Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Motivational Gifts

Today’s Bible Reading:  Proverbs 16-18; Romans 12

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: God-given Gifts

SCRIPTURE:  Romans 12:4-8

4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. (Rom 12:4-8 NIV)


The apostle Paul points out that individual believers in Christ Jesus are each endowed with different gifts and different functions, but together make up one body—the body of Christ. The seven gifts listed in this passage are often referred to as motivational gifts. These are the gifts Father God, our Creator endowed us with when He formed us—our inborn giftedness—our personality traits and characteristics—what we were made by our Creator to be. It is these gifts and/or unique mixture of these gifts that give us unique individual perspectives and motivation in life and work.   


God has not made us all the same. That’s okay. In fact that’s good! Discovering your own unique giftedness is the first step in realizing your own personal life’s calling from God. Also, when we understand that other members of the Body of Christ are gifted differently than we are, we can appreciate and benefit from the different perspectives they bring. In order for the Body of Christ, His Church, to be complete and to function properly, each member needs to be in the place the Creator has purposed them to be and operating as He has gifted them to. We all need and benefit from each other.   


Thank You Lord for the realization you have given me of my unique mix of motivational gifts. Thank You for helping me to understand that part of my gifting is meant to help others discover their own gifting, and fulfill the place You have created for them in Your body.
For our greatest fulfillment and Your glory in Christ. Amen.  –AP

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Choosing To Be Grafted

Today’s Bible Reading:  Proverbs 13-15; Romans 11

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: God’s Grace & Wrath

SCRIPTURE:  Romans 11:22-23

22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23 And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. (Rom 11:22-23 NIV)


In Romans 11 the Apostle Paul is again addressing the contrasts between Jews and Gentiles. Using the metaphor of an olive tree, he describes unbelieving Jews as branches that have been cut off and believing Gentiles as branches that have been grafted in. Of particular interest in this metaphor is that Paul states that the cut off branches could still be grafted back in and that the grafted branches could later be cut off. This assertion calls into question the doctrine of eternal security.  


This passage lends credence to the Arminianism doctrine of free will. That we are saved only by God’s grace and not by works is indisputable; but it is also within our purview to decide whether or not we will believe. The consequences of those decisions have eternal life or death significance.


Thank You Lord that Your grace and Your wrath—Your perfectly just judgments—are always in precise balance. Thank You for the assurance that I have been grafted in through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Monday, May 29, 2017

Be Not Silenced

Today’s Bible Reading:  Proverbs 10-12; Romans 10

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

SCRIPTURE:  Romans 10:9-13

9 …if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame."  12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
(Rom 10:9-13 NIV)


There is lot to observe in these five verses from Romans 10:
-          Salvation and blessings are available to everyone—no exclusions (vv. 12-13).
-          Salvation is received by heartfelt belief and outspoken profession of that belief—no covert Christians (vv. 9-10).
-          Those who have believed that Jesus is Lord are freed of guilt and shame—forever  (v. 11).

Paul supports his assertions from the writings of the Prophets: Isaiah declares, “…what the sovereign Lord says… ‘I lay a… precious cornerstone for a sure foundation (a reference to the Messiah Savior); the one who trusts will never be dismayed’” (Isaiah 28:16 NIV). Joel proclaims, “…everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Joel 2:32 NIV). These are great assurances for believers; however, while in the Lord’s eyes we have no shame, we yet abide in a fallen world that attempts to shame us for our belief and we must recognize the distinction lest we become disheartened and silenced.

The prevalent progressive philosophy today in 2017 ridicules any belief in absolute truth. The claim of Christianity and the claim of Christ Jesus himself, that He is the only way to have relationship with God, or to reach heaven after this earthly life, is scorned by the world and even by some calling themselves Christians. These people do not believe in absolutes. They either believe there is no God or that, if He does exist, he has no concern for human activity. To believe as such, it is therefore up to we humans to establish our own ideals of morality and values in life, and we make up and change the rules as we go along. The prevailing progressive wisdom of the day asserts that mutually exclusive claims of truth can be true at the same time. They would argue that what’s true for one person may not be true for another person. This is different from a commendable attitude of respecting another person’s point of view that may be different from your own. They propose that all religions can be true at the same time (a logical impossibility) and insist that whatever belief system any person believes must not only be respected, but endorsed. Those who do not agree with this universalistic philosophy must be shamed and silenced.   


Paul says that when we believe in our hearts that Jesus is the living Lord raised from the dead and speak that belief out loud, we are saved. This is not just a mental assent, but a deep, genuine and abiding belief that we live by. Part of this belief is that we are to love all people just as God does and lovingly share this absolute truth with the world—we are not to be silent about it! And therein lies the rub. It will increasingly take more courage to stand up without malice and state as did the apostles in their day, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29 NIV).  


Lord grant me and fellow believers near and far an unwavering love for each other and for those who do not believe. Grant us well founded and deep rooted persistence to stand firm amidst ever-increasing winds of war against us. Grant us supernatural strength and courage to not only stand firm, but to advance in the face of opposition to enlarge Your kingdom in the hearts and lives of humanity.

Through the life You give us in Christ and the power available to us in Your Holy Spirit. Amen.  –AP

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Calling from the Highest Point of the City

Today’s Bible Reading:  Proverbs 7-9; Romans 9

Journal Entry on a passage from today’s reading:
Topic: Wisdom and Folly

SCRIPTURE:  Proverbs 9:1-6, 13-18

1 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. 2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. 4 "Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment. 5 "Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding. (Prov 9:1-6 NIV)

13 The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. 14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, 15 calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. 16 "Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment. 17 "Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!" 18 But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave. (Prov 9:13-18 NIV)


Often, throughout the book of Proverbs, the poetic and literary device of personification is employed. Wisdom is depicted as a person (interestingly often as a woman) who calls out to the hearer to heed her instruction and advice. In this way, wisdom is contrasted against folly. Proverbs 9 is a perfect example of this. Two women are calling to the “simple… those who lack judgment” from “the highest point of the city,” and urging them to enter their dwellings.

As each of us go through life we begin as simple minded. That is to say that we gain knowledge and understanding through life experiences; and our character, judgment and outlook on life are developed as we go along. There are different voices calling to us from prominent positions in our society, “choose this… turn this way…” The voices we listen to and the decisions we make will affect the course of our lives for good or evil. The admonition is to make decisions based on good judgments and not just listen to the loudest voice, because the difference will lead to life or death.


All of us have had missteps in our lives. Indeed, the course of our lives is not a straight line, but is filled with turns and curves. The choices we have made in the past have led us to where we are today in the course of our lives. Wherever that point is, for good or bad, we still have the ability to heed the voices trying to direct us either toward life or death.

If I were trying to illustrate this with a graph, I would start with a horizontal line. At the left end of the line is a point labeled “birth” and the other end on the right, a point labeled “death” (this represents the length of one’s earthly life). On the right end of the graph would be a vertical line forming a “T” turned sideways. At the top of this line is a point labeled “life” and at the bottom a point labeled “death” (these represent end of life destination points), and above the horizontal line this vertical line is labeled “voice of wisdom”—below the line it is labeled “voice of folly.” Then beginning from the birth point would be squiggly lines with many turns and curves going up or down or diagonally. Sometimes the lines will be headed toward the point of life above the horizontal line and sometimes toward the death point below. The aim of this illustration is to show that no one reading this has traveled all the way to the end point—we are still living and traveling this road of life. So at whatever point you find yourself, either above or below the line, you can still make wise choices directed toward life rather than death. Your final destination point is not yet determined. Listen to the voice of wisdom!    


Lord, grant me the favor and understanding to teach and proclaim Your wisdom effectively in today’s society. May I be a wise voice pointing people toward eternal life through Your love and provision in Christ.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.  –AP

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Be Satisfied By Your Own Spouse Alone

Today’s Bible Reading:  Proverbs 4-6; Romans 8

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

SCRIPTURE:  Proverbs 5:3-6, 15-21

3 …the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6 She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not. (Prov 5:3-6 NIV)

15 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. 20 Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife?
21 For a man's ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths.
(Prov 5:15-21 NIV)


The wisdom extolled in the biblical proverbs, though often allegorical, is unambiguous and specific. The message of Proverbs 5 is to shun adultery and to embrace marital fidelity. The fa├žade of the adulteress may appear to be appealing and one may be tempted toward the physical gratification offered. The ultimate journey’s end of such dalliance, however, is death and destruction. Heed the wisdom to avoid that path! The illustration of drinking from one’s own cistern alone and not sharing one’s blessed fountain with others is a clear picture of the sacredness of marital union. Men, rejoice in your own wife. Be captivated by her love. Be satisfied with her breasts. Women, be as a loving doe and graceful deer to your to your husband. Be alluring to your own husband only. Keep your love and your sexuality for him alone.    


Marital infidelity is a trap into which unwise men and women have been falling for thousands of years. Fortunately a majority of men and women throughout history have wisely lived monogamously. It has been debated as to just why mankind has for the most part embraced monogamy. I read an article recently suggesting that originally men and women lived in groups and engaged in free sexual intercourse with many different partners. As the tribes grew larger, men and women began have exclusive one man and one woman relationships because a man had to stay home to protect his woman and their offspring from other men who would kill the children to steal the woman. It was matter of protecting the propagation of the race. The same article suggested that today we are beginning to evolve beyond the need for such archaic mutual relationships and are headed toward liberal sexuality as the accepted norm once again. Excuse me?!! This is not evolution, this is setting the trap for more and more people to fall into. It was God who ordained that one man and one woman should live as husband and wife for our own good fulfillment and healthy life. The writer of proverbs long ago recognized this as wise. To believe otherwise is to devolve rather that evolve, and to be led down paths that are crooked and go down to death.


Lord, grant me the strength and understanding to teach and proclaim Your wisdom effectively in today’s society. May Your precepts be practiced more and more rather than less and less. Never-the-less Lord Jesus come quickly. Amen.  –AP

Friday, May 26, 2017

My Proverb

Today’s Bible Reading:  Proverbs 1-3; Romans 7

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

SCRIPTURE:  Proverbs 3:5-6

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.  (Prov 3:5-6 NIV)


The great thing about pithy proverbs is that they generally speak for themselves and don’t require much probing investigation to elucidate their meaning. This simple proverb expresses that there are often things in life beyond our understanding—uncertainty about decisions to be made, traumas to be overcome, unanswered questions. In these times, whatever deductions we may reason on our own are not as important as trusting in the Lord for guidance, nor as sure as His faithfulness to guide us rightly.  


These two verses are my own personal favorite proverbs which I memorized long ago and have repeated to myself often over the years. It can be mental torture to try to figure out the solution to a difficult life problem or to try to figure out what went wrong in a trying situation or why it happened. There are times when I have cried out, “God, I don’t understand why!” or, “God I just don’t know what to do!” Then I quote this little proverb to myself—

“Okay Andy… Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths” (Prov 3:5-6 KJV).

It is not an excuse to abdicate responsibility to pursue solutions, it is an acknowledgment that I need God’s help. It is the peace of mind that my Lord really does have my back.          


Thank You Lord for Your faithfulness to me. Thank You that I can trust and rest in knowing I am in Your care and You will resolve things for my best even beyond my ability to imagine it. In Christ Jesus. Amen.  –AP

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Growing Old In Godly Wisdom

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Kings 10-11; 2 Chronicles 9; Romans 6

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

SCRIPTURE:  1 Kings 11:4

As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God…  (1 Kings 11:4 NIV)


It is generally accepted that as we grow older we gain in wisdom. With more years comes the accumulation of more life experiences from which more lessons are learned. Such does not seem to be the case for Solomon. As a young man succeeding his father David as king of Israel, Solomon asked the Lord for an understanding heart to judge and to discern between good and evil. God was so pleased with Solomon’s request for wisdom rather than riches or long life or power over enemies, that he became not only the wisest leader in the world, but he was also blessed with unimaginable wealth as well as a long life. It seems odd that someone so wise at a young age, instead of growing wiser as he aged actually grew to be foolish in old age. He allowed his heart to be turned away from God who had granted him everything. Solomon became a wise leader because he himself was led by God. But the older he grew, his love for God first and foremost changed to a love for women. Instead of being led by God he grew to be led by his hundreds of wives and concubines—not smart.        


I feel as if I have gained more and more wisdom over my lifetime. Yet I realize, not just from the example of Solomon above, but from my own observances, that just because one is older is no guarantee of wisdom or sound judgment. The older I get I hope to gain wisdom, but knowledge is gained by diligent study and being well read, not merely the passage of time; and wisdom—wisdom good and true—godly wisdom—comes from God. The lesson for me is that as I grow old I must not become lazy in my personal relationship with God. Just as my love for my wife grows daily because I cherish her and spend time with her and give myself to her, I must continue to maintain and grow in relationship with my God.          


My Lord and my God, I love and worship You; may I give myself to You daily. May I increase in God-given wisdom that I may be an instrument in Your hands to dispense such wisdom to all whom You have called me to reach in Your name. Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

His Love Endures Forever

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Kings 9; 2 Chronicles 8; Psalm 136; Romans 5

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

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 136

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.      His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.      His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords:      His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders,      His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens,      His love endures forever.
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters,      His love endures forever.
7 who made the great lights —       His love endures forever.
8 the sun to govern the day,      His love endures forever.
9 the moon and stars to govern the night;      His love endures forever.
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt    His love endures forever.
11 and brought Israel out from among them    His love endures forever.
12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;      His love endures forever.
13 to him who divided the Red Sea asunder    His love endures forever.
14 and brought Israel through the midst of it,      His love endures forever.
15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;      His love endures forever.
16 to him who led his people through the desert,      His love endures forever.
17 who struck down great kings,      His love endures forever.
18 and killed mighty kings —       His love endures forever.
19 Sihon king of the Amorites    His love endures forever.
20 and Og king of Bashan —       His love endures forever.
21 and gave their land as an inheritance,      His love endures forever.
22 an inheritance to his servant Israel;      His love endures forever.
23 to the One who remembered us in our low estate    His love endures forever.
24 and freed us from our enemies,      His love endures forever.
25 and who gives food to every creature.      His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.      His love endures forever.
(Ps 136 NIV)


Each verse of this psalm is followed by the declaration, “His love endures forever.” The first three verses express thanksgiving to God for who He is. He is the One true God, the God of gods (v. 2), the Lord of lords (v.3), and He is entirely good (v. 1). Verses 4-9 recognize God as Creator of the heavens and earth. Verses 10-15 identify Him as a personal God, the God of Israel; the God who delivers from bondage. Verses 16-20 show Him as the God who leads His people, protects and brings them victory. Verses 21-25 recognize Him as the One who lifts us up by His provision—the inheritance of fruitful dwelling and sustenance. Then the psalmist concludes in verse 26 repeating the call to worship and thanksgiving expressed at the beginning of the psalm, “Give thanks.” But the reason for all this understanding of who God is and what He has done—the answer to why, is in the repeated refrain, “His love endures forever.” All of this is borne of His constant, unwavering, eternal love for you and me.   


Wow! It is not just that my life and existence is owed to my Creator; it is not just that He has provided all I need for that life and existence; it is not just that He gives me purpose, meaning and victory in my existence, but that He loves me forever! My response is absolutely to offer Him my genuine thanksgiving. But more that that, may my response be to actually receive His love for me and to allow His forever love to flow through me to others.     


Worship, honor, thanksgiving, praise and love to the lover of my soul—my God, my strength, my reason! Be glorified in me I pray through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Praise Him Pastor

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Chronicles 6-7; Psalm 135; Romans 4

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

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 135:1-2

1 Praise the Lord. Praise the name of the Lord, 2 you who minister in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God. (Ps 135:1-2 NIV)


Verse 1 is written in the declarative—a command: “Praise the Lord.” But what strikes me in this instance is to whom the command is directed: “you who minister.” It is the ministers who are specifically directed to offer their praise to God in this psalm. 


As a minister myself—one whom the Lord has called to serve as a pastor/teacher/leader, it is my duty to teach followers of Jesus; to lead them in worship. But this passage isn’t about my call to lead and teach. Rather, as one who is set apart to be a minster, I am first called to be a worshipper myself. Of all my ministerial duties and responsibilities, I must never forget this.   


Lord, I praise and worship You! Make me ever mindful that in all my service I will first worship. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.  –AP

Monday, May 22, 2017

Joyous Reconciliation

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 5; Psalm 99; Romans 3
Topic: Propitiation

SCRIPTURE:  Romans 3:23-26

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Rom 3:23-26 NKJV)


Romans 3:25 speaks of Christ, by the shedding of His blood, having been a propitiation for the sins of man. To propitiate means “to gain or regain the favor or goodwill of:  appease, conciliate, pacify” (Merriam-Webster). The Greek word translated here as propitiation is hilasterion which is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew kapporeth, a direct reference to the cover of the Ark of the Covenant—the mercy seat. The mercy seat represented the very presence of God. It was here, upon the pure gold mercy seat, between the two cherubim, behind the veil in the holy of holies, that the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice once a year on the Day of Atonement to make appeasement to God for the sins of the people. Thus  kapporeth (a cover) came to have the broader definition of the covering or removal of sin by means of expiatory sacrifice.           

Hilasterion is a derivative of the “hilal” word groups in Greek. Hilal carries connotations of cheerfulness and graciousness (i.e. in averting some calamity). Indeed, it is from hilasterion’s word family we derive our English word “hilarious”; a good mood.

The concept of cheerfulness and hilarity in connection with Christ’s shed blood and atoning sacrifice is intriguing.  On the one hand we have the picture of Christ’s passion—His overwhelming suffering; hardly a joyful picture.  On the other hand we have a picture of gladness and joy.  How do these two extremes go together?


We don’t like to think of blood being spilled. We don’t like to think of suffering and pain. We’d like to have our world always be sterile and clean. We don’t like messes. We don’t like death. We certainly don’t want to think that bloodshed could or should ever be necessary. Yet the Word of God tells us bloodshed is necessary:  “…without shedding of blood there is no remission (of sins) (NKJV Bible, Hebrews 9:22). It is only through Christ’s sacrifice that we are reconciled to relationship again with our Creator.

When I see the excruciating ordeal of Jesus—when I see the massive quantity of blood gushing forth—when I see the ugly, agonizing messiness—when I watch Hell unleashed on Him and realize, that should be me—I can be at once repulsed by that visage and filled with gratitude at what He accomplished on my behalf.  Such gratitude evokes praise, worship and adoration—tearful and joyful at the same time.

It is interesting that the universal word for praise to God, hallelujah, also comes from the “hilal” family of words.  Hallelujah is literally “praise ye Jah,” a combination of joyous, celebratory praise and adoration (hallal) coupled with the object of that praise, Jehovah or Yahweh (shortened to Jah).  Thus Christ’s propitiation (hilasterion) embodies the rich meaning of His sacrifice and our joyous gratitude toward Him.     


Hallelujah! My God, I lift my praise, honor, worship and thanksgiving to You for the joyful life You have given to me by Your sacrificial love. Thus my adoration of you is often expressed aptly with laughter and weeping. Amen.  –AP

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Wrath of God

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Kings 7; 2 Chronicles 4; Psalm 98; Romans 2

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

SCRIPTURE:  Romans 2:5-8

5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done."  7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (Rom 2:5-8 NIV)


The word wrath is used three times in this passage—twice in verse 5 and again in verse 8. Paul makes it clear that God is opposed to evil in no uncertain terms. The Greek word translated as wrath in these instances is orge. This word in other passages is also translated as anger, indignation and vengeance. However, it seems Paul presents God’s wrath more as a process of fact rather than a flare up of emotional anger against sinful men and women. God’s wrath has more to do with His natural disposition against evil. In the same way that certain magnetic polarities are naturally repulsed, God in His perfect holiness and goodness is naturally repulsed by sin and evil. Therefore God’s wrath is not borne from any arbitrary decision on His part to lash out in anger, but may be seen more as the result of the clashing of His nature with wickedness. Or, to put it more precisely, when evil is exposed to the presence of God, there will be a violent reaction. It is like exposing matter to anti-matter; they cannot co-exist. The “day of wrath” or the final judgment may very well be seen as an explosive reaction where God’s person and presence completely overpowers and vanquishes darkness and evil.          


As a Christian presenting the gospel to those who have not yet believed, I would be remiss to ignore the fact of God’s wrath. Yes, God is a God of love and grace, but He is also a God of judgment and wrath. These are not contradictory or opposing aspects of His nature. God’s grace and wrath are in perfect balance. He loves every individual without question. His will is that all will come to repentance and salvation (2 Pe 3:9). His wrath is not an eruption of anger against sinners. He loves sinners, but wrath is the natural collision of His goodness with sin and evil. People do not have to be destroyed by that collision. If they will accept God’s Son they will be covered and shielded from the cataclysm of Light utterly and violently destroying and displacing darkness.     


Lord, may I help lost people realize that God is not out to punish them. He isn’t angry with them because they are sinners; He doesn’t hate them—He hates the sin that wants to destroy them, and He has provided a way for them to avoid the natural destructive consequence of His perfect goodness repulsing all evil. God help me to help people realize that loving gospel message. Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Depraved Mind

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Kings 6; 2 Chronicles 3; Psalm 97; Romans 1
Topic: Depravity

SCRIPTURE:  Romans 1:28-32

28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Rom 1:28-32 NIV)


The opening of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome seems to take the tone of a combination of lamenting and warning. Paul laments the wickedness so prevalent in the world and warns against the wrath of God that awaits those who unrepentantly continue to fill their lives, “with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity (v. 29). Paul asserts that people know what is right but continue to practice and approve of abhorrent behavior (v. 32). The excuse many may give that their self-absorbed ways are “just human nature” and therefore not only to be expected but even celebrated, does not hold water as far a Paul is concerned. Looking back to verse 20, Paul says that God’s power and nature are clearly seen and known by all, simply from creation. Therefore there is no excuse; no one can say, “I just didn’t know.” Here’s where the real warning is given: If you continue to disregard God—if you continue to place your will over His—if you continue justify your own abhorrent behavior and continue to tell yourself it is good—if you continue to live by your own egocentric reasoning, your mind will eventually succumb to depravity—you’ll be living the lie and believing it (v. 28).          


Although I can see this pattern of depravity being played out everyday in the world today, I dare not pass judgment on people or declare that anyone is irretrievably depraved and lost. My task is to love people unconditionally while at the same time standing firmly for the truth—God’s truth! But I must remember that I do not defend godliness so I may pat myself on the back, but that even that the most insolent, maddening, pain in the… (whatever), miserable, unholy adversary might have their mind healed and come to walk in relationship with their Creator.


Lord, grant unto me a measure of Your strength, courage and wisdom to uphold and proclaim Your righteousness, as well as exhibiting Your love and acceptance extended to all.
Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Friday, May 19, 2017

Be a Giver Not a Taker

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Kings 4-5; 2 Chronicles 2; Psalm 101; 2 Thessalonians 3
Topic: Deception

SCRIPTURE:  2 Thessalonians 3:7-15

7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

11 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.

14 If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. 15 Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother. (2 Thess 3:7-15 NIV)


Paul continues to warn against idleness. The strong injunction against those who expect others to provide for them is stated: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (v. 10). Paul and his ministry companions set the example of paying one’s own way and earning what they receive. It was not that they were undeserving of compensation for their ministry labors, it was that they were teaching people by example: Be givers not takers.  


This teaching should in no way be taken as an enjoinder against charity. On the contrary, this is a mandate urging charity. We know from other biblical teachings that the poor and the needy, the widows and the orphans, the infirmed and the unable are to be cared and provided for by those of us who are able. The warning is to those who are looking for or expecting a free ride at others’ expense—those who are able to give (even if only meagerly), yet idly take from their neighbors. To such as these we are admonished to treat them sternly that they feel ashamed of their slothfulness (v. 14); but not with malice, but in brotherly love to warn them for their own betterment (v. 15).


Lord, thank You for the abilities you have given me. Thank You that I am able to provide for myself and to still even lovingly help provide for others. Yet keep me from pride with the realization that I have sometimes been the recipient of the charity of others. That is indeed humbling, but more so humbling is the realization of all You have sacrificed for me that I can never earn. I can never out give You, but in You I can follow the example of living my life as a giver not a taker.

In Christ Jesus. Amen.  –AP

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Believing the Delusion

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 1; Psalm 78; 2 Thessalonians 2
Topic: Deception

SCRIPTURE:  2 Thessalonians 2:7-12

7 For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, 10 and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie 12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.
(2 Thess 2:7-12 NIV)


In context the Apostle Paul is teaching and warning the Thessalonians about the end times when the antichrist (the lawless one) appears before the second coming of Christ. Whether the personage of the antichrist is present in the world today or not, the spirit of antichrist certainly is, as it was when Paul penned this epistle (see v. 7). It is a spirit of delusion. It promotes an attitude contrary to God’s law. It is a prevailing attitude that scorns godly principles and treats deviant behavior as normal and acceptable. It is a degrading of humanity masquerading as enlightenment; and people by the masses, as though hypnotized, follow it happily to their own destruction.


As a Christian it is disheartening to find oneself maligned and ridiculed for living by faith in Christ and adhering to biblical precepts of understanding right and wrong in a loving, non-judgmental way. No matter how much I demonstrate love, acceptance and forgiveness, if I stand up in support of godly tenants, society will brand me as hateful, intolerant and ignorant. My stance motivated by love will be met with contempt and even malicious reprisal. The temptation is to throw our hands up, pray for them to inherit the damnation they deserve and give up trying to love them. Yet, as bad as things in earth are (and sure to get worse), the spirit of antichrist that is so prevalent is still counteracted by God’s Holy Spirit who is still present in the world (v. 7). The Holy Spirit is still present to give us strength, ability, wisdom and love beyond ourselves—ability to endure and yet see many people brought into His Light.


Father, thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit to dwell with me and in me that I may endure in love until Christ the Savior returns.
With all my love and worship. Amen.  –AP

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Perfectly Just Judge

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Kings 2; 1 Chronicles 29; Psalm 95; 2 Thessalonians 1
Topic: Justice

SCRIPTURE:  2 Thessalonians 1:6

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you. (2 Thess 1:6 NIV)


There is a lot to observe in just the first three words of this verse: “God is just.” God is indeed just and is the perfectly just judge. Therefore, we may be assured that justice is to be properly left in His hands. Likewise, in light of this truth, we may understand that we are not to take upon ourselves the place of imposing justice upon others. When we are mistreated, persecuted, or sinned against, we are admonished not to take matters into our own hands. We are not to strike back in vengeance. God is the One we must trust to mete out justice, He is the perfectly just judge!


For our part, we must treat everyone with love, acceptance and forgiveness; even those who treat us with disdain, disrespect and harshness. And, even more difficult, these attitudes are to be genuine, not put on.


Lord, grant me the grace to love people purely and treat them respectfully in my attitude as well as my actions.

Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Kings 1; 1 Chronicles 28; Psalm 91; 1 Thessalonians 5
Topic: Idleness

SCRIPTURE:  1 Thessalonians 5:14

And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. (1 Thess 5:14 NIV)


In context the Apostle Paul has just been speaking about the coming “Day of the Lord” (v. 2) that will come suddenly (v. 3), but that Christian believers should be alert and prepared for the Lord’s coming (v. 6). Then in verse 14, speaking to believers, he says to “warn those who are idle.” The timid are to be encouraged; the frail are to be helped; but the idle are to be warned. The implication may be that as Christians we should always be active in our relationship with the Lord, never allowing our kinship with Him to become stagnant or our spirits to become atrophied.   


Idleness can lead to sleepiness, spiritually speaking. The Day of the Lord—that is the second coming of Christ—apparently brings with it death and destruction on the Earth. To unbelievers this is the ultimate suffering of wrath and judgment. To believers, such destruction means ultimate salvation. The admonition here to believers, however, seems to be a stern warning that falling into lethargy and idleness may result in not recognizing and thus missing the Lord’s coming.


Lord, may I ever be busy obeying Your calling upon my life. May I meet “the Day” with expectation and joy rather than with fear and uncertainty.

Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Monday, May 15, 2017

'Good Enough' Isn't

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Chronicles 25-27; 1 Thessalonians 4
Topic: Godly Living

SCRIPTURE:  1 Thessalonians 4:1

…we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. (1 Thess 4:1 NIV)


The Apostle Paul commends the Thessalonian Christians for living their lives in a way that was pleasing to God, but then asks and urges them to do so “more and more.” The request is given with urgency. One might reasonably ask why such urgency if they are already conducting themselves well before God? Perhaps Paul knew they would be facing increasing pressure to conform to their world. Perhaps he was concerned that they set the proper example in the midst of their world. 


Sometimes good enough isn’t good enough. In our world today the boundaries of morality are constantly being pushed away from what is pleasing to God. As Christians we need “more and more” to be upholding godly standards of living, not less and less; and the only way we are capable of doing this is “in the Lord Jesus.” The admonition therefore, is not just to behave more and more godly; that is the result of following the admonition to be more and more in Jesus.


Lord, on my own I am weak and ineffective; but in You may I be a positive influence for You in the world more and more.

For Your glory. Amen.  –AP

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Encouraged by Disciples' Faith

Today’s Bible Reading:  1 Chronicles 22-24; 1 Thessalonians 3
Topic: Encouragement

SCRIPTURE:  1 Thessalonians 3:7-8

7 Therefore, brothers, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. 8 For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.
(1 Thess 3:7-8 NIV)


The Apostle Paul never married and had no biological children; but, just like a parent, he found satisfaction and saw his life’s purpose fulfilled in his spiritual children. Knowing that those he had discipled and fathered in the faith were standing firm in that faith allayed Paul’s fears (see v. 5) and enlivened him in the midst of the persecution he was enduring.


My primary motivational gift is that of the exhorter or encourager. One of the traits of this gift is that exhorters want to see results. So, just as Paul was encouraged to hear a good report about the Thessalonians (his children in the faith), I can definitely relate to the need for positive feedback to both my parenting and my ministry. Often in ministry I do not see or hear how people may be impacted by my preaching and teaching. However, whenever I do receive a good report or hear a testimony that something I taught actually made a difference in someone’s life, or when I see or hear my grown children living and repeating things I taught them, it heartens me, encourages my soul and lifts my spirit.   


Thank You Lord for the encouragement I receive from knowing I share these certain traits in common with the great apostle. I serve at Your pleasure and not my own, but a little encouragement to the encourager from time to time is an enlivening blessing.

In Christ, glory to God. Amen.  –AP

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Making Disciples

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 24; 1 Chronicles 21; Psalm 30; 1 Thessalonians 2
Topic: Calling

SCRIPTURE:  1 Thessalonians 2:4-12

4 … we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed — God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else.

As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, 7 but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. 8 We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us. 9 Surely you remember, brothers, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
(1 Thess 2:4-12 NIV)


Paul and his ministry partners were men who took God’s calling to leadership seriously. They saw their role as a high trust to preach and teach the gospel alone, without error and with no selfish gain. God had “approved” them for this calling (v. 4).


God has called me to the leadership role of pastor and teacher. Seeing myself also as one “approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel,” first gives me confidence to teach with authority, and sobers me with the responsibility of that trust. I am entrusted with God’s truth and charge to make disciples by “encouraging, comforting and urging” (v. 12) those I am privileged to teach and lead toward their own place of trust, responsibility and calling.


Lord, may I be worthy of the trust and calling You have given me.

Through Christ and in the power of Your Holy Spirit for Your glory. Amen.  –AP

Friday, May 12, 2017

Faith Produced, Love Prompted, Hope Inspired

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 21-23; 1 Thessalonians 1
Topic: Calling

SCRIPTURE:  1 Thessalonians 1:3

We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thess 1:3 NIV)


This letter from “Paul, Silas and Timothy” (v. 1) uses an intriguing literary device of three trios of words to commend the Christians in Thessalonica:

work                produced                     by faith
labor                prompted                     by love
endurance        inspired                       by hope

When Father God calls us to a mission—to accomplish something, it is by faith that we understand what that work is to be, and take the necessary action to produce it—to bring that call to fruition. It is by love (our love for Him and the love he has given us for others) that prompts us to labor for that call—to be motivated to expend the energy and effort for the task to be done. And when the undertaking gets hard, it is our hope in Christ that inspires us to endure to the end.


My faith produces the work of my calling; love prompts me to put forth the effort; and my hope in Christ inspires me to endure to the fruition.


Lord, thank You for the faith, hope and love You have placed within me to accomplish Your calling to me.

Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Authority to Go

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 19-20; Psalm 55; Matthew 28
Topic: Authority

SCRIPTURE:  Matthew 28:18-20

18 Then Jesus came to them (His disciples) and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20 NIV)


This is Matthew’s stating of the Great Commission. An interesting observation is the subject of authority. Jesus clearly has “all authority in heaven and on earth,” and it is in His authority that His disciples are sent. “Therefore,” because of His authority, we who are His disciples have been given the empowerment to make more disciples of Jesus. It is His power and authority and He has given it to us! Furthermore, He has not just vested us with His commission and the ability to carry it out, but we are promised His presence with us backing up that authority: “…surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Why should I be timid or fearful about sharing my faith—about telling anyone about Jesus and His commands? I have His presence within and all authority has been transmitted to me by Him. What should I fear?


May I be emboldened Lord by your presence, your Spirit and your Word to make disciples for You.

By your authority. Amen.  –AP

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

In God I Trust

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 18; Psalm 56; Matthew 27
Topic: Trust

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 56:3-4

3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you (God).
4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (Ps 56:3-4 NIV)


This is the official motto of the United States of America, “In God We Trust.” King David relied on this declaration of faith long before the USA. I love the honesty and acknowledgment by David that he does experience fear (“When I am afraid.”), and the will to set fear aside by the decision to trust in God (“I will not be afraid), because my trust is in God.


When I experience fear for whatever reason, whether it is fear for my health and well being or that of my loved ones, whether it is fear at doing poorly at my job, whether it is fear for my country or the state of the world, may I remember to make this declaration of faith like David—“In God I Trust.”


Lord, I submit my concerns and will to You.
Through Christ. Amen.  –AP

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Gray Hope

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 17; Psalm 71; Matthew 26
Topic: Hope

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 71

5 For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. 6 From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you.

9 Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone…

14 … I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more…

17 Since my youth, O God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. 18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.
 (Ps 71:5-6, 9, 14, 17-18 NIV)


This psalm is the personal profession of faith and prayer of a devout old man. Authorship of this psalm is not given though it seems likely to me that it is David. David had come to know relationship with God from his earliest childhood. His faith had been forged and strengthened as a boy tending sheep. His hope and trust in the Lord led him to be called and anointed by God to become the leader of his people Israel. As David aged, and knew that his prime physically was past, he was also aware that old age was approaching. He knew that as an old man he would not have the same vitality, yet his calling and mission in life would not be any less. His heart and his hope was to serve his Lord well even when he was gray.    


I identify with David in many respects. Though he was a warrior and fought many bloody battles and I have never gone to war, it is his heart that I find similarities with. From an early age I felt a sense of calling and purpose for my life even if I did not recognize it as from the Lord. In my youth and young adulthood, while I preferred to daydream my own path and resisted the urgings of the Holy Spirit to discover or follow God’s plan for me, the Lord has still redeemed me and I have never been without hope, even in the darkest hours. Now I am literally gray and I pray like David, “Do not forsake me now. I still need to pass your truth to the next generation. Give me strength and ability to fulfill a calling I foolishly delayed in my youth and sin. I will always have hope.


Lord, redeem my latter days that my children, children’s children, children’s children’s children and their generations may know and live in You.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.  –AP

Monday, May 8, 2017

Stubborn Silence

Today’s Bible Reading:  2 Samuel 15-16; Psalm 32; Matthew 25
Topic: Salvation

SCRIPTURE:  Psalm 32

1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord" — and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
6 Therefore let everyone who is godly pray to you while you may be found; surely when the mighty waters rise, they will not reach him. 7 You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. 9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. 10 Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.

11 Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!
(Ps 32 NIV)


This psalm of David divides into three sections.

1.   The first section (vv. 1-4) is David speaking of a revealed truth and how he learned it:

1 Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.

David learned this truth the hard way:

3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

And what was it that David kept silent about? What silence caused such heaviness upon him, sapped his energy and produced decline and groaning?

2.  The second section of the psalm is David speaking to God. He states the actions—the breaking of silence—that overcomes the burdens of vv. 3-4 and creates the blessings of vv. 1-2:

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord" — and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

It is the guilt of sin that weighs heavily upon us. Sin that is not acknowledged, that is self-justified, that is un-confessed and un-repented of, will prevent us from receiving the blessing God wants to give us. Do not keep silence to yourself or before the Lord about your transgressions, iniquities and sins.

3.  The last section of this psalm (vv. 8-11) is God speaking to us.

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. 9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle…. 10 …the Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.


To egotistically and stubbornly refuse to admit my sin is to be as a stubborn ass that will not be guided by its master. The result is to feel the tugging, straining, discomfort and wasting away of life’s energy. God is not evil and will not lead us toward anything that is bad for us. How much better it will be to trust Him, be honest before Him, and know that His love and forgiveness awaits. Then we can learn from Him, grow in strength and maturity, and know the fulfillment of being and doing what He created us to do and be—of being led by Him and knowing His blessing.


Lord, I thank You that I am one whose transgressions have been forgiven. Thank You that because of Your great love and forgiveness my sins are not held to account against me. Help me share this good news with others.

Through Christ Jesus. Amen.  –AP