Daily Devotional

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Got Faith? part 2

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Job 13:15 “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him.”  

Job was in need of a miracle because his health was a threat to his life. But in the midst of his crying out to God, he says, “Even if he doesn’t come to my aid in the way I think He should, I will still put my hope in Him.” We may need something miraculous to happen from time to time, not for the sake of solidifying our faith, but because we are facing something that is going to take a miracle. In the believer’s case, miracles come because of our faith. In the case of non-believers, miracles are used to bring them to a point to faith. So rather than saying, “God, I need a miracle,” I believe we should be saying, “God, I need faith for this situation.”  

So, what does it take to gain faith? I believe the Bible teaches that there are two primary ways for faith to grow within us. One way is through the hearing of God’s Word. The second way is through prayer. The book of Romans says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word” Romans 10:17. The lame man, who was probably hearing the Gospel for the first time in his life, was indeed hearing the Word of God being preached.

It’s in those settings when God can speak to us and quicken our ability to believe. Hebrew 4:12 “For the Word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit.” God’s Word is alive and it is sharp. The Bible is not a dead, outdated book. It can divide the soul and spirit.

What I believe that means is the Word of God has the ability to separate your fleshly, carnal, soul-ish, man from your spirit man. Let me share my friend’s account of coming to faith in Jesus: “On January 28, 1973 I heard the Gospel for the very first time. I don’t mean that literally, in that I had heard that Jesus died on the cross for my sins many times. I attended church as a child, but I never understood what any of that meant. Finally, after having been witnessed to, I decided that maybe there was something to what I was hearing and I decided to go to church. I couldn’t tell you what the preacher preached that day, but I do know that something happened within me when I heard the Word of God and at the end of the service; I walked the isle and surrendered my life to Christ in a prayer of repentance, at the altar.” 

Apparently, my friend gained enough faith for his salvation that day through the hearing of God’s Word. And once you have faith, you have the thing you are believing God for.   

Paul looked at the lame man and saw that he had faith to be healed – and he was. As he was hearing the Word of God, it quickened, or brought life to, his spirit-man and separated it from the carnal-man that was holding him back from what God had for him.

1 Corinthians 1:21 “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” God chose the hearing/preaching/ reading/ of God’s Word as a means of faith unto salvation. We, humans do not know how to come to God on our own, because we believe in own wisdom, so God said in essence, “If you can’t find it your way, you’ll have to find it My way. And My way is through the hearing of God's Word.”

Continued tomorrow

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Got Faith? part 1

Monday, August 15, 2022

A couple weeks ago we looked into Acts chapter 13, looking specifically at Paul and Barnabas and how they were serving God’s purpose, and the success they were having in Iconium. This week we will be looking into Acts chapter 14. We will pick up at the same place: Paul and Barnabas are still in Iconium preaching and performing miracles. They were so successful the local people wanted to worship them as gods.  

Isn’t it interesting to see the fickleness of mankind? All in the same day, they went from wanting to worship these men as gods to stoning them. Because of the miracles and wonders Paul and Barnabas were doing in their midst, they thought they were worthy of worship. But when some opposition rose up, they quickly abandoned the idea that they were gods and tried to kill them. (Sounds similar to Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and how they went from worshipping Jesus on Palm Sunday, to crucifying Him just a few days later, doesn't it?)  

Two things stood out to me as I was studying for this week's devotional from Acts 14. Verse 2 talks about how some of the Jews did not listen to the message Paul was bringing and they began to stir up the people. Verse 3 is in response to that. 

Acts 14:3 “Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands.” The verse begins with the word "therefore." In other words, because of what those in opposition were doing, Paul and Barnabas determined to hunker down, grit their teeth, and dig their heels in, and not give up the battle. They began to speak even more boldly. But in order to do that, they needed faith. That is basically what it means when it says, “with reliance upon the Lord.” Reliance upon the Lord, is another way of saying, by faith they determined to speak with even more boldness.  

Not only do I want to talk about the issue of faith this week, but I want to challenge us to invest in our faith.

As we continue reading in Chapter 14, we come to a lame man, who had enough faith to be healed. Acts 14:8-9 “And at Lystra there was sitting a certain man, without strength in his feet, lame from his mother's womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze upon him, and had seen that he had faith to be made well…” He had faith to be made well.

It seems that whenever a person had enough faith, they gained the thing they were seeking. God was using Paul and Barnabas as vessels of the Spirit of God to perform miracles and wonders in an effort to convince those who were hearing the Gospel of its truth and power.

Here is what I want to propose: faith is for believers; miracles are for unbelievers. As a believer, have you ever been faced with a situation where you say, “God, I need a miracle here!” I wonder if we should really be saying, “God, I need faith for this situation!” Miracles seem to be for those who lack faith. Believers don't need miracles in the sense that they already believe. Believers do not need to challenge God to prove Himself with a miracle, because they already believe. And I might add, we will continue to believe, even if we don’t get the miracle we are looking for.

Continued tomorrow

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Good vs Evil, part 5

Friday, August 12, 2022

Look at Peter's response to the rich young ruler’s dilemma (remember the rich young ruler went away sad because he had a lot of riches and didn’t want to give them up). Luke 18:28 “Peter said, ‘Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.’” We've left everything for You, Jesus! We even left our homes and family for You! 

Luke 18:29 “And He said to them, ‘Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.’” Jesus told Peter not to worry. Those who have given up life’s closest relationships, greatest responsibilities, and strongest commitments to follow Jesus have a reward coming. The family of believers will be more important, more numerous, and more meaningful than a follower’s family of origin. God has a reward for those who see Jesus as even more important than their earthly relationships. 

When I was first saved, I was so taken up with Jesus that the last thing I wanted to do was miss an opportunity to worship Him. Life was no longer about the good things I was doing. It was now all about Jesus. It literally was all about Sundays. The truth is, we really don’t give up anything, because whatever we give up – Jesus gives back to us, multiplied over and over. 

Verse 30 tells us that there are two parts to this reward. The first part is the blessings that come in this life and the second part of the disciples’ reward is eternal life. So there is a quality of life beginning here on earth with Jesus as Lord and extending through to the eternal Kingdom.

Do you remember the Pharisee who said, I thank God I’m not like this tax collector. I fast, I pray, I tithe. I do good things; this tax collector is not liked by anybody. He does bad things.” The Pharisee was boasting of the good things he does and yet the tax collector simply humbled himself in the presence of the Lord. He didn’t make any claims of goodness, he didn’t boast of his accomplishments. He merely asked for mercy. Luke 18:13 “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’”

This answers the rich young ruler’s question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Give yourself away. What’s C.S. Lewis’ famous statement about humility? “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking about yourself less.” CS Lewis. The rich young ruler could not stop thinking about himself; therefore he could not give away the things that defined who he was.

When we focus on ourselves then we put most of our hopes on our own goodness. Luke 18:14 “I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” The Pharisee who boasted of his own goodness did not go to his house justified but the humble man did. It’s not about our goodness; it’s about our humility. It’s thinking more about Jesus than us. Can you imagine the problems we could get over in life, if we stopped thinking so much about us and just focus on Jesus!  END

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Good vs Evil, part 4

Thursday, August 11, 2022

As we continued to talk, my friend went on to say, The very fact that I remembered the advice my grandmother gave our family spoke to this issue. She was illuminating Christ even though we thought she didn’t understand. In reality, we were blind to spiritual truths. She spoke very clear, just like Jesus did to his disciples, but the truth of what she was saying was hidden from us. The truth of the Gospel had not yet been revealed to us. We could not comprehend the spiritual truths.”        

The whole issue of good vs evil is what the rich young ruler was also struggling with. Luke 18:18-20 "A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’”

This almost sounds like bad theology on Jesus’ part, doesn't it? The young ruler asked Jesus about getting saved and Jesus tells him to obey the law. So was Jesus preaching a gospel of works? He tells him to obey the commandments as His response to the ruler’s inquiry of how to inherit eternal life. He didn’t tell him he had to surrender his heart to Him – or did He? 

When the ruler tells Jesus that he has already obeyed the commandments Jesus gives him some further advice. Luke 18:22 “When Jesus heard this, He said to him, ’One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ 23 But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”

So was Jesus telling him that he had to give his money away before he could be saved? I don’t believe that was it at all. That would be contrary to salvation by grace. Jesus was in essence saying, “The things we treasure the most must be given up if we are going to inherit salvation.” The rich young ruler’s money was the essence of his being. Basically Jesus was telling him to give away the thing he treasured the most, his money, which represented his heart. Where your treasure is – there will your heart be.” The only way to inherit eternal life is through giving God your heart, and your heart is represented by the loves of your life. 

Once again quoting my friend, My grandma told us to get rid of our race car because it was not right to put it before God. You’d have to understand our situation a little better to grasp what that meant. In our little town my dad’s business was well known. Our race car was well known. We were known as the German car guys. He was a BMW dealer but Volkswagens were our main business. That’s why he named his business the Old Volks Home. To tell us to get rid of our race car was the same as asking us to give away our heart, our identity.

So if I was the one going to Jesus asking what I must do to inherit eternal life he might have said to me, “sell your race car,” and I would have gone away sad because that car was my whole world. That race car was my heart. However, that is what happened. Shortly after I was saved, I told my family that I would not be racing anymore because the races were always on Sundays, and Sunday was the day, we worshipped the Lord.

Continued tomorrow

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Good vs Evil, part 3

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The term "enabler" fits here. Many times our good intentions enable a person’s lost condition.

I remember Rees Howell's testimony of how he got saved. He was from the country of Wales, but had traveled to America for a visit. While here he got deathly ill. As he was lying on a hospital bed, nearly dead, he surrendered his life to Christ. 

In retrospect, he said that if he had not traveled to America, he doubts that he would ever have surrendered his life to Christ. because his mom (back in the UK) would have never allowed him to suffer to the point of surrender. He said that out of her heart of mercy, she would have made him as comfortable as possible and he would never have been forced to come to grips with the condition of his soul. All mercy (100% mercy, 24/7) corrupts.    

So from that perspective, there are things that may happen to us that we might consider evil. But if they bring us to a deeper relationship with Christ, they are actually good. The Bible says that correcting a child is good for them because of what it keeps them from later in life. I realize that we live in a society where some people believe they have better insight into raising their children than God our Creator has, but that’s because they just don’t fully trust God, and subsequently could be leading their own children down the wrong path by not submitting to His wisdom. In that case their “good alternative action” might be considered evil.

The bottom line is this: this life is not the bottom line. The next life is the bottom line - and if we do anything to keep people from Christ in this life, then they will pay a great price in the next life. 

Again, quoting my pastor friend, I remember a long time ago (1971-72) my brother Doug, with my dad’s help, built a racecar. When it was finished we would take it to various race tracks around our region, (South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and Colorado). I remember taking it to the eastern side of South Dakota to a big track in the Sioux Falls area. My Grandparents lived about two hours away from the track so we spent the night with them and then drove to the track the next day, Sunday.

I was very surprised when my Grandmother expressed her disapproval of us going to the race on Sunday. She said that it was not good for us to put racing before God. We then explained to our “un-enlightened” Grandmother that this race car has brought our family together. We were all together as a family, my mom, my dad, my brothers, (you would have to have understood my past for this to make sense. We were not a close family prior to that. We didn’t do things together at all.) When we left the next day and were traveling to the track – we all commented on how Grandma just didn’t understand what this racecar was doing to help our family. In our estimation of things – family being together was good. But in my born-again Grandma’s estimation, putting family before God is evil, because just being close as a family is not going to get anyone to heaven.

So our definition of good is "anything that illumines Christ;" while "evil" is "that which diminishes the light of Christ." My friend’s family was still thinking goodness and a high quality of life were all that was needed to please God. The problem is that "there is no one good except God." My friend went on to say, We were much like the Pharisees. We were comparing ourselves to others and feeling pretty proud of the fact that as a family we were growing close to each other. We were not like those families who did nothing together, who didn’t really love each other, or didn’t want to be with each other. We were good!”  

Luke 18:31, 34 “Then He (Jesus) Then He (Jesus) took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished…’ 34 But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said."

Continued tomorrow

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Good vs Evil, part 2

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

The Pharisee stated the three areas of sacrifice in the New Testament:

  1. First of all he was praying. That’s the first area of sacrifice. However, he was praying and boasting about himself, so that diminishes the whole purpose of prayer.
  2. Then he talked about how often he fasts. That is the second area of sacrifice. And when you fast, just to be seen of men, then there is very little spiritual value in what you are doing. 
  3. He then brags of his tithing, which is the third area - but he talks of it as though he should be looked upon with favor for returning to God a portion of the money God gave him in the first place. Isn’t it interesting how we can brag about how much of God’s money we give back to him?!

Our human nature often seeks approval for doing the very things necessary for our spiritual existence. We would like just a little recognition of how much we pray, fast, and give - yet without doing those things, we would die spiritually. It’s almost like wanting recognition for the fact that we eat and sleep every day. “Hey Lord, I ate again today and last night I slept. That should be worth something shouldn’t it?!” Think of the Pharisees: they did good things – but did that make them good?  

Consider what Paul said about himself in Philippians 3:4-6, “If anyone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” Paul the Apostle followed the law to the letter. He was faultless in legalistic righteousness. His life was filled with good works – but did that make him good? No it didn’t! If it had, then he would not have needed the Damascus road experience. Paul needed to surrender his life to Christ before any of his righteous acts would be considered good. 

So here is my question: if good works do not make us good, what are we? The answer to that is evil. Without Christ in us, our state or condition is still that of fallen, evil man. Even a person whose life is filled with good works can be evil – if their actions do nothing to lead others to Christ. There are many parents who are good at what they do – they feed their families, they shelter them, they provide for them. Yet if they are not leading their own family to a deeper relationship with Christ then all of their good works will be counted as evil.

This kind of evil is not as obvious as other kinds. It’s not the same as the person who deliberately has the intention of harming someone. Everyone understands that kind of evil – what I am talking about is that of not doing the good we should do. Good works also have the potential of keeping people in their sins if indeed the good that we do makes a person feel comfortable in their lost condition.  

So, by this definition, “good” is anything that illuminates Christ and “evil” is anything that diminishes the light of Christ. So you could have the most perfect parents who are adamant about keeping the mores of our culture, but whose every action is evil in God’s eyes because they do nothing to enlighten their children to the love of Christ – even though they are loving and kind themselves.

Continued tomorrow

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Good vs Evil part 1

Monday August 8, 2022

Over the course of this week’s study we are going to be keying in on a few different verses from Luke 18, with verse 19 as our primary text.

(Please note: I will be quoting a pastor/friend of mine a lot during this study because he grew up in a different faith tradition than me. Because of that, he struggled with coming to faith. You will see his remarks/stories in quotes and italicized font as you read through the study.)

Luke 18:19 “‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone.’” No one is good except God alone... therefore, anything that is contrary to the nature of God would be considered evil. This is why the world struggles so much with the Word of God. If the Word of God is truth (and we believe it is) – then anything contrary to God’s Word is, in effect, evil. 

I was visiting with a pastor friend a while back and we were talking about this study. He said this: That is exactly what confused me so much when I was in the process of getting saved. My oldest brother started talking to me about the fact that he had gotten saved. My first reaction to that was, of course you’re saved; you are a good person. He went on to explain that he had to earn that salvation is not based on a person’s goodness and that “good people” are not necessarily on their way to heaven.

Right there is where misunderstanding can come in. Our definition of good and God’s definition of good might be totally different. When we call a person good... I wonder what God might call them, especially since Jesus Himself said “No one is good except God.” If that is the case, then you can see how off-base we can be when we try to define what good is. 

This study is titled Good vs Evil. I think one of the best ways to define evil is by first defining good: God is good. Everything opposite of God is evil.  

My pastor friend went on to say, I came from a main line church that assumed a lot about a person’s soul. They did not preach that a person had to be born-again in order to go to heaven. They preached a lot about good works and made you feel that if you were a part of their church you were on your way to heaven without any kind of commitment to the Lord. It was all based on man’s perception of goodness. Subsequently, I had the hardest time believing that the people in my church were not on their way to heaven because they seemed like such good people. And probably from man’s perspective they were good. They didn’t do bad things – they had nice families – they worked hard, etc. etc. But were they really good, and could their goodness get them to heaven?    

I think one of the mistakes we tend to make is that we think doing good things is the same as “being good.” The state of God is that He is good. The state of unregenerate man is that we are fallen. So if an unregenerate person does good things, is that where their regeneration comes from? Does that change their state of being?  

The Pharisees of the New Testament era were staking their salvation on the good things they did. Luke 18:11-12 “The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’”

Most of us pastors would love to have a church full of people who fast two times a week, pray a lot, and tithe on their income! Or would we? Pastors can have wrong motives, too. If all I want is a congregation of people who pay their tithes - regardless of where they are spiritually – then my motives would be all wrong.

Continued tomorrow