Mercy triumphs over judgment!

Scripture reading for March 31st: James 2, Psalm 65, Proverbs 3

James 2: 8-13 “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For He Who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

James was addressing the sin of partiality in the church he pastored. He pointed his ‘beloved brothers’ to the ‘royal law’ from Scripture: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When we show partiality, we are in a sense judging one person better than another, or more worthy of respect than another. This isn’t love like God our Father shows us. He is not partial with any of His ‘beloved brothers’. If we are born again and have God’s Seed, (His Word) in us, making us doers of His Word and not just deceived hearers, we will show mercy because we know we need mercy from God ourselves. We have received His mercy and now want to share it. We cease judging and showing partiality and God’s mercy triumphs! Amen!

Psalm 65:9-10 “You visit the earth and water it; You greatly enrich it; the river of God is full of water; You provide their grain, for so you have prepared it. You water its furrows abundantly, settling its ridges, softening it with showers, and blessing its growth.”

Prayer: Father, I rejoice today in Your great mercy and loving kindness towards me and my family. You have sent the river of Your Love and watered us, planting the Seed of Your Word in our hearts and bringing a harvest! Help me by the Holy Spirit to walk daily in the perfect law of liberty–loving You fully and loving my neighbor as myself! Forgive me for showing any partiality or judging others.

Proverbs 3:3-4 “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.”

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“My beloved brothers (and sisters)”

Scripture reading for March 30th: James 1, Psalm 64, Proverbs 2

James 1:19-22 “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the Word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets, but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

Humility, obedience, and integrity are marks of those who follow Jesus Christ and love His Word. James was the half-brother of Jesus and was chosen to be the pastor of the Jerusalem church. He addressed the believers as ‘my beloved brothers’, a sign of humble respect. He shared godly instruction with the church that is written down for us today as well. Hearing requires focus and a quiet and calm spirit. Anger tends to hinder our ability to hear. As we receive God’s Word, faith comes by hearing. We must humbly listen in order to apply and obey. James likens our hearing as looking into a mirror and then forgetting what we look like. We must concentrate intently with a quiet spirit and receive the Word as a seed that can find good soil and grow, producing corresponding actions. True faith always produces good works.

Psalm 64:10 “Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord and take refuge in Him! Let all the upright in heart exult!”

Prayer: Holy Father, I rejoice in the Word of Truth You have given to Your ‘beloved’ people. Help me to hear and receive Your Word like seed. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to understand and apply all Your Truth to my life. Forgive me when I have looked into Your Word like that mirror, and then immediately forgot what You had said about my identity and new character in Your Son Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 2:21-22 “For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.”

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Restore with gentleness!

Scripture reading for March 29th: Galatians 6, Psalm 63, Proverbs 1

Galatians 6: 1-5 “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.”

Paul had just warned the Galatian church about the works of the flesh and that those who are involved in those works will not inherit the kingdom of God. He also had warned these believers about going back under the law and trying to work for their salvation. Those caught in these sins must be dealt with in love and gentleness. Walking in the Spirit means we do everything in love. We bear one another’s burdens of weakness and even sin to God in prayer for our brothers and sisters. We should first examine ourselves to be sure we are not operating in sin ourselves or in pride or a haughty spirit instead of the Holy Spirit. We will all have to answer before God for our attitudes and actions!

Psalm 63:3-4 “Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You. So I will bless You as long as I live; in Your Name I will lift up my hands.”

Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your knowledge and instruction for Your children. Thank You for sharing this knowledge through the Word of God. Help me with this instruction on restoring brothers and sisters caught in sin and transgression or following the lies of our enemy Satan. Keep me from pride and deception in my own heart. I desire to be innocent of great transgression when You judge.

Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

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Walking by the Spirit in Freedom!

Scripture reading for March 28th: Galatians 5, Psalm 62, Proverbs 31

Galatians 5: 13-18 “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use you freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

Paul was writing to Jewish believers who were thinking of returning to Judaism and Jewish traditions. He exhorted them to continue to live in freedom by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus and the Father. He exhibits the fruits of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. The Holy Spirit lives in us and guides us into Truth and away from the deeds of the flesh–sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like. Those led by the Holy Spirit are no longer under the law but under the Spirit of love, “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself!” If we live in love, we are free indeed!

Psalm 62:11-12 “Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to You, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For You will render to a man according to his work.”

Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your power found in Your Word and Your steadfast love. Baptize me afresh in Your love that I might serve and love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and that I might love my neighbor as myself. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit and lead and guide my hands, my steps, and my lips to do Your will and works and bring glory to Your Holy Name! Amen!

Proverbs 31:30-31 “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”

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“Abba! Father!”: the cry of God’s Son

Scripture reading for March 27th: Galatians 4, Psalm 61, Proverbs 30

Galatians 4:3-7 “In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has 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 an heir through God.”

Paul, although a pious Jew, recognized that as a young child he was in slavery to the elementary principles of this world system. That is how all humans are born the first time. But at just the right time in the timing of God our Father, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ into the world. He was born of a woman and grew up under the law as a Jew. He perfectly kept God’s law as an obedient Son. His purpose was to redeem all men and women and to free them from slavery to their flesh and the law by a promise of eternal life and forgiveness of sins through His sinless sacrifice on the cross. All who would believe the promise would receive the Gift of the Father, the Holy Spirit, Who would cry “Abba! Father!” in our heart.

Psalm 61:4-5 “Let me dwell in Your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of Your wings! (Selah) For You, O God, have heard my vows; You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your Name.”

Prayer: Abba! Father! Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit I now can understand Your Word and plans. I know God as my “Abba”–Daddy. You have given me an inheritance of a dwelling place in Your eternal kingdom and full right of sonship. I trust every Word of my Father as Truth and seek to live a life that pleases You by faith in that Word. Amen!

Proverbs 30:5-6 “Every Word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His Words, lest He rebuke you and you be found a liar.”

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Sons (and daughters) of God!

Scripture reading for March 24th: Galatians 3, Psalm 60, Proverbs 29

Galatians 3:24-29 “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”

Paul likened the law of God to a guardian that watched over God’s people until faith in Christ Jesus was revealed. Legally, younger children were under their parent’s guardianship or a guardian was appointed for them if they had no parents. This guardianship was to instruct them and protect them until they reached the age of adulthood and could receive their inheritance. When Jesus Christ came, the promised “Offspring” of Abraham, through which all nations would be blessed, the law was no longer over God’s people as a guardian. Now faith in Christ brought adoption as full sons (and daughters) of God. All who believed on Him would become heirs of eternal life by faith just like Abraham! Hallelujah!

Psalm 60:4-5 “You have set up a banner for those who fear You, that they may flee to it from the bow. That Your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by Your Right Hand and answer us!”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, today I rejoice in Your great love and perfect sacrifice for me! Thank You for the blessing of righteousness and adoption into God’s forever family! Thank You that this promise is for all nations, sexes, and every man-made social status. I have been baptized into Christ Jesus and gladly ‘put Him on’ in joyful thanksgiving! You have answered our deepest need of salvation and everlasting life!

Proverbs 29:25 “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

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Only faith and grace can truly justify!

Scripture reading for March 23rd: Galatians 2, Psalm 59, Proverbs 28

Galatians 2:15-16, 20-21 “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law by through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. . . .I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”

Paul had been a zealous Jew like many in the church at Galatia. He worked hard at keeping the law and had sought to imprison and harm those who preached the Gospel of God’s grace through faith. After a face to face meeting with the resurrected Jesus, Paul was converted and then spent time in the desert learning from Jesus the truths of the Gospel message. The works of the law could only expose sin, not bring the needed change and produce righteousness. Only our humble confession of our sins and appealing to Jesus Christ for mercy through His sacrifice on the cross obtains for us the gift of His righteousness. His mercy through faith produces what all our works cannot: justification and righteousness! That makes us sing for joy in true freedom!

Psalm 59: 16 “But I will sing of Your strength; I will sing aloud of Your steadfast love in the morning. For You have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.”

Prayer: Father God, thank You for saving me through Your Son’s sacrifice! I identify with Christ and His cross as my only hope of true righteousness and eternal life. I have been born again through faith in His blood and His resurrection to life! Through confession of my sins and forsaking them I have obtained mercy and the joy of living in God’s eternal covenant of love!

Proverbs 28: 13 “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

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Set apart to preach!

Scripture reading for March 22nd: Galatians 1, Psalm 58, Proverbs 27

Galatians 1: 11-16 “For I would have you know, brothers, that the Gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when He Who had set me apart before I was born, and Who called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, . . .”

Paul had a unique encounter with the risen Christ. He learned the Gospel, not from men, but from Christ Himself. He described it as a ‘revelation of Jesus Christ.’ Paul had persecuted the church, imprisoning those who followed Jesus and he even stood in agreement with their death in the case of Stephen. He felt that he was doing God a favor in his zeal for the traditions of Judaism. But Jesus appeared to him, and revealed His calling and the purpose of his life. Jesus set him apart–before birth! Jesus called him by His amazing grace, offering him forgiveness of sins and showing him eternal life. Jesus sent Paul to preach to the Gentiles and confirmed the Word with signs and power. Ask our Lord to confirm your calling and His plan for your life today. Jesus is our great reward!

Psalm 58:10-11 “The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God Who judges on earth.”

Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your calling and setting me apart to preach Your Gospel. Thank You for those, like Paul, that spoke truth into my life and lived in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank You for the trials and testing that have deepened my faith and trust in Your love and goodness. Empower me today to fulfill Your will and purposes for my life and in those to whom you send me.

Proverbs 27:21 “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise.”

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The sacrifices of praise and generosity

Scripture reading for March 21st: Hebrews 13, Psalm 57, Proverbs 26

Hebrews 13: 13-17 “Therefore let us go to Him, outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His Name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”

In Jesus Christ, all blood sacrifice is fully complete to atone or cover all our sins and that of all sinners. But those who are redeemed have other sacrifices that we can make. These include the continuously thankful heart that flows out of our lips with praise for our generous God in providing Jesus Christ. God has prepared good works and told us to be generous and kind, reflecting His heart of love and compassion to all mankind. These should be given like a sacrifice with joy and thankfulness to God, Who is to receive all glory in the earth and in heaven. When we live a life of worship and praise, it brings us joy and God pleasure because His covenant love is reflected to a lost world and wins souls. Leaders in the church watch over each believer to encourage them in these sacrifices and will give account.

Psalm 57:10-11 “For Your steadfast love is great to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth!”

Prayer: Father God, I thank You and praise You today for Your steadfast love and faithfulness to me and all peoples. Thank You for the leaders in Your family that watch over me and those that I have been privileged to watch over. Help me to be continually joyful and thankful, reflecting Your great love and faithfulness to those I serve and walk through this wilderness with. Let Your glory be over all the earth.

Proverbs 26:27 “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.”

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Joy and endurance!

Scripture reading for March 20th: Hebrews 12, Psalm 56, Proverbs 25

Hebrews 12:1-4 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him Who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”

Jesus on the cross was the example used by the writer of Hebrews for the believers he was writing to encourage. Many were discouraged because of opposition and persecution and were thinking about going back to Judaism. Jesus’ was motivated by His joy. It was a vision of God’s plan to save sinners through His obedience and willingness to freely give His life and blood to purchase freedom. This joy helped Jesus to endure the cross and suffer through the mockery and shame of crucifixion, a truly painful and humiliating experience. He trusted in God the Father and obeyed, even through his excruciating suffering. He triumphed over death and the grave and lives in eternal joy!

Psalm 56:3-4 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You. In God, Whose Word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”

Prayer: Father God, today I consider Jesus, the Author and Perfector of my faith. As I ponder the suffering He endured for me, I am ashamed of my own weariness and failure to successfully struggle against sin. Fill me with the joy of our Lord, Who is my strength. His joy is to see all sinners saved from sin’s penalty and power and enjoying a place in God’s forever family! Empower me to spread the Word!

Proverbs 25:23 “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

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