Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Motivated By Love

Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 24-27, 1 Corinthians 13
Topic: Love

SCRIPTURE:  1 Corinthians 13:3
Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13:3 NKJV)


What motivates us to sacrifice for others or for a cause? The example of my Lord and His teachings leads me to be motivated by love. But this passage alludes to the fact that some people are motivated to sacrifice all (surrendering their bodies to the flames—suicide) for other reasons. In our world today we see examples nearly daily of those who give their all for hatred rather than love. Suicide bombers are a telling exposition of religion based on hatred.

1 Corinthians 13, the love chapter in the Bible, offers the most beautiful description of the virtues of true love—God’s kind of love—the kind of love people should demonstrate toward each other; love that always seeks the best for others and never evil.

In my reading today, verse 3 particularly drew my attention. What a message to any who, under the excuse of religion, would be driven by hatred and destruction. To any terrorist who believes that the sacrifice of their own body to the fires of suicide bombing will bring them seventy virgins and eternal rewards in paradise, God gives this message:  If you don’t have love, you won’t gain anything! Compare these self-sacrifices to the sacrifice of Christ, driven only and entirely by love.      


Do I rush into the flames, sacrificing myself to rescue others? Am I driven to save and preserve life, or to destroy life (abortion, euthanasia, murder, suicide bombing)?

I’m glad to serve a God who loves and enables me to be motivated by love.


Lord, keep me from vengeance, hatred and bitterness. May I ever be driven by love—Your kind of love. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Monday, February 27, 2017

Give What I Have

Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 21-24, Mark 6-7
Topic: Obedience

SCRIPTURE:  Mark 6:34-44

Mark 6:37-38

37 But he (Jesus) answered (his disiples), "You give them something to eat… 38 "How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."
 (Mark 6:37-38 NIV).


This passage (Mark 6:34-44) is Mark’s account of Jesus’ miracle of feeding 5,000 people with just five loaves and two fish. What is interesting to note, however, is that it was the disciples who provided the food—“You feed them,” Jesus said. “Go see what you have to give them.” The miracle is that Jesus can take whatever we have to offer and multiply it to meet the need. But that only happens if we are willing to give what we have. 


Does what Jesus is asking me to do seem too big—beyond my resources and abilities? Yet, if He is really commanding me to do it—“you feed them”—I need only find what I have—“go and see”—then give what I have, and trust that He will multiply it as needed to accomplish His command to me.


May I be willing and obedient, Oh Lord.  Amen.  -AP

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Who Ya Gonna Believe?

Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 19-20, Psalm 28, Mark 5
Topic: Faith

SCRIPTURE:  Mark 5:22-24 & 35-43

22 … Jairus…  fell at his (Jesus) feet 23 and pleaded earnestly with him, "My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live." 24 So Jesus went with him... (vv. 22-24 NIV)

35 …some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," they said. "Why bother the teacher any more?"
36 Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, "Don't be afraid; just believe." (vv. 35-36 NIV)


In this passage we see conflicting reports and beliefs. Jesus says, “Don’t believe this report, believe Me.” Later, at Jarius’ house the loud mourners were wailing over the death of Jairus’ little daughter. Jesus says, “Don’t believe them, believe Me.”


In our lives too, we often hear conflicting reports. We hear the voice that urges us to “be realistic—all is lost, it’s no use, nothing will change, just face reality and give up.” And then we hear Jesus’ voice saying, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”


Lord, may I hear Your voice above all others. Amidst the loudness or logic of the world, may I ever believe Your Word to me. Amen.  -AP

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Voice of God Toward Me

(repost from Nov. 13, 2011)
Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 17-18, Psalm 29, Mark 4
Topic: God’s Power and Love

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 29
1 Give unto the Lord , O you mighty ones, Give unto the Lord  glory and strength.
2 Give unto the Lord  the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord  in the beauty of holiness.
3 The voice of the Lord  is over the waters; The God of glory thunders; The Lord  is over many waters.
4 The voice of the Lord  is powerful; The voice of the Lord  is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the Lord  breaks the cedars, Yes, the Lord  splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes them also skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the Lord  divides the flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord  shakes the wilderness; The Lord  shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the Lord  makes the deer give birth, And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everyone says, "Glory!"
10 The Lord  sat enthroned at the Flood, And the Lord  sits as King forever.
11 The Lord  will give strength to His people; The Lord  will bless His people with peace.  (Psalm 29 NKJV)


The 29th Psalm is another psalm of David. One clear observation is David’s redundant use of the phrase, The voice of the Lord.” What is interesting to note is that each mention of the Lord’s voice is a demonstration of action and power by the Lord. The expression here is the recognition that when God speaks powerful things happen. When God gives voice to something it is an expression of His will, and His will is more powerful and overcomes any other force period! Just as in the beginning when God spoke, creation happened. Genesis 1 repeatedly states, “And God said… And it was so.”

David poetically states, “God is all powerful and all authoritative (v. 4). His power can reduce the mighty cedars to mere splinters (v. 5). His power can cause the earth to quake (v. 8). He can quench the fiery eruptions right from the midst of them (v. 7). His power brings life (v. 9). And His power is eternal (v. 10). By His voice—His will—His power—He can bring peace to his own children at any time and in the midst of any situation (v. 11).


This psalm is a wonderful expression of how much we should be able to trust the Lord through anything. No matter what other powerful forces may seem to come against us, He can give us strength and bring us peace right in the midst of it (v. 11). And we can join with David in giving Him glory and worship (vv. 1-2). 


Almighty God, I worship You. You are so mighty and I am so small; yet Your love for me offers Your blessing and peace to me even in the midst of raging forces that shake my world and would utterly destroy me if not for Your voice of favor and protection over me. May I ever be worthy of Your voice speaking in my favor.

Through Jesus Christ and for Your glory. Amen.  -AP  

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Unpardonable Sin

Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 14-16; Mark 3
Topic: God’s Forgiveness

SCRIPTURE:  Mark 3:28-29  Jesus said…

28 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." (Mark 3:28-29 NIV)


What is the unpardonable sin? The truth is that ALL sins may be forgiven (v.28). Every and any sin for which I repent and ask forgiveness will be forgiven. So what’s v.29 about?

The Holy Spirit is the life breath of God breathed into Adam when God created man; the breathed Word of God that is that, “still small voice” within that guides me away from sin and toward what’s right; the breath of God that brings eternal life.


It is only when I reject that voice—that breath of life—convicting me of my sin; when I refuse to repent or ask forgiveness, that I am unforgiven. Blasphemy of the Holy
Spirit is my rejection of His life giving presence. Thus, the unpardonable sin is the one I refuse to repent of.


Lord, may I ever heed Your voice. Prevent people from believing the lie that their sin is too great and unforgivable. May every person You have created know that Your forgiveness and life is available to them. In Jesus’ name. Amen. AP

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What Will Jesus Do? What Is Jesus' Will?

Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 12-13, Psalm 90, Mark 2
Topic: God’s will

SCRIPTURE:  Mark 1:21-2:11 (a few excerpts follow):

21…immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught...

23 Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him…

29 Now as soon as they had come out of the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 But Simon’s wife’s mother lay sick with a fever, and they told Him about her at once. 31 So He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and immediately the fever left her. And she served them.

32 At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.

35 Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed…

39 And He was preaching in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and casting out demons.

40 Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”  41 Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed”…

2:1 And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. 3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
6 And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”


Before moving on to Mark chapter 2 in today’s reading, I’d like to look at the rest of chapter 1 taken together with chapter 2, verses 1-12. In reading this portion of scripture we can learn much by asking, “What will Jesus do?” When we observe what Jesus does, it will help us answer the question, “What is Jesus’ will?”

Then, I must ask myself:  What is my resolve to do the will of Jesus and to see the will of Jesus done in and around my life?

Note what Jesus does:
-  He prays  (1:35)
-  He preaches and teaches  (1:21, 38, 39, 2:2)
-  He heals  (1:30, 31, 34, 41, 2:9-11)
(Particularly notice how verses 40-45 in chapter 1 indicate Jesus’ willingness to heal.  He says, “I am willing.” It IS Jesus will to heal).
-  He casts out demons  (1:32-34, 39)
-  He forgives sins  (2:5)


What is our resolve to see Jesus’ will done in and around us? The story of the four friends lowering their paralyzed buddy down to Jesus speaks to us about the matter of resolve. 

What obstacles prevent us from getting to Jesus? Sin, Ignorance, Disobedience, Blockades?

How may we overcome these obstacles?
1.         Repent and receive forgiveness of sins.
2.         Hear and receive the truth.
3.         Trust and obey.
4.         Refuse to be blocked from Jesus.


Lord, thank You for revealing so clearly Your will, and the model I am to follow. Grant to me the strength to overcome all obstacles that would prevent me from receiving every touch it is Your will that I receive. By Your Holy Spirit may I be empowered to minister to those in need in Your name. Amen.  -AP 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Who Needs the Holy Spirit?

Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 10-11, Psalm 27, Mark 1
 Topic: Power for Ministry

SCRIPTURE:  Mark 1:1-11 (particularly verses 9-11)

9 It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. 11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:9-11 NKJV)


This is an amazing scene! When Jesus came up from under the Jordan River waters of baptism, the Holy Spirit immediately descended upon Him, “like a dove.” It is important for us to recognize that while Jesus was and is the Son of God (He is God Himself come in human form, and we know that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all one God); but He came to minister and operate as a man. So, as a man Jesus needed the empowerment of the Holy Spirit for effective ministry, and that is what is given to Him here.

The dove here not only suggests gentleness and purity, but doves were also used as sacrificial offerings. This whole magnificent scene presents a picture of the character and manner of Jesus’ redemptive ministry. And the whole thing is immediately confirmed and sealed by the supernatural utterance from the Father in heaven…

11 And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."

Note the inner bond between “the Son of God” (v.1) and the Father.  The heavenly voice speaks the combined words of Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. In Psalm 2:7 God addresses the anointed King as His Son…

7 I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. (Psalm 2:7 NIV)

In Isaiah 42:1, God addresses His Servant in whom He delights and upon whom He has placed His Spirit…

1 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.  (Isaiah 42:1 NIV)

When you put all these together you can see a picture showing that the Son of God will perform the ministry of the Servant of God by the power of the Holy Spirit of God.

So the earthly ministry of the Son of God who has come to live and minister as a human being is here inaugurated by the Holy Spirit descending and resting upon Him, and is confirmed by the voice of God the Father.


As a man, Jesus needed the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in order to minister with the power and authority He demonstrated throughout His earthly ministry. How much more then must I realize that I need to be filled with the Holy Spirit to have effective ministry?


Lord, thank You for the privilege of serving You. You are the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8). Thank You for baptizing me. I pray that You will fill me afresh with Your Holy Spirit daily, that I may be an effective minister and servant to the building of Your Kingdom. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done. Amen.  -AP  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Why Bother?

(Repost from 12/28/14--some passages in the New Testament are read more than once in the reading plan, thus may be restated on a given day)
Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 8-9, Acts 28
Topic: Evangelism

SCRIPTURE:  Acts 28:23-27

23 So when they had appointed him (Paul) a day, many (Jews) came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. 24 And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. 25 So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, 26 saying,

      ‘ Go to this people and say:

      “ Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
      And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
       27 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
      Their ears are hard of hearing,
      And their eyes they have closed,
      Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
      Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
      So that I should heal them.”’  (Acts 28:23-27 NKJV)


At this juncture of Paul’s life and ministry he is being held as a prisoner while awaiting his day in Rome and his appeal to Caesar.  The passage to Rome was a long and fateful voyage.  Paul and the company of people traveling with him suffered much hardship, adventure and shipwreck before finally reaching Rome.  Yet Paul, ever vigilant to his calling, never stopped teaching, preaching and persuading people to believe in Jesus.  Even after realizing his primary ministry was not to the Jews but to the Gentiles, he continually found himself in situations where he was proclaiming Christ to the Jews.  This was the case as we come to Acts 28:23 — Paul, now in Rome awaiting the day appointed for his hearing, is visited by many Jewish people to whom he proclaimed what he always did, the Gospel of Christ.  How did they respond?  Verse 24 tells us something very interesting; “some were persuaded” and “some disbelieved.”  Some who heard the truth fell into the category of those spoken of by the prophet Isaiah.  Hearing, they heard but did not understand.  Seeing, they saw but did not perceive.  They saw as with closed eyes and heard as though hard of hearing.

How frustrating it must have been for Paul. How could people not get it after he had labored “from morning till evening” to convince them of the truth and their need (v. 23)?

As Christians today with a clear calling to go and share the Gospel of Christ both near and far, we will experience the same results Paul did.  I find that things haven’t changed much today. I can share with people in good clear English and see only blank stares back – they are hearing but not receiving. It is like my words are only static over a poor telephone connection. Why do I bother? Why don’t I just give up? – Because of the first half of verse 24. While some just will not believe, I will faithfully continue to preach Christ because—some will be persuaded!


Lord, grant me the enlightenment of Your Holy Spirit that more people may understand through the static. I pray for those with blocked vision and stopped up hearing.  May their spiritual eyes and ears be healed.  And I thank You for those who hear with understanding and who see with clear perception.  May I be obedient to proclaim Your truth to all without discrimination, and trust You for the results.

Through Christ’s love. Amen.  -AP 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Most Beloved Psalm

Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 7; Psalm 23; Acts 26
Topic: God’s care

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 23

1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:1-6 NKJV)


The 23rd Psalm is certainly the most familiar, if not the most beloved, Psalm in the Bible.  The reason for that, I believe, is because it speaks so eloquently of the whole scope of God’s love for you and me. In this Psalm our Lord is compared to a shepherd who cares for his sheep. We, then, are compared to sheep. God is the shepherd and we are His sheep. This little Psalm tells us that our Shepherd cares for us always.  He cares for us in life. He comforts us in death. And He promises us eternal life after this earthly life is over.

This Psalm starts out by saying…

                1“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
                2He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters.”

The Lord promises here to provide our physical needs:  “green pastures”—food and a place to dwell or live, “still waters”—drink.  The most basic of physical needs is the need for water, food and shelter.  Our Shepherd—the Good Shepherd, Jesus—wants to care for us and provide our most basic needs.

Not only does He care for us physically, He cares for us emotionally and spiritually.

                3“He restores my soul…” the psalmist tells us.

So He provides restoration and health for our inner being as well as our physical being.

Next we see that that He not only provides for us, but that He gives us direction in our lives.

            “…he leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake.”

Notice here too that, when we follow our Lord’s leading, He will only take us on good paths—“paths of righteousness,” paths that are right and correct and moral—paths that will be good for us and not bad for us.

And He continues to care for and provide for us even in times of trouble.
                5“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.”

In this verse we see a secondary metaphor introduced. The scene changes from the imagery of sheep with the Good Shepherd to show the psalmist as the guest of honor at God’s house. But the most intriguing thing to me in this verse is that God lavishes this kind of treatment on me right in the face of my enemies.  Even when I’m facing situations or troubles in my life that seem like they would destroy me—enemies—He prepares a table for me and He anoints me. He’s still there caring for me and loving me and providing for me.  And on top of all that, He regards me so highly that He treats me lavishly.  If that’s not something to make you humble, I don’t know what is.

And now look at this:  How long will God keep on looking after us?

                6“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. . .”

You’ve heard of manufacturers giving lifetime guarantees on their products.  Well, this is God’s lifetime guarantee to His children.

So in these verses we’ve seen how God cares for us in life. But when this life comes to its close, we next see that He comforts us in death.

                4“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
                        for You are with me; your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

In the darkest hour of our existence on this planet earth—the hour when death snatches away our breath; when it comes time, as Shakespeare put it, to shuffle off this mortal coil—God is still with us, loving us and comforting us.

And finally we come to the most exciting part of this Psalm. When this life is over, then what?  Then we have the promise that God has provided the means for us to enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven.
If we have believed in and received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of our lives, the gift of eternal life in heaven with Him is ours. 

            “. . .and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

We mentioned a lifetime guarantee earlier.  Here’s an eternal guarantee.


So in this wonderfully poetic Psalm we see that God’s love for us covers the entire scope of our existence.

When we have made the decision to recognize Jesus Christ as God’s one and only Son—when we have made the decision to ask His forgiveness for all of our sins—when we have made the decision to ask Him into our hearts and lives as the Lord of our daily lives and our Savior from eternal death; we find that. . .

            •  He will care for us in life,
            •  He will comfort us in death, and
            •  He promises us eternal life with Him in heaven.


Lord thank You for Your great love for me that not only covers the whole scope of my life, but also covers my eternity. I worship and adore You my shepherd and my King.

In Christ Jesus. Amen. -AP

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ridiculed, Tortured, Executed

February 19
Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 5-6, Psalm 22, Acts 26

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:

Topic: Messianic Prophecy
SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 22:6-18
(See passage by passage comparison below of Psalm 22:6-18 with New Testament passages in the Gospels)

It is clear this psalm is prophetically speaking of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Just a cursory  comparison to the New Testament Gospels should leave no doubt:

Jesus was despised, rejected and mocked

  6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people.
 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying,
 8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!” (Ps 22:6-8)
39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads…
41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 "He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. (Mt 27:39,41,42 NKJV)

Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin
 9 But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts.
 10 I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God.
(Ps 22:9-10)

20 …"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus , for He will save His people from their sins." (Mt 1:20-21 NKJV)

Jesus faced the burden of the cross alone

 11 Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; For there is none to help. (Ps 22:11)
34 Then He said to them, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch."  35 He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. 36 And He said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will."  37 Then He came and found them sleeping… (Mk 14:34-37 NKJV)

Jesus was violently seized by the angry mob

 12 Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me.
 13 They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion.
(Ps 22:12-13)

43 And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
46 Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him. (Mk 14:43,46 NKJV)

Jesus sacrificed His life, suffered and died on the cross
 14 I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax;
         It has melted within Me.
(Ps 22:14)
34 …one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. (Jn 19:34 NIV)

 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws;
         You have brought Me to the dust of death.
(Ps 22:15)
28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!"  29 Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. 30 So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. (Jn 19:28-30 NKJV)
 16 For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me.
         They pierced My hands and My feet;
17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me.
 18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.
 (Ps 22:16-18 NKJV)
35 Then they crucified Him, and divided His garments, casting lots, (Mt 27:35 NKJV)

When seeing what Christ has done for us, how can we not but be compelled to fall before Him in praise and thanksgiving, confessing our sins and receiving the gift of salvation purchased for us at so great a cost.

Thank You Lord for such great love, sacrifice, and salvation given to me.  Help me share Your passion with passion.

For Your sake and Your kingdom.  Amen.  -AP

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Set Apart

Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 3-4; Acts 25
Topic: Ministry

SCRIPTURE:  Numbers 3:5-7, 12-13

5 The Lord said to Moses, 6 "Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. 7 They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the Tent of Meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle.

12 "I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether man or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord."


This passage points out the need that some people in society take the duty of serving God by serving in the clergy. The final plague in Egypt, before the pharaoh finally let the Hebrew people go to be free from the bondage of slavery, was the death of the firstborn of all Egypt. The firstborn of the Hebrews were spared if the door frames of their homes had the blood of a sacrificial lamb applied to them. Therefore, God ordained that the firstborn of Israel was from henceforth to be set apart in service to Him (v. 13). Here in Numbers, God has allowed that in the stead of the firstborn, the tribe of Levi would be set apart for the work of the ministry and serve at the behest of Aaron the high priest (v. 6).    


Today, as in this Old Testament passage, God calls some men and women to serve Him in the work of the ministry of our High Priest – Jesus Christ. This is certainly a high calling and one that is reserved for those for whom the Lord has ordained it. Today that calling is not as clear cut as, “I’m the firstborn in my family so I will become a minister” or, “I was born into a family of ministers, therefore I will be a minister too.” No, the ministry is not merely to be a career choice, but one must know the calling of the Lord to him or herself personally. There are some people serving in the ministry who should not be. They were never set apart by God for that service. There are some who should be serving, but have not yet discerned God’s distinct call to them. There are some whom God is calling, but they are resisting that call. I was one such who resisted God’s call to serve Him as an ordained minister. Oh, I did serve the Lord as a layman, as all of God’s children should, but I allowed other life pursuits to define my primary place in God’s society. I am so grateful that my Lord was patient with me. I have known no greater fulfillment or honor than to be among those whom God has set apart for the work of ministry to our High Priest.       


Lord, help me always to serve You honorably and effectively as a minister ordained by You. Thank You for the grace you lovingly extend to me as I continually mature as a minister for You. In worship and thanksgiving. Amen. -AP

Friday, February 17, 2017

Corrupt Politicians & Slick Lawyers

(Reposted from 8/22/10)
Today’s Bible Reading:  Numbers 1-2, Acts 24
Topic: Human Nature


A full reading of Acts 24 reveals the following cast of characters in a real life courtroom drama:

Ananias – High Priest (Corrupt Politician)
Felix – Governor/Judge (Corrupt Politician)
Tertullus – Orator (Slick Lawyer)
Lysias – Military Commander (Conscientious Soldier)
Paul – The Accused (Courageous Preacher)


In reading Acts 24, it strikes me that the character of people—of societies—has not changed much over the centuries.  In Paul’s day, as in ours, they had corrupt politicians and slick lawyers.  Aside from Paul, the noblest character in this chapter seems to be Lysias—a soldier trying to do his duty rightly.  Ananias was a hardened religious ruler who would not have his authority or his theology challenged.  Felix was in it for the money; he wanted Paul to pay him bribe money (v. 26).  Tertullus was a slick lawyer who would probably argue for whoever paid him the most.


The other thing that strikes me in reading Acts 24, is that every character mentioned is loved by God.  Even those who argue and resist the hardest against the Way need to be reached for Jesus.


Lord, may even those who resist You somehow be changed.

Through Christ.  Amen.  –AP

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How to Win an Argument

Today’s Bible Reading:  Leviticus 26-27; Acts 23
Topic: Victory

SCRIPTURE:  Acts 23:1-2, 10, 12-15; 11

Acts 23:1-15

1 Paul looked straight at the Sanhedrin and said, "My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day." 2 At this the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth. (Acts 23:1-2 NIV)

10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks. (Acts 23:10 NIV)

11 The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, "Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome." (Acts 23:11 NIV)

12 The next morning the Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. 13 More than forty men were involved in this plot. 14 They went to the chief priests and elders and said, "We have taken a solemn oath not to eat anything until we have killed Paul. 15 Now then, you and the Sanhedrin petition the commander to bring him before you on the pretext of wanting more accurate information about his case. We are ready to kill him before he gets here."
(Acts 23:12-15 NIV)


If someone says something you don’t like, hit ’em in the mouth (v. 2).

If you can’t win a debate, get violent (v. 10).

If they still confound you, kill them (vv. 12-15).

If you follow the example of the Jewish leaders in Acts 23, this would seem to be your guide for winning an argument. And, disturbingly, this is often the pattern many follow in our world today. If people don’t agree with your lifestyle choices, denigrate and ostracize them; destroy their livelihoods as best you can! Force them to agree with you! If you disagree with a court ruling, loot and destroy other people’s property. If anyone opposes you, assault them! If people don’t kowtow to your usurped authority and gleefully endorse your supposed religious beliefs, cut their heads off! –or you know what?! Cut their heads off anyway just for…!

If this is not how we are to behave, how are we supposed to defend ourselves from those who do act in these barbaric ways?


People, tribes and nations have historically acted in horrifyingly evil ways to take what they want or to force others to serve their interests. This is in stark contrast to the teachings of Jesus: Love your neighbor – love your enemies and pray for them – turn the other cheek – let the Lord avenge you…

Does this mean we are supposed to let people walk all over us? Are we not supposed to defend ourselves and stand up for righteousness?

In the midst of the harshness and brutality we find in Acts 23, note verse 11: When we stand up for God’s principles, even against overwhelming odds, Jesus stands with us! If it is our time to die, we get to go live with Him. But if he still has more for us to accomplish (like testifying in Rome, or whatever the Lord has called us to do), and we have to suffer a while longer, He suffers alongside us and will sustain us through it all. What a heartening promise to hold on to!


Lord, thank you for the assurance that when I stand for you, you stand with me. Grant me continual discernment from your Holy Spirit as to what to say and do. Grant me the courage then to say and do it. Help me remember that as I obediently follow you, it is you who wins the victory, not me.
Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How Will You Be Remembered?

(This is a yearly post.  See comment on repost of  8/15/10) 
Today’s Bible Reading:  Leviticus 25, Psalm 25-26, Acts 22
Topic: God’s Mercy

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 25:7

7 Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions;
         According to Your mercy remember me,
         For Your goodness’ sake, O LORD.
(Psalm 25:7 NKJV)


How do you want to be remembered?  Would you like to be remembered for all of your faults?  Would you like to be remembered for all of the mistakes you have made, for all your failures, for your shortcomings?  King David is pleading with the Lord, “Please don’t remember my sins and transgressions.  You are the all knowing God, but please do not remember me according to Your omniscience—remember me according to Your mercy.”

David recognized that if he were to be judged according to his deeds—if he were remembered by God according to his faulty and sinful humanity, he would by all means be lost.  David’s hope, mankind’s hope, my hope is only in God’s mercy.


David must have been speaking prophetically because that’s exactly what God did for us through Jesus.  God’s love for us found a way for us to be seen—to be remembered according to His mercy.

4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves,   it is the gift of God.  (Eph 2:4,5,8 NIV)

Wow!  God sees you and me through Jesus.  According to His mercy through Christ, He remembers me.


Father God, thank You for Your great love and mercy.

In Christ.  Amen.  -AP

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Leave the Corners

Today’s Bible Reading:  Leviticus 23-24, Psalm 24, Acts 21
Topic: Providing for the Needy

SCRIPTURE:  Leviticus 23:22

22 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field when you reap, nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the stranger: I am the Lord your God.”
(Lev 23:22 NKJV)


This verse speaks of a principle that is repeated often in the Bible—the principle of providing for those in need. The term “corners of your field” literally can mean corners, edges, sides, ends…  the idea is that a significant portion should be left. This is further reinforced when it says, “nor shall you gather any gleaning from your harvest.” Note also that these gleanings are not just to be left for the poor, but for the stranger. The word for stranger here may also be rendered as foreigner or traveler—someone passing through.

The concept is clear:  A portion of what God has blessed you with is to be left or given for the use of the others who may need it. And then God punctuates this by saying, “I am the LORD Your God.” Adding the phrase, “I am the LORD your God” is like adding an exclamation point! God is saying, “Hey, this isn’t something Moses just decided to write in here, this is ME—God speaking!—Pay attention to this—this is important!”


Let me make three quick points about this principle:

First, the principle of providing for those in need was to be a way of life for the Hebrew people.  We, likewise should consider it a way of life today; not as a burdensome obligation, but as a moral and ethical responsibility that we just do.

Secondly, the giving or leaving of provisions for the use of the poor or the traveler or the foreigner, was to be done ungrudgingly and with an attitude that was not judgmental toward the recipients.

And, finally, this principle was meant to be practiced by all—the poor as well as the rich.  Some of us are just so blessed that we can share in abundance.  But even if you are one who is poor and terribly downtrodden, there will always be something that you yet can give or share with others.   


Merciful Lord, thank you for your blessings to me. I offer you my sincere thankfulness.  But Lord, help me to not only give my thanks to You with my words, but to show You my thankfulness by sharing with others of the fruits you have blessed me with. May generosity be manifest in my life through Christ Jesus. Amen. –AP

Monday, February 13, 2017

Hearing, Knowing, Obeying

(Repost from 7/31/11 and 8/18/13)
Today’s Bible Reading:  Leviticus 20-22, Acts 20
Topic: Dedication

SCRIPTURE:  Acts 20:22-24
22 "And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.  (Acts 20:22-24 NIV)


Paul’s dedication to the mission given to him by the Lord is incredible.  Knowing that the Jews in Jerusalem had sought to kill him, he did not hesitate to return there at the Lord’s leading.  Knowing that the mission he was called to would lead to prison and hardships” ahead, he did not hesitate to obey. 

Equally impressive is his willing ear attuned to the Holy Spirit.  There is no hint that Paul had to go to extraordinary measures or strain to hear the leading of the Spirit.  There is no doubting or wondering if he heard correctly.  He did not have to puzzle over what the Lord really meant.

Paul walked with the Lord so closely that he knew and heard the voice of the Lord clearly without a doubt.  His dedication to the Lord was so complete that his personal well being was not a concern.  His only compulsion was to complete the mission given to him to share gospel of Christ.  His allegiance to the Lord was uncluttered by anything else.


Wow, what an example for Christian leaders today to aspire to!  Few people have a relationship with the Lord that close.  Yet, passages like this serve to encourage us that it is possible have such a walk with the Lord.


Lord, I struggle sometimes to hear Your voice.  I often ponder and labor over trying to understand clearly Your direction for me.  May my daily path draw me ever closer to You, and may I come to discern Your will with clarity and without hesitation.

In Jesus’ name.  Amen.  -AP

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Honesty and Hope

(A reoccurring post--a favorite to our readers; see comments on 12/21/08, 2/12/09 and 8/11/13)
Today’s Bible Reading:  Leviticus 18-19, Psalm 13, Acts 19
Topic: Overcoming Despair

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 13

1 How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever?
         How long will You hide Your face from me?
 2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
         Having sorrow in my heart daily?
         How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
 3 Consider and hear me, O LORD my God;
         Enlighten my eyes,
         Lest I sleep the sleep of death;
 4 Lest my enemy say,
         “I have prevailed against him”;
         Lest those who trouble me rejoice when I am moved.
 5 But I have trusted in Your mercy;
         My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
 6 I will sing to the LORD,
         Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
 (Psalm 13 NKJV)

This Psalm of David divides into three sections. 

In verses 1-2 David questions the Lord.  Everything is written in the form of a question, but the questions express his lament, his doubts, his impatience, and his despair.

In verses 3-4 David appeals to the Lord, but his appeal is a continuation of his lament.  David seems depressed.  He feels defeated, or nearly so.  His cry for enlightenment sounds like the last ditch wish of a hopeless man who is at the end of his rope.          

In verses 5-6 the tone shifts so abruptly it’s like observing the mood swing of a manic depressive.  Is this the same guy?  David’s expressions of trust, joy and worshipful singing are a sharp change from the rest of the psalm.    


In this short psalm, what seems like a dichotomy of expression, is really a picture honest human beings can relate to.  How often do we come to situations in life that seem to bring us to our wits end?  The pattern given to us in this psalm is one of honesty and hope.  David is honest before the Lord about how he feels and what he is going through.  We can learn here that it is alright—indeed it is needful and desirable—to be perfectly honest with ourselves and the Lord.  He knows how you’re feeling anyway, so why not just spill out exactly and expressively what’s going on inside of you. 

But anxiety and woefulness cannot be wallowed in with no hope.  As healthy as it is to honestly spill your guts, living in that quagmire will not be.  Thank God for verses 5-6!  David’s cry for enlightenment in verse 3 is answered in verses 5 & 6.  Our loving and merciful God will never leave us without hope!  There is no situation in life that you can go through, as dark and evil and painful as it may be, that is beyond the reach of God to restore joy, peace and meaning.  You, as David, can trust in Him through it all.


Lord, thank You for this encouragement from Your Word.  May I always and in every situation be able to say, “I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart rejoices in Your salvation.  I know that You have dealt bountifully with me; therefore my heart is not deprived of my song of worship and praise to You.”
Through the presence of Christ always within me.  Amen.  -AP

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Never Stop Growing in the Lord

Today’s Bible Reading:  Leviticus 15-17; Acts 18
Topic: Spiritual Maturity

SCRIPTURE:  Acts 18:24-28

24 Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

27 When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. 28 For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 18:24-28 NIV)


This passage tells us about a disciple of Jesus named Apollos; an educated man with considerable gifts of oratory and didactics. However, as effective and zealous as he was for the Lord, we find that his education and spiritual experience was incomplete. I love the humble and gracious way Priscilla and Aquilla chose to help Apollos gain further maturity in the Lord—they invited him to their home. They didn’t engage him in open debate; they didn’t belittle him for his limited experience, for as yet, “he knew only the baptism of John.” No, but they graciously and gently, “explained to him the way of God more adequately.”


The example of Apollos here teaches us that we are to boldly step out and use the gifts God has given us while at the same time, never stop learning, never stop maturing intellectually AND spiritually—never stop growing in the Lord.


Lord, may I exhibit boldness with humility. May I not hesitate to use the gifts you have given me, and as I do, may I ever keep learning and growing in my experience as a disciple of Jesus. For Your glory. Amen.  -AP

Friday, February 10, 2017


(Reposted from 7/17/11)
Today’s Bible Reading:  Leviticus 13-14, Acts 17
Topic: Evangelism

SCRIPTURE: Acts 17:22-23

22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:


Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.
 (Acts 17:22-23 NKJV)


This passage finds the Apostle Paul in GreeceAthens was the world center of intellectualism and philosophical thought; and here, the intellectually astute Paul demonstrates an important lesson in evangelism:  Adapt the message to the culture you are trying to reach. 

Paul recognized at least two important things about the Greeks in Athens.  First, they were a thoughtful people who were not intimidated by new ideas.  They enjoyed debating philosophy and were willing to have their minds opened to something new and different.  Secondly, they were a very religious people.  Greek mythology provided the means by which they could explain much of the unknown.  Their culture was formed by religiously explaining things by the gods.  If there was something in nature or human relations they couldn’t understand, they would make up a new god to explain it.  They had a god for virtually everything; and if that wasn’t enough, they even erected an idol to the “unknown god” just in case.

Paul astutely used these aspects of their own culture to tailor his message of the gospel of Christ:  “Let me tell you about this god whose name you do not know.  He is not just another god, He is the God…  He does not have to remain unknown, but can be known to you.”      


When we set about to carry on with the commission to go into all the world and share the Gospel—to take the message of the love of God and salvation through His Son to our fellow men and women either next door or to other lands, we will be wise to frame our message in cultural terms people will understand and relate to.  But the most important bit of understanding we gain from Paul’s experience in Athens is not just a tactical technique.  You see, it isn’t that we learn the “tactic” of adapting the message to the culture, it is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ IS adaptable to any culture.


Lord, give me the wisdom by Your Holy Spirit to proclaim Your Gospel well, that You may become “known” to all. 
In Jesus’ name.  Amen.  -AP