Sunday, April 30, 2017

Our Daily Burden Bearer

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 6; 1 Chronicles 13; Psalm 68; Matthew 17

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



SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 68:19

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. (Ps 68:19 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

From this short verse I receive great encouragement. I discover that God is not just my Savior from my sins; He does not just save me for eternal life in Heaven, but He is also my Savior from the burdens I face here on Earth. I am especially struck by the word “daily” in this verse. Every day of one’s life will contain different circumstances and challenges that will need to be confronted. Some will be more severe than others; some even extreme. But we are assured that “God our Savior” bears the burdens each and every day.


APPLICATION:

Sometimes I get walloped by happenings that send me reeling. Sometimes I experience a harsh burden that continues for many days in succession. Though it is hard to feel that the Lord has all in hand, I must trust that God my Savior is bearing my burdens daily.


PRAYER:

Lord, give me wisdom for each day to do the part I am called to do, and the ability to be at peace with Your bearing of the rest. Through Christ alone. Amen.  –AP

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Honest and Pliable

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 4-5; Psalm 139; Matthew 16

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



SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 139:21-24

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord, and abhor those who rise up against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Ps 139:21-24 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

All of the preceding verses of Psalm 139 speak of God’s “omni” attributes—

His omniscience:
He knows our thoughts and our words before they are even uttered (vv. 2-4).
His omnipresence:
There is no place that He is not present; the heavens, the depths, the womb, even darkness will not hide one from His presence (vv. 7-16).

David seeks to know the thoughts of God; they are “precious” to him (v. 17). Then we come to verses 21-22. David voices his hatred toward those who are wicked. To those who hate God, David returns hatred. This interjection of hatred amidst the extolling of God’s wonderful attributes seems out of place. David is expressing hatred for his enemies and the enemies of God, yet we know God is a God of love who commands us to love our enemies.

It seems that verses 21-22 offer a stark example of what this whole psalm is saying— God knew David’s thoughts and words before they were penned: “I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.” Yet the key point for David and for us comes in verses 23-24: Our hearts must first be honest (vv. 19-22 show David’s honest feelings); but most importantly, our hearts must be willing to be changed—uncover any offensive way in me and lead me in Your everlasting way (v. 24).


APPLICATION:

God knows my heart and my thoughts. I must be willing to let Him reveal my anxious thoughts and offensive ways. I must allow my heart to be softened, molded and changed. May I be such that I may be led by my Lord “in the way everlasting.” –This is what the attitude of my heart should be: honest and pliable.


PRAYER:

Search me, O God, and know my heart. I declare my willingness to be led by You even in ways beyond my understanding. Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Friday, April 28, 2017

Exposing Our Attitudes

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 3; 1 Chronicles 12; Matthew 15

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



SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 15:21-28

22 A Canaanite woman… came to him (Jesus), crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession."

23 Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."

24 He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."

25 The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.

26 He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."

27 "Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."

28 Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matt 15:22-28 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

There are many lessons to be gained from this unusual passage. What is the main point? Is it about the woman’s “great faith”? Is it about persistence? Is it about the disciples wanting to “send her away”? Are some people really to be considered “dogs”? Did Jesus really come only for the people of Israel? Yes, many questions to be explored, answered and the lessons to be taken to heart, but I want to consider one reason why Jesus treated this woman in such a condescending manner.

Knowing the character and nature of Jesus—His love for all people in the world—His commands to love and go into all the world—it is clear that Jesus was and is in no way bigoted. However, He certainly recognizes that bigotry does exist between different people groups. By echoing attitudes He knew existed in His own disciples, He exposed them and corrected them. “You think I was only sent for you—only for Israel—not true! You think that you are higher than other people; that they are as dogs—not true!” And to accentuate the point He praised the woman for her faith and healed her daughter.


APPLICATION:

The truth stated by our American founding fathers that, “All men are created equal” is validated by the Scriptures. Yet to act as if prejudice and bigotry do not exist by merely policing our speech is only to mask the need within people’s hearts for genuine transformation that can only fully be realized by receiving Christ within.


PRAYER:


Lord, help me demonstrate Your love and acceptance for all people by my actions and not just by acting “politically correct.” Through Christ Jesus. Amen.  –AP

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Where to Take a Stand

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 2; 1 Chronicles 11; Psalm 142; Matthew 14

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



SCRIPTURE:  1 Chronicles 11:13-14

13…At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines. 14 But they took their stand in the middle of the field. They defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory. (1 Chron 11:13-14 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

A barley field seems an unlikely place to defend so valiantly. At first these Israelite troops, led by Eleazar (one of David’s top three mighty men), retreated from the Philistines. But for some reason, right in the middle of a lowly barley field, Eleazer is led to take a stand. Why the barley field? It probably wasn’t because this field was particularly valuable. A wheat field or a vineyard or an olive grove would have been considered more valuable, but it was in a barley field that “the Lord brought about a great victory.” 


APPLICATION:

It is important to note that it was the Lord that gave the victory. So the question becomes, where in one’s life does the Lord say to take a stand? What is your barley field? Where is the place the Lord can bring you victory over the enemy that pursues you? When the Lord reveals that place—the place where he commands you to draw a line and say to the enemy, “Here! And no further!” take courage, be resolute, and realize your triumph in His name.


PRAYER:

Lord, show me the battlefield of Your choosing. I submit to Your leading and trust You for victory. Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Feed the Crop, Not the Thorns

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 1; Psalm 140; Matthew 13

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



SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 12:43-45

From Jesus’ parable of the sower:

3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 He who has ears, let him hear."
(Matt 13:3-9 NIV)

From Jesus’ explanation of the parable:

18 "Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." (Matt 13:18-23 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

In this parable Jesus gives four scenarios of sewn seeds:
1.                  Some fell on the path
2.                  Some fell on rocky places
3.                  Some fell among thorns
4.                  Some fell on good soil

For this journal entry I want to specifically consider the third scenario. In this scenario the issue is not that the seed did not even sprout (scenario 1), or that it sprouted but soon died (scenario 2), but that it provided little or no fruit because of stunted growth due to “worries of this life” and falling prey to “the deceitfulness of wealth” (v. 22). This scenario is not representative of an unsaved person, but of an ineffective Christian. 


APPLICATION:

To allow oneself to be occupied with fret, or to be overly concerned with money or the things money provides, is to rob oneself of the fullness of life available on this side of heaven. It feeds the thorns rather than the crop.


PRAYER:

Lord, keep me from the thorns. May my trust in You overshadow the concerns of life that serve only to feed the thorns instead of the fruit. Create in me a heart of joy and fulfillment that results in bountiful produce from my life.

For my best and for Your glory through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Void Will Be Filled

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 30-31; 1 Chronicles 10; Matthew 12

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



SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 12:43-45

Jesus said…

43 "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first… (Matt 12:43-45 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

The human house cannot remain unoccupied. Evil spirits may be cast out, and the inner man delivered of them; but if one does not accept and receive Christ within, the empty human heart is a vulnerable abode for evil spirits to return to. It is not the absence of evil that brings spiritual health, it is the presence of Jesus.


APPLICATION:

Whenever I pray for deliverance of any kind over someone, I must remember to also pray for the presence of Jesus to fill the void.


PRAYER:


Lord, help me lead people not only to Your deliverance, but also to Your fullness. Through Christ. Amen.  –AP 

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Wisdom of a Child

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 28-29; Psalm 109; Matthew 11

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



SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 11:25

At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike. (Matt 11:25 NLT)


OBSERVATION:

God created in mankind the ability to reason. We are meant to think and learn. We are supposed to grow intellectually. Like everything God has created, our minds will be best developed when our natural curiosity to know and discover is aided by Him. However, knowing Him—having relationship with Him—is not achieved by intellectual pursuit, but comes from spiritual rather than cognitive knowledge. When we allow our reasoning to supersede our childlike faith, wisdom is hidden from us.


APPLICATION:

I have been created as a being in the image of my Creator—a triune being of body, intellect and spirit. I must never develop any one of these to the detriment of all.


PRAYER:


Lord, forgive me when I have neglected the health and well being of any part of my created self. May I grow, and grow old in the fullness of Your will. In Jesus’ name and for Your glory. Amen.  -AP

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Good Slap in the Face

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 27; Psalm 141; 1 Chronicles 9; Matthew 10

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



SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 141:5

Let a righteous man strike me — it is a kindness; let him rebuke me — it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it. (Ps 141:5 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

When is being slapped a good thing? When is being chastised like being anointed? –When it is being administered to me by a righteous person for my own good, that’s when! If we are ever to grow as disciples of Jesus, we must be able to accept correction from the Lord through others. That means we must be willing to make ourselves accountable to good mentors, coaches, counselors, teachers, friends whom we trust and who will be unafraid to rebuke us when necessary.


APPLICATION:

Whenever I receive criticism or a figurative slap in the face, I must be willing to reflectively consider the rebuke before reacting. Additionally, I must have those in my life to whom I have given permission to administer those slaps.


PRAYER:


Lord, I desire Your anointing, even when it may come in an uncomfortable way. Help me to recognize it when it comes and grow in my discipleship. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Leadership Is Apparent

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 25-26; Psalm 63; Matthew 9

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



SCRIPTURE:  1 Samuel 25:14-15

14 One of the servants told Nabal's wife Abigail: "David sent messengers from the desert to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 15 Yet these men were very good to us... (1 Sam 25:14-15 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

The setting of this story is that David was leading an army of men in need of supplies—an army that was capable of confiscating whatever they needed by force. As they camped near where the servants of a wealthy land owner named Nabal were busy with sheep shearing time, they effectively protected them from marauders. When David sent a delegation of his men to ask for some needed provisions, they were rudely rebuffed by Nabal provoking David’s ire. Then we come to vv. 14-15 as these concerned servants turn to Nabal’s wife Abigail about a dangerous situation that was brewing.

It is interesting that the servants knew just who to go to. Nabal may have been their master, but they knew who the leader was. Abigail had good judgment, the ability to direct others quickly and decisively, and boldness to act unilaterally when needed. Despite her lowly position in that culture as a mere woman—just a wife, she was a wise and diplomatic problem solver—a leader.


APPLICATION:

Leadership skills can certainly be learned and practiced, and some people are naturally gifted leaders. But whether leadership is an acquired skill, a God-given gift, or a combination; leadership is apparent and people are drawn the real leaders.


PRAYER:


Lord, may I be a faithful follower of You, and may You grant me the wisdom and good judgment to be a leader of others for You. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Friday, April 21, 2017

Committed to Follow

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 24; Psalm 57-58; 1 Chronicles 8; Matthew 8

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



SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 7:13-14

19 Then a teacher of the law came to him (Jesus) and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."
20 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."
21 Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
22 But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."
(Matt 8:19-22 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

These verses challenge disciples to examine themselves and ask, “How strong is my commitment to follow Jesus? Is following Jesus more important than anything else? – More than my own comfort (having a place to sleep)? – More important than my perceived obligations (like honoring beloved departed)?”


APPLICATION:

Jesus probably won’t ask me to skip a funeral or to sleep on the street, but my allegiance to Him and trust in Him should be such that wherever He leads and whatever He asks, I know I’ll be okay.


PRAYER:


Lord, may my faith and trust in You be bolstered, and my commitment be unwavering. Amen.  -AP

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Creating a Bottleneck for Jesus

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 23; Psalm 31, 54; Matthew 7

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



SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 7:13-14

Jesus says…

13 "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matt 7:13-14 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

There is much to contemplate in these two verses. However, let me just make an observation about one thought. We live in a fast-paced world. We like to do things quickly: fast food, microwave ovens, instant messaging, Instagram, Twitter, high speed freeways, etc. When we travel we will usually take the fastest route. We will avoid side roads in favor of the broader, quicker and more accessed freeways. When we are always in a hurry, small gates and narrow roads spell only bottlenecks to us. Yet, when we do venture onto a less traveled byway, we often discover sights and beauty we never knew before.


APPLICATION:

The saddest part of these two verses is that “only a few” find the road to life. May I be less concerned with speed on the road of life and take time to show others to the small gate and narrow road.


PRAYER:

Lord, help me do my part to create a bottleneck of souls passing through the narrow gate of Your driveway. Through Christ Jesus. Amen.  -AP

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Eye See

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 22; Psalm 17, 35; Matthew 6

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



SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 6:22-23

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But it your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness.” (Mt 6:22-23 NKJ)


OBSERVATION:

Jesus says, “The lamp of the body is the eye.” What does this allegory of the eye represent? What we see comes into our consciousness. If we think of the “eye” in this way, we could surmise that what we see (what we take in) affects us for either good or bad. Using this premise, we must be careful what we look at lest it defile us. However, it is often true that we “see” some pretty horrible, dark things in this world through no choice of our own. Does the sight of these things necessarily mean that we are now bad or dark? Note also that Jesus says, “If your eye is good, you will be full of light. If your eye is bad, you will be full of darkness.” This is talking about the condition of the eye rather than what is seen through it.


APPLICATION:

I don’t think Jesus is talking about “what” I see but rather “how” I see things. We have a tendency to see what we are looking for. If I expect the worst from people I will see them cynically. My view will be dark. If I believe the best from others the cynic will call me na├»ve, but I will see and encourage bright possibilities by my attitude. This is what Jesus is telling me: If my perception of things is always toward darkness I will be full of darkness, but if I dwell on the Light in the midst of darkness my being will be “full of light.” 


PRAYER:


Lord, help me always to see in the Light. For the good of myself and others and for Your glory. Amen.  -AP

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

You are the Light of the World

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 15-16; Psalm 34; Matthew 5

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



SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 5:14,16

Jesus says…

14 “You are the light of the world.  16 …let your light shine before men, that they may see…” (Mt 5:14, 16 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

These are the words of Jesus, but the first question to be answered is to whom are His words here addressed? Matthew 5 begins the recording of one of Jesus’ best known and longest teachings, the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was speaking to the multitudes of people who had come to hear him, but His words are addressed specifically to His followers—“His disciples” (5:1). In this passage (vv.14-16) Jesus is speaking directly to committed disciples, those who face persecution because of their belief in Him. To you who are ridiculed, insulted and lied about because of your faith (v. 11), Jesus imparts an awesome calling: Become what I am to the world.

Jesus Himself was “the light of the world.”

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12 NIV)


APPLICATION:

Now Jesus is saying that when you receive me into your life, you become an extension of me, you become the light of the world. So do not hide that light! Do not cower in the face the harsh rebuffing you will undoubtedly face because of me, because as mean and evil as people may be, I love them and they desperately need the light of life I bring. My light in you is now yours. Let your light so shine before men that they may see their own wretchedness and their own need to live in the Light. 


PRAYER:


Lord, bless me with the strength and courage to openly live my faith. May I unashamedly allow the Light of Your presence within me to shine for all to see.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.  -AP

Monday, April 17, 2017

Invincible

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 19; 1 Chronicles 7; Matthew 4

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



SCRIPTURE:  1 Samuel 19:10, 20-21

10 Then Saul sought to pin David to the wall with the spear, but he slipped away from Saul's presence; and he drove the spear into the wall. So David fled and escaped that night…

20 Then Saul sent messengers to take David. And when they saw the group of prophets prophesying, and Samuel standing as leader over them, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers of Saul, and they also prophesied. 21 And when Saul was told, he sent other messengers, and they prophesied likewise. Then Saul sent messengers again the third time, and they prophesied also. (1 Sam 19:10, 20-21 NKJ)


OBSERVATION:

It has been said that the man of God is invincible until God is through with him. David was anointed by God and God supernaturally protected him (Ps 59:16). When Saul tried to run him through with a spear he was unsuccessful. The spirit of the Lord was so present over David that three different groups of men sent by Saul to take him were so overcome by the Spirit that, instead of seizing David, they were seized by the Spirit.


APPLICATION:

As long as I have the Lord’s anointing to lead and am obedient to my calling, I will be invincible—I will have God’s protection and need never fear.


PRAYER:

May I always have Your anointing Lord and fearlessly obey Your will.

In Christ Jesus. Amen.  -AP

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Wheat or Chaff

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 18; 1 Chronicles 6; Psalm 11; Matthew 3
Topic: Fruitfulness



SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 3:10-12

10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

11 "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matt 3:10-12 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

These are the words of John the Baptist as he was baptizing people in the Jordan River and some Pharisees showed up. He uses two metaphors (fruit trees and wheat) to elucidate his point that lives spent unproductively in the Lord’s eyes—unrepentant lives—will meet with ultimate destruction. He had been preaching that the kingdom of heaven is at hand; the Lord’s presence was physically within reaching distance (Mt 3:1-2). He taught the people that in order to be prepared for the presence of the Lord, they needed to repent—to confess their sins, turn toward God and away from actions and beliefs that separate them from Him. As the people believed, their new commitment was consummated by being baptized in water.   


APPLICATION:

The picture of a wheat stalk growing, being harvested and the chaff being burned offers a poignant reflective question: How much of my life is wheat and how much is chaff? A stalk of wheat takes the energy of the sun, water and soil to grow. When the grain matures it is covered by a protective hull or husk, but it is the grain within the husk that is valuable and useful. When the grain is harvested, the chaff (the un-useful part) is winnowed (separated) and discarded or burned. Sometimes the head of the wheat is mostly chaff and the grain seed is very small or maybe never developed at all. In this case, the life’s energy spent in growing the stalk has been wasted; in the end nothing is left that is useful. When I come to end of my days and the chaff of my earthly existence is burned away will I be found to have led a life that is more chaff than wheat or will a golden kernel of fruit remain?     


PRAYER:

Lord my Creator, I submit myself to You. Thank You for redeeming me from unproductive, un-useful and wasted life. May your presence dwell within me all the days of my life and may I produce fruit pleasing to You. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Disturbing News

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 17; Psalm 9; Matthew 2

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Conviction of Sin



SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 2:3

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. (Mt 2:3 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

This verse is from the familiar Christmas story about the wise men. The wise men had announced to Herod the reality of the Lord’s presence in his domain, and Herod was “disturbed.”

Isn’t it interesting that that which fills our hearts with joy and celebration is, for others, troubling and disturbing? The truth is that the presence of the Lord is always disturbing to those who have built their lives on other than God’s ways. This is true in America today. The fierce opposition we see against Christianity is due in large part I am sure, to the fact that those who live hidden lives of deceit, immorality, corruption, etc., do not want what they have hidden in the darkness exposed to the Light.


APPLICATION:

That is all the more reason to see to it that the Light of the Lord’s presence keeps disturbing our land.


PRAYER:

Lord, May those of us who know You through Christ let the Light of Your presence shine through us. May You keep disturbing those who are lost in darkness. May You keep disturbing our nation until all have come to repentance.

For our best and Your glory. Amen.  -AP

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fresh Directives

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 15-16, 1 Chronicles 5, Matthew 1

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



SCRIPTURE:  1 Samuel 15:22
   
22 So Samuel said:

      “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
      As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
      Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
      And to heed than the fat of rams.
(1 Sam 15:22 NKJV)


OBSERVATION:

This verse asks and answers a question.
 
Question: 
What does God take more delight in, sacrifices offered to Him or obedience to what He tells us to do?

Answer:
Obedience 


APPLICATION:

Why did the Israelites offer sacrifices?  Because that’s what God directed them to do.  But are we to live constantly in what God has directed us to do in the past, or in what He is directing us to do today? 

For the Israelites it wasn’t that offering sacrifices was wrong, it was that they allowed it to take precedence over hearing the voice of the Lord now.  How much of what we do in church today is done because that’s the way we’ve always done it?  Yet, as good as those procedures may be, it is infinitely more important to hear from and obey God today.


PRAYER:

Lord, thank You for Your directives – old and new.  Help Your word to always be fresh and new; and help me to obey and live in that word today.

Through Christ.  Amen.  -AP

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Faith Test

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 14; 1 Chronicles 4; 2 Corinthians 13

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



SCRIPTURE:  2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you — unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Cor 13:5 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

What is the test that determines whether one is “in the faith” or not? We are admonished to give ourselves an examination—to test ourselves—to see if we really are born again Christians—that is, part of God’s family—“in the faith.” Then we are given the grading key for the test: If your examination does not find “Christ Jesus in you,” you fail the test; and this is evidenced by unrepentant sin (2 Cor 12:21).


APPLICATION:

Salvation from the death penalty of sin comes only by accepting Christ into one’s life. It is not determined by how righteously we behave. Neither is one’s salvation forfeited by his sinful human stumblings. However, willful unrepented sin is an indicator of the absence of Jesus within.


PRAYER:


Lord, in my weakness and failings may I ever have a repentant heart that strives for righteousness with Your help. In Christ Jesus. Amen.  -AP

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Strength in Weakness

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 13; 1 Chronicles 2-3; 2 Corinthians 12

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



SCRIPTURE:  2 Corinthians 12:9

But he (the Lord) said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so… I am weak but He is strong…” the children’s song is so true. When we are obediently doing what the Lord has called us to do, we need not rely on our own strength, but may trust that His grace will be sufficient to accomplish His will in and through us. In fact, when we try to operate by our own power we will be less successful. It is when we give all our efforts to Him that He is able to bring His strength to bear. But the more control I keep, the less His power may be manifested. Therefore, in my weakness, my power to accomplish His will is made effective and perfect.


APPLICATION:

The question is not whether or not I should use the abilities God has given me. Yes, I should utilize the talents entrusted to me. The question is: On whose strength am I relying?


PRAYER:


Lord, may I ever trust in Your strength alone. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

USA Warning

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 11-12; 1 Chronicles 1; 2 Corinthians 11

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



SCRIPTURE:  1 Samuel 12:24-25

24 Be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 25 Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away. (1 Sam 12:24-25 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

This was a stern warning to the nation of Israel then and to godly nations today. The United States, for most of our 240+ years as a nation, has been a God-fearing Christian nation; and God has blessed and prospered us. Today our Christian heritage is being progressively subverted. Evil is on the rise and abounding. Our king (government leadership) rejects and turns God away from our public discourse with ever increasing frequency. Our educators have perverted didactic truth for political dogma. Our people have been systematically turned away from the One true God to serve other gods even if they do not call them gods. In the name of progressivism we are ever more digressing and I fear the USA is in danger of being “swept away.”


APPLICATION:

My allegiance is to God and I am a patriotic citizen of the United States of America. As a Christian leader not only in my church but in my community, I must encourage, and I must vigilantly encourage others, to know, honor and serve the Lord faithfully. I must pray fervently and effectively for my country.


PRAYER:


Lord, I pray for the United States of America. I not only pray “God bless America,” I also pray “God save America.” Send wide sweeping renewal and affection for You to our land, that the USA may continue to realize Your blessings. In the name of Christ Jesus, God the Son I pray. Amen.  -AP

Monday, April 10, 2017

Who Toots My Horn?

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 8-10; 2 Corinthians 10

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



SCRIPTURE:  2 Corinthians 10:18

For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends. (2 Cor 10:18 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

This statement seems so obvious. Basically it says, “Don’t toot your own horn.” There is something in our human nature that enjoys receiving accolades. We love it when other people praise our achievements; and often we tend to make sure they hear about them so they will know to compliment us. But whether or not we are bragging or listening to others boasting for us, the only commendation that matters is what comes from the Lord.


APPLICATION:

I’ll admit that I really appreciate receiving positive feedback from people. Not only does it feed my ego, but it encourages me to try even harder and excel all the more. Likewise, negative feedback, though not pleasurable, helps me make corrections and grow. Self boasting produces nothing and the praise of others can be fleeting. I must let God toot my horn.


PRAYER:


Lord, may I live as one whom You commend. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sow Heartily

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 6-7; Psalm 72; 2 Corinthians 9

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



SCRIPTURE:  2 Corinthians 9:6-7

6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
(2 Cor 9:6-8 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

Paul continues his exhortations on giving in the 9th chapter of this epistle to the Corinthian Church. He uses an agricultural analogy to make the point for generosity—the more seeds one sows in good soil, the more crops he will have at harvest. Likewise, the more one gives, the more blessings he will receive in return. Lest however we should forget that it is not as important what or how much one gives as how he gives, Paul reminds us that in God’s economy it is the heart of the giver, not the amount of the gift that brings His blessing.


APPLICATION:

I should not give reluctantly or because I feel pressured or guilted into giving. What I give is my own decision, but it should be heartfelt and given as cheerfully as I enjoy giving gifts to my children.


PRAYER:

Lord, may You bless me with more to give and may I be obedient to do so joyfully.

In Christ Jesus. Amen.  -AP

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Willingness to Give

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 3-5; Psalm 77; 2 Corinthians 8

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



SCRIPTURE:  2 Corinthians 8:12

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. (2 Cor 8:12 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

In context the Apostle Paul is encouraging the Corinthians toward giving their fair share in an offering to be received, but I love the balanced admonition here in verse 12. Yes, everyone has something to give (and not just monetary gifts). Giving is a spiritual principle, but giving is more a matter of the heart than the amount of the gift.


APPLICATION:

If I willingly and joyfully give of what I have, I need not fret over whether it is enough. God sees my heart and I must watch my heart—my attitude—my motives—in the giving of my gifts.


PRAYER:


Lord, by Your Spirit always confirm to me what and how I should give, and make me a cheerful giver. In Christ. Amen.  -AP

Friday, April 7, 2017

The House of Pruitt

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Samuel 1-2; Psalm 66; 2 Corinthians 7

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



SCRIPTURE:  Genesis 1:27-28

30 … the Lord declares: … Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. 31 The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your family line.
(1 Sam 2:30-32 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

In the context of this passage, the Lord was speaking to Eli and his house (his family line). Eli’s line was a family of priests, but Eli’s sons were corrupt and willfully sinful, bringing disgrace to the priesthood. For the Jews, unlike our American culture today, the place of the patriarch was important, revered and considered a great blessing to the house. If the family line was cut off, meaning no more sons would be born, there would eventually be no more blessing of an old man and that house would come to an end.


APPLICATION:

I love my family so very much—both my biological and spiritually adopted children. I boast in them always. I think they love me too, although our culture does not hold such esteem for the place of patriarch.

For my branch of the family name Pruitt, having no Pruitt grandsons, I may be the last old man of the house of Pruitt. Yet I hope that my legacy to all of my children, grandchildren and succeeding generations will be felt.


PRAYER:

My tent has been expanded to include my Easter children together with the Pruitt’s. Lord, make a good and lasting legacy for the family You have blessed me with. May I, as Father Pruitt, leave an enduring mark for You in our family line.  

Through Christ and for Your glory. Amen.  -AP

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Now is the Time

Today’s Bible Reading:  Ruth 3-4; Psalm 64, 65; 2 Corinthians 6

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



SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 65:3 & 2 Corinthians 6:2

When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions. (Ps 65:3 NIV)

…I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Cor 6:2 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

This journal entry was first written in a year when Good Friday fell of April 6. Regardless of what year you may be reading this entry, the message of today’s scriptures is powerful and all the more expedient as the years pass by.

Good Friday is the day Christians especially remember and reflect upon Christ’s death on the cross. Jesus’ passion (His suffering) began with His arrest a Gethsemane, through the horrible beatings and humiliation, it continued with the flesh shredding flogging He received, and intensified all the more through the agonizing crucifixion. The Light was extinguished on the whole earth, for the Light of the World was fading and then died on that cross. The atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind was completed.


APPLICATION:

Because of His sacrifice we need not be “overwhelmed by sins” that lead to death, but may receive forgiveness and life! Now indeed is the day of salvation—this age after the sacrifice of Jesus for us—today, right now life and light are available to each and all. If you have not yet believed in Him and accepted His gift of life for you, do it now! If you have already received His gift of salvation that secures your eternal life after your earthly life ends, and joyous life and purpose on earth until then, may you be moved all the more to offer your thanksgiving and praise! 


PRAYER:


Lord, my life is wholly Yours. All glory and honor be unto You! Amen.  -AP

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fool

Today’s Bible Reading:  Ruth 1-2; Psalm 53, 61; 2 Corinthians 5

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



SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 53:1

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Ps 53:1 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

A fool is a person who lacks judgment or sense, a stupid person. An ignorant person is one who lacks knowledge, either because of a lack of learning or an unwillingness to learn. The Hebrew word for “fool” in this psalm of David is nabal and can be defined as one who is ignorant in the sense of being unwilling to learn; or a person whose judgment is faulty, leading to erroneous conclusions. The verbiage in this verse seems to indicate a person who has reasoned (has thought it out and come to the conclusion) that God does not exist. The Bible says that such a person is a fool. To believe that you actually possess the capacity to know that there is no God—to believe that nothing beyond your ability to explain it exists—is incredibly arrogant, overwhelmingly narrow, and foolish.


APPLICATION:

I have met many people like this. Calling them foolish doesn’t help; nor does arguing with them. As Christians, at some point you may try to reason with people; and at some point you may realize that reasoning will not help. Enlightenment comes from the Giver of Light; that is how I know God. I must pray for that God-given enlightenment to break through to others who have fallen prey to faulty judgment.  


PRAYER:

Lord, I pray for the fools. Break through to them as only You can do.
Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Lead Zealously with a Pure Heart

Today’s Bible Reading:  Judges 19-21; 2 Corinthians 4
Topic: Honesty



SCRIPTURE:  2 Corinthians 4:2

…we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
(2 Cor 4:2 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

Here is a word to Christian leaders. In our zeal to advance the kingdom of God and grow His Church, we must avoid techniques that are not entirely truthful or that even give the appearance of being deceptive. We must never twist the Word of God to achieve our ends. Our job is not to trick people into the kingdom of God or—God forbid—to follow our own ministry.


APPLICATION:

Yes, let us be zealous for Christ; but may our zeal be selflessly for Him and not for our own self interests. May our zeal ever increase to present the Gospel of Christ well—to boldly present the unadulterated truth plainly, and allow the Holy Spirit to deal with each person’s conscience. Let Him bring the increase. 


PRAYER:

Lord, I repent of any untoward motives within me. Use me to teach and preach Your truth with clarity and a pure heart. Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Monday, April 3, 2017

Letters Written On Human Hearts

Today’s Bible Reading:  Judges 17-18; Psalm 89; 2 Corinthians 3
Topic: Competence



SCRIPTURE:  2 Corinthians 3:3-6

3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God. 5 Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant- — not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor 3:3-6 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

The proof of Paul’s competence as a minister was the people he had ministered to and how they lived their lives. Their hearts were his letter of recommendation. However, this was not accomplished by his own skill, but only through Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit.


APPLICATION:

One of the primary goals of MSM (Metro School of Ministry) over which I serve as director and teacher, is “Deploying Competent Leaders.” I must lead my students to realize that their competency as ministers will only be fully realized when they add to their learning and experience a dependence upon and trust in God’s Holy Spirit.


PRAYER:

Lord, may my ministry be marked by the working of Your Holy Spirit in people’s lives. Grant me confidence based on the competency of the Holy Spirit.

Through Christ. Amen.  -AP

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Discovering What God Already Knew

Today’s Bible Reading:  Judges 13-16; 2 Corinthians 2
Topic: Wisdom



SCRIPTURE:  Genesis 1:27-28

2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. 3 The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, "You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, 5 because you will conceive and give birth to a son… (Judg 13:2-5 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

In 1973 medical science discovered the often serious effects of alcohol on unborn babies. Since that time women began to be warned not to drink while pregnant. Yet here we see, thousands of years earlier, the wisdom of God’s Word. This incident in Judges records a remarkable theophany—an appearance of the Lord, to personally deliver important instruction. The child that was to be born (Samson) was to be set apart unto God. The Lord made it known that what the mother consumes directly affects the unborn child from conception: “do not drink fermented drink… you are going to conceive…”


APPLICATION:

I am grateful for the advances of mankind that inform healthier and more fruitful lifestyles. I am encouraged by how our discoveries often corroborate teachings found in the Bible. It certainly can be argued whether or not the Lord’s specific instruction to Samson’s mother-to-be was to safeguard the health of the life to be conceived and grow in her womb, or if it was just because he was destined to become a Nazarite—one consecrated and separated unto the Lord. Whatever the case, this passage inspires me to be all the more resolved to trust in and follow the precepts of God’s Word.


PRAYER:

Lord, in seeing, my faith in You is bolstered; in not seeing, may my faith be realized. 
In Christ. Amen.  -AP

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Pay It Forward

Today’s Bible Reading:  Judges 11-12; Psalm 50; 2 Corinthians 1
Topic: Comfort



SCRIPTURE:  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
(2 Cor 1:3-4 NIV)


OBSERVATION:

When troubles come our way, as they inevitably do, we can turn to God and receive comfort. This passage does not speak of deliverance from our troubles, though at times He can and does rescue us, even miraculously. But whether or not we see His deliverance from our distress, we may always know His comfort in the midst of it. Having received the blessing of His comfort provides us the opportunity for a double blessing in that we are then equipped to offer comfort to others through whatever trails they may be going through.


APPLICATION:

Sometimes the troubles I face are the result of my own sin or foolishness. Sometimes afflictions are thrust upon me through no fault of my own. Maybe someone else has done a wrong against me; perhaps I have fallen ill or an accident has struck me. Whether it is because of my own stupidity or not, God is gracious to see me through it if I turn to Him.


PRAYER:

May I realize Your strength and compassion O Lord.

Through Christ. Amen.  -AP