Scripture reading for August 31st: Psalm 140-142 and Philippians 1
Key Scriptures: Philippians 1:27-30 “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the Gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
Paul was in prison and not sure whether he would live or die for the Gospel. He wrote to the church at Philippi to encourage them to stand firm in their faith and not be afraid. Faith in Christ often involves suffering for His sake. There is a spiritual conflict that comes with belonging to Him, but we can have great confidence in our final outcome.
Psalm 140:12-13 “I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy. Surely the righteous shall give thanks to Your Name; the upright shall dwell in Your Presence.”
Prayer: Lord, empower me today to stand firm in the conflict and suffering that comes to those who believe. Thank You for the encouragement of Your Word and past apostles and saints. Amen.
Scripture reading for January 16th: Genesis 45-47
Families and churches are prone to conflict! I know because I live in a family and have been a pastor for twenty-five years in three different churches. I have experienced conflict in family and church settings and sometimes been responsible for it myself! Sometimes conflict comes from misunderstanding and poor communication. Other times it comes from jealousy or envy. Sometimes it comes from sin and wrong-doing. Everybody wants to blame somebody else and arguments ensue about who was right or who to blame!
When Joseph revealed himself to his estranged brothers, they were astonished, speechless, and terrified! (Genesis 45:1-7) Joseph had to reassure them because he probably had to work through these same kinds of feelings himself. God had given him understanding of the greater purpose that was being worked out. “It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
Joseph sent them away to bring the rest of the family down to Egypt to save them during the next 5 years of famine. He warned them not to quarrel on the way! It doesn’t appear that repentance had truly taken place and Joseph sensed possible animosity. We can only take responsibility for our own sins and forgive others of theirs. When we do that, quarreling is greatly reduced and peace in the family can be re-established. God works out his purposes in our families and homes even amidst the conflict and sin so prevalent in our lives. Often it’s hard to see the big picture.
Jesus Christ was sent before us to save us! He saw God’s big picture and died for our sins. If we confess our sins and repent of them, he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all guilt and shame. But we may need many reminders to forgive ourselves, others, and let the old memories of failures fade away. May we be able to heed the ancient warning of Joseph and receive the blessing of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. “Don’t quarrel on the way!” (Genesis 45:24)
Scripture reading for September 20th: Galatians 5:13-26
Paul’s concern for the Galatians was that they might use their freedom from the law to indulge in the sinful nature! The way of Christ could be summed up in one short command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14) Living for the flesh would end in confusion, strife, and ultimate division.
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with one another, so that you do not do what you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Galatians 5:16-18) In order to live by the Spirit, you must have the gift of the Holy Spirit because you have repented of your sins and confessed Jesus Christ as Lord. (Acts 2:38) Prior to conversion, the Holy Spirit draws a person to Christ and convicts them of sin, righteousness and the coming judgment. (John 16:7-11) Following conversion, the Holy Spirit dwells in you to be your Counselor, testifying about Jesus and revealing His word. (John 15:26) When the Counselor leads you into truth, you still must choose to obey and follow. There will still be conflict between the Spirit and the sinful nature!
Paul lists some of the acts of the sinful nature to help these Galatians recognize the conflict. Sexual impurity, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred and jealousy all come from the flesh. Factions, drunkenness, and selfish ambitions are also on his list. Paul warned them that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of heaven! (Galatians 5:21)
Paul also listed the fruit that comes to the person who lives by the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-24) A consistent choice to live by the Holy Spirit produces fruit that is peaceful and sweet. The person whose life is marked by the Holy Spirit will be totally different than those in the sinful nature. The Spirit produces fruit that fulfills the law without human effort. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25) This should be our daily choice!
Scripture reading for June 21st: Acts 13:42-14:7
Even when their preaching got them expelled from the region, the missionaries left with joy knowing that the Lord was using them to bring light into the darkness! Those who were usually behind the persecution were the religious Jews who were threatened by the message and its power to draw people.
Paul and Silas were invited back to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. During the week, their message stirred up the people and the whole city was on hand to hear them again. (Acts 13:44-45) This made the Jews who ruled the synagogue jealous and they talked abusively about the missionaries. “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. 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.”” (Acts 13:46-47)
The Gentiles who heard this word of rebuke, gladly believed and were saved. The word of the Lord spread quickly throughout the whole region but the Jews were upset and pushed back against it. “But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So they shook the dust from their feet in protest against them and went to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 13:50-52)
The disciples had been taught by Jesus how to respond–shake the dust off as a witness against these people! (Matthew 10:14-15) Jesus had promised that it would be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town or people. Jesus sent his disciples out as sheep among the wolves and they needed to be shrewd and know that not everyone would accept their message! It would offend some.
Even as they were expelled, a fullness of joy and the Holy Spirit marked these followers. It is a blessing to be used by God for the purpose of bringing eternal life to those who will be saved! There is no joy quite like it! Have you experienced this joy for yourself? Why not ask the Lord for opportunity today?
Scripture reading for October 10th: Matthew 16-19
The Pharisees and Sadducees are two groups of religious people that were often in conflict with Jesus. They often came to Jesus to test Him and to try to make themselves look good by discrediting Him. (Matthew 16:1-4) One day, they came asking Jesus for a sign from heaven to confirm that He was Messiah. Jesus had just fed the 5000 with the loaves and fishes and had been doing many other miracles. (Matthew 14:16-21) He had offended the Pharisees earlier by warning the people about the hypocrisy of those religious leaders. He called them blind guides that if someone would follow them, they would both fall into a pit! (Matthew 15:12-14) Now they were testing Him again!
Jesus’ response was to rebuke them and leave them quickly. He told them that a wicked and adulterous generation would seek a sign. They would only be given the sign of Jonah, the prophet. He then warned his followers to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees. They didn’t understand. Jesus explained that the yeast was their teaching that would lead them and others away from the truth He was sharing.
They then traveled to Caesarea Philippi, an area at the mouth of the Jordan River at the foot of Mount Herman. There Jesus asked His disciples two key questions. Jesus asked them, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13) They told him various answers that were common among the people of that day. Jesus then asked them the most important question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) Simon Peter immediately answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Jesus commended him for his answer. He had come to the right conclusion, but not by man’s opinion or his own reasoning and mental ability. The Father had revealed this truth to him!
How have you answered Jesus’ question? What conclusion have you come to regarding the identity of Jesus Christ? Is He someone who must show you one more “sign” before you will believe? Are you skeptical that He is the Son of God? Do you just feel that He is a prophet sent from God or someone famous who has come back from the dead? Do people’s opinions shape your thoughts on Jesus Christ? All of these responses were present when Jesus walked the earth and was doing miraculous signs. Human reasoning and visual proof are well and good, but truth comes by revelation from God the Father. Revelation comes when we are humble and teachable enough to believe. Faith is the key ingredient, and that is a gift from God! (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Jesus concluded his remarks to Peter and the disciples after this discussion with a promise to build His church on ‘this rock’ and told them that the gates of hell would not prevail against that church. The “rock” was Peter’s confession of who Christ was, not Peter himself. Jesus is still building His church on that rock! It is a secure foundation for eternal life!
Scripture reading for January 16th: Genesis 45-47
Families and churches are sometimes prone to conflict! I know because I live in a family, have attended churches for many years, and have pastored for twenty years in three different churches. I have experienced conflict in family and church settings and sometimes been responsible for it myself. Sometimes conflict comes from misunderstanding and poor communication. Other times it comes from jealousy or envy. Sometimes it comes from sin and wrong-doing. Everybody wants to blame somebody else and arguments ensue about who is at fault! Have you experienced that to?
In our reading today, Joseph revealed himself to his brothers after a series of encounters with them. The brothers still had guilt from what they did and when Joseph revealed himself to them, they were astonished, speechless, and terrified! (Genesis 45:1-7) Joseph had to reassure them that it was truly him. He understood their feelings. He had probably had to work through these same kinds of feelings himself over the years. God gave him understanding of the greater purpose that was being worked out. Joseph shares this with his brothers to encourage them. “It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”
As Joseph sent them away to bring Israel and the rest of the family down to Egypt to save them during the next 5 years of famine, he warned them not to quarrel on the way! It doesn’t appear that repentance had yet taken place. Feelings of guilt and shame are no longer able to control us when we truly repent. He forgives and forgets our sins. (Psalm 103:11-12) Blaming others never helps either. We can only take responsibility for our own sins and forgive others of theirs. When we do that, quarreling is greatly reduced and peace in the family results. God is working out his purposes in our families and homes even amidst the conflict and sin so prevalent in our lives. Often it’s hard to see the big picture.
Jesus Christ was sent before us to save us! He saw God’s big picture and died for our sins. If we confess our sins and repent of them, he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all guilt and shame. He came to bring peace in our own hearts and he says that peacemakers are blessed! (Matthew 5:9) May we be able to heed the ancient warning of Joseph and receive the blessing of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. “Don’t quarrel on the way!” (Genesis 45:24)