Friday, December 1, 2017


Today’s Bible Reading:  Romans 5-8

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Reconciliation

SCRIPTURE:  Romans 5:6-11

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.  (Rom 5:6-11 NIV)


In this passage the Apostle Paul points out that through Jesus Christ we may be reconciled to God—changed from being subject to God’s wrath to being saved from His wrath—changed from being enemies of God to friendship with God. The Greek word katallasso, or some variation of this root, is translated as reconciled or reconciliation in these verses. In its simplest form katallaso means to be made different, to be changed. In yesterday’s Bible reading in Romans 4 we find the Greek word logizomai employed to describe faith and belief in God being “credited” as righteousness. Generally speaking, logizomai is an accounting term. Abraham’s faith-filled belief in God was credited to his account that he was righteous.

It is interesting that Paul explains these very spiritual concepts in practical accounting terms to help the Romans and us understand. In bookkeeping, when both sides of a ledger do not balance there is a problem. However, if credits can be entered to offset expenditures, the ledger is reconciled. In the ledger of our lives the expense of sin is so vast that we can never earn enough righteousness to offset the debt. Only God can grant the credit (logizomai) needed to reconcile (katallaso) our books and bring us into right standing. It must be understood, however, that God is not saying that because men and women cannot produce enough good works to earn salvation on their own that He has accepted faith as an easier substitute. He is saying that salvation is credited freely and faith is the means whereby we receive that gift.     


Christ did not die for me because I was worthy, but because I was unworthy and powerless to save myself. While I was still a sinner (bad, worthless, not the kind of person that would be found worthwhile to save), Christ died for me (vv. 6-8).

This is still a concept that supposedly intelligent human beings find hard to grasp. I appreciate how Paul labors to help us understand and I am inspired to strive all the more to make God’s truths understandable to people as lost as I was before I was reconciled to God through Christ.  


Lord, I admit my frustration at times when trying to explain the truth of Your salvation to people who are either unable or unwilling to understand. Help me to be enabled by Your Holy Spirit to communicate for you in ways that pierce the darkness surrounding men’s souls and enable faith to be activated. Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Free Credit

Today’s Bible Reading:  Romans 1-4

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Justification

SCRIPTURE:  Romans 4:2-5, 23-25

2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about — but not before God. 3 What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness. (Rom 4:2-5 NIV)

23 The words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness — for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Rom 4:23-25 NIV)


From both biblical texts and the literature of the day we see that Abraham is a figure that looms large. His significance to the Hebrews cannot be understated. Because of this, Paul had to deal with those who insisted that the Gentiles’ accepting and receiving Christ was not enough. To be a true child of Abraham, they contended, one must fully endorse and live by the Torah (the Law). Paul fervently combated such ideology, insisting that Jews and Gentiles alike are saved only by grace through faith and not by works of the law. Paul here introduces a new way of seeing Abraham as an example of the contrast of faith versus works and quotes directly from the Torah, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen 15:6 NIV). Before this the Hebrew people and teachers of the Law had viewed Abraham’s faith and his works together, not separate. Paul points out that it was because Abraham believed God that it was accounted to him as righteousness. Thus, even father Abraham was justified by the grace of God through his faith, not his righteous works.  


What was true for Abraham is true for us (vv. 23-24): Christ’s death covers the death I should rightly suffer for my sins (see Romans 6:23), and because of Christ’s resurrection from death, I am justified (made to be in right standing) before God and thus the beneficiary of life eternal. Evangelical Christians generally understand this revealed truth. We are saved only by the grace of God through Christ Jesus, and not by our righteous behavior or acts of goodness no matter how benevolent they may be. Paul beats the drum for this truth repeatedly in his epistles. So how is it that so many evangelicals still are driven to the pursuit of works? “Well,” you might be thinking, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel, and go and be witnesses” are commands we are to do—that’s what evangelical means!” No argument about that from me except that I contend that these commands are to be lived out in our relationship with God using the gifts He has given us each individually and in the strength and leading of the Holy Spirit. If we are merely looking for and strategizing ways and means of doing these works, we are missing the major truth that we are to live in faith relationship With God in Christ. It is He who will bring the increase; it is He who will bring ministry opportunities; it is He who will direct our paths. These are very real opportunities to fulfill His commands out of relationship with Him, not just making ourselves do right things.   


Lord, thank You for illuminating the truth that the credit of righteousness conferred upon us is free, not earned. As a preacher and teacher called by You, may my encouragement to others lead them toward living in relationship with You more than driving them to fulfill commands.

Through Christ for our best and Your glory. Amen.  –AP

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Reach the Lost

Today’s Bible Reading:  Ezekiel 42-44; Revelation 22

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Second Coming

SCRIPTURE:  Revelation 22: 7, 12, 20

Jesus says repeatedly, “I am coming soon!”:

7 "Behold, I am coming soon!..."  (Rev 22:7 NIV)

12 "Behold, I am coming soon!...  (Rev 22:12 NIV)

20 … "Yes, I am coming soon."  (Rev 22:20 NIV)


What an exciting and energizing word this is from the Lord Jesus himself! Jesus IS coming again. This reality makes me think of two things:


First, the joyous actuality of Jesus physically coming to set this world right again is, in Shakespearean terms, “a consummation devoutly to be wished.” By receiving Christ as Savior and Lord the curse has already been lifted from my soul, but then it will finally be lifted from creation as well.

Secondly, it gives me a renewed sense of urgency to reach out to lost people before Jesus comes to finalize everything. Then it will be too late; for then will be the time for judgment.  


Lord Jesus, help me reach the lost for You. Show me the ways and means. In Your name. Amen  –AP

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Goal

Today’s Bible Reading:  Ezekiel 40-41; Psalm 128; Revelation 21

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Salvation

SCRIPTURE:  Revelation 21:1-8

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

5 Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful."

6 And He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. 7 He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. 8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Rev 21:1-8 NKJV)


Verse 7 of this passage has to be the goal:

He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.

John is talking about the new heaven and new earth (v.1)—life after this earthly life. This life is like a proving ground. Will I spend this life toiling and treading and never discovering the key? Will I spend this life selfishly pursuing the comforts of this life with no thought of the next? If I do, then this life will be a waste and I will be eternally lost.



If I overcome in this life—that is discovering the key is relationship with the Lord now and spending this life not for this lifetime but for the next—then God will be my God forevermore and I will be His son. That is the goal in this life!


Lord, thank You that in You I can be an overcomer no matter what comes my way in this life, and that I may eternally be Your son. Through Christ. Amen  –AP

Friday, September 15, 2017

My Name In Jesus’ Book

Today’s Bible Reading:  Ezekiel 38-39; Revelation 20

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Judgment

SCRIPTURE:  Revelation 20:15

11 …I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev 20:11-15 NIV)


The “lake of fire” we are told, is the second death (v.14). The second death is the sentence given to those whose names are not recorded in the “Lamb’s (Jesus’) book of life” (Rev 21:27). This is the final judgment after Satan has been cast to the second death—the lake of fire (v. 10). It is of eternal importance to every human being to see to it that their name is written in Jesus’ book!  


Revelation 20 seems to indicate that everything I have ever done, good or bad, has been recorded in “books.” According to what I have done I will be judged. If this is the only way I am judged, then I am doomed, because I have certainly fallen short. My deeds prove me deserving of the second death! The only thing that will redeem me is if my name is recorded in the Lamb’s book of life. If my name is found there then either I will become exempt from the judgment of the other books, or else when the other books are opened, all of my indiscretions will be found to have been erased or blotted out. 


Hallelujah! Thank You Jesus, the Lamb! Amen.  –AP

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Don’t Take God’s Glory

Today’s Bible Reading:  Ezekiel 36-37; Revelation 19

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Worship

SCRIPTURE:  Revelation 19:10

At this I fell at his (the angel’s) feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! (Rev 19:10 NIV)


This is a strong word to worship God only! There are good men and good angels who bring good messages and may do great deeds. Praise God for them, but do not afford them honor that is due only to God. If they are truly servants of the Lord, they will shun that type of praise and worship.  


Do I crave the adulation of men? When I receive accolades, do I receive them for myself or do I truly direct all glory to God?


Father God I love You and worship You alone. My life—my joy—my fulfillment is to be Your servant. Forgive me when I covet the acclaim of people. May I ever be reminded to return all glory to You. All that I have, all that I do, all that I accomplish is due to Your graciousness. Help me remember that.
Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Warning! Warning!

Today’s Bible Reading:  Ezekiel 33-35; Revelation 18

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Responsibility

SCRIPTURE:  Ezekiel 33:8-9

7 "So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. 8 When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die!' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.  (Ezekiel 33:7-9 NKJV)


This passage describes Ezekiel’s responsibility as one called by God to be a “watchman” over Israel. There is a double warning here. The wicked are warned to turn from their iniquity or face the consequences: “you shall surely die!” (v. 8). The watchman is warned to issue the warning to the wicked or face the consequences: “his blood I will require at your hand” (v. 8).


This admonition to “the watchman” is an admonition to me as a pastor. The Gospel message of Jesus Christ is life and fulfillment to those who will receive it, and a strong warning to all others. My job is to see that people I am charged to watch over hear the message and are warned. I am not responsible for the results, just the message. However, if I fail to deliver the message to those I am charged with, then I am responsible for their loss.


Lord, show me clearly the extent of my assignment as a watchman and pastor. Give me boldness with compassion to deliver your message. Holy Spirit, cause that message to be received and accepted. May not one be lost on my watch.
Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Life Is In and for God

Today’s Bible Reading:  Daniel 3-4; Psalm 81; Revelation 17

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Commitment

SCRIPTURE:  Daniel 3:17-18

14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, "Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?"

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. 17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up."
(Dan 3:14-18 NKJV)


This well known story about three Hebrew boys in exile in Babylon accentuates the value of unwavering commitment to God. King Nebuchadnezzar not only threatens Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego with a fiery execution if they will not worship the golden image he has erected to his god, but he directly challenges their God. At the end of verse 15 he essentially boasts that no god is big enough to deliver them from his hands. Their answer to the king in verses 17 and 18 in the face of such an edict is extraordinary: our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.” What a powerful example of faith, trust and commitment!


This passage speaks to me of the importance of not compromising my beliefs in God, nor my commitment to follow His ways NO MATTER WHAT! God will deliver me; and if not, I will die believing in Him, worshipping Him, and serving Him (see v.18).


My Father God, thank you for the joy I receive in serving you. Thank you for giving my life purpose and meaning. Help me to always trust you no matter what circumstances may confront me. May the end of my earthly days see me serving you, my Lord and my God whom I love. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Monday, September 11, 2017

Antithesis of Living Water

Today’s Bible Reading:  Daniel 1-2; Revelation 16

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Judgment

SCRIPTURE:  Revelation 16:3-4
3 Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died.

4 Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. (Rev 16:3-4 NKJV)


When I was pastor of a church in West Texas, the name we gave our church was “Living Water.” The symbol of water has rich spiritual meaning, and in West Texas water takes on an additional significance. Drought is the norm for the high plains surrounding Brownfield, Texas. The people who live there understand the importance of water more than most. Water is necessary for life, which is why it is such a rich spiritual symbol. Jesus provides us with “Living Water”—that is, eternal life.

These verses in Revelation are describing the antithesis of Living Water. I learned long ago as a school boy that the closest thing in nature to blood is sea water. It contains all the minerals of life yet one cannot survive drinking it. We must have fresh water. God’s judgment is shown in these verses to not only render fresh water useless, it also takes the life out of the sea as well. It isn’t just turned to blood, it is turned to lifeless, “dead” blood (v. 3). It is the picture of existence without Christ.


The application is clear. In order to survive God’s judgment, we must partake of the Living Water—we must accept and receive Jesus Christ. To deny Christ is to cut off one’s self from the source of life. In the high plains people have learned to do with scarce water, but even West Texans could not survive with no water.


Lord, help me to take the Living Water to as many as I can; that, when all else is drought, they will yet have the Living Water within them.

Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Knowing God

August 22
Today’s Bible Reading:  Jeremiah 28-30; 1 John 3

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Spiritual knowledge

SCRIPTURE:  1 John 3:24

…this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
(1 John 3:24 NIV)


As human beings made in the image of God we have a unique make up. Just as God is a triune being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are also triune. Often this is expressed as us possessing a body, soul and spirit. Our understanding of our physical body is clear enough, but making the distinction between soul and spirit is a bit cloudy. How do you divide the inner man—the part that gives the body life? –the part that reasons and feels? –the part that loves and cries –the part that senses right from wrong –the part that can know God? John says we know it by the Holy Spirit who has been sent to dwell with us and in us.


If we relegate our conscious being only to our intellect and ability to reason, we deny ourselves a much broader and meaningful existence which cannot be acquired intellectually, but may only be realized spiritually. It is a gift beyond our understanding received from God by faith.


May the power of God’s Holy Spirit reveal this truth to many.
Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Point of No Return?

August 15
Today’s Bible Reading:  Jeremiah 18-20; Psalm 93; John 17

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Judgment

SCRIPTURE:  Jeremiah 18:1-8, 19:10-11

18: 1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." 3 So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.

5 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6 "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. 7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. (Jer 18:1-9 NIV)

19: 10 "Then break the jar while those who go with you are watching, 11 and say to them, 'This is what the Lord Almighty says: I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter's jar is smashed and cannot be repaired. (Jer 19:10-11 NIV)


Today’s reading in Jeremiah is chapters 18-20. The prophetic imagery in these chapters seems to depict God’s chosen people Israel. In a broader sense these passages could be speaking of the USA today—as clay being shaped. In verse 4 the pot being shaped by the potter had become marred and needed to be reshaped. When other hands have been allowed to shape the clay it is as if God the potter in verse 15 saying, “my people have forgotten me;” but destruction is not yet. The people—the nation—may yet repent and place themselves once again in the hands of the Potter. There comes a day eventually when the shape is set in the kiln. That may be seen as the day of no return.  


In Jeremiah chapter 19 the Lord tells Jeremiah to take the finished clay jar and break it while the people watch and in verse 11 says, “I will smash this nation…  just as this potter's jar is smashed and cannot be repaired.”

When will my nation the USA reach the point of no return? Have we already reached that point? I do not believe so. There seems no doubt, however, that we have been increasingly rejecting the shaping of the hand of The Potter in favor of other hands shaping us in ways that have marred us. Woe to us if we become hardened in the kiln of human experience and history.


Lord have mercy on the land of my birth, a nation conceived in liberty and ordained by You. Raise up leaders that will lead us in Your ways—in true principles of rightness and justice. Open the eyes of our spirits—the individual spirits that collectively comprise our population—to see, understand and repent beforeYou. Keep us from ever reaching the hardness of that point which leads only to broken destruction.
By Your mercy in the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.  -AP

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Man of God

August 8
Today’s Bible Reading:  Jeremiah 1-2; John 10

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Obedience

SCRIPTURE:  Jeremiah 1:17-19

17 "Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. 18 Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land — against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. 19 They will fight against you but will not overcome you, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the Lord.
(Jer 1:17-19 NIV)


The fictional superhero Superman is called the invincible man of steel. Here the man of God is called “an iron pillar and a bronze wall.” I once heard a Christian leader say, “The man of God is invincible until God is finished with him.” On first hearing that I thought the statement was at once arrogant and fatalistic. However, when you consider it, it is indeed true. Just as God told Jeremiah that as long as he was obedient to speak what God told him to say, he had nothing to fear, God would uphold and protect him.


If I will live in such closeness to my God so as to know clearly His voice (see John 10 of today’s reading), and if I will be unwaveringly obedient to His voice, no enemy will conquer me; no obstacle will stop me; no harm will come to me. I will be invincible until my created purpose is complete. Then I get to go live with Him.


Lord grant me such clarity, courage and commitment in my life.
Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The God Connection

August 6
Today’s Bible Reading:  Habakkuk 1-3; John 8

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Hearing God

SCRIPTURE:  John 8:47

Jesus said…

“He who is of God hears God's words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God." (John 8:47 NKJV)


When communication is achieved electronically there must be a transmitter and a receiver working in tandem on the same frequency. If either of these is absent, communication cannot be completed. If either of these is faulty or if they are operating on different frequencies, the message may be garbled or obscured by static. What Jesus is stating in this verse is that in order to hear and understand God’s words you must be “of God”—you must be connected to God. That puts you on the right frequency so to speak. And the conduit for that connection is through Christ.


How true this passage is. I get so frustrated at times because people just don’t seem to “get it.” I tell them the truth about Jesus in terms that seem perfectly clear, and it is as though they don’t even hear. The words just sail right over their heads. I think, “How can you not understand? I’m speaking perfectly clear English.” Yet when I say the same words to true Christians there is an immediate connection of understanding. Being or not being of God must be what makes the difference. Being connected to God through Jesus is what makes the reception clear. It is as though until people make the Jesus connection they are hearing through a weak and garbled cell phone connection. It is therefore vitally important for me to always keep my connection with God solid, that I may continue to hear and understand.


Lord forgive me when I become lax in spending quality time with You. May I always hear your words to me clearly. I pray that others who do not yet know You will switch providers so to speak and get connected to You through Christ Jesus. Amen.  -AP

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Here Come de Judge

August 3
Today’s Bible Reading:  Nahum 1-3; John 5

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Judgment

SCRIPTURE:  John 5:22

The Son of God informs us…

…the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son. (John 5:22 NIV)


We know that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are One God. They are co-equal, co-eternal, co-divine. They are He—the One and only God. Yet, as a human being who has personally come to know, love and worship the One God, I find it heartening that the place of judgment has been given to the Son. He, who became flesh and lived and died as one of the human beings He created, knows first hand the frailties and temptations flesh is heir to. He as God and man is the perfectly understanding and just judge.


Knowing that the all-knowing God understands me better than I know myself is comforting to me. Knowing that He knows my heart and knows I have believed in and received Him gives me peace. Knowing He loves me so much that He gave himself to human death for me leaves me with no fear of judgment.


I thank and praise You God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for giving me meaningful life and doubtless love. The glory of Your judgment is wondrous and You have made me unafraid to stand before You. In Christ Jesus. Amen.  -AP

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Believing is Seeing

August 2, 2017
Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Kings 21; 2 Chronicles 33; John 4

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Faith

SCRIPTURE:  John 4:48

"Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe." (John 4:48 NIV)


This passage puts me in mind of another later in John’s Gospel when Thomas would not believe in Jesus’ resurrection until he saw it for himself:

Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29 NIV)

Jesus apparently may or may not give “proofs” to individuals, but true faith is believing even without seeing. Often even seeing is not believing. In the epic Star Wars motion picture, The Empire Strikes Back, there is one scene where Luke Skywalker is being trained by the master Jedi Yoda. Luke tries to levitate his space cruiser out of the marshy swamp where it had sunk, but eventually gives up saying something like, “It’s too big. I can’t.” Yoda then proceeds to use the force to lift the ship up out of the mire and onto dry land. Luke watches with wide eyes and dropped jaw; “I… I can’t believe it,” he finally utters. Yoda replies simply, “And that is why you fail.”

It is often said, “seeing is believing.” Therefore, seeing is the actuator of faith. Jesus says that the actuator is actually believing first, which turns this saying around: “Believing is seeing.”   


I will do well to remember my faith. Seeing the Lord work is a blessing and a booster to my faith. Not seeing and yet believing, however, is how faith becomes strong. 


In times of not seeing, Lord help my faith not waver but become stronger.
Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

One Whom God Esteems

August 1, 2017
Today’s Bible Reading:  Isaiah 65-66; Psalm 62; John 3

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Fear of the Lord

SCRIPTURE:  John 3:19-21, Isaiah 66:2

Jesus says…
19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God." (John 3:19-21 NIV)

The Lord says…
…"This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. (Isa 66:2 NIV)


The one who God esteems is not the perfectly upright righteous person (who, by the way, does not exist except for the person of Jesus), but the one who lives openly in the light with humility and the desire to live better and do better daily; the person who hides nothing from the Lord and knows that there is no place for pride because whatever good they achieve is due to God alone. The person God regards, “trembles” at His word, not because they are afraid of Him but because they reverence Him and know that what He says, He will do.  


So here’s the question for reflection: Do I attempt to keep anything hidden from God—are there things in my life I would prefer to keep in the dark? I cognitively realize that it is impossible to hide anything from God, yet I sometimes behave as if He can’t see me. Either I think He does not see, or I don’t care as long as I believe I’m hiding it from others to see. Either way, if the truth of God’s word does not cause me to tremble I am indeed in a sorry state. 


Lord I tremble at Your word, not in fear of harm but because I know Your word is true and immutable. By Your Spirit may I ever dwell fearlessly in the light of Your presence. Through the grace of Christ and the presence of Your Spirit within me. Amen.  -AP

Monday, July 31, 2017

Filled with the Best

July 31
Today’s Bible Reading:  Isaiah 63-64; Psalm 107; John 2

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Trust in the Lord

SCRIPTURE:  John 2:9-10

9…the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." (John 2:9-10 NIV)


This is from the story of the first of Jesus’ miraculous signs performed while attending a wedding in Cana. When the supply of wine ran out at the wedding banquet, at the behest of his mother, Jesus instructed servants to fill six 20 to 30 gallon stone water jars with water. When the water was drawn out and served, it had miraculously been changed into the best quality of wine. One observation from this incident is to note that the best quality of wine men can produce falls short of the quality the Lord produces.   


What have I filled the vessel of my life with? At the pinnacle of my abilities and good intentions, what I fill my life with will pale in comparison to what the Lord can fill me with.


Lord, may I ever be filled with your best. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Your Light Has Come

July 30
Today’s Bible Reading:  Isaiah 60-62; John 1

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Hope

SCRIPTURE:  Isaiah 60:1-2; John 1:1-5

1 "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. 2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. (Isa 60:1-2 NIV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
(John 1:1-5 NIV)


Both our Old Testament and New Testament readings for today speak of light and darkness. Isaiah speaks prophetically of the coming of Jesus (“your light has come” v. 2) and in the verses following it is a clear foreseeing of the visit of the Gentile kings—the wise men—of the Christmas story bringing gifts of gold and incense, and worshipping the Lord Jesus (v. 6). In John we see the fulfillment of the coming of the eternal Son of God who became flesh and lived among us (v. 14) and brought light and life to men (v. 4).

The contrast of light and darkness in both Isaiah and John has deeply significant meaning. Isaiah contrasts the brightly shining light, that brings to pass the glory of the Lord, with the darkness that covers the face of the earth, and deep darkness the people. The Hebrew word translated as “darkness” (that covers the earth) is choshek meaning misery, destruction, death, and the ignorance that fails to recognize it. The word for the “thick darkness” (that covers the people) is araphel—often describing the deep clouds in which the presence of the Lord dwells as when Moses approached the mountain and the thick darkness where God was (Ex 20:19).


What could all of this mean to us?  As our world is covered more and more by the clouds of violence, corruption, and ignorance; what afflicts the nations of the world will also attempt to destroy the people.  But, even within that terrible darkness, Isaiah sees light—a glimmer of God’s glory that begins to shine out of the darkness. Along with the darkness that crushes and destroys (choshek), look for the glory of the Lord within the“araphel”—the light shining out of the thick cloudy darkness. 


Lord, thank You for being the Light of the World and the Light that dispels the darkness in my own life. For any reading this journal entry who are living in the oppression and confusion of darkness, may the brightness of Jesus begin to shine bringing revelation and clarity to them I pray. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Living Legacy

July 29
Today’s Bible Reading:  Isaiah 57-59; Psalm 103; 2 Peter 3

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Legacy

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 103:14-18

14 for he (the Lord) knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.
15 As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children — 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. (Ps 103:14-18 NIV)


God made men and women out of the same stuff He made the earth and everything in the earth. Just as every living thing in the earth has a life cycle—a birth, a lifetime, reproduction, and a death—so we who were formed from the dust will one day return to dust. Our days are numbered and the earth from whence we came keeps no memory of us. If we live our existence only as creatures of the earth, the brief flower of our lifetime that flourishes for a while and then fades away will be all there is to our existence. However, if we live our life as creatures not only of the earth but as beings living in relationship with our Creator, He will remember and love us “from everlasting to everlasting”—our life becomes eternal in Him. This is the legacy of life we are to pass on to our children and our children’s children for generations.


I am so grateful for the fullness of life that I have come to realize in relationship with God through Christ. It is a legacy that has been passed on to me from my parents and grandparents and generations before me. These people physically have returned to the earth, but their souls live on eternally. My forebears did not just reproduce earthly life, they reproduced eternal life. This is the legacy I desire to pass on to my children and grandchildren and the generations that follow me. Do not just live and die. Do not just reproduce babies that live and die. Let your progeny know the possibility and reality of eternal life available to you and them from our Creator.  


Thank You my Lord and God for the gift of life that endures beyond the confines of the earth. Help me pass on the legacy of that life to those many who have come and will come after me. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Friday, July 28, 2017

And His Name Was Jesus

July 28
Today’s Bible Reading:  Isaiah 53-56; 2 Peter 2

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Messianic Prophecy

SCRIPTURE:  Isaiah 53:3-6

3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa 53:3-6 NIV)


The prophecy of Isaiah in the 53rd chapter is an insight to a future that would come 700 years later. God gave Isaiah such a detailed picture of the Messiah, His suffering and sacrifice. It was a picture that for 700 years people who were longing for the coming of the Messiah likely could not and did not understand. How could a Savior be a sufferer? How could a Savior be despised and rejected? How could He be stricken, smitten and afflicted by God? Why would He be pierced and crushed? How could His being wounded bring healing to us? It was a vivid prophecy, but it didn’t make sense.

About 700 years later every detail of Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled and many of the people still could not see it. The Messiah came and He was not recognized as the Savior. So He was despised and rejected. He was beaten viciously, He was pierced with thorns and a spear. He was whipped and His flesh torn open. He was smitten—He was killed! His name was Jesus.     


The truth of what Isaiah prophesied and what Jesus fulfilled—the reason for the suffering and death is found in verse 6 of Isaiah’s prophecy: Every one of us throughout history and to the present day has turned away from God in one way or another. We are all deserving of the eternal death that naturally follows such separation from God our Creator. Only the perfect, flawless, sinless Son of God could take upon Himself the iniquity of us all. Only He could make a way for us to be brought into right relationship again with God. He who did not deserve it did it for us. And His name was Jesus.


Oh my Lord I praise and worship You. The Son of God came as a human being and lived a sinless life among us. Jesus, You bore the suffering and excruciating death for me. You died and were buried. But you defeated death and arose. Now I have a relationship with You my living Savior and through You a relationship with God my Creator. Oh my Lord I praise and worship You! Amen.  -AP

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Coaching Believers

Today’s Bible Reading:  Isaiah 50-52; Psalm 92; 2 Peter 1

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Leadership

SCRIPTURE:  2 Peter 1:3-12 (particularly v. 12)   

3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. (2 Peter 1:3-12 NIV)


The “things” Peter has just reminded believers of are basic truths expounded in vv. 3-11:

In all humility, knowing that we have been forgiven and cleansed from our past sins by God’s grace (v.9), we should be  growing in the virtues of faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, love (vv. 5-8). When we do, we will be effective and productive (v. 8). We have been chosen to receive eternal life, but falling again is possible if we neglect our calling to these things (vv. 10-11). Then Peter says, “I know you already know this, but it is my job to keep reminding you.” 


A good coach keeps going over the basics with his team or coachee. In Little League baseball for example, coaches will teach players to “keep your eye on the ball.” When batting, “see” the ball to your bat. When fielding, “see” the ball into your glove. Errors occur most often when players take their eyes off the ball. Major League baseball players will still have coaches reminding them to “keep your eye on the ball.” Whether a beginner or a seasoned athlete, growth and progress will be added, but only upon a continually maintained foundation.

As a Christian leader called to equip God’s people to do His work and to build up His Chruch—His Body (Eph 4:12), I must be mindful to lead believers to deeper truths and greater maturity. As a good coach, like Coach Peter, I must also keep reminding them of the basics along the way.   


Lord help me to be a good and effective coach on Your team.   
Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

He Will Carry, Sustain, Rescue

Today’s Bible Reading:  Isaiah 46-49; 1 Peter 5

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading: 
Topic: Trust in God

SCRIPTURE:  Isaiah 46:4

Even to your old age and gray hairs
I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you;
I will sustain you and I will rescue you. (Isa 46:4 NIV)


The context of Isaiah 46 is debasing the gods of Babylon. They are impotent and burdensome. The one true God—the Creator of the heavens and the earth (45:18), is omnipotent. The cold stone gods of Babylon must be carried by men and beasts of burden (vv. 1-2). Our God— the God of the house of Jacob (v. 3), carries us. He is reliable and trustworthy all the days of our lives. He carries, sustains and rescues us from birth through old age.


As of this writing I am approaching, if not already arrived at, old age. I certainly have the “gray hairs.” I can personally testify of the faithfulness and trustworthiness of God to me through many years of hardship and ease, sorrow and joy, sickness and health, days of want and days of plenty. He has carried me through it all. When difficulties of life arise, it is comforting to know His presence will see me through. When joyous times come (and thank you God, there have been many), I cannot help but offer my praise and thanksgiving to my God.

The reality of life on this earth is that as our bodies grow old the strength and vitality of youth eventually declines. I am not physically as strong and vigorous as I once was, but in my heart, soul and spirit I am mightier than ever through Christ who strengthens me. I am not feeble by any means, but I know that I will one day die and that day draws closer year by year. When my body finally gives way to the sleep of death, it will not be the end, but the ultimate rescue.


Lord, I praise you for the joy of life. I thank you for showing me purpose and giving me fulfillment. I know you will sustain me until my life’s course is run, and that is just the beginning of my existence in your love and care.
To You I offer all honor, love and glory. Amen.  -AP

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Redemption is Already

Today’s Bible Reading:  Isaiah 43-45; 1 Peter 4

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Salvation

SCRIPTURE:  Isaiah 44:22

I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions,
And like a cloud, your sins.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you." (Isa 44:22 NKJV)


The phrasing of this verse of scripture indicates a past tense. The Lord has already blotted out and, like a thick cloud, covered your transgressions; like a cloudy morning mist dissipates, so your sins have already vanished from the sight of the Lord. The only thing you need do to realize this redemption is to return to the Lord—to repent—to change direction and come to the Lord.


So much of the time we think that when we repent then we are redeemed and our sins “blotted out.” We think that it is our action of turning to the Lord that activates our salvation. In reality, however, redemption and forgiveness of sin are already taken care of; I just have not accepted or acknowledged it until I “return”—repent and come to Him. My actions have nothing to do with it, it is all God. I just have to come to the place of knowing it and believing it.


Thank You Lord for the salvation You have already secured for me.
Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Monday, July 24, 2017

I Honor My Wife

Today’s Bible Reading:  Isaiah 40-42; 1 Peter 3

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Marriage

SCRIPTURE:  1 Peter 3:7

Husbands… be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers. (1 Peter 3:7 NIV)


Three points of observation strike me in this verse of scripture:

1.  The use of the word “with” – live with your wife… treat her with respect… she is an heir with you of life.

2.  Treat her with respect as the weaker partner. Generally speaking women may be physically weaker than men on average, but the real point has little to do with physical strength but rather a strength of character that honors her by expending my strength for her.

3.  If I fail to thus honor my wife, my prayers may be hindered.


There is a direct correlation between my closeness to God and my closeness to my wife. There is a direct correlation between my prayers being heard and answered, and how I am treating my wife. The gift of fullness of life is incomplete without her. The most important relationship in my life, next to my relationship with God, is with my wife. I may surmise that if I do not give my all for her, my God takes it personally.


Lord, as You formed the perfect woman for Adam and brought her to him, the greatest gift I have received in this life is the wife whom You brought to me. I love and honor her as I love and honor You. Grant unto me the strength to continue to give of myself fully to her all the days of our lives.
Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Living in the World

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Kings 20; Isaiah 38-39; Psalm 75; 2 1 Peter 2

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Righteousness

SCRIPTURE:  1 Peter 2:11-17   
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:11-17 NIV)


Peter here is urging believers on the one hand to not succumb to the pressures to live according to the world’s standards, and on the other hand to submit to the world’s authorities.  On the one hand we are to “abstain from sinful desires” promoted by a world in which we are not to consider ourselves citizens, but “aliens and strangers” (v. 11).  On the other hand we are, “for the Lord’s sake” to submit to “every authority instituted among men” (v. 13).  On the one hand we are to “live as free men,” and on the other hand to “live as servants of God” (v. 16).  On the one hand we are to “fear God,” and on the other hand we are to “honor the king” (the earthly authorities) (v. 17).    


This passage requires an interesting balancing act on the part of devoted followers of Christ which many find difficult today.  How far do we go in defense of righteousness in an unrighteous society?  How much political opposition should we exert to influence change in civic norms of behavior which are becoming increasingly hostile toward Christians?  How meek and compliant are we to be in the face of false accusations lodged against us by those who judge our standards of right living to be an indictment against their contrary values?  How far are we to go in accepting worldly values that fly in the face of what we believe and hold dear as Christ followers?

Verse 15 shows that our strategy ("God's will") is not that we primarily oppose evil, but that we overcome evil by doing good.  Perhaps the key to the balance we need may be found in verse 12:  “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 


Lord, with Your help may I live my life in such a way as to reach many for You before You return.  And on that Day may I have lived my life in such a way that even those who have been unable to be reached will recognize my actions as having been above reproach.  For Your sake and in Your name I pray.  Amen.  -AP 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Joy of Faith that Knows

Today’s Bible Reading:  Isaiah 36-37; Psalm 76; 1 Peter 1

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Faith

SCRIPTURE:  1 Peter 1:8-9   

8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV)


The essence of faith isn’t just believing in something you cannot see, it is knowing the reality of something you cannot see nor cognitively prove. I believe in God, and I have a real relationship with Him through my belief in God the Son, Christ Jesus. I know real joy, fulfillment and purpose that is inexpressible in purely intellectual terms. Yet it is as real and tangible to me as the keyboard I am typing on right now. There is a spiritual component to my being that is beyond explanation intellectually but is even more real than what I can physically see or touch. This is what I believe Peter is expressing and what I am trying to express here even though it may only be realized spiritually and is “inexpressible” by the written word.


As human beings the only tools we have with which to communicate the love of God are language and actions. It is certainly a challenge to share faith, but part of our faith is believing that as we express the love of God with our words and our actions that His Holy Spirit can make those connections with others that are beyond us.


Lord help me to express Your love and truth. Holy Spirit use my feeble efforts to share Your love. Bring enlightenment, life and joy to those struggling in a world of physical discomfort; to those searching for meaning amid a morass of varied toxic ideologies; to those who need to receive the goal of faith—the salvation of their souls.    
Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Friday, July 21, 2017

Honest to God

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32; James 5

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Honesty

SCRIPTURE:  James 5:12   

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” lest you fall into judgment. (James 5:12 NKJV).

James here is repeating a teaching of Jesus (see Matt. 5:33-37) that addresses the fundamental core of honesty and character.  The admonition to let your “Yes” be “Yes,” and your “No,” “No,” is simple enough to understand.  It simply means to live your life with such honesty and character that people will always be able to trust the truthfulness of the words you speak.  But what is the point about not swearing oaths?    

How often have you heard someone emphasize the truthfulness of a statement by saying something like, “As God is my witness” or “Honest to God”?  In a court of law witnesses place their hand on a Bible and swear to, “tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”  Why does James (and Jesus) admonish us not to swear oaths?  The admonition here should not be seen as an injunction against taking a required oath in court, but rather a command to keep our lives free from the need for elaborate oaths and schemes to assure others that we are indeed telling the truth.  He is pointing out that, if you are a person who has an honest character, you will not need to swear or promise in order to make others believe you. Your character will be your oath.

At the heart of honesty is the matter of truthfulness, and this is a topic which is a struggle for all of us.  In the motion picture Liar Liar, actor Jim Carey plays the part of an attorney who, because of a wish his son makes, is unable to tell a lie.  The story takes viewers through a day in the life of this hapless lawyer who must always, and in every circumstance, tell the unequivocal truth.  The results are hilarious and strikingly poignant.  If we are truthful, we will admit that not lying can be a problem. Whether people describe them as little white lies, fibs or half truths, their misleading or deceptive statements are not entirely honest.  How often do we find ourselves exaggerating or stretching the truth about something to make ourselves look better?  It may not be that we even intend to be untruthful, but before we know it we are embellishing a story.  During the 2008 presidential campaign, then Senator Hillary Clinton and then Senator Joe Biden out on the campaign trail were criticized for embellishing stories about being shot at in war zones—stories that were proven to be less dramatic than stated.  Many of us have fallen victim to some degree of dishonesty even if it was just complimenting someone when we didn’t really mean it, keeping silent when we should have told the truth, or exaggerating a story to impress others. 

Lord, thank You for the reminder to watch the truthfulness of the things I say.  May my “yes” be “yes” and my “no” be “no” – That is, may I be known as a man of honesty and good character; that I may represent You well in the earth. 

Through Christ Jesus.  Amen.  -AP