Archive for June, 2005

46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. 47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ” ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ “

48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the discussion within theological circles about Arminianism (the ability to fall always from faith in God) and Calvinism (the inability to fall away from faith in God). The more I read scripture and think about this issue the more I realize there is no argument to be had. Arminians (of which I would generally be called one) see that we have a free will to follow God and can choose to no longer follow him. Calvinists believe when we have decided to follow God there is no way to undecided. I have begun to realize that both are somewhat correct and incorrect. It is true that we never lose our ability to chose to follow God. Scripture makes it clear that God gave us the greatest gift (and curse?) of all – Free Will. However, it is also true that once we have truly decided to follow God it is highly unlikely one would chose to no longer follow God. True faith is not easily displaced with unbelief or rebellion. Pastor Cole (a committed Calvinist) of Moody Bible Church/Moody Bible Institute made a statement that Salvation would not mean much if God took it away on a whim. While, I believe he was misrepresented the Arminian argument by suggesting God was the one who takes it away (actually, it is humans who freely reject it), one part of his point was true. Salvation would not mean much if it was easy to lose. I guess I am a “Calvminian.” Salvation is so utterly precious because we can freely chose it and once chosen the only way to lose it would be to utterly reject God and rebel against his authority. Can someone reject the salvation they once had – yes. Does it happen often – no.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for your unending love. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Thank you for giving us the ability to accept and reject you. Thank you for bringing us into your family, keeping us and only letting us go when we reject you. Help me to always serve you. Amen.

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19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. – Acts 11:19-21

In Matthew 29:19 Jesus tells his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. However, in the early part of Acts they began to go throughout much of the know world, but they only told the good news (Gospel) to fellow Jews. This Jewish only approach was not what God intended so he quickly took action to make a change. Jesus gave a vision to Peter showing him he was suppose to go to the gentiles. Jesus sent Paul as his main missionary to the gentile world. Jesus put it in the hearts of his people to begin to talk with non-Jews, some understood this and obeyed. I look back at this and realize how truly fortunate we are the Jesus quickly made this change to open up this good news to all of us.

Jesus,

Thank you for immediately taking corrective action and making sure the Gospel was open to all of us. Thank you for letting your leaders know all humanity was included in your redemptive plan. Thank you for calling us to continue to fulfill this worldwide plan today. Empower us for your service and help us to serve you faithfully. I love you Lord Jesus. Amen.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” – Acts 9:11-16

We often say, “God can use anybody,” but I am not sure we often believe it. However, when you read about the conversion of Saul (Paul) and his subsequent ministry you must accept that God can use anybody. By all rights, Paul was a murderer of God’s people. He was instrumental in rounding up Christians and throwing them in jail. We know some Christians were killed with his help. God could have taken care of this by having Paul die. However, he had a greater plan to use this evil person. Jesus spoke directly to Paul and called him from a life of persecuting Christian to a life of creating them. God used a man who did great harm and evil to the Church to spread the Church all over the gentile world. Today, Christ-followers think of Paul as this great saint, but we must never forget that he started our (just like us) as a great sinner.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for converting one, Paul, who would be instrumental in spreading your truth to the gentile world. Thank you for picking a man the church might have rejected (and even tried to reject). Thank you for seeing beyond his sin to his potential. I ask you to do the same for me. I love you Jesus. Amen.

The Believers’ Prayer
23 On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. 25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
” ‘Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth take their stand
and the rulers gather together
against the Lord
and against his Anointed One.’ 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people[e] of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” – Acts 4:23-30

As I read the prayer said by the early Christ-followers after the release of Peter and John, I am amazed by the strong faith that has developed so quickly in these believers. These are the same men who did not have strong faith when Jesus was with them on earth, but now they have a great faith to bring about miracles to testify to God. In fact, they have seen their leader crucified (as risen), they have been threatened and flogged (also miraculously released from prison). The truth is they now God/Jesus was greater than the earthly authority the Jewish leaders were working under. Their prayer shows that they understood and believed they were on the right side and they would be part of the final victory.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for your amazing love. Thank you for showing us that you work in our midst through sign and wonder. Thank you for giving people bold faith leading to action. Help me to be one of these people. I love you Lord. Amen.

17 “In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and billows of smoke.
20 The sun will be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.
21 And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
– Acts 2:17-22

A a Pentecostal believer, I have often heard it said that the charismatic experiences were only intended for the early Church. However, when one looks at the very first verses in the Word to specifically talk about these occurrences (and these verses come right after the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit) you see that they were experiences intended for the whole church age. I will be the first one to admit, many Pentecostal churches have taken these verses to far. They have made it an mandatory experience claiming you are less of a Christian or even not a Christian if you have not had it. It is just as un-Biblical to require all the speak in tongues or prophesy as it is to claim that no one should be doing it in our current times. In fact, we must remember and hold on the God’s promises that he will do these things in our midst for his glory.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the power of the Holy Spirit the various ways you chose to manifest yourself. In one instance it may be tongues or prophecy. The next instance it might be teaching or preaching. In the next it might be healing. Regardless of the way you choose to show us the reality of yourself, thank you for doing so. I love you Lord. Amen.

13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.

We don’t often understand what it means to fear the Lord. However, when we do come to understand that its meaning is related to being in awe (the room of awful – full of awe) we can understand a bit more. God is not asking us to be in a constant state of trembling. He is telling us we must understand his amazing power, grace. We must understand he hold everything – creation, life, death, etc. – in his hands. When we understand this it helps us to hate the evil that God hates. Our deep respect (fear and awe) of God places us in a position to truly respect his law and obey it. Think about it this way – those who reject God do not fear him and love evil. Those who love God fear him and attempt to live just, righteous and worthy lives.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the pearls of wisdom contained in your Proverbs. I know we often misunderstand what it means to fear you. Thank you for telling us what it really means in your Word. Help us to have this healthy fear and live by your ways. I love you Lord. Amen.

Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. – Exodus 32:2-6

Moses was on mount Sinai for what seemed like a long time to the people of Israel so they started to disobey the very commands of God. What is so amazing about this is that his absence was measured in days, not years like their slavery in Egypt. In only a very short period of time the people of Israel turned their back on the God who had brought them out of Egypt. Then they created a false god and attributed their escape for Egypt to this god. While we don’t tend to created real Golden Calf in our western culture, we do tend to forget what God has done for us and go do our own thing. We create our calf out of our job, car, family or some other worldly item/thing. We believe we don’t need to God who bought us out of slavery with the death of his one and only son. We are just fortunate that God will forgive us for our idol worship, just as he forgave the Israelites

Dear Heavenly Father,

While I have never bowed down to a golden calf, I have bowed down to my career. Forgive me. While I have never bowed down to a gold calf, I have bowed down to myself. Forgive me. Lord God Almighty, help me to always keep you in the forefront and myself in the back. I love you. Amen.

Warning Against Adultery

My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
listen well to my words of insight,

that you may maintain discretion
and your lips may preserve knowledge.

For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil;

but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.

Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.

She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths are crooked, but she knows it not.

Now then, my sons, listen to me;
do not turn aside from what I say.

Keep to a path far from her,
do not go near the door of her house,

lest you give your best strength to others
and your years to one who is cruel,

lest strangers feast on your wealth
and your toil enrich another man’s house.

At the end of your life you will groan,
when your flesh and body are spent.

You will say, “How I hated discipline!
How my heart spurned correction!

I would not obey my teachers
or listen to my instructors.

I have come to the brink of utter ruin
in the midst of the whole assembly.”

Drink water from your own cistern,
running water from your own well.

Should your springs overflow in the streets,
your streams of water in the public squares?

Let them be yours alone,
never to be shared with strangers.

May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.

A loving doe, a graceful deer´┐Ż?
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be captivated by her love.

Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress?
Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?

For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD,
and he examines all his paths.

The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him;
the cords of his sin hold him fast.

He will die for lack of discipline,
led astray by his own great folly.

Discipline – this is a word many do not like. We associate it with having to stop doing things we want to do. We believe it takes away our freedoms and liberties. However, we look at discipline this way because we are simply wrong. A truly disciplined person has real freedom. A truly disciplined person is not controlled by their primal urges (this can be sex, food, companionship and many more.) If you look at Proverbs 5 it talks about staying away fromadulteryy. There are many who think having sex with anyone they would like is a form of freedom, but after many years they learn it is only bondage. This is bondage that stops a person from having truly fulfilling relationships, simple pleasures and a life lacking constant worry. The last line of Proverbs 5 is most telling, “He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” How true this often is. Our own great folly (lack of discipline) has brought us scourges such as AIDS, obesity, generational poverty and many, many more.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Help my eyes to see and my ears to hear the truth when it comes to discipline. Help me to accept your discipline with a glad and contrite heart. Help me to serve you and love others and you love them. Thank you Father for your love. Amen.

Proverbs 4
Wisdom Is Supreme

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.

I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.

When I was a boy in my father’s house,
still tender, and an only child of my mother,

he taught me and said,
“Lay hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands and you will live.

Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or swerve from them.

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.

Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Esteem her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honor you.

She will set a garland of grace on your head
and present you with a crown of splendor.”

Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.

I guide you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.

When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.

Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evil men.

Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.

For they cannot sleep till they do evil;
they are robbed of slumber till they make someone fall.

They eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.

The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble.

My son, pay attention to what I say;
listen closely to my words.

Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;

for they are life to those who find them
and health to a man’s whole body.

Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

Put away perversity from your mouth;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.

Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.

Make level paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.

Do not swerve to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.

The true meaning of wisdom seems to be largely lacking in the world today. People seek after intelligence, knowledge, wealth, pleasures, but they don’t seem to seek after wisdom. It might be that wisdom is an elusive thing. It might be that it takes true work to gain wisdom. It probably is that true wisdom is a gift that can only come from God and many of us don’t want to turn to him to gain it. Yet, time after time, the world of God tells us to seek wisdom first and foremost. A wise person is able to keenly interpret and understand the world around them. A wise person is able to stay on the path toward God. The truth is wisdom would lead us to the only conclusion possible – Jesus Christ is the way, truth and life.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I ask that you grant me wisdom in all that I do as I serve you. I ask that you help me to be a person who truly seeks after you and the true wisdom you provide. Help me not to get caught up in the things of this world, the vanity of life, and the false purpose of self. I love you Lord. Amen.

Keep me safe, O God,
for in you I take refuge.

I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”

As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

The sorrows of those will increase
who run after other gods.
I will not pour out their libations of blood
or take up their names on my lips.

LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.

I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,

because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

– Psalm 16

As I read this Psalm, I am overwhelmed by the great and precious promises of God that are contained within it. It is truly a promise to be with us each and every day. It is a promise to watch over us and guide us. It is a promise to provide direction in the smallest decision. It is a promise that we will truly be happy and joy filled when we are following God with our whole hearts. Maybe this explains why those Christ-followers who materially have very little are often the most happy. They have learned to rely on God for their provision, joy and direction.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Help me to make this Psalm a part of my life. Help me to understand what it means to truly look to you for my all in all, my everything. I love you and know I can trust you. Thank you Lord. Amen.