying for others is not only a privilege, but it is also the responsibility of every Christian. Paul stressed the importance of giving thanks to God for ruling authorities and making intercession on their behalf. The attitude of the person praying is as important as what is said; anger and disputes have no place in a praying heart. True worship takes place in the hearts of believers whose lives are correctly aligned with God’s Word.

How should I respond?
Most of us are quick to pray for someone when there’s a crisis or urgent need, but we get so caught up in our own lives that praying for leaders and people in authority can be easily overlooked. How have you prayed this week for someone who has a place of authority over you? Write down the names of people who make decisions affecting you and your family. Begin to faithfully pray for them by name. It’s difficult to have hard feelings toward someone you’re praying for, even when you disagree with that person’s opinions or politics.

September 26, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 34What does it say?
Ezekiel preached against the shepherds who had been entrusted to guide Israel. The Lord would rescue His people as their Good Shepherd.

What does it mean?
God was angry at the lack of integrity of Israel’s leaders. They had abused their power, serving themselves rather than the best interests of His people. Many of the Israelites were following their rulers’ wicked precedence of utter disregard for their fellow countrymen. Ezekiel’s message brought hope that God Himself would take over. Complete fulfillment of these prophesies awaits the millennial reign of Jesus, when the Good Shepherd will seek out His defenseless, lost sheep to save them from terror and bondage. He will destroy those whose selfish ambitions were starving His flock. Making the decision to follow the Good Shepherd leads to an abundant, peaceful life. He offers to direct the steps of any who obey His voice.

How should I respond?
Sheep have a natural tendency to follow the one right in front of them, often causing the entire flock to be led into danger. It’s not a coincidence that the Bible refers to us as sheep. Like sheep, we need the guidance, provision, and protection of a shepherd to lead us and rescue us from danger. Jesus is our Good Shepherd who stepped in to save us from our lost, defenseless state when He paid the penalty for our sin on the cross. How do you respond to the Good Shepherd’s voice? Are you heeding His direction? What steps might He be guiding you to adjust? Today, ask God to help you trust Him to lead you by His Word and Spirit. His guidance brings ultimate security and peace.

September 25, 2019

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Read – Psalm 105

What does it say?
The psalmist praised God for His faithfulness to the everlasting covenant He made with Abraham and his descendants.

What does it mean?
This psalm provides an overview of Israel’s history, showing God’s sovereignty and grace in His dealings with Israel. The psalmist encourages Israel to remember what God had done for them and to tell others. The nation of Israel had experienced firsthand the protection, provision, and promises of the Lord. During King David’s reign, the Levites read portions of Psalm 105 at the return of the Ark of the Covenant (1 Chron. 16). Remembering God’s past faithfulness produces present gratitude and obedience.

How should I respond?
Remember when….? That question almost always sparks memories of joy and laughter as you think back on special times. The record of God’s faithfulness in today’s passage reminds us of His love and greatness. How often do you take time to share your memories of how God has been faithful in your life? God always remembers and keeps His promises to His children. How often do you remember to trust and thank Him? God’s faithfulness in the past is a reason to be grateful in the present.

September 25, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 33:21-33What does it say?
The Lord opened Ezekiel’s mouth after the fall of Jerusalem. Those in the ruins of the city did detestable things, and those in exile did not put the Lord’s words into practice.

What does it mean?
The people of Judah had been separated for almost 13 years. While the Israelites in Jerusalem violently opposed Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry, many exiles in Babylon regularly went to Ezekiel but treated his prophecies like a form of entertainment. They said the right things regarding devotion to God but allowed greed to linger in their hearts. Ezekiel’s prophecies regarding the fall of Jerusalem were already proven true. God then told Ezekiel exactly what would become of those who survived the siege so everyone would know that He was the Lord and Ezekiel was His prophet.

How should I respond?
As Bible-believing Christians, we’re quick to recognize people who oppose God. However, we’re not as aware of our own tendency to approach corporate worship as a time to socialize, network, or be entertained. What message has God put in front of you this week through your pastor’s preaching, your small group lesson, or a Christian song? Did you heed the prompting of the Holy Spirit, or have you allowed disobedience to linger in your heart? Each person is accountable for his or her response to God’s Word. Merely listening to God’s Word does not produce change; you must do what it says – James 1:22-25.

September 24, 2019

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Read – Psalm 104

What does it say?
The writer praised God for creating the earth in wisdom; he then promised to sing praises to God as long as he lived.

What does it mean?
Psalm 104 is another hymn of praise to God for His remarkable creation and for His sovereignty over all the earth. Only the Lord God is powerful and wise enough to lay out the world in perfect order. The God who created the universe has chosen to reveal some of His secrets to His special creation – man – with whom He wants to have a personal relationship. He provides everything people need to live within His creation – water, food, and materials for clothing and shelter. Mankind’s response should be no less than to worship the Creator and Sovereign of the earth.

How should I respond?
The beauty of the natural world can bring an instant sense of awe – seeing a rainbow, a sunset, or a waterfall, for instance. There is no better time to offer the Lord praise than in those moments. Reverence for God and submission to His authority are evident in the life of a person who truly believes that God is the Creator of all things and is the Sovereign over all things. Do you give God honor as your Creator? How does your life demonstrate that He is your Lord and King? Your life will be an act of worship if you start each day in recognition of who God is.

September 24, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 33:1-20What does it say?
Ezekiel was a watchman, warning the house of Israel to turn from their wickedness. The Lord would judge the righteous and the wicked, each according to his ways.

What does it mean?
God’s judgment on Jerusalem had taken place. From this point, Ezekiel’s ministry would focus on the restoration of God’s people – the reason for his re-commissioning as a watchman for the house of Israel. Each person had a chance to be reconciled to God by responding to Ezekiel’s warning, which was twofold: turn from evil, but don’t be lulled into righteous complacency. God is righteous and just. As such, He has every right to wipe out each occurrence of evil without hesitation. Even so, the Lord doesn’t take pleasure when the wicked die. He would rather they turn to Him and be spared.

How should I respond?
As followers of Christ, we want the violence and deception that have become so prevalent in our world to be eradicated. But have we become unfeeling and complacent in our desire to see justice served? While justice is absolutely necessary, we must remember that God looks on sin impartially. The sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ is required to forgive both the non-believing murderer and the sinful thoughts of a Christian. Where are you praying for God’s justice to be done? Will you also pray for the offender to turn to God and then rejoice if he does?

September 23, 2019

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Read – 1 Timothy 1

What does it say?
Paul instructed Timothy to correct those who were teaching false doctrine. Describing himself as the worst of sinners, Paul thanked God for his salvation.

What does it mean?
Paul was Timothy’s mentor in addition to being like a father to him. He opened his first letter to Timothy by making it clear that no one has been excluded from God’s offer of salvation. The reason Jesus came to Earth and lived among men was to have a relationship with those who had previously rejected Him. Specifically listing murderers, adulterers, perverts, slave traders, and liars, Paul illustrated just how far the mercy of God reaches by talking about his own desperate need for mercy. In Christ, he found abundant grace, faith, and love. Paul is an example of a radically transformed life.

How should I respond?
Does past sin haunt you? As you begin to understand who God truly is, you become more aware of your own sinfulness. God’s mercy, grace, and love extend to wherever you are or have been. Family, friends, and co-workers should see evidence of your transformed life once you accept God’s offer to have a personal relationship with Him. Past sin isn’t a reason to live in shame. Allow God to use you as evidence of His love and grace. Who needs to hear from you about God’s mercy and grace today?

September 23, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 31

What does it say?
Ezekiel compared Egypt and Assyria to great cedar trees. Pharaoh would be brought down, just as the ruler of nations had cut down Assyria.

What does it mean?
Ezekiel prophesied Pharaoh’s death allegorically. Egypt, like Assyria before her, towered above surrounding nations, dictating everything that happened in the region. But because of Assyria’s pride, the Lord orchestrated her downfall by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. Even though Egypt had been Assyria’s close ally when conquered by Babylon, Pharaoh apparently learned nothing from her demise; he arrogantly thought he and Egypt were untouchable. No one is above accountability to the Sovereign Lord.

How should I respond?
You may have heard someone say, “Learn from the mistakes of others, you’ll never live long enough to make them all yourself!” So often, though, we think we can head down the same disastrous path we’ve watched others tread, yet with better results. That kind of thinking is either foolish or delusional. What warning can you currently take from observing someone else’s life? It might be a spiritual, financial, or practical issue. Maybe a sinful attitude is clouding your judgment. How have you seen that same attitude cause someone else to fall? Learn from their mistake before you pay the price.|Further reading: Ezekiel 32

September 22, 2019

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Read – 2 Thessalonians 3

What does it say?
Paul listed prayer requests and warned against idleness.

What does it mean?
False doctrine about Christ’s return had some of the Thessalonian believers so worked up that they had quit working. Instead of being busy earning a living and serving the Lord, they used their idle time to gossip and meddle. The church generously supported those who could not work, but these members simply would not work. Paul’s solution was simple: anyone who refused to work shouldn’t expect to eat. He and the other missionaries had set an example of occupational integrity while maintaining faithful service to the Lord, which should not be wearisome for a follower of Christ.

How should I respond?
Most of us stay so busy that we’re in a state of being perpetually tired. The question isn’t whether or not we’re busy – it’s a question of what we’re busy doing. God has given each of us work to do in our home, school, church, and community. Are you busy serving Him in those areas, or are you wasting time with meaningless pursuits? Staying busy within your God-given responsibilities reduces idle time that can easily lead to sin. What has taken up your time this week? If your life is too busy to serve God according to His standards, then you are too busy! What is God prompting you to change today?

September 22, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 30

What does it say?
Ezekiel prophesied doom for Egypt and her allies.

What does it mean?
God orchestrated the events that enabled Nebuchadnezzar’s army to overpower Egypt. Ezekiel first prophesied the downfall of Egypt and Pharaoh Hophra on January 5, 587 B.C. (Ezekiel. 29:1). On April 29, 587 B.C., God revealed Egypt’s failed attempt to aid Judah against Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem (Ezekiel. 30:20; Jeremiah. 37:7). Since both the prophecy and news of its fulfillment were dated, all who heard it had no choice but to recognize Ezekiel’s God as the Sovereign Lord.

How should I respond?
The Bible contains significant predictions for our future, which is a major reason the debate over its inerrancy continues. Scripture says that one day every person will recognize the God of the Bible as Sovereign Lord and will bow to Jesus as King (Philippians 2:9-11; Romans 14:11). Since only time will prove the complete accuracy of God’s Word, consider this scenario: if followers of Christ are wrong, we’ve simply spent our lives in pursuit of a noble purpose. However, if all that Scripture says is proven true, unbelievers will have no choice but to confess God as Sovereign Lord, only to find it’s too late to receive His forgiveness and escape His judgment. Will you willingly submit to Jesus as Lord today?

September 21, 2019

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Read – 2 Thessalonians 2

What does it say?
The Lord Jesus will gather believers to Himself, but not before the rebellion of the lawless one occurs. Paul gave thanks to God for the faithful believers at Thessalonica.

What does it mean?
The church at Thessalonica had concerns regarding end time prophecies. Paul gave them more details about the coming Great Tribulation, describing the contrast between two groups of people – those who refuse to believe the truth and those who believe the truth. Believers are saved as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit through “belief in the truth.” Standing firm is a result of continuing to hold to truth. God’s grace provides the hope and confidence needed to stabilize believers’ faith and to provide strength to live out His truth. In the end, all who refuse to believe truth will be condemned.

How should I respond?
Busy lives and hectic schedules leave little time for personal and family devotions to learn and discuss biblical truth. With the bombardment of conflicting information from entertainment and social media, Christians need to be alert and prayerful as never before. You can avoid being deceived by worldly ideas that contradict truth by availing yourself to biblical teaching, preaching, writing, and music. Do you consistently set time aside for studying God’s Word so that you can hold to the truths found there? God’s truth never changes. How will you stand firm today on what God says is right?

September 21, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 29

What does it say?
Ezekiel prophesied against Egypt, who would be plundered by Nebuchadnezzar, suffer 40 years of desolation, and never again rule over other nations.

What does it mean?
Judah had looked to Egypt for support during Nebuchadnezzar’s siege on Jerusalem. But Pharaoh was a false friend, making promises to God’s people then abandoning them when pressure came to bear. Rather than bow to the God of Israel as Sovereign Lord, Pharaoh claimed to be a god, even taking credit for Egypt’s greatest resource, the Nile River. The destruction of Egypt accomplished three purposes: Pharaoh’s mortality was exposed; the Babylonian army was rewarded as God’s instrument of judgment; and the people of Israel were reminded to depend on the Lord instead of any other power.

How should I respond?
Dependence on the Lord does not mean it’s wrong to accept help from friends or family. As a matter of fact, He often guides us through the godly wisdom and aid of others. The problem comes when we look to those people first as a source of safety, provision or security. To whom do you reach out before you pray? This week, talk to God right away about whatever issues arise and wait to see what resources He provides on your behalf. He may very well send the resolution before you look elsewhere. “The moment we recognize our complete weakness and our dependence on Him will be the very moment that the Spirit of God will exhibit His power” – Oswald Chambers.

September 20, 2019

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Read – 2 Thessalonians 1

What does it say?
Paul praised the Thessalonians for their faith in Christ and love for others. The persecution they were enduring would strengthen their faith.

What does it mean?
The believers in Thessalonica endured intense persecution because they had taken a firm stand for Christ. They were not secret disciples who valued the praise of men more than the praise of God. As they increasingly trusted God and His promises, their faith and love for God and others increased. They looked forward to the revealing of Christ in all His glory. However, those who persist in their refusal to believe and receive Christ will face an eternity “shut out from the presence of the Lord.”

How should I respond?
In many countries today, Christians still face intense persecution for their faith, costing some their lives. Even subtle persecutions, such as being ostracized or being the target of sarcastic remarks and condescending attitudes can cause emotional suffering and discouragement. Have you taken a public stand as a Christian in your family, at work, and in your community? How will you respond to the pressures you face this week as a result of living for Jesus? Whether your trials are severe or subtle, God is at work and will provide the strength you need to endure. Relying on God’s strength instead of your own efforts enables you to achieve God’s purpose in and through your life.

September 20, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 28What does it say?
Ezekiel prophesied the violent death of Tyre’s ruler, who thought he was a god because of his wealth and wisdom.

What does it mean?
Ethbaal III, the ruler of Tyre, fell prey to the same temptation presented to Eve in the Garden of Eden, “You will be like God.” Ezekiel’s lament alludes to Satan’s influence over the king, comparing the rise and fall of each. Both were given positions of great power, but just as Satan took credit for his God-given beauty and wisdom, Ethbaal’s pride grew alongside his wealth, eventually leading to wicked and violent behavior. The Lord removed both in disgrace from their places of honor. Similar to Ethbaal’s appalling death, Satan and his reign on Earth will come to a horrible end when Jesus returns.

How should I respond?
Long ago Satan was removed from God’s angelic ranks and will one day be thrown into the lake of fire for eternity – Luke 10:18; Rev. 20:10. But as long as he roams and rules the Earth, we have to be on our guard against his constant appeals to our pride – 1 Peter 5:8. He still tries to convince us that our accomplishments are our own doing. Or he makes us think that we’re wise enough to make decisions without regard for God’s Word. Think back through your week – how many sinful thoughts or actions were rooted in an attitude of pride? Today, take God at His Word so you won’t fall for the oldest temptation in the book – Proverbs 16:18.

September 19, 2019

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Read – 1 Thessalonians 5

What does it say?
Believers should be alert as they live in light of Christ’s return, which will happen suddenly like a thief in the night.

What does it mean?
Paul had already taught the Thessalonian believers that the “day of the Lord” refers to the time when God will bring judgment on the world. In this passage he gave practical instructions on how to live victoriously in view of Christ’s imminent return. Since no one knows the times and dates of Christ’s return, Paul encouraged them to focus on how to use their remaining time to fulfill God’s purposes. The Christian’s standard for living is high, but when the believer chooses to obey, God Himself provides the resources.

How should I respond?
How does the hope of Christ’s return affect your day-to-day thoughts, attitudes, and actions? We are to live every moment expecting Christ’s return. That means being intentional rather than simply reacting to circumstances and situations. Go back over this chapter and highlight the areas of your life that are inconsistent. Ask for God’s help as you strive for authenticity in your Christian life. What can you do this week to help fulfill God’s purpose and plan while you wait for Christ’s return?

Philippians: The Good Work of God

2021-09-19

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

Philippians is a letter whose focus is on joy. Whether in suffering, service or worry, Paul makes it clear we should rejoice in the “excellence” of Christ. This short letter is full of encouragement to a people in desperate need of hope. The key encouragement is found in its opening words.

 

Philippians 1:3-6 (NKJV) I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ

  • This is the real basis for joyful Christian fellowship, to have God at work in our lives day by day.”[1] – Warren Wiersbe

 

1. It starts in the Gospel

Philippians 1:20-21 (NKJV) according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain

  • God has a clear and undeniable good work He wants to do in your life
  • This work begins the moment we believe in Christ’s redemptive work
  • Understanding we cannot lose when we live in the power of the Gospel

 

2. It is continued in love

Philippians 2:1-4 (NKJV) Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others

  • Genuine love for others is the beginning point for understanding the power of God’s work
  • Seeing people as God sees them is a necessary step

 

3. It is in focusing on what really matters

Philippians 3:7-10 (NKJV) But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death

  • We must set aside the things the world believes are important for the things God says are important
  • Matthew 16:26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?

 

4. It is secured by His gracious hand

Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

  • When everything seems to be falling apart, God provides what the world can’t imagine
  • “The position of the believer is not simply one of waiting for an absent Lord to return; it is also one of enjoying the reality of a Lord who is always present.”[2] – J.A. Motyer
  • Let go of worry and let God lead
    • Prayer is the starting point
    • Thankfulness is the posture
    • Seeking Him is invited
    • He will guard your heart

[1] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 65.

[2] J. A. Motyer, The Message of Philippians, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984), 207.

September 19, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 27What does it say?
Ezekiel lamented the coming destruction of the wealthy, prominent city of Tyre.

What does it mean?
A funeral dirge was customarily sung after someone passed away. God’s instruction to begin the dirge, even though the city was still standing, spoke to the certainty of Tyre’s destruction. Ezekiel’s lament compared the maritime city to a beautiful ship that would eventually sink, bringing grief to her people, merchants, and customers. This was a fitting comparison since their business partnerships provided jobs and income to many nations. But this proud city saw no need to give recognition to the Lord for her success.

How should I respond?
It’s not uncommon for people to pride themselves in fame, fortune, and power. Oftentimes, God’s provision and goodness aren’t acknowledged at all. How can you honor God in your successes? How might you have taken personal credit for something the Lord enabled you to do? A grateful, humble heart can bring everything into proper perspective. As you interact with others throughout the day, look for opportunities to mention how God is working in your life. Determine today to bring honor to Christ in everything you do – 1 Corinthians 10:31.

September 18, 2019

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Read – Psalm 103

What does it say?
David praised God for removing his transgressions as far as the east is from the west.

What does it mean?
This psalm is a hymn of praise written by David and expresses the reason he has been described as “a man after God’s own heart.” It is possibly the grandest and most glorious poem of praise to God that has ever been composed. Without making a single request of the Lord, David called on the worshippers singing this hymn to remember the benefits of serving God: forgiveness, healing, redemption, and satisfaction. David’s zeal for his Lord reached a new height in the realization of who God is and what He’s done.

How should I respond?
When was the last time you prayed without asking anything of God? While we may begin our prayers thanking the Lord for His goodness to us, we usually move on quickly to the pressing matter of the moment. Make a praise and thanksgiving list this week, and then as you pray, use those thoughts to turn your heart and mind toward who God is and what He has done in your life. Ask for specific things and thank Him for specific answers to prayer. You might even try to pray for 3-5 minutes without making a request at all. You can start right now by listing items from Psalm 103, and then pray them back to the Lord.

September 18, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 26What does it say?
The Sovereign Lord would bring Nebuchadnezzar against Tyre. The city would be sought, but it would never again be found.

What does it mean?
Like Ammon in the previous chapter, Tyre sought to prosper by Jerusalem’s ruin. Both cities had lucrative trade routes: Tyre by sea and Jerusalem by caravan. When Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, Tyre anticipated a monopoly on trade, but the Lord would direct Babylon to turn its fury on Tyre as well. Unlike Jerusalem, nothing from Tyre would remain or ever be rebuilt. One of Ezekiel’s main themes, the Sovereignty of God, is repeated seven times in this chapter – each time emphasizing the finality and authority of what God said.

How should I respond?
Today’s passage offers evidence of the reliability of God’s Word. People can still walk through the ancient ruins of Tyre today. The city ceased to exist, just as God said it would. Today, God communicates with believers through the Bible. As His written word, Scripture should have the final authority for how we respond and live. Even on issues that aren’t addressed by a direct command, the Bible speaks to attitudes and character traits and gives principles that guide our decision-making. What is He saying to you through His Word this week? When God speaks, it’s the final word on the matter.

September 17, 2019

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Read – Psalm 102

What does it say?
The psalmist groaned in distress, asking the Lord to hear his prayer and cries for help.

What does it mean?
The writer of Psalm 102 was consumed with sorrow so great that he felt he could not go on; he thought that God might have deserted him. But in his distress, he began to focus on God: His character, His sovereignty, and the hope that God would release him from his troubles. He then reminded himself that others are watching his response. He looked down the centuries to the generations who would know that God has been faithful in the past, in the present, and will continue to be in the future. He slowly moved into the realm of praise to God and ended by declaring to future generations that God is good!

How should I respond?
Do you – like the writer of Psalm 102 – find yourself in the darkest of hours, dwelling on trials that drain your strength? The very last thing you may feel like doing is praising God for His goodness and faithfulness. Yet as you consider His attributes, the glory of God begins to fill your being, and the focus on yourself slowly turns to an outward worship of Him. Praise is a choice. As you live in front of your family, friends, and co-workers, remember they are seeing you worry or worship, pity or praise, sing or sob. Make the choice today to praise God for what He is doing and will do in your life.

September 17, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 25What does it say?
Ezekiel prophesied against the nations of Ammon, Moab, Edom, and Philistia because they treated God’s people with malice, contempt, revenge, vengeance, and hostility.

What does it mean?
The nations in today’s passage had long, hostile histories with God’s people. They feared the God of Israel because of the many times He had protected Israel and Judah against them. When the Lord used Babylon to discipline the house of Israel, the four nations on their eastern and western borders took the opportunity to gloat over their demise. Each nation saw how they might benefit from Jerusalem’s fall by gaining territory, power, and revenge. They failed to realize that if God willingly disciplined His own people so harshly, then He certainly wouldn’t excuse their malice and hostility.

How should I respond?
Apart from Christ, the bent of human nature leans toward reactions of anger, rage, bitterness, and malice – like the unbelieving nations in today’s passage. Followers of Christ, however, are called to a higher plane. God’s people are to intentionally choose attitudes such as compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, gratitude, and love. Which set of characteristics currently describes you most? Spend a few minutes in the following passages and ask God to help you display your new, holy nature today (Galatians 5:16-26 and Ephesians 4:17-5:4.)

September 16, 2019

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Read – 1 Thessalonians 4|What does it say?
Paul discussed the glorious rapture of the church to encourage the Thessalonians to live their lives to please God as they awaited His return.

What does it mean?
The Thessalonian believers lived in the midst of a pagan society that did not have high moral standards. For the Christian, God’s will is clear – be holy. To be holy requires a clean cut with sexual immorality. Living a holy life involves a change in thinking and behavior – it’s walking by faith – believing and doing what God says in Scripture. God has given every Christian His Holy Spirit who gives the power to live a pure life that pleases Him. Paul’s fervency urged them to take already holy, loving, and respectful lives to a new level – desiring those qualities more and more.

How should I respond?
We, too, live in a society with low moral standards. Sexual immorality permeates our culture through movies, television, and social media. The way for believers to live a holy life separated from sin and separated to God is found in the Word of God. As you read and meditate on Scripture, the Holy Spirit renews your thinking. Do your entertainment choices reflect God’s standards? In what area do you need to act in faith and obey God? As you anticipate Christ’s return, don’t be satisfied with your current spiritual level of maturity. Instead, desire to please the Lord more and more each day until He returns.

September 16, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 24What does it say?
Ezekiel used a parable of a boiling pot to warn Jerusalem of the coming judgment. Then, Ezekiel’s wife died.

What does it mean?
Ezekiel’s personal life became part of God’s warning to Jerusalem. The sudden death of Ezekiel’s wife served as an example of how God would take away the temple. Just as Ezekiel’s wife was a joy and blessing to him, the temple held great meaning in Jewish life. The Jewish people, however, had neglected God and lived wickedly for so long that He had to bring judgment to get their attention. Power, greed, and manipulation had distracted them from God’s purpose for their lives. The Lord was bringing destruction to the very heart of Jerusalem.

How should I respond?
The authority of God’s Word is largely rejected in our society. People think they can believe whatever they want and do whatever they want without negative consequences. Even believers can get distracted from God’s purpose. When that happens, He may allow a huge shakeup in your life to get your attention and bring you closer to Him. Are you completely surrendered to the Lord today? How are you actively standing firm on your convictions and faith? Ask God to help you pay attention to what’s most important – His Word and His purpose.

September 15, 2019

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Read – 1 Thessalonians 3|What does it say?
Paul talked more about his visit to the Thessalonians and rejoiced over their faith and love as reported by Timothy.

What does it mean?
Paul’s prayer in this chapter provides an excellent model for believers as they pray for themselves and for others. He thanked God for what He was doing in the lives of the new believers and prayed that the Lord would make their love increase and overflow. As he thought about the specific needs of the Thessalonians, he prayed that their hearts (mind, emotions, and will) would be strengthened spiritually so that they could live righteous lives until Christ returns. Their faithfulness was a source of personal joy to Paul and his companions.

How should I respond?
Do you struggle with how you should pray for yourself or others? Even Jesus’ disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Try using Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians to pray more effectively this week. Write down the names of close friends and family members and list ways you see God working in their lives, and then thank Him for those specific things. Pray for their spiritual fortitude as they face daily challenges. Throughout the day, follow Paul’s example and pray for situations that trouble you. The spiritual growth of those you pray for will be an endless source of personal joy.

September 15, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 23What does it say?
Samaria and Jerusalem were like two sisters belonging to the Lord who would bear the consequences of committing adultery through idolatry and foreign alliances.

What does it mean?
The parable in today’s passage portrays the sacred nature of the covenant relationship between God and His people. Israel and Judah, however, broke their vows to the Lord by turning to the surrounding nations and their gods. Their behavior was so egregious that it could only be compared to prostitution. The shocking nature of the descriptions in this passage still doesn’t do justice to their offense toward God. Instead of trusting God’s protection and enjoying His faithfulness, each nation was subjected to the abusive nature of their pagan alliances. The Lord is jealous for His people as a husband would be for a wife who gives her affections to another.

How should I respond?
God describes Himself throughout Scripture as “a jealous God,” but what does that mean? God is jealous for you, not of you. His jealousy is righteous, wanting what’s best for you. As a believer, you have entered into the New Covenant – a sacred relationship that affords you everything that Jesus has and is. When you look for fulfillment, success, or purpose outside of Christ, God is jealous for your affection. How would the Lord describe the status of your relationship with Him today? Will you be found faithful?

September 14, 2019

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Read – 1 Thessalonians 2|What does it say?
Paul talked about the trip he took to visit Thessalonica and about his desire to go again.

What does it mean?
The opposition against Paul was so intense that he had to leave Thessalonica. From a human standpoint, Paul’s leaving might be considered a failure. But what was God’s plan? God used this very opposition to motivate Paul to write a letter. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul painted in straightforward words a portrait of the faithful Christian worker. This picture of unconditional love, determined effort, and unsullied character speaks powerfully to every worker who is called to care for the family of God.

How should I respond?
In the church today, there is a tremendous need for faithful workers who are not looking for the approval of men, but for the approval of God. Where do you serve as a volunteer in your church? How do you display the characteristics described by Paul in this chapter? Ask God to show you where change is needed in order to better encourage and comfort those He has called you to serve. God has called every believer to serve in some capacity. How will you be a faithful worker this week?

September 14, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 22What does it say?
God looked for a man to stand in the gap on behalf of the land, but no one could be found. Jerusalem had forgotten the Sovereign Lord.

What does it mean?
Jerusalem was guilty of every sin imaginable – from dishonoring parents to committing murder for hire. In times past, godly kings like Hezekiah and Josiah led the people to seek and obey the Lord, but no such man was found. Jerusalem’s princes, priests, officials and prophets neglected their individual responsibility and accountability for their God-given positions of authority. When the leaders failed to observe the most basic principles of God’s law, the entire city became morally and ethically depraved (Exodus 20:8-12). The inhabitants of God’s holy city had forgotten to whom they belonged.

How should I respond?
America has spiritual amnesia. As a whole, we’ve forgotten the scriptural principles upon which our nation was founded; we’ve forgotten God. Christians need to “stand in the gap” for our nation. Following Jesus is a way of life. Because He paid the price for our sin with His own life, we owe Him our allegiance – we belong to Him. So it stands to reason that the teaching of Scripture should dictate everything we think, say, and do throughout the day. That kind of authenticity will lead the way for others to follow Christ. Don’t confine God to certain situations – seek and obey Him in everything you do.

September 13, 2019

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Read – 1 Thessalonians 1|What does it say?
Despite severe suffering, the church at Thessalonica received God’s message with joy and became a model for other believers.

What does it mean?
No other words have the power to change lives as does the message of Jesus Christ. The Thessalonians experienced that change when they heard the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. As they responded to God’s gift of faith, their lives began to reflect new purpose, new motivations, and new priorities. In fact, there was such a transformation in their lifestyle that they set an example for other believers. No longer bowing down to worthless idols, they now devoted themselves to serving the true God and waiting expectantly for Christ’s return.

How should I respond?
How often do you hear, “Well, everybody else is doing it, so it must be okay”? Most Americans would think it absurd to bow down to an idol of wood or stone. But have you bowed down to the false beliefs of popular culture? How willing are you to stand alone for what you know is right? God gives His children the power to change – to show to the world a faith that works, a love that labors, and a hope that endures. What attitudes or actions do you need to turn from this week so that your life can be an example to follow? Choose to live as if Christ were returning today.

September 13, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 22What does it say?
Babylon would be God’s sword of judgment against Judah. He would take the crown of Israel from its wicked prince and restore it to the rightful owner when He comes.

What does it mean?
Nebuchadnezzar had to decide which revolt to address first: Judah, Tyre, or Ammon. God supernaturally directed him, using Babylon as a sword – drawn, sharpened, and aimed at Jerusalem. Israel’s king lived as if God didn’t exist, false prophets proclaimed peace, and the Word of the Lord was ignored. Judgment had been prophesied for generations, but the time had finally come for God’s people to answer for their open rebellion against Him. Zedekiah would be the last king of Israel until Jesus rules from the throne of Jerusalem, wearing the crown that rightfully belongs to Him.

How should I respond?
Our society is in all-out revolt against God. Living as if God doesn’t exist or completely ignoring His Word won’t change the final outcome. Although the Lord has been merciful to delay His final judgment by giving more people a chance to turn to Him for salvation, everything foretold in the Bible will happen. Jesus will return to Earth as Judge and King. Do you anticipate His return with fear or excitement? Who in your family or circle of friends discredits the validity of Scripture? Does their current fate grip your heart the same way Ezekiel grieved for his countrymen? Commit to pray regularly for the people God brought to mind. How will you show God’s love and share His grace today?

September 12, 2019

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Read – Colossians 4|What does it say?
Paul closed his letter by challenging the Colossians to pray and be wise. He sent greetings from eight fellow believers along with his personal encouragements.

What does it mean?
Paul wanted the Colossian believers to be alert to false philosophies that undermine godly values and truths. As he brought the letter to a close, he added the key to living the Christian life in a secular society: prayer. Prayer is the personal connection between the believer and the Creator God. Believers should be committed to watchful praying – for wisdom, for open doors for the gospel, and for open hearts to those who have not received Christ. However, he didn’t just tell them what to do and leave them alone to do it. Paul sent strong believers specifically to encourage the Colossians to carry out his instructions.

How should I respond?
Busy schedules often cause Christians to neglect daily, watchful prayer that enables them to resist the subtle pull of their culture. Have you made prayer a priority in your life? What can you do this week to strengthen your relationship with God through consistent prayer? Consider committing to memory Paul’s powerful prayer from Colossians 1:9-12. Then use that Scripture to talk with the Lord. When you pray using Scripture, you know you’re praying for what God wants. No matter how busy your day is, take time to talk with your Savior.

Ephesians – God’s Great Plan

2021-09-12 

Pastor Jonathan Falwell

 

The book of Ephesians is an important letter from Paul for it deals with all of the elements of our faith. This short book has strong doctrinal teaching, faith-filled encouragement, a call for unity, a commitment to the Spiritual gifts and a practical application for all believers. And, it concludes with a call to stand firm in the battle against the powers of the enemy, but not without an explanation of how to stand. We stand in the power, protection and plan of God. The book focuses on two important elements of our faith: the Christian’s beliefs (chs. 1-3) and the Christian’s behavior (chs. 4-6).[1]

 

1. We are immeasurably blessed

Ephesians 1:3-4 (CSB) Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.

  • “every spiritual blessing”
  • “chosen”
  • “holy and blameless”
  • The clear and undeniable picture is as believers in Christ, we have been given wonderful gifts through His presence and power

 

2. We are part of His great plan

Ephesians 1:9-14 (CSB) He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ 10 as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him. 11 In him we have also received an inheritance, because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in Christ might bring praise to his glory. 13 In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.

  • “as a plan for the right time”
  • “so that we…might bring praise to His glory”
  • “you also were sealed”
  • “We are able to share in the secret that God will one day unite everything in Christ. Ever since sin came into the world, things have been falling apart… Sin is tearing everything apart, but in Christ, God will gather everything together in the culmination of the ages. We are a part of this great eternal program.”[2]Warren Wiersbe

 

3. We have an eternal hope

Ephesians 1:18-23 (CSB) I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength. 20 He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—21 far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given,, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he subjected everything under his feet, and appointed him as head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

  • “your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope”
  • “what is the immeasurable greatness of His power”
  • His power in raising Christ from the dead is the same power we walk in today
  • “he subjected everything under his feet” – nothing is out of His control
  • We need to know our spiritual future is based on the promises of God and find strength and courage in that hope to live in the present.”[3]– Max Anders

 

4. We are undeniably secure

Ephesians 6:10-17 (CSB) A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

  • Our security is in Him, but it requires a commitment on our part
  • “put on all of God’s armor”
  • Belt of Truth – Breastplate of Righteousness – Shoes of Peace from Good News – Shield of Faith – Helmet of Salvation – Sword of the Spirit

 

 

 

[1] Porter Barrington, The Christian Life Study Bible, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers), pg 1186.

[2] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 12.

[3] Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 94.

September 12, 2021

,

Read – Ezekiel 20:32-49What does it say?
God promised to judge the house of Israel’s evil conduct and restore them to the land of Israel so that they would know He is the Lord.

What does it mean?
God’s people had so completely embraced the culture, immorality, and idolatry of the other nations that they felt no shame in disobeying God’s law and rejecting His covenant. Throughout the book of Ezekiel God tells His people, “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” This phrase pinpoints the root problem – every sin they committed was a symptom of not recognizing the God of Israel as Lord. They demanded mastery over their own lives. At the beginning of the millennial age, the people of Israel will hate their past conduct and rejection of their God. At that time, all Israel will stand before Christ, the Good Shepherd, to be individually judged. Just as a shepherd inspects his sheep before they enter into the pen at night, Christ will allow only the redeemed to enter the land of Israel and the New Covenant. Their relationship with God will finally be as He always intended; His people will wholeheartedly recognize His rightful position as Lord and Master of all.

How should I respond?
Followers of Jesus already enjoy the spiritual benefits of the New Covenant – namely, an intimate relationship with God through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It’s still possible, however, for a Christian to sin, but not without the conviction of the Holy Spirit. As a follower of Jesus, you cannot willfully disobey Scripture and maintain God-given joy. The Apostle Paul urged professing believers to examine their spiritual condition (2 Cor. 13:5). Take an honest look at your heart. Ask, “Can I practice sin without feeling miserable?” Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior but fail to recognize His right as Lord and Master of your life? Determine not to move on with your day until your relationship with Him is as He intends it to be.

September 11, 2019

,

Read – Psalms 100-101

What does it say?
Those who know God as Creator can praise His goodness, love, and faithfulness. David sang of God’s love and justice and then vowed to conduct his business blamelessly.

What does it mean?
The Lord’s people should have a heart filled with joy when they worship Him. He is the Sovereign God and Creator who provides everything His people need. Overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s goodness, enduring love, and continuing faithfulness, David declared his intention to honor God by cleansing his home, his life, and his position of authority from any wickedness that might hinder further praise to God. As the psalmist lists God’s unchangeable attributes, his understanding of God becomes greater and greater; in turn, his desire to please God with his life becomes the cry of his heart.

How should I respond?
Believers today can enter the Lord’s presence at any time and at any place. As you draw near to the Lord today, express your praise by naming specific attributes (such as His goodness, love, holiness, and faithfulness) that declare who He is. Praising God with your whole heart creates the desire to please Him with every aspect of your life. As you consider His holiness, do you find a growing desire to live a holy life (I Peter 1:15-16)? What is pulling you away from having a heart completely centered on God? Things like ungodly choices in entertainment or a tendency to gossip hinder your ability to praise and honor the Lord. Stop right now for a time of self-examination to see if there are areas in your life that God needs to cleanse.

September 11, 2021

,

Read – Ezekiel 20:1-31What does it say?
Instead of answering the elders’ inquiry, the Lord confronted the house of Israel’s history of rebellion.

What does it mean?
The Lord spared and delivered His chosen people time after time even though they continuously rebelled. Disobedience requires judgment; so He allowed each generation to suffer the consequences of their sinful choices. God finally stopped intervening altogether, letting them immerse completely in idolatry and paganism. God’s people failed to properly represent His name to the surrounding nations. Despite their actions, the Lord protected His name by acting with mercy, grace, and justice. The elders in captivity still had the audacity to ask the Lord about their present circumstances.

How should I respond?
By definition, a Christian is a person who follows Christ and displays His character. Each of us would have to admit failing to adequately represent His name at times. Human nature is selfish; we often demand our own way, and then we ask God why our lives seem out of control. All the while, people who do not have a relationship with Jesus watch us vacillate between obedience and rebellion to God’s Word. What would happen if you focused on obedience to the Lord more than blessings from Him? God will defend His name and character – how will you be an example of His grace today?

September 10, 2019

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Read – Psalms 97-99|What does it say?
God’s people praise the King of Zion for His holiness, justice, and righteousness. He is a forgiving God who answers the prayers of His repentant people.

What does it mean?
These psalms continue the celebration of the Lord as King that began in Psalm 95. Even though these coronation psalms include the millennial reign of Christ, they also declare that He currently reigns over all. The imagery describes both trembling and rejoicing before His throne. People who live in a vital relationship with Him will exalt and worship Him by knowing and keeping His Word. As the holy, righteous God He disciplines justly, yet extends mercy to those who call on His Name. The emphasis on the holiness of the Lord conveys the expectation that His people should also be holy.

How should I respond?
How can a holy God tolerate sinful people? Even believers have difficulty in fathoming the absolute holiness of God. As you read and study His Word, take note of His standards for your attitudes and behavior as His follower. What lifestyle changes do you need to make so that you can honor and exalt your holy Lord? As you pray today, celebrate Jesus as the King of all the earth by praising Him for His holiness, justice, and mercy. Thank Him for forgiving your sins and for answering your prayers.

September 10, 2021

,

Read – Ezekiel 18

What does it say?
The Sovereign Lord judges each according to his ways. Repent and live!

What does it mean?
The proverb in question was a complaint regarding unjust suffering for the sins of their forefathers (Exodus 20:5). While it’s true that the effects of sinful choices may linger from one generation to the next, the Lord holds each individual responsible for his own actions. The people of Israel denied personal guilt, failing to understand that God is equally just and merciful. He desired each to turn from sin as He stood ready to forgive. The Spirit of the Lord would transform those who were repentant and allow them to live when Babylon’s army swept Jerusalem. The message was the same to the wicked who rejected God and the righteous who chose to disobey: repent!

How should I respond?
God created every person with the ability to choose: follow or reject His Son and His Word. Rejecting Christ results in the ultimate penalty – separation from God. The sins of your ancestors cannot send you to Hell; neither can you go to Heaven based on their faith. Salvation is not the result of making right choices; rather godly choices result from a heart changed by God. Yet every Christian has free will to disobey God’s Word and face the consequences in this life. Whether you’re in need of salvation from sin or a personal revival of your faith – God forgives. Will you repent and follow?|Further reading: Ezekiel 19

September 9, 2019

,

Read – Colossians 3

What does it say?
Paul wrote about the principles of holy living and addressed six types of individuals concerning these matters.

What does it mean?
Paul gives believers life principles regarding their affections, their attitudes, and their relationships with the people close to them. Now that believers have new life in Christ, they are to set their hearts and minds on things that matter for eternity. Believers need to get rid of the old nature’s attitudes and actions and put on qualities and responses that belong to the new nature. The words “take off” and “put on” reflect the process of getting dressed for the day. Believers should serve Christ in everything they do, including their interactions with family members, co-workers, and those in authority.

How should I respond?
For the believer who truly desires to walk by faith in Christ, the high standards presented in this chapter could seem overwhelming. Ask God where to begin – He knows the area in your life that needs immediate attention. What old attitude or habit do you need to “take off” today so that you can “put on” the new? Find a verse of Scripture that is directly related to your need, memorize it, and envision putting it on every day as you go through the physical process of getting dressed. Remember that you live continually in the presence of the King. Dress appropriately!

September 9, 2021

,

Read – Ezekiel 17

What does it say?
Ezekiel told a parable of a vine that would be uprooted because it sent its roots out for water, even though it was in good soil with abundant water, able to produce good fruit.

What does it mean?
Nebuchadnezzar controlled Jerusalem by taking its leaders and King Jehoiachin captive to Babylon, making Zedekiah a puppet king. Jerusalem lived in peace as long as the treaty with Babylon was kept. But Zedekiah revolted against God’s will by allying with Egypt, breaking his oath to Nebuchadnezzar. Seeking military support made sense in terms of human logic, but it was not God’s plan, which would succeed no matter what. Zedekiah’s attempt to manipulate the situation resulted in his captivity and Jerusalem’s destruction, causing both to miss God’s miraculous work among His people.

How should I respond?
Human nature leads us to function based on two motivating forces: logic and emotion. While both are God-given, believers are called to filter their thoughts and feelings through Scripture and prayer. Submitting to God’s plan may or may not line up with our personal preferences. We seldom see how God is working in the background to accomplish His purposes for our good. How many times might you have missed a great work of God in your life because you refused to cooperate with His plan? Ask God to help you trust Him today rather than try to manipulate your circumstances.

September 8, 2019

,

Read – Colossians 2

What does it say?
Paul gave warnings to two churches, one in Colosse and one in Laodicea.

What does it mean?
Everything that a person needs for salvation and growth in the Christian faith has been provided in Christ. The Colossian believers had received Christ by faith, and Paul urged them to continue to live by faith in Him alone. As the believer continues to follow and serve Christ, he increasingly learns how to handle life’s pressures and difficulties with the wisdom of Christ. Paul warned the Colossians about false teachers who would try to mislead them by erroneous teaching, which would lead them away from God’s truth.

How should I respond?
Ignoring danger signs can result in great physical harm. Likewise, ignoring spiritual danger signs can be harmful to the freedom you have in Christ. Where are you in danger of being misled in your spiritual life? If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, you have everything you need in Him. Getting to know Him through consistent study of God’s Word is the best protection against false teaching and wrong thinking. What percentage of free time do you spend in Scripture compared to time spent with television, social media, or sports? How much time will you set aside each day to know Christ better? His wisdom brings freedom and safety.

September 8, 2021

,

Read – Ezekiel 16

What does it say?
Jerusalem would bear the consequences of prostituting her God-given beauty and fame. God’s atonement and everlasting covenant will cause her to know that He is the Lord.

What does it mean?
Ezekiel’s second parable portrays Israel as an adulterous wife. With the Lord as her Provider and Protector, Jerusalem was widely known for her wealth and beauty. When fame turned to pride, the people forgot God’s faithfulness to their covenant relationship. The blessings of the Lord were used to create and worship idols as Israel sought security in allying with enemies of the Lord. The punishment for Jerusalem’s spiritual adultery was the death of this once magnificent city. During the Millennium, however, Jerusalem will be completely restored under the New Covenant. The Lord’s atoning sacrifice will bring new understanding that He alone is Lord.

How should I respond?
Christians are in a covenant relationship with God. We pledge to follow and serve Christ; He promises provision, guidance, and unconditional love. Sounds wonderful, right? So why are we sometimes unfaithful to such a faithful God? Like Israel, we tend to focus on the things God has provided rather than the Lord Himself. Before you know it, something other than Christ has hold of your affections. How might you be committing spiritual adultery? Ask God for a new perspective on anything that has taken His place as Lord in your life.

September 7, 2019

,

Read – Colossians 1

What does it say?
Paul opened his letter to the Colossian church with thanksgiving, prayer, and a discussion about Christ as the visible image of the invisible God.

What does it mean?
The central truth of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is God. In this first chapter of Colossians, Paul seems to answer the question he asked on the road to Damascus: “Who are You, Lord?” In dramatic point-by-point declarations, Paul explained the supremacy of Christ. Jesus Christ is the image of God, the Creator of all things in Heaven and on Earth, the One who holds all things together, and the head of the church. As both God and man, Jesus made possible the reconciliation between a holy God and sinful man through His death on the Cross.

How should I respond?
Many people view Jesus as just one of a number of great moral teachers. Some even say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.” Actually, what you believe does matter. Will you take a few moments today to write down what God says concerning the Lord Jesus Christ from Colossians 1? Pray that the Holy Spirit will deepen your understanding of the supremacy of Christ. How does your life show that you personally know the Creator, Sustainer, and Ruler of all that exists? How will the knowledge of who He is make a difference in the way you think, talk, and act today?

September 7, 2021

,

Read – Ezekiel 15

What does it say?
The Sovereign Lord would set His face against His people. Because of their unfaithfulness, He would desolate their land.

What does it mean?
In this, the first of three consecutive parables, Ezekiel compares Israel to a vine (Isaiah 5:1-7). The purpose of a vine is to bear fruit. If a vine doesn’t produce fruit while being cultivated by the gardener, it certainly won’t after being charred by fire. If God’s people weren’t going to produce the fruit of righteousness, what purpose did they serve? Although Judah thought Jerusalem was spared when they surrendered to Babylon, God would send Nebuchadnezzar back, causing the total destruction of the city. The Lord, who controls all, would make this wild vine like fuel empowering other nations.

How should I respond?
Your purpose as a follower of Christ is to produce spiritual fruit. Daily surrender to the guidance of the Holy Spirit results in Christ-like characteristics (Galatians 5:22-23). Of course, the opposite is also true – when you’re consumed with pleasing yourself rather than the Lord, the “fruit” in your life reflects your sinful nature (Gal. 5:16-21). Think back over the last 24 hours; what kind of “fruit” did you produce? Which fruit of the Spirit is currently lacking in your life? Ask God to help you recognize and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit today. Fruit that pleases the Lord has to be intentionally cultivated.

September 6, 2019

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Read – Philippians 4

What does it say?
Paul exhorted the Philippians to rejoice always, present their requests to God, think about praiseworthy things, and look to God to meet their needs.

What does it mean?
Paul concluded his letter with a presentation of Christ as the believer’s life power. This final chapter is packed full of promises with key conditions that Paul had seen to be true in his own life. The peace of God replaces worry when His children pray, and the God of peace goes with believers who submit their thoughts to Him. Paul had experienced both God’s power and provision for daily living and in his service to the Lord. God would meet the needs of the Philippian believers and guard their hearts and minds if they followed Paul’s sound advice.

How should I respond?
The promises of the Lord are true and trustworthy. However, not all of God’s promises are realized in our daily lives because we often miss the conditions under which they become reality. For instance, if you are filled with anxiety, then pray – but do so with thankful and joyful recognition of what God is already doing. Look back over the promises in today’s passage in an attitude of prayer. Ask God to convict you regarding any area where your heart and mind are not in full submission to Him. Follow Paul’s advice and experience God’s peace, power, and provision today.

September 6, 2021

,

Read – Ezekiel 14:12-23

What does it say?
Even the righteousness of Noah, Daniel, and Job couldn’t save their children from the wrath of God’s judgment on Judah’s detestable practices.

What does it mean?
These captives were already living in exile in Babylon, but Jerusalem had not yet fallen. The Israelites still in Judah lived without regard for the Lord, His covenant, or His commands. Since God had offered to spare a wicked city like Sodom if 10 righteous people were found, surely He would spare Jerusalem – His holy city! But even the prayers of righteous men like Noah and Job, combined with the prayers of the most faithful man among them (Daniel), couldn’t save Jerusalem from the Lord’s judgment. Each person’s righteousness would stand on its own merit.

How should I respond?
We’ve all watched friends or family members make choices without regard for God and His Word. Does today’s passage indicate that praying for them does no good? Not at all. It does, however, point to individual accountability before the Lord. Your relationship with Jesus can be an example that draws others to Christ, but it can’t save them. Will you commit to earnestly pray for friends or family members who are in danger of facing God’s judgment? Is your own faith based on a family history of godly character or in a personal relationship with Christ? Only His righteousness will endure (2 Cor. 5:21).

September 5, 2019

,

Read – Philippians 3

What does it say?
Anything Paul previously considered gain, he now counted as loss compared to knowing Christ. He left everything behind and reached for the prize of the call of God.

What does it mean?
There was nothing about Paul’s old life that he missed. Everything that used to seem important or valuable seemed like rubbish compared to what he had gained by meeting Jesus Christ. He didn’t even think about those things anymore. His priorities were so rearranged that he only saw the call of God on his life, like a runner whose eyes were fixed on the finish line. Fulfilling the call of Christ on his life was the prize awaiting him. Jesus was the motivating factor of all Paul thought, said, and did.

How should I respond?
Your spiritual growth involves your past, present, and future. Think about your life before following Jesus – how has your thinking and integrity changed? Now think about the early days of being a Christian – how different are your priorities today? Continued spiritual growth means you will continue to give up certain attitudes and behaviors in order to follow the pattern Jesus sets for us (Phil. 2). What sacrifices has the Lord asked you to make? The call of God causes you to lose nothing of lasting value but gives you what’s most important – new life in Christ.

Jesus Only Jesus

2021-09-05

Charles Billingsley

This is what was happening in the churches of Galatia.

False teaching had crept into their church by way of a group called the Judaizers.  It was polluting the purity of the gospel that Paul had taught them, and in a very short time had turned their minds from the gospel of grace to a gospel determined by and dependent upon works.

Word comes to Paul in Antioch, and Paul is very upset.  So he writes them a scathing letter.

It reads differently than the other epistles.  You can tell right away that Paul is angry.

Written by Paul – 49 AD

Galatia was not a city.  It was a region.  Several churches were founded in that region by Paul on his first missionary journey.

Purpose for writing:  Judaizers had come into the region and were diffusing and diluting the pure gospel message of Paul.

Galatians is a Miniature book of Romans.   It was written 10 years before Romans.

It is the Charter of Christian Freedom.

Galatians can be divided into 3 different categories:

Chapters 1-2 –  Personal  – Paul defends his integrity as an apostle .  Paul tells his testimony about his conversion.  Paul attacks the ones who are perverting the Gospel.  Paul vs the Judaizers

Chapters 3-4 – Doctrinal  – Law vs Grace ;   Justification by Faith

Chapters 5-6 – Practical  – fruit of the spirit

Galatians 1:6 I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!  As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him!

Judaizers had entered into the churches there and had begun to convince the young, predominantly Gentile believers that the Gospel Paul had preached to them was not all they needed.  They also needed to carry on the traditions of Judaism…circumcision and other Jewish traditions were necessary for them to truly follow the Gospel of Jesus.  But this was NOT the pure gospel.

Glossary of terms as they are used in Galatians:

Gospel – the Good News.  The word gospel comes from the Old English god meaning “good” and  spel meaning “news, a story.” In Christianity, the term “good news” refers to the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and His message of salvation by faith in Him.

Justification – an act of God whereby we, who are sinners and deserve a just punishment, are looked upon as righteous in the eyes of God, not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus has done for us.  Because of what Jesus did on the cross…conquering sin, death, hell, and the grave, we are viewed as righteous in the eyes of a Just and Holy God.  It is “just as if I’d” never sinned.

Faith –  Faith is believing in something and committing to that belief.  It is a firm belief in the existence of God but also in the salvation that comes only from God…through His son Jesus.

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen.“  – Hebrews 11:1

Grace – God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.   Undeserved and unmerited favor.  Grace is given, not earned.

Law – God’s standard of righteousness.  Given to Moses out of necessity, it was a rigid and unforgiving standard of rules by which mankind was to live.

Freedom – The state of being set loose from the power or the control of something or someone else.  To be in a position of liberty…exempt from the slavery and the confinement of sin.

Fruit  – The product, effect, or result of living righteously.

This book is a great reminder to us of three major themes:

1. We are justified by Faith 

Galatians 3:1-3

 You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by believing what you heard?  3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh?

Galatians 3:10-11

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, Everyone who does not do everything written in the book of the law is cursed. 11 Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith.

Galatians 3:23-26

Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. 24 The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. 25 But since that faithhas come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus.

Martin Luther

1505 – lightning.  Surrenders life to monastery.  As a Young monk, he was deeply devoted to monastic vows and lifestyle, observing the daily rituals and prayer patterns, all in an effort to reconcile his soul with the Savior.

Martin Luther just could not grasp how the “justice of God” was motivated by anything other than anger.  He was terrified of God. Even angry with him.. He viewed God as this overbearing abusive Father who is just waiting to punish us when we make even the smallest of mistakes.

Is that your view of God today?

“Justification by faith, ‘is the head and the cornerstone. It alone begets, nourishes, builds, preserves, and defends the church of God; and without it the church of God cannot exist for one hour. “  – Martin Luther 

“ Grace is the way to life and it is the way of life. “   – Charles Swindoll 

Therefore……Our faith produces freedom . 

2.  We are called to Be Free 

Galatians 5:1  For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm,then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer – another German theologian.

Cheap Grace – the idea that we can live any old way we want to because we are “under” grace.  But that cheapens the the very nature of the gospel…which is to set us free from all that mess.

 

Conviction without compassion is damning – Legalism 

Compassion without conviction is dangerous – Liberalism 

Compassion with conviction is dynamic – Love 

 

In Christ – We are no longer slaves!!!

Galatians 4:4-7

When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir.

We have been called to freedom in Christ….the incarnate God.  But this call is a call to die to ourselves and to embrace the grace of  Christ which brings us life!  That’s why Paul is able to pen these words in the second chapter of this Magna Carta of freedom:

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

3.  Our freedom produces fruit 

As a result of this freedom in Christ,  the natural result will be that we bear fruit.

God uses the word “fruit” often in His word when describing what knowing Him produces in our lives.

When we follow Him and obey Him our lives become fruitful.

When we walk in the Spirit, our lives are fruitful.

Galatians 5:16-26

I say, then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. The law is not against such things.[g] 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Observations on Fruit

  1. Fruit is always visible – no such thing as invisible fruit . “If your relationship to Christ is only visible to you…then it’s not much of a relationship.  If you are accused of being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you? Or would you be innocent of all charges?   Fruit is always visible.  If you are a Christian, people ought to know it.
  2. Fruit is always consistent with the plant from which it was produced.  It bears the character of the tree from which it is a part.   Apple trees always produce Apples. Apples do not grow on Orange trees.  That’s not the nature of the tree.  The nature of the tree defines the makeup of the fruit.  If you are a Christian, we ought to look like the Savior we serve in our walk and in our talk.  So our lives should be filled with  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control… among other things.
  3.   Fruit does not exist for itself.  Fruit exists for someone else to eat it.  Your life in Christ is meant for loving and serving others.

Galatians 5:13-15

For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.

15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out, or you will be consumed by one another.

  1. Fruit doesn’t try to be anything that it is not.  It just is.  Pears aren’t trying to be anything but pears.  Fruit is fruit…just because it hangs out on the branch to which it is connected.

The only way your life will produce this fruit….is to hang out with Savior to whom you are connected.  Paul Called it …”to walk in the Spirit.”

How do you do that?

Jesus used a different word in John.  Here is the secret to being a fruitful Christian.

To ABIDE!!!  REMAIN.  Just hang out!!  Stay connected to Jesus!

John 15:4 Remain (or abide)  in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me.

If we will abide in Christ everyday…our lives will be fruitful…giving honor to Jesus Only Jesus.

That fruit is born out of a freedom that comes from Jesus Only Jesus.

And this freedom is born out of a faith alone and grace alone that has been justified because of Jesus Only Jesus!

This is the message of Galatians.  The Magna Carta of our Freedom in Christ.  Learn it.  Love it.  And Live by it.

Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

It is faith alone by grace alone In Christ alone.

It is Jesus Only Jesus.

September 5, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 14:1-11

What does it say?
The Lord told the elders who inquired of Ezekiel to repent, turn from their idols, and renounce their detestable practices.

What does it mean?
Exile and God’s judgment had not wiped out idolatry in the lives of God’s people; it was taking root inwardly rather than being displayed openly in the streets. The elders who came to Ezekiel asking for information about the length of their exile were hypocritical. Outwardly, they inquired of the Lord, but inwardly their devotion belonged to something else. These men were consumed with concern about their physical circumstances but ignored the glaring issue concerning their souls – they still didn’t recognize the God of Israel as the Sovereign Lord of the Earth. Their hearts were unchanged.

How should I respond?
You’ve probably heard the accusation that every church has hypocrites; you may have even said it. Well, it’s true! Churches are made up of imperfect people. Rationalizing hypocrisy doesn’t solve the issue – we must each deal with it head on. At some point, we’ve all been more concerned about our outward circumstances than the condition of our heart. Or you may have walked through church, masking a hidden sin with a smile. Ask God to search your heart and help you to recognize and confess any personal hypocrisy. Allow the Sovereign Lord of the Earth to shape your heart until it reflects His.

September 4, 2019

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Read – Psalms 95-96

What does it say?
Sing for joy and bow down before the Lord with thanksgiving. Praise His name, proclaim His salvation, declare His marvelous deeds, and worship in the splendor of His holiness.

What does it mean?
Today’s psalms describe what true worship looks like. If a nation ever had reason to sing for joy or to declare their God as worthy of praise, it was Israel. Yet time after time, they repeated the sins of their fathers by turning to false gods and hardening their hearts to their Creator and Shepherd. Although they sang the words of these psalms regularly in the temple, they failed to do what the songs said – truly worship the Lord. A tender heart toward God is the result of recognizing His greatness, thanking Him regularly, submitting to His will, and looking for His imminent return.

How should I respond?
Participation in weekly worship services is great, but it doesn’t mean you’ve truly worshipped the Lord. Worship is a lifestyle that goes beyond singing on Sunday. It involves seeing exactly who God is, regardless of the circumstances He has allowed in your life. Like Israel, we live in God’s blessings, but we often stop short of complete submission to His Word. When you sense that happening, find a reason to thank and praise God immediately. As you turn your thoughts to Jesus in those moments, you’ll be reminded that worshipping Him is the reason we exist, and it is the one thing we will do for all eternity. Will you accept the psalmist’s invitation to worship the Lord today?

September 4, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 13

What does it say?
The Sovereign Lord pronounced woe against both false prophets who prophesied peace and lying women who disheartened the righteous while encouraging the wicked.

What does it mean?
False prophets contradicted God’s coming judgment as prophesied by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Rather than confront Judah’s eroding morals, these men hid the evil, “whitewashing” the corruption and giving God’s people a false sense of security. Certain women also took advantage of people’s fears by selling charms and casting spells for good luck. Spiritual enemies were already walking freely in the streets of Jerusalem, slowly destroying them with lies. Seven times in this chapter God called Himself, “The Sovereign Lord,” and three times He said they would know, “I am the Lord.” The God of Israel is the Sovereign Lord of all eternity.

How should I respond?
When Scripture repeats something, we should pay particular attention. One day, the whole world will recognize Jesus as Sovereign Lord. Satan, however, is the master deceiver. He tries to convince us that we are okay just as we are, but ignoring or covering up spiritual deficiencies will not make them go away. What lies have you entertained about yourself or God because they make you feel comfortable? Anything that directly opposes Scripture is a lie. Rejecting Jesus or His teachings does not change who He is. How will your life demonstrate that He is the Sovereign Lord today?

September 3, 2019

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Read – Psalm 94

What does it say?
The wicked didn’t think God saw them, but the Creator knew their thoughts. The Law of the Lord helped the righteous to take a stand, but the wicked will be judged by it.

What does it mean?
Amidst psalms that praise God’s love and declare His glory, this passage calls for His vengeance. The writer pointed out the foolishness of those who perpetrate evil on God’s people. They acted as if the Creator were a lifeless man-made idol who couldn’t see their violent actions or hear their arrogant rants. In truth, every thought they had was laid bare before the Judge of the earth. God alone can punish the wicked, yet He looked for those who would take a stand against evil and proclaim righteousness and truth. Every wicked person will be cut off, and every evil act will be judged when Jesus returns.

How should I respond?
It can be frustrating to live in a world that acts as if God doesn’t exist, doesn’t see, or doesn’t care about what people do. Our society not only overlooks grievous sin, but also legalizes and rewards it. You may have become so discouraged that you’re ready to isolate yourself with other believers while waiting for Jesus to come back and right every wrong. But God is looking for believers willing to boldly and lovingly speak the truth while there’s still time for people to turn to Him. What evil in the world grieves your heart? How can you take a stand against it today and proclaim the truth of Scripture?

September 3, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 12

What does it say?
God gave Ezekiel two signs and two messages regarding the rebellious house of Israel. The words spoken by the Sovereign Lord would happen without delay.

What does it mean?
Generations of Israelites had been warned to obey the Lord or suffer discipline at His hand, but they continually rebelled. This group of captives still hoped that Jerusalem would be saved, but the signs Ezekiel acted out made God’s intentions for Jerusalem and her king clear. Because the Lord had mercifully given His people so long to repent, most doubted that punishment would happen at all. Even those who believed the prophets didn’t think judgment would come in their lifetime. God would delay no longer; this generation would see the Word of the Lord come to pass before their eyes.

How should I respond?
Jesus promised His disciples that He would come again. Two thousand years later, His followers still anticipate His return. Human nature, however, causes us to doubt anything we haven’t seen or experienced. Scripture tells us that God’s delay is prompted by His mercy (2 Peter 3:9). Has His delayed return prompted you to be diligent in telling friends and family about His mercy, or have you become complacent? Only you can decide how to spend the time you have. Determine to live today in light of His imminent return.

September 2, 2019

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Read – Philippians 2

What does it say?
Believers should have the mind of Christ, doing all things humbly and without complaining.

What does it mean?
Paul presented Christ as the believer’s life pattern. Since the Philippian believers had chosen to follow Jesus, they were also called to have the same mindset as Christ. Even though He was Lord, Jesus lived with the attitude of a servant, looking out for the needs of other people. For these early believers, having that mindset meant living in faithful, humble obedience to God’s will. Paul demonstrated what that looked like by joyfully pouring out his life for the sake of the gospel and for the church of Jesus Christ.

How should I respond?
The mindset of our society is about as far from the mindset of Jesus as it can get. In general, people argue, complain, demand their own way, and put their own desires above everything else. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, then it makes sense to follow the pattern He set. Do you have a habit of helping and serving others, or do you tend to be oblivious to the needs of your neighbors and coworkers? How often throughout a day do you complain rather than pitch in to solve the issue? How will you model the mind of Christ today?

September 2, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 11:1-21

What does it say?
The Sovereign Lord would judge the wicked leaders of Israel, gather the exiles back to the land, remove their hearts of stone, and give them an undivided heart of flesh.

What does it mean?
Hard hearts were both the cause and effect of rejecting God’s law. The results of Israel’s epidemic heart problem were exile and the destruction of Jerusalem, along with her inhabitants. But God had a plan. The Lord Himself would be a sanctuary for those in captivity until He returned His people to Jerusalem. A partial fulfillment of the prophecy to physically restore God’s people to the Promised Land is seen in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Complete fulfillment for Israel as a nation will occur at the onset of the Millennium. The indwelling of God’s Spirit will bring a spiritual renewal to the land of Israel and to the hearts of God’s chosen people.

How should I respond?
Do you have a heart problem? Rejecting God’s Word hardens your heart, and a hard heart continues to reject God’s Word. How can you avoid this vicious cycle? Start by recognizing the deceptive nature of sin. Temptation always promises something alluring that it can’t deliver. Giving in to the sin causes your heart to harden to God in that area of your life and hinders your spiritual understanding (Hebrews 3:13; Ephesians 4:18). Is your heart in need of a spiritual renewal today? It starts with the confession of sin.

September 1, 2019

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Read – Philippians 1

What does it say?
Paul said, ‘To live is Christ and to die is gain.’

What does it mean?
Paul opened his letter to the church in Philippi with a presentation of Christ as the believer’s life purpose. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important message anyone could hear or give. In Paul’s view, advancing the cause of Christ was his only reason for living. He urged the Philippians to follow his example, to stand firm and strive together for the faith of the gospel – even in the face of opposition and persecution. That mindset had led Paul to the conclusion that it was a privilege to suffer for Christ’s sake, if that’s what it would take for others to hear.

How should I respond?
The world is full of worthy causes that give people a sense of purpose, but nothing offers fulfillment like a life of faith and hope in Jesus Christ. He is the only purpose in life that continues beyond your life in this world. What is your purpose for living? Have you made telling the message of Christ the overarching priority of each day? Reflect on one or two things you could do for the sake of the gospel that you’re not currently doing. Strive today to be engaged with people as Paul was – let your life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.

September 1, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 10

What does it say?
The man in linen retrieved burning coals from among the wheels to scatter over the city. Then the cherubim rose with the wheels, taking the glory of the Lord with them.

What does it mean?
Ezekiel’s vision reached its climax, symbolically depicting the heartbreaking events that would soon take place in Jerusalem. God’s wrath, represented by the burning coals, would consume the city, which happened when the Babylonian army set fire to Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:8-9). The destruction of the Lord’s holy city was possible only because His presence would no longer reside in His temple or with His people. The Lord would not live in a house defiled by idol worship. So, the presence of the Lord climbed onto His chariot and rode out of the temple and out of Jerusalem (11:22-25).

How should I respond?
Christians are the dwelling place of the Lord – His temple (1 Cor. 6:19). The Holy Spirit resides within followers of Christ, promising never to leave (John 14:16-17). We cause Him to grieve when we allow things into our hearts and minds that are contrary to the character of God (Eph. 4:30-32). What is the condition of your “temple” today? Is it a place the Spirit of the Lord feels comfortable calling home? Or do you have doors you try to keep locked? Ask the Lord to show you any ungodly attitude or habit that has taken up residence in your heart – then be determined to clean it out.|Further reading: Ezekiel 11:22-25

August 31, 2019

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Read – Ephesians 6

What does it say?
God’s people can be strong in the Lord and stand against forces of spiritual darkness when they put on the full armor of God.

What does it mean?
Paul warned the Ephesians to be prepared because Satan and his forces actively seek to oppose God’s people and hinder their mission. Sometimes persecution is overt and external, but sometimes it is covert and internal. The soldier described in verses 14-17 illustrates what a prepared Christian looks like. He is fully clad in God’s spiritual armor. Completely aware that the enemy might attack at any moment, he utilizes God’s divine weapons: the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and prayer in the Spirit. The prepared Christian puts on the armor of God each day by faith, through prayer.

How should I respond?
Most of our spiritual failures come from failing to take Satan’s strategies seriously. We need to anticipate his attacks and be prepared by trusting in God’s promises, seeking truth in the Bible, behaving rightly, and praying regularly. Being prepared doesn’t mean that you won’t face persecution, but it does mean that when it comes, you’ll be ready to stand firm in your faith. Take a minute to think about what areas of your life are most vulnerable to spiritual attack. Will you bring those things to the Lord in prayer every day this week? He‘ll give you strength for the battle if you commit to putting on His armor.

August 31, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 9

What does it say?
Ezekiel’s prophetic vision continued with the destruction of the idolatrous inhabitants of Jerusalem. Only those who grieved over the detestable practices were spared.

What does it mean?
Why would God command so much bloodshed? Sin has a high cost because it offends the holy character of God. The sacrificial system of the Old Testament was His provision to atone for sin and restore communion with His people. For generations the Lord had mercifully given them one chance after another to repent, but they would not. Each person would now be held accountable for choosing to follow or reject God. Refusing to accept His provision for sin meant paying for it with their lives. Genuine remorse and grief over personal and national sin were evidences of a heart faithful to God.

How should I respond?
Our sin is no less offensive to God’s holiness than Israel’s, and sin still requires a blood sacrifice. God’s compassion for our sinful state is seen at the Cross, where Jesus shed His own blood to pay our penalty. How have you responded to the news that you are a sinner? You alone will be held accountable for your decision to accept or reject Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf. If you are a follower of Christ, your heart is “marked” and sealed with the Holy Spirit, who prompts you to turn from things that displease the Lord. Today, how will your life reflect remorse for sin and a heart that is faithful to the Lord?

August 30, 2019

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Read – Ephesians 5

What does it say?
God’s holy people ought to imitate God, living as wise children of light.

What does it mean?
Throughout this chapter Paul emphasized that believers should have the mark of God on every aspect of their lives. Living consistently in the light of Christ will lead His followers to naturally imitate Him as they submit to the Holy Spirit. The pattern of a believer’s thoughts and reactions should be the opposite of what comes naturally to an unbeliever, who still makes decisions in spiritual darkness. Paul compared living in obedience to God with wisdom, and living outside of His will with foolishness. God’s people have the ability and responsibility to live in ways that please their Creator.

How should I respond?
Living to please other people can be exhausting. What pleases them one day can suddenly change, leaving you guessing as to how to make them happy. Living to please the Lord, however, is liberating and productive. His expectations are clearly laid out and they never change. Not only that – He supplies the example and power to live a God-pleasing life that produces spiritual fruit. Which dark or foolish things from your former way of life have crept into your way of thinking, talking, or behaving? Ask God right now to flood your mind with light and expose every dark corner. The Holy Spirit can empower you to live as God’s child of light. Will you submit to Him today?

August 30, 2021

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Read – Ezekiel 8

What does it say?
The Spirit lifted Ezekiel between Heaven and Earth to see the glory of the Lord and the detestable things the people of Israel were doing. God would not have pity on them.

What does it mean?
The exiled elders of Israel went to Ezekiel for information concerning Jerusalem’s fate. God used a vision to show why judgment was necessary. Today’s passage details idolatry in the temple, which was rationalized by accusing God of abandonment. Their appeals to Egyptian and Babylonian gods for protection were done in the dark, as if their actions could be hidden from the Lord. Each act of idolatry became more brazen. Even the priests turned their backs on God’s altar, openly worshipping the sun instead of seeking God’s mercy on the people’s behalf. Their rebellion was not trivial to the Lord.

How should I respond?
It’s not unusual for kind, compassionate, moral people to consider their sin as trivial compared to the violent and evil behavior that’s become common in our society. God, however, never rationalizes any sin. The longer you entertain a sinful thought, the more likely it is to manifest itself as full-blown rebellion against God and His Word. What wrong attitude might be festering in a dark corner of your heart? What sin have you tried to rationalize or hide from family and friends? Will you confess it right now? Be aware throughout the day that no thought or action can be hidden from God.