Devotions and Lessons
Scripture of the Week:
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
Devotions and Lessons
Scripture of the Week:
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
This is the first Sunday in the season/celebration of Advent. It the preparation of the coming King, the Savior of all mankind. This Sunday we begin with HOPE. Why do we start with that? Well, it is the anticipation of the one who brings us salvation from sin. We begin today looking at the promised Messiah in Isaiah:
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:10-14 (ESV)
Ahaz knew not to test God. It is this that prompts the telling of the coming Messiah. Because of Ahaz’ faithfulness, hope for eventual peace, and his understanding of the Scripture, Ahaz was given the sign of the coming Savior. God gave him hope because of his faith.
John the Baptist “prepared the way.
John the Baptist was given the task of being the mortal herald for the coming Christ. He prepared the hearts of the people. When enough people were prepared, Jesus began His ministry. John gave the people hope that the Savior would be coming soon to bring salvation from sin. Back then it was misinterpreted as they believed the Messiah was lead them out of the tyranny under the Romans. But Jesus was so much more as they would find out. Some would hear but many would listen.
When God calls you to do something unexpected or even shocking, what do you do?
Joseph and Mary had the most desired role at the time when the people Israel were always waiting for the Messiah to come. With the knowledge of the prophets Isaiah and Micha, they knew that the child would be of the stump of Jesse and born in Bethlehem. All of the descendants of David wanted it to be them but it was on God’s timing. Unexpectedly, the angel Gabriel came to Mary, a young woman who was betrothed to Joseph in the line of David. Luke speaks of this encounter:
30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:30-35 (ESV)
What a blessing to be the chosen one. Mary was given the hope of the nation. She accepted the task because of her faithfulness in the hope of salvation.
Joseph was a faithful Jew who was very skeptical of his betrothed once she was found to be with child. He knew of the hope of the coming Messiah but did not realize that he would be the one charged with raising Him as the Proverbs spoke of rearing the children. Matthew gives us this glimpse of the truth:
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).
Matthew 1:18-24 (ESV)
Their response brought the nation Israel the Messiah they were waiting for even though they didn’t fully understand His purpose. They figured He would just give them relief from the Romans and restore them as the holy nation that they were at the time of Moses. We, as Christians, await the coming Christ because we know Him as God Incarnate, Son, Savior, Our Salvation, Redeemer. We not only celebrate the advent of the Birth of Christ, we anticipate the promise of His return.
Join me in prayer:
Father God, Thank you for giving us the hope in the coming Savior. Your Grace and Mercy gives us the hope that we will be in Your comforting arms when the time of Your glorious return comes. Continue to grant us peace, patience, and understanding while we prepare ourselves for Your Glorious Appearing. In Jesus Name. AMEN
(aka: Once I Accept Christ, can I continue in my sins?)
Sinning. It is a crime against God, the person(s) affected by the sin, and most of all against your own soul. But here is the thing, people believe that it is ok to sin. Why anyone would even consider asking the above question after understanding that Jesus said, “Go and sin no more” is beyond me. If it was, Jesus would have drunk and eaten heavily, given in to all lustfulness, and who knows what else. Then when it came time for Him to go to His sacrifice, it would have meant nothing. The problem is today’s worldly cultural beliefs in what is deemed good and what is deemed dangerous thinking. Isaiah 5:20 warned us, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Paul restates this in Romans 3:8, "And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say), 'Let us do evil that good may come?' Their condemnation is just." It happened then and it is happening now. The main progenitor of these changes is the media and Hollywood personalities with so many sins they feel that they need to affect a change in beliefs to make themselves socially acceptable. Now do not get me wrong, not all celebrities are like that. In fact, there is a resurgence of Christian attitudes within certain celebrity circles because they see the degradation of society as a whole.
About the last 40 or so years ago, there was this idea to gain people in the church that said Jesus made atonement for us so we are free to continue in our sins. I said it right at the start so I should not have to repeat it. Children, you cannot continue go against the Word of God. Stop mistreating one another for their differences. Love each other just as He loves us. Love your neighbor as yourself. It all starts with the love of the Father. That means: respect for one another, paying attention to and following the words of your elders as long as they do not go against Christian values, helping one another, and not letting personal feelings get in the way. We must not judge ones wrongdoing (except if you are a lawyer/judge
or in a position to hand out judgement according to the law of the land), God is the judge. We are not saved so that we can continue to do wrong to our fellow man.
Paul was very strict and precise when speaking with the Jews and new believers in Rome when speaking about this. Early in the writing we are told “For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God,” (Rom 3:23). This conviction of sins occurs in the believer and is a method that the Lord uses to help us stop sinning. Then we are told that Jesus defeated sin and death taking our place so we are forgiven from Adams guilt. His sacrifice was not a license to sin but a path to follow. God’s grace does not increase with every sin for Romans 6: 1-2 says, "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?"
We are given Salvation as an appeal to God for cleansing from sin which leads to our forgiveness. He requires repentance so that we might not sin. Our appeal must be a real heartfelt confession of our hopelessness before God and an acceptance of Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf. When we truly confess, we are revealing a sincere repentance which is a turning from sin, not to it.
When we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior fully we are changed. "Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come," (2 Cor. 5:17). Since we are no longer under the obligation of the Jewish Laws but still under the Commandments (yes there is a difference), "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!" (Rom. 6:15). "Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God," (1 Cor. 10:31). We are not saved so that we are free to go out and do that which is wrong. How can we bring glory to God by going out and sinning? We cannot. In fact, anyone who says that he is a Christian and then continues in his sins without seeking repentance and without conviction is a liar. God’s Word cannot be any clearer, "The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6 the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked," (1 John 2:4-6).
Scripture does not tell us much about Bartholomew/Nathanael. Most of the information comes from traditions or extra biblical texts. What we do know is that was from Cana in Galilee and that he was sent to Armenia and maybe India. His first name was Nathanael and Jesus spoke of him as a man with “no guile” (John 1:47). Some scholars even say that he was the only Disciple who is of royal lineage as a son of Absalom, a son of David.
Bartholomew was introduced to Christ by his close friend Philip and Jesus told Bartholomew that He knew him before their meeting when Jesus said “When thou was under the fig tree, I saw thee” (John 1:48-50). When Jesus sent people out He sent them together.
Being of no guile means that Bartholomew was a man of integrity even though he had some prejudices especially with Jesus coming from Nazareth and the fact they both come from David’s line. But Jesus found him trustworthy, transparent, and very studious when it came to scriptural knowledge.
So the young Bartholomew had some lessons to learn in the transformation from Jew to Christian but for him it was easy because of his knowledge.
What can we learn from this young man?
1. Stay in Scripture and learn with a renewal of spirit daily. Don’t just read two chapters OT and a chapter NT and say that you are good. That doesn’t work. Take the time to read, Pray, reread in Prayer, and Listen.
2. Our personal prejudices can skew our judgment. By being open to God's word, we come to know the truth. Do not change His Word to match your beliefs, change your beliefs to match His Word.
3. Be a Christian of Integrity. The Value and Character of a Christian should emulate Christian ways as well as some Jewish ways as that is where we have received our systems. We are made in the Image of God meaning His Values, Character, which is turned to our Mindset, Ethics and Morals.
4. Recognize that God is Omniscient. God knows all and sees all things. It is God who really has ultimate control over us and not ourselves. Once we can give all to God, surrendering our whole selves 100% to Him and continue in His ways we will be a part of His great inheritance which is us living with Him in His Kingdom. Remember: We are not our own.
Like most of the Disciples, Bartholomew abandoned Jesus when He was captured and crucified. He was very outspoken still and yet maintained only a portion of his prejudices as Jesus worked on him with that. He was the youngest of the Disciples and sometimes the most outspoken. Bartholomew was known to be very intellectual for his age in the reading and understanding of Scripture. He was a good man who died being flayed alive in India while a missionary there.
Side note: While doing my research I have noticed one major factor of similarity here. All the Disciples who fled from Jesus died a martyr’s death. John is the only one who was there of the Twelve and the only one to die of natural causes. Things that make you go Hmmm. Stay faithful, live longer?????
Last week I asked one of my young Christian friends, “What should I write on in the coming weeks?” Now even though I am still writing on the Twelve Disciples (Bartholomew is this week), because of current events some other things need to be said. Her answer to me was to start with the dangers of temptations especially in the high school and college age. Well, she couldn’t be more right about what needs to be heard. So to the youth, here is a discussion on temptation.
What is temptation? Putting it simply, temptation is the desire to do something that can lead to undesirable actions and consequences. It is the thoughts of doing something wrong, or unwise. For the Christian it is the thought or desire to do something that leads to actions that are considered sinful or against the Will and Word of God. What are examples of temptations? The acts of: jealousy, lustful thoughts towards individuals of either sex, being judgmental, cheating (on tests, games, on significant other, etc.), desires for material things, lashing out because you did not get your way (anger), desire to indulge in illegal drink or drugs, giving in to procrastination (laziness).
There are things that trigger these temptations. The most common trigger is peers and the influential pressures that come from teen and young adult angst. Trust me young believers, it does not get any easier. The Adversary sees what is going on and takes advantage of situations. One way to look at the triggers is, “how this will make me feel better about myself” (aka self-indulgence) when all you are doing is harming yourself in the long run. Think about the last time you had trouble making decisions, your indecisiveness can lead to bad choices in life. When you feel unwanted or unnoticed and you want to do something that gets people’s attention on only you. When you are questioning your faith because others around you are teasing you for your beliefs. Think of the last time you wanted to prove something to someone, maybe to the point of taking revenge on someone for wronging you. Those with low self-esteem (trigger) may do something to lash out or find themselves doing something that makes them feel good temporarily.
So what can we do to fight the temptation and avoid having to deal with the negative consequences that follow? How do we maintain our faith in this world full of temptations? Well first is recognizing that it is something that is really not needed, not right, unhealthy, and unchristian like behavior. Think to yourself, what would Jesus do? Or even how would this affect my relationship with Him, my family, and friends? How will this affect my life and am I willing to accept the loss of some people in my life that were bad influences anyway? But most of all stay faithful to the Word of God by continuing in His ways. Also known as Think Hard Before Doing.
Seriously, think of the consequences before taking action. Sometimes the head and the heart are saying two different things. When they do not match then that is the Adversary pulling at you to do wrong. Listen closely to God’s Word and take the appropriate action. Do not do anything that would cause harm to the temple (the body which includes thoughts, feelings, and emotions). Causing damage to things because you did not get your way or you are confused about your future or the future of other sinners (who are confused and are not true Christians) is not the right thing to do. Society has been tempted and many have fallen into immoral and illegal behaviors, do not follow them.
Jesus speaks about temptation in many ways. One way that really gets the point across is really a three way lesson. Everyone speaks of the time where Jesus stops the crowd from throwing stones at a woman who committed adultery. This here is an example of the temptation of Judgment without self-examination. He is saying do not be tempted to judge out of anger or peer pressure, compassion and forgiveness are what the woman needs. But He does not let the woman off easy either. In His compassion and love He forgives for the sin but at the same time chides her. Jesus steps in the way of one temptation and gives the other person a reason and the power to resist being tempted into sinning again. To the men with stones, He tells them that the temptation to destroy another out of rule and tradition needs to be replaced with tough love and compassion in order to show the person the faults without aggressive behaviors. Also, personal judgment is not meant for the common man (“Vengeance is Mine saith the Lord”). Jesus flat out chides the women for the sin showing her the damage she has done to relationships and to herself. By the Grace and Mercy which is God, He shows her the punishment which could have been and since Jesus entered her life He flat out tells her, “Go and sin no more.”
Remember, Temptation leads to Sin which leads to Death (removal from God's sight) unless you Repent (ask forgiveness even if you already have done it once), and Live In Christ.
Stay strong in your Faith. Stay in the Word Daily. Finally, stay in prayer and consult the Holy Spirit before doing anything but in everything bring it to Jesus.
The Challenge: Avoid Temptation and do not Stray from God by Falling into sin
The next topic of discussion: Is it ok to remain in sin after Christ has entered in (or can I continue to live my life the way I am now)?
"Ultimately, we're all on the same team". In a speech recently, President Obama spoke about the election and the aftermath in order to slow the dysfunctionality of the damaging protests. Calmly, he spoke as POTUS and as a human being. I have heard many of his speeches before, some good, some not, but this one I was very pleased in his efforts to calm the masses down and let Trump do the job in which he was elected to do.
We are all Americans, not Murica... or any other derivative of the countries name. We should not be separate by our ethnicity in name for that is the acceptance of division. From the very beginning of time, we were created equal by God's hands and then became diversified by the lands, climates and ultimately belief systems we settled in. Diversity should make us a stronger people because in our diversity we have something bigger that we have in common. We are all Human, We shed the same red blood, We share the same biology, We are inherently created the same. In fact God is written into our very DNA. Because of those things I hate no one, though I may not approve of actions and words, I do not hate. How can I? I am a Child of God who tells me not to hate. I am a Child of God who has taught me the difference between amazing and tough love. I am Child of the King, a brother to mankind. Like our current POTUS said, "Ultimately, we're on the same team." How true that really is.
Thank about it, does it really ultimately matter who was placed in charge of any government? No. God is the one, the only, absolute authority and it is His rules by which we are to abide. Not the Pope, the President, the Prime Minister, King, or Queen. They are all placed in the positions for God's purposes whether we want to believe it or not. I cannot wait for my True King, Father, God to come and finally grant us the rest from this world as we bask in His Glory and share His inheritance. That will be a great and wondrous day.
We have all heard the phrases, “Judge not lest ye be judged” and, “throwing stones”. You know, things that Jesus said. Sometimes, but unnecessarily, we need to hear what Paul says. Why is this? We should ask ourselves if we have religious beliefs or are we straight up no nonsense Children of God. Religious thought comes from the Words of Christ with the verifications of Paul. Did you know that Paul’s teachings are actually more well-known and understood than Jesus’ teachings? There is something very wrong with that. The reason is partially this: Paul broke down the teachings of Jesus into a language (verbiage) that was more easily understood. He gave it to the masses in a way that they would be more apt to repent and join the flock rather than continue in their old ways. In many ways this was how the religious practice of Christianity started in the Roman world. Notice it is a religious practice built by man in order to please the eternal deity we know as God. God Himself said that we just need to trust and obey Him and He freely gives through His Grace and Mercy. Religion is the practice of understanding and ensuring His Word reaches the world. So the question is: Are you Christian (in Christ) or religious? Do you believe and follow every day or just Sunday, Wednesday, and Holidays when it is convenient for you? Are you In Christ or do you just believe in Christ (there is a difference). Do your heart strings feel the tug every day or just when you participate in worship and praise.
Did you know that you can learn more from one parable spoken by Jesus than one whole chapter of Romans? The simpler the story and speech, the easier it is to learn when you listen with an open mind and heart.
I am not saying we should forget Paul’s teachings but we need to seek Jesus in those words. We need to cut through the chatter and get right to the point. Take Romans 2:1-5 for instance:
2 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.
In that very first sentence, Paul is restating what Jesus spoke of. Now Paul could have left it there but had to add the legalisms for everyone to comprehend. He is basically saying that we cannot throw a stone on another when we ourselves have committed the same or worse sins from which we have not repented. One who listens to Jesus closely would hear all what Paul said without the need for explanation.
Paul does have some very unique views on things and these can be broken down into all the sayings of Jesus if we just listen with our hearts.
Jesus never asked for our money only, that belongs to Caesar. Jesus wants us all in, 100% with Him, Heart, Soul, Mind, and Body. God gave us gifts to use to share His Glory in the world, use them.
Who do you follow? Jesus, Peter, Paul, Apollos? Is there a modern preacher whose every word spoken is law to your heart? Renew your faith in Jesus and never let that go. Be In Christ not just a believer in a religious practice.
The messages on the blogs written on this page are within biblical adherence. Though the Scriptures listed in the blogs are directly from the Bible and other related religious writings the explanations and interpretations are in line with Biblical thinking as it relates to today’s world. The use of historical facts are to assist in the validity of the writings. The main writer of this blog site is an Ordained minister in one denomination though the views are related to all denominations so if something is said that does not fall in line with your denominational background, pray for personal discernment and understanding.