Scripture reading for November 21st: Ezra 1-2, John 21
John 21: 15-17 “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord you know everything; You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. . . .”
Peter had been an impetuous disciple known for rash outbursts and impulsive responses. When Jesus said that one of the disciples would betray Him, Peter swore He would remain faithful, even to death. Jesus responded: “before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” This indeed was what happened. Now, as Jesus set about restoring Peter, He asked him three times, “Do you love Me?”. Peter responded simply with “Yes Lord” two times then declared that Jesus knew everything. Jesus’ response to Peter was a reiteration of His mission to feed and tend Jesus’ sheep and follow Him.
John 21:20-22 “Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against Him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “What about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is My will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
Prayer: Father God, thank You for restoring those who slip up in following You. Your mercy and kindness lead Peter to repentance and many others, including myself. Thank You that You alone know everything and see every heart and restore and stir up Your people to accomplish the mission You give of reaching the lost and building up Your house with living stones out of the rubble of sin and death. I will follow You.
Ezra 1:5 “Then rose up the heads of the father’s houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem.”
Scripture reading for July 14th: 2nd Chronicles 15-16, 1st Kings 16, Philemon
Philemon 3-7 “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.”
Paul’s short letter to Philemon, a believer in Jesus, whose run-away slave had been saved in prison with Paul, encouraged him to receive Onesimus back as a brother in the Lord. As Paul began his letter, he shared how encouraged he was by the reports that Philemon was showing love and sharing his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ with all the saints. Paul prayed that as Philemon shared his faith, he would grow in the full knowledge and understanding of every good thing that he possessed in his relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul also shared how he was now appealing to him to willingly receive this former run-away slave back as a brother, willingly and without compulsion. God’s transformation would be a blessing!
Philemon 14-16 “But I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother–especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.”
Prayer: Father God, thank You for this example of transformation of a run-away slave to a brother in Christ! That reflects my life and many others. What grace You have given me! And to Philemon, You gave a gentle appeal to forgive and restore this slave as a brother! Help me today to cooperate with You in restoring those You are transforming, not blinded by their past wrongs! Praise the Lord for grace!
2nd Chronicles 15:1-2 “The Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, “Hear me, Asa, and all of Judah and Benjamin: ‘The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, he will forsake you.”
Scripture reading for October 2nd: Jeremiah 14-16, Psalm 76, 2nd Corinthians 13
Key Scriptures: 2nd Corinthians 13:11-14 “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Paul’s closing benediction calls the church at Corinth to joy and peace in the Holy Trinity. God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit bring love, peace and joy to all the saints. They are restoring all believers and bringing comfort, agreement and peace. As believers through the grace of Jesus Christ allow and invite God the Father to live in their midst, His love and peace brings true fellowship through the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit living in each one. This is the pattern for God’s people everywhere–and especially in our lives today!
Psalm 76:1-2 “In Judah God is known; His Name is great in Israel. His abode has been established in Salem (Peace), His dwelling place in Zion.”
Faith confession and prayer: Heavenly Father, establish Your abode in my midst and the midst of Your Church. May Your grace and peace and love flow from Your people in unity and fellowship as they are fed by Your delightful Word.
Jeremiah 15:16 “Your Words were found and I ate them, and Your Words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your Name, O Lord, God of hosts.”
Scripture reading for September 17th: Isaiah 64-66, 2nd Corinthians 2
Key Scriptures: 2nd Corinthians 2:5-11 “Now if anyone has caused pain he has caused it not to me, but in some measure–not to put it too severely–to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether your are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his devices.”
Paul’s purpose in his second letter was to encourage the Corinthians to forgive and restore a repentant brother who had been under church discipline. Paul encouraged them to forgive and comfort, and not to hold anything against him. Paul stated that this was a test of their obedience. He also reminded them that Satan’s plans and traps were set for them. Satan would like to see the church divided and bring strife and hatred in through unforgiveness. Christ Jesus is our example of grace.
Faith confession and prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for forgiving us and bringing us Your comfort and love by the gift of the Holy Spirit. Continue to inform me of the traps and devices of Satan that I might walk in freedom.
Isaiah 66:2 “All these things My hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at My Word.”
Scripture reading for September 25th: Hosea 6-9
Key Scriptures: Hosea 6:1-3 “”Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us, but He will bind up our wounds. After two days He will revive us, on the third day He will restore us, that we may live in His presence. Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rise, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.””
Hosea called out to God’s people to return to the Lord with humility and repentance. Their sins had torn them apart and caused great injury and many wounds. God promised to revive them and restore them. They must press in and press on to acknowledge the Lord. He would soon come, bringing the rains of heaven and granting His holy Presence to all who believe through the Holy Spirit!
The blessing of repentance: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that He may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you–even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets.” (Acts 3:19-21)
Scripture reading for October 29th: Philemon 1:1-25
Paul won a run-away slave, Onesimus, to faith in the Lord Jesus. He also knew this slave’s master, Philemon, who was a brother in the Lord and possibly won to the Lord under Paul’s ministry as well. (Philemon 1:19) Paul was in prison during this time. It is possible that they were in jail together and God used Paul to present the Gospel and then to disciple him. Now this slave was a brother in the Lord and serving Paul. Paul instructed him to return to Philemon and ask for mercy for running away. This short letter to Philemon was penned by Paul to accompany this new brother as he returned to His owner in repentance!
” I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (Philemon 1:4-7) Paul affectionately addressed Philemon as a “dear friend and fellow worker.” He cared about Philemon and prayed for him with a thankful heart. Paul’s pastoral heart shines through in this prayer for his ministry of sharing his faith. Paul prayed that he might be active in sharing his faith in order to have a full understanding of all good things we have in Christ! Perhaps failure to share faith is why many today lack a true understanding of their inheritance!
Paul could have simply commanded Philemon to take Onesimus back and forgive him for running away, but he appealed to him on the basis of love. (Philemon 1:8-10) God had shown mercy to Onesimus while he was away by saving him. Now Onesimus was a brother in the faith and useful to Paul and to Philemon in a different way. God had also shown this mercy to Philemon and to Paul. Since God’s love was shown to us while we were sinners, we must also show this love by forgiveness and restoration.
This story reminds us of God’s love and restoration of us. We were run-away slaves as well. When we heard the Gospel, we returned to our Master. He forgave us and restored us to ‘sonship’, not slavery! In His amazing love, He gave us the ministry of reconciliation! (2nd Corinthians 5:21)