Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Real Religion: Verse for Today - Philippians 4:8 (click to read b...

Real Religion: Verse for Today - Philippians 4:8 (click to read b...: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is ad...

Verse for Today - Philippians 4:8 (click to read brief)

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Read all of Philippians 4

The Apostle Paul is beginning to conclude the epistle to the Philippians.  In our passage he gives a number of exhortations urging his readers to do the very things that would secure their temporal and eternal happiness.  Sin and sinful desires are pesky things.   They entice and mislead, and always the deliver the same results.  And yet... we find ourselves often sympathetic to their thoughts and desires.  What accounts for this?  Simply stated: the old man of sin... our inherent weakness... our flesh.

In another place the Apostle Paul states it as plainly as this:  Galatians 5:17 "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish."  If this doesn't match your experience, you are probably not pursuing the things of God as you should.

The Apostle Paul continues his exhortation with a wonderful promise:

9 "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you."

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Verse for Today - John 4:23 (click to read mini-blog)

"God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Read all of John 4

As Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman in John 4, He speaks about the nature of God and the nature of true worship.  God does not have a body like us.  God is spirit.  In another place we're told Christ as the second Adam became a Life-giving Spirit (I Corinthians 15:45).   The mutual identification of God the Father and God the Son is clear.

The nature of true worship is equally profound.  Those who would worship the truth God, must worship Him in an acceptable manner.  There are right and wrong ways to worship.  From Jesus broader teaching ministry we learn that God is not impressed with self-righteousness and/or ritualistic worship.  Those who draw near to God must do so with humility or meekness... and Godly fear... they must also do so with a diligent true or genuine faith.  Here are a couple verses that speak of this pretty directly:

I Peter 5:Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.
Hebrews 11:But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Verse for Today - Matthew 7:12 (click to read mini-blog)

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets."

Read all of Matthew 7

I mentioned the other day that this verse, which we frequently call the Golden Rule, is in a sense, a summary of the Summary (of the law) of the Summary (the Ten Commandments).   There are hundreds if commands in first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch)... according to some rabbi's count over 600.  The Ten Commandments are a distillation of God's revealed will... most all of the other 600+ commands can be arranged under the primary Ten Commandments.

The Summary of the Law, is stated by Christ in the New Testament, but he actually is quoting from Leviticus 19 and Deuteronomy 6.  

"Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:37-40

In today's verse Jesus states all this even more plainly.   If you ever want to know how you should treat others or whether you should do, pass your decision through this filter and the way will be clear.  Would you want others to do this unto you? 


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Verse for Today - I John 4:20-21

1 John 4:20-21

"Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister."

Read all of 1 John 4

Today's verse is one of those gut-check verses that is hard to ignore.  You see the Scriptures are described as being "living and sharper than any two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12) and in another place,  "All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable..." (II Timothy 3:16). 

Well, as were read a passage like I John 4:20-21, it reveals what's in our hearts.  The Word of God is applied by the Spirit of God to the individuals who read and hear it.  Of course, for those who might have a deep and sincere hatred for someone or anyone really, this verse might be a discouragement.  However, the intent is not to discourage but foster transformation... change.   

What should we do?  How do we get past such thoughts?  Certainly, we need God's help (grace).  Even with it, it will take earnest effort on our part.  The key is doing the things that we can.  I'm convinced that actions and feelings are connected (part of the same circle if you will)... and that "actions" are best in the driver's seat.  In time right feelings will follow right actions.  Do what you know is right.  Treat others (even those under your skin) with kindness and respect and if nothing else YOU will begin to feel better.  :) 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Verse for Today - II Corinthians 5:18-20 (click to read mini-blog)

"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God."

Read all of 2 Corinthians 5

In these verses the Apostle Paul is emphasizing the centrality of God in providing salvation.  How much more clearly could he state it?  "All this is from God." He is the one that provided His Son as our Savior. And Jesus would be true to His name, "For He would save his people from their sin" (Matthew 1:21).  

These truths become the basis for what the apostle says next.  God does it all, but He administers His grace through the ministry of Gospel preaching... "the message of reconciliation."  Ambassadors represent those who send them.  They don't have authority beyond their charged responsibility.  In the case of Christian ministers, they plead the Gospel message on behalf of God and Christ.  They are exhorted to exhort you: 


(If you haven't already, know that your present and future happiness depend on it.)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Verse for Today - Galatians 3:26-28 (click to read mini-blog)

"So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

Read all of Galatians 3

These verses are found in the middle of the Apostle Paul's epistle to the churches or Christians in the region of Galatia (central modern day Turkey).  As a whole the epistle addresses the fact that some had tried to unite the free grace of God in Christ to the requirement of formal religious acts of obedience to the law.  In today's verses we're actually reading the conclusion to his argument that no one was ever saved by keeping the law or acts of religious service.  

All who will be saved are saved by the promise of God's grace in Christ whereby they find acceptance in and through His completed work on the cross.  We're saved by grace not works; by adoption not merit.  This is stated succinctly in verse 24: "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith."  

The Galatian churches were composed of both Gentile believers and Jewish converts.  This makes his statement almost remarkable.  He says that those who "were baptized" have become sons of God through faith in Christ.... such that the former distinctions (Jew, Greek, male, female, bond, free) are overshadowed by their greater unity in the Gospel of God's Grace. 

If you're a genuine believer, you are in Christ; AND if you are in Christ then you the true offspring of God's promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:4), as the last verse of the chapter concludes:

29 "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Verse for Today - Psalm 118:5-6 (click to read mini-blog)

 "I called on the LORD in distress; the LORD answered me and set me in a broad place. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?"

Read all of Psalm 118

Psalm 118 is a Psalm of distinction for a number of reasons.  

1. It's overall message and theme are edifying and encouraging.  The first and last verse of the Psalm urge us to "Give thanks to the Lord; for His mercy endures forever."

2. It is located between the shortest and the longest Psalms, #117 and #119.

3. More than this (and I'm relying on an article I once read), Psalm 118 is said to be middle chapter of the Bible.  Incidentally, this is why if you take your bible in hand and open it to the middle, you will probably open to one of the 150 Psalms. 
4. The Psalm progresses from the writer's personal experience of deliverance (vss. 5,6), to the Messianic expectation of Christ and His ultimate victory over all his enemies (and ours) (vss. 21-28)... esp. verses 22,23 and 26:

22 The stone which the builders rejected
         Has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This was the LORD’s doing;
         It is marvelous in our eyes.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!
         We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Verse for Today - 1 Peter 1:15-16 (click to read mini-blog)

1 Peter 1:15-16

"but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” ”

Read all of 1 Peter 1

Today's verses are brief and obligatory.  In context these verses affirm the close connection between faith and its fruits.  

Some of you may have heard me explain that in this brief section from 13-15 there are really only two main verbs.  The other words that are frequently translated as commands are actually participles describing the manner in which the main verbs are to be carried out.  The first imperative (or command) instruction is "rest your hope fully in the grace that is to be brought to you..."  In other words, have faith... trust and rely upon God's gracious promise of redemption in Christ.

The other command is found in verse 15, "be holy in all your conduct..." which is then repeated in the quotation "Be holy, for I am holy" from Leviticus 19:1.

In a nutshell these verses make the same point as the song, "Trust and Obey."  What should you trust in?  The grace of God offered in Christ's atoning sacrifice.  What should you obey?  God's revealed will, His commandments.  


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Verse for Today - Isaiah 1:16-17

Isaiah 1:16-17

"Wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong. Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow."

Read all of Isaiah 1

Isaiah 1 is an interesting chapter.  I would recommend reading it.  I have a memory from my early childhood of a minister reading the first verses about how a oxen and donkeys have more sense than God's covenant people.   I think there's supposed to be something appalling about it.  People should pay proper respect to the One who brought the forth, clothed and cared for them.  The prophet goes so far as to say that the people of Israel would have become like Sodom and Gomorrah (completely destroyed and consumed by the anger of the Lord), except the LORD had left a remnant among them... a few examples of His grace and mercy.

As painful and sore as this is, the most remarkable part of the chapter is found in and after the verses we're looking at today.  Our verses today are a call to repent, turn from sin, and do what God commands.  Pretty tough call for spiritually dead, sinful people.  But there is hope.  Jesus said that His people will hear His voice and follow Him.  It is His voice that we hear in these verses.  They awaken and bestow spiritual life to those who hear. 

In fact, they form the premise to the wonderful Gospel call in verses 18 and following.    Hear and heed God's voice!

“ Come now, and let us reason together,” 
      Says the LORD, 
      “ Though your sins are like scarlet, 
      They shall be as white as snow; 
      Though they are red like crimson, 
      They shall be as wool. 
      If you are willing and obedient, 
      You shall eat the good of the land; 
      But if you refuse and rebel, 
      You shall be devoured by the sword”; 
      For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Verse for Today - Micah 6:8 (click to read mini-blog)

Micah 6:8

" He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? "

Read all of Micah 6

As a person comes to faith and becomes aware of what it means to be a Christian and live out the Christian faith, they often ask the question answered by the Prophet Micah in this verse.  What does God want from us?  Why would he call us out spiritual death and darkness into His spiritual Light?  

The ultimate answer to these questions is stated by saying "for this glory."  God has chosen to reveal his justice and mercy by condemnation and salvation.  The why's and wherefore's on this level are hidden in the secret counsels and will of God.  However, these questions can also be answered more directly in terms of how should we respond to God for the act of His grace whereby we go from being children of wrath, to the children of God.

This is where Micah 6:8 is helpful.  How should we act and live in God's world?  How can we show  our thankfulness to God for his Grace?  

1. Live justly.  Be fair and kind.  If you know the right thing to do, do it.  You will never regret honoring God with your good conduct.

2. Love Mercy.  Be gracious and to forgiving.  Remember others have weaknesses just like you.  Don't hold others to a higher standard than you hold yourself.

3. Walk Humbly with your God.  Recognize your place before Him.  He has given His only Son to pay the price of your redemption.  The least you can do is thank Hhim and show this thankfulness with your time, prayer and worship.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Verse for Today - Titus 2:11-12 (click to read mini-blog)

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”
Read all of Titus 2
 This is a good verse for us to consider as we begin the New Year.  The Apostle Paul wrote this epistle/letter to a you pastor named Titus.  He was left in Crete to organize and minister to the believers there.  He was challenged by the culture and popular opinion to go with the flow, but was urged to faithfully teach by words and example how to live the Christian faith.  

In fact, this is precisely how Chapter 2 begins… he tell Titus what he should teach to the different age groups that compose the church… to older and younger, to the men and women, even to servants and masters (basically equivalent to today’s employees and employers).  The Scriptures are relevant to all.  Whatever weaknesses challenge us most are those that are to be taught against. 

As we begin a new year, we too should “say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright and godly lives…”   In the next two verses the Apostle concludes:

“looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
How zealous are you gonna be in 2012?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Verse for Today - 2 Corinthians 5:17

2 Corinthians 5:17

" Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. "

Read all of 2 Corinthians 5

What a great verse to begin our 2012 Verse for Today posts.  The Apostle Paul is explaining the remarkable change or transformation that takes place in a person's life when they become a Christian.  Fundamentally, this change is called regeneration, or being born again.  However, the Apostle Paul is referring to this fact as an encouragement or perhaps a reminder.

You see in the Christian life there is this ongoing tension between the old and the new... between the flesh and the spirit.  This reality is clearly taught in Galatians 5:17, "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish."  Romans 7 speaks of the same struggle.  

The Apostle Paul brings this up in II Corinthians 5 to encourage us all to fully experience and rest in this spiritual reality.  He wants us to see ourselves, the world and others from the proper perspective.  Just a few verses before he stated: "that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again."  

Our experience of this spiritual reality takes place in time over the course of our lives.  In a sense it is something that we almost enforce upon ourselves. We remind ourselves of what the Word says and then act upon it... live it out.  The Apostle says to the believer, If you are in Christ, you are a new creation.  

Remember it.  Believe it.  Live it.