Scripture reading for June 30th: Luke 3, Psalm 130, Proverbs 6
Luke 3:15-18 “As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, John answered them all saying, “I baptize you with water, but He Who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of Whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, to clear the threshing floor and to gather the wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” So with many other exhortations he preached Good News to the people.”
John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, created a stir among the people and religious authorities. His preaching called people to repentance and to baptism or washing of filth in expectation of the coming Messiah. This Messiah, according to John, would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. He would come to bring in the harvest of souls from the earth, symbolized by a winnowing fork, a tool that was used to harvest the wheat. The wheat would then be beaten on the threshing floor to remove the chaff. The Messiah would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire, cleansing all sin and creating a new life. Sins would not only be forgiven, but consumed completely because Christ paid our penalty for sin. This message was “Good News” for sinners who were humble enough to repent!
Psalm 130:3-4 “If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared.”
Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your great mercy in sending Your Son to take the fire of judgment for broken law on our behalf on Calvary’s cross. Thank You for Jesus Christ, our Messiah, providing us with an inner baptism of the Holy Spirit and cleansing us with Holy Fire from Your altar of mercy. But for Your mercy, we would be consumed in the fire of judgment as chaff instead of gathered into Your Barn!
Proverbs 6:27-29 “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished.”
Scripture reading for June 9th: Colossians 3
Key Scriptures: Colossians 3:12-16 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Paul simply stated that God’s love flowing through His Body, the Church, would bind together the various members of His Church in “perfect harmony.” It is the character of Jesus Christ that embodies ‘perfect love.’ When we repent, we ‘take off’ the old man and ‘put on’ the new man. This includes forgiving one another of past issues. We must forgive as the Lord Jesus has forgiven us. We replace our complaining with thankfulness for God’s mercy toward us and for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are also being transformed into Christ’s likeness. There is no room for offense and bitterness where the peace of Christ and Word of Christ dwells in our hearts. Instead we sing psalms and spiritual songs of worship to our Lord.
Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, I sometimes struggle with forgiving others in Your body who have wronged me or the church. Fill me with Your love and Word and thankfulness for Your mercy so I might live fully in Your perfect harmony with all believers. Let the world believe the Father has sent Jesus through my life of unity and practicing harmony.
John 17:20-21 “I do not ask for these only but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”
Scripture reading for February 11th: Romans 3
Key Scriptures: Romans 3:21-26 “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, Whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins. It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
God’s amazing wisdom and grace for righteousness was made available to Jew and Gentile. Although they were all sinners under God’s wrath, God provided redemption through His Son’s blood to all who would believe on Jesus Christ. God demonstrated his righteousness and divine forbearance-patience in delaying justified judgment–by justifying those who came to faith in Jesus. The Jews had the Law and Prophets that bore witness to God’s righteousness. They still could not keep it by their works. The Gentiles had their conscience where God’s Law was written and nature that declared God’s power and authority but they could not earn righteousness. But God gave freely to all who believe in Jesus the free gift of His grace!
Psalm 103:2-4 “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, Who forgives all your iniquity, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy. . .”
Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for the covering of Your blood over my sins and Your patience with me and other sinners. Give me grace today to patiently declare Your righteousness and amazing grace through Jesus to those You send me to.
Romans 3:10-12 “as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”” (Psalm 14:1-3)
Scripture reading for September 10th: Proverbs 12-14, Colossians 3
Key Scriptures: Colossians 3:12-15 “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”
Learning and living go together in our walk with Jesus Christ. As we follow Jesus, His example is to guide our conduct and His Holy Spirit is to fill us with the fruit of His Holy character. We are one with Christ and other believers in one body, His Church!
Proverbs 14:2-3 “Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises Him. By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them.”
Prayer: Lord, clothe me today with Your Holy Spirit and Christ’s character so that I might reflect Your goodness to the people You love and died for. Amen.
Scripture reading for August 28th: Psalm 129-132 and Ephesians 4
Key Scriptures: Ephesians 4:29-32 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
Christians are not under the law anymore, but under grace through faith in Christ Jesus. They have been forgiven of their sins and cleansed in their hearts. The Holy Spirit dwells inside them to lead them in the new life of grace. This changes our speech, attitudes and past anger and malice towards others. Our attitudes and actions should now reflect Christ Jesus living within our hearts.
Psalm 132:13-16 “for the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place:”This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it. I will abundantly bless her provisions; I will satisfy her poor with bread. Her priests I will clothe with salvation, and her saints will shout for joy.”
Prayer: Lord, dwell in me today, fill me with Your Holy Spirit and clothe me with salvation and joy! I will proclaim Your grace to others. Amen.
Scripture reading for May 22nd: 1st Chronicles 21-23, Acts 13
Key Scriptures: Acts 13:36-39 “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption, but He (Jesus) whom God raised up did not see corruption. Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”
As Paul preached to the Jews in Antioch, he carefully led them through the history of God dealing with their ancestors and how King David had served Israel in his generation but had died and was buried. Now a Son of David, Jesus Christ, had been raised from death and now offers forgiveness of sins to all who will believe. King David actually bought the site of the temple as the place where Jesus Christ would offer Himself for the sins of the world.
1st Chronicles 22:1 “Then David said, “Here shall be the house of the Lord God and here the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”
Scripture reading for December 15th: Hebrews 5-9
Key Scriptures: Hebrews 9:22-24 “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these (the blood of bulls and goats). . . . But now He (Christ) has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”
The writer of Hebrews was showing Jewish believers how Jesus Christ fulfilled the requirements of Scripture. Because the law required blood sacrifice for atonement for sins, blood must be shed and presented before God at the place and in the manner He commanded. But in Jesus Christ, we have something better than a copy, we have the actual sinless Son of God offering Himself–body and blood–as a covering for the sins of man. He presented His own blood on the altar of Heaven, not a copy on earth. This satisfied God’s justice once for all who by faith believe!
Thankful for the blood of atonement: “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11)
Scripture reading for May 13th: Acts 7
Key Scriptures for over-comers: Acts 7:59-60- 8:1 “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.”
Stephen preached the Gospel to those who had crucified Jesus. At the end of his message, they were under strong conviction but instead of repenting and believing, they chose to stone the messenger! Stephen committed his spirit to the Lord Jesus and then prayed for those who were stoning him, asking the Lord to forgive them! What grace and courage from this first martyr! Notice it says that Stephen ‘fell asleep’! This was after he saw heaven opened and Jesus standing to receive him! (Acts 50:55-56) God answered this prayer by later touching Saul and bringing him to repentance and forgiveness and making him into the mighty Apostle Paul!
Observations for over-comers: Our acts of grace and forgiveness show the heart of Jesus towards the lost and open the door for God to work in and through their lives. “So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died; ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ “Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.” (Genesis 50:16-17)
Scripture reading for December 10th: Philemon
This short personal letter from Paul to Philemon concerns a run-away slave who got saved under Paul’s ministry in Rome. This slave could easily have been sentenced to death if he had been caught, but God was working something else out in his life. He heard the Gospel message from Paul and gave his life to Jesus Christ. Paul was writing his master, Philemon, to appeal to him to take him back and receive him as a brother in the Lord. This simple letter reveals the heart of forgiveness we must have toward others as they repent and come into the kingdom.
“I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” (Philemon 6-7)
Paul’s prayer for Philemon is an encouragement for us to share our faith. As we learn to give away what we have received from the Lord, we get back a more complete understanding of all that is ours in Christ. Giving by sharing causes joy in pastoral leadership!
Paul gently appeals to Philemon to restore his converted slave. (Philemon 8-10) Paul stated that Onesimus was formerly useless to him. Before salvation, he was in bondage to sin and could not be loyal and serve him properly. Now, as a brother in the Lord, Onesimus was useful to the kingdom and to Philemon! This is an added blessing of sharing your faith! Others come into their full purpose and become brothers and sisters in the family of God!
Love isn’t love unless it is freely given. Forgiveness isn’t real if it is not also freely given. We can’t order forgiveness. We can’t command that another love us or love God. When we appeal to another person to do what is right, then they can more easily choose to freely give. Paul’s letter is a great example of a godly appeal to someone in authority to do what is right. May the Lord grant us grace today to love and forgive freely according to the example of Jesus Christ!
Scripture Reading for April 4th: 1st Kings 5-8
Solomon had heard God’s decree that he would build the house where God’s Name would reside among His people. He knew of the desire of his father David and willingly offered himself to the Lord to build this “House”. (1st Kings 5:5) In building the temple, Solomon employed many people. Some came from lands outside Israel. Solomon made covenants with many nations and the nations were drawn to Israel during this time of peace. God granted favor and peace during the reign of Solomon for this purpose.
The temple was made of stone, cedar and pine wood, and precious metals. Craftsmen worked off site on the stones so that the temple could be assembled without saws, chisels or hammers used on the site. (1st Kings 6:7) The temple took seven years to construct with thousands of workers meticulously adding every piece and detail in precise order and design. (1st Kings 6:38) God is truly a God of order and a master craftsman!
The crowning moment at the dedication of the temple tells how God filled the House with His Glory! The priests had carried the Ark into the Holy of Holies and then withdrew. The priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud of God’s glory! (1st Kings 8:6-11) Solomon declared a blessing over the people gathered there and thanked God for His faithfulness!
Solomon then knelt down, raised his hands toward heaven, and prayed a magnificent prayer of petition and dedication! In this prayer are eight petitions of God to “hear from heaven” when His people call upon Him for help. The central focus is forgiveness! All of man’s troubles are caused by sin, either against God or man made in God’s image. The consequences of sin bring famine, disease, plague, war, and death. As God’s people cry out, God’s glory is that He will hear and forgive and act to bring healing and restoration!
Another focus of Solomon’s prayer was for the foreigner and those drawn to the temple from other lands and peoples. Solomon asks God to hear their prayer as well so that all peoples of the earth may know His Great Name and fear the Lord! (1st Kings 8:41-43, 60) This prayer reminds us of Jesus instructing his followers to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations! His house would be a house of prayer for all nations! (Mark 11:17)