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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Colossians 3:1

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

For further study - Colossians 3:1-15

In our devotional passage for today, we are told to "put off" some items and "put on" others. This exhortation is because we have "risen with Christ," Colossians 3:1. Paul tells the Colossians that when they, and thus when we put off the “old man” we also put off his “deeds” - deeds like anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communications in addition to fornication, inordinate affection, and idolatry.

These are the deeds of the "old man", which we once were, but in Christ we are told we are the “new man” and therefore have items to "put on." We are to put on holiness, mercy, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, forbearing one another, forgiving one another, and above all, put on love.

I know you have already read in your devotional reading for today all that I have just mentioned. However, it is good to rehearse what we “put off” and “put on” as the followers of Christ. The passage also reveals to us that the "peace of God" is to rule in our hearts and we are to be thankful.

You know, thankfulness is foreign to most of us. Have you noticed how people seem to forget to say "thank you" when you serve them? It is as if we are supposed to serve and those that we serve take it for granted.

Paul exhorts us to serve others anyway. Each day we spend time in God's word we see the instructions there for us to live by in the life He has for us to live today.

I think it is great to know exactly how the Lord wants us to live. Just this reminder, we do not live this way to get saved but because we are saved. The truth is that we could not live this way unless we were saved and empowered by Him to do so.

Before I conclude the devotional for today, a “prophetic prospective” on the passage is needed. Notice the first four verses of our extended reading. The "if" in verse 1 is a conditional "if" and thus could read "since we have been risen with Christ" at salvation then we should seek those things above, in the heavenlies.

In fact, verse 2 says to set our affection, or our focus, our ambitions on these things above. We do this so that when Christ shall appear in His glory we also shall appear with Him in glory.

A close study of current events in light of Bible prophecy will help us to focus on His return and how close it might be. We need to daily study the prophetic word of God to better understand the times in which we are living. This will help us to better seek those things above and set our affections on the future with Him in the heavens.

PRAYER THOT: Dear Lord, help me to look with great anticipation for Your soon return and our future existence, with You, throughout eternity, in heaven.
Monday, June 29, 2009

Philippians 3:20

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

For further study - Philippians 3:10-21

The book of Philippians is one of the richest New Testament books you can read. I have a Bible study series that I teach which I have entitled, "Personal Power for Practical People from Philippians." As you may notice, I love alliteration. However, my series title does describe this great little book. I recommend it to you for your own personal Bible study.

To prove my point, just read our extended reading for today and you will see that Paul is looking for the Rapture to happen. This is found in verses 11,20 and 21. Verse 11 is the statement of his desire to be called out of the grave if he should die before the Rapture, to then be caught up into the heavens.

The preceding verse reveals how Paul wants to live until the Rapture does happen. Paul's focus is to "know Him" which means to really come to a deep knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Paul also repeats a principle that is available to each of us which he wrote about in his letter to the Ephesians, Ephesians 1:19-20. He wrote the Ephesians that we can know the "power of the Resurrection," this is the power to live today, which we can receive from the Lord, by faith.

Paul knows that there has been much suffering in his life and ministry by the time he writes Philippians and he acknowledges that he wants to be able to understand the "fellowship with Christ" in that suffering.

The bottom line in verse 10 is that he, and we, must be ready to conform to the will of the Lord even as Jesus conformed to His Father's will and died for us on the cross.

Now that is only the first verse of our extended reading. I told you this book was rich. Look at verses 13-14. Paul states that he is focused on the future and what it might hold for us. He says, " I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." In this verse he refers to the "prize" that he hopes to get at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Therefore, verse 13, he has "one thing" he does. He forgets the past failures and looks to the future and how he can live so that he does get that "prize" at the judgment seat.

Again, I must remind you this is all in the context of Paul's awareness of what he considers, at the time of the writing of Philippians, to be the nearness of the Rapture. Paul reminds us all that our "conversation," our citizenship is not here on earth but is in heaven from where we look for Jesus to call us to be with Him.

It is when the Rapture happens and we go to be with Jesus that these old bodies of ours are changed to be like "His glorious body." What a day that will be, and it could be today that the Rapture happens. Keep looking up!

PRAYER THOT: Thank you, Lord, for such a rich passage of Scripture that You have given us through your dear servant Paul. Help me to appropriate all the truths of this passage for my own daily living.
Sunday, June 28, 2009

Ephesians 2:14

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
For further study - Ephesians 2:11-18

This is a very important passage of scripture that we have selected for our devotional reading for today. It will reveal how “two peoples”, Jews and Gentiles, became “one”. Verses 11-12 explain that in times past these two peoples were apart, “at enmity with each other”. But today when both are in Christ, both are believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, they are now close.

This happens because of the “blood of Jesus”. In fact, Jesus is the One who brought peace between Jews and Gentiles, verse 14, by taking out the "wall of partition" that was between the Jew and the Gentile.

The phrase, "wall of partition" is speaking of a "wall" around the Jewish Temple when it stood in Jerusalem to keep the Gentile from entering the sacred area of the Jewish Temple.

The Lord, with His death, burial and resurrection took out the “wall of partition” between Jew and Gentile and when the Temple was destroyed, as Jesus said it would be, the wall of partition was also destroyed at the Temple.

In the Messiah's Temple, the one described in Ezekiel 40-46, there is no "wall of partition," indicating that both Jew and Gentile have access to the Lord Jesus Christ when He sits upon His throne in the Holy of Holies in the Temple. This Temple will be erected at the end of the Tribulation and the beginning of the one thousand year Millennial Kingdom yet to come.

With the wall of partition gone between Jew and Gentile, now we both have access to Jesus. We have become "one in Christ," verse 15. There is not a "Jewish church" and a "Gentile church." There is one Church made up of Gentile and Jewish believers.

There are those who today endeavor to try to put the wall back up between Jews and Gentiles. We must not allow that to happen. There can be no division between the members of the body of Christ, the Church.

The "Church Age", after the Day of Pentecost and until the day of the Rapture, is a time when Jews and Gentiles who trust Christ become one. They are called Christians. Jews and Gentiles, when they are saved, are not Jewish Christians or Gentile Christians, we are Christians.

Before Pentecost and after the Rapture, Jews and Gentiles who believed in Jesus were, or will be "believing Jews" or "believing Gentiles." This is a key principle in understanding Bible prophecy.

It is also important that we understand this principle so that we do not divide the Body of Christ. Jesus took the wall out, we must not try to put it back and divide the Church.

The Lord has a special program for Old Testament Jewish and Gentile saints and those who are Tribulation saints made up of Jews and Gentiles. He also has a special program for Christians and this program and where it is carried out are totally different.

The Lord has given the Jews and Gentiles who come to Christ a peaceful relationship, verse 15, having slain the enmity between the two, verse 16.

PRAYER THOT: Thank You Lord for Your plan that brings Jews and Gentiles together as one.
Saturday, June 27, 2009

Galatians 4:29

But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

For further study - Galatians 4:19-31

Paul's message in Galatians is that salvation comes by “grace through faith”. He also warns Peter in a public chastisement that a Gentile does not have to become a Jew to then become a Christian.

As Paul prays for the people of Galatia, he writes to them that he wants to be present with the people to work with them "until Christ be formed in them," verses 19-20.

Paul is eager to warn the Galatians that God's grace alone will give them salvation. The Apostle uses a method of presentation to illustrate grace over works. Paul discusses Abraham's sons, the two that are best known would be Ishmael and Isaac.

The first-born, Ishmael, was born to a "slave woman," and Isaac, the second born, was born of the "free woman." This illustration is speaking to the issue of the one under bondage to the "law", the Mosaic Law given at Mt. Sinai and the one free through “grace”.

Paul carries the theme through out this text to conclusion with the statement that “we are not children of the bond woman, but of the free woman”, verse 31. This is great doctrinal truth that is applicable for our daily walk with Christ; however, there is more for us to glean from this "field of truth", there is more that we must learn.

In verse 29, Paul uses the text to explain the children of the “flesh”, Ishmael, and the children of the “Spirit”, Isaac. Paul wrote that these two would be in conflict spiritually and physically. Paul also says that was the case in his day, verse 29. Notice the last five words of verse 29, "even so it is now."

These five words shout out the reality of today, Ishmael against Isaac. Ishmael went to live in Arabia and fathered the people who would become the “Islamic” people of today. Mohammad himself stated that he was a direct descendant of Ishmael. We know that Isaac was the father of Jacob, who became Israel, the Jewish people of today.

There is today a conflict between these two boys, Ishmael, the Islamist and Jacob, the Jews. It is interesting to note that the descendants of Hagar, the Ishmaelites are still slaves to sin.

Though the Jews are still in bondage to sin, one day in the future these sons of the "son of promise," Isaac, will be free in their Messiah, Jesus Christ. But until then the conflict between these two "brothers" will continue, as we see unfolding in our world today.

PRAYER THOT: Thank You Lord for the grace that You gave me for my salvation.
Friday, June 26, 2009

II Corinthians 5:20

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.

For further study - II Corinthians 5:10-21

Congratulations on your appointment as an "ambassador". This would be a very high-ranking position for you, and for me, in any of the world’s “human governments”. However, the text tells us that you and I are both "Ambassadors for Christ" in the “heavenly government”. You cannot get any higher than that. What an honor He has bestowed on each of us that know Him as Lord and Savior.

Did you notice the first verse in the extended reading for today, verse 10? Once again we are reminded that we all will stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ. As we learned last time, that will be an awesome time.

This truth found in this chapter is to remind us of why we are ambassadors. We are to go forth to the world and be involved in a “ministry of reconciliation”, verse 18. The word "reconciliation" is used in the context of making all the facts and figures fit together in perfect harmony. We reconcile our bank accounts so that our records agree with the bank records as it relates to our personal accounts.

The ministry of reconciliation is to find those at odds with the Lord and reconcile them to Jesus Christ. What a privilege He has granted us in ministry – “the ministry of reconciliation”.

Now, back to that which the Lord uses to motivate us to be active in our ministry of reconciliation. He reminds us of His “terror”, His holiness that requires Him to sentence people to the lake of fire, eternal damnation, if they reject Jesus, verse 11. Then He tells us of His love that flows through us which will constrain us to be involved in our ministry of reconciliation, verse 14.

Our appointment as an ambassador has some real responsibility. We must be busy at upholding our side of this assignment. We cannot live unto ourselves, but to Him that died and rose again for us, and all of mankind, verse 15.

If you will look at the verse just before our expanded reading, verse 9 of II Corinthians 5, we see that Paul was ready to labor that we might be acceptable to Him. I believe this verse says Paul had an ambition and that was to be acceptable of Him at all times and for all purposes.

We must be ambitious to serve Him as an “ambassador”, however, the truth is we serve Him because of the love that constrains us to do so, that love of Christ.

PRAYER THOT: Help me Lord, to remember the reasons that I am an ambassador for Christ with the ministry of reconciliation.
Thursday, June 25, 2009

I Corinthians 3:8

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour.

For further study - I Corinthians 3:1-15

The apostle Paul, who wrote our reading today, also wrote to the Thessalonians about the Rapture of the church, I Thessalonians 4:13-18, and he told us of the sound of the trumpet, the shout of the archangel and at our Lord's shout, we will enter His presence. It is at that time in the future that the “Judgment” Seat of Christ takes place.

The Judgment Seat of Christ is when every Christian will be judged by Jesus Christ, John 5:22, for his or her labor for the Lord. It is at that time that we will receive either rewards or suffer loss of rewards.

The procedure for this awesome time before the Lord at the "Judgment Seat" is found in our reading for today. The reality that we will one day stand at the "Judgment Seat" is awesome as we consider the events that will unfold on that day.

Verse 12 tells us of the two categories of works that we will be judged for at the Judgment Seat. There are the “wood, hay and stubble” works and the “gold, silver, and precious stones” works. Those wood, hay and stubble works are works we did after becoming a Christian. These are works that we have done in our own strength and for our own glory. The gold, silver and precious stones works are those works we did in His power, for His glory.

Let me remind you that works are not for salvation, but a result of salvation. Salvation is by grace through faith, Ephesians 2:8-9. Works are what follows because we are "created unto good works" after salvation, Ephesians 2:10.

All of our works from either category will be judged, actually by fire, and what remains will be that which indicates whether we gain rewards or suffer loss. Naturally, those wood, hay and stubble works will be burned up.

The gold, silver and precious stones works will be purified in the fire and bring us rewards for the works we have done for Him and for His glory and in His power.

These works are the "righteous acts" we do during our lifetime as a Christian. The righteous acts then become our “wedding garments” that we, as the bride of Christ, will wear when we are married to Jesus Christ.

This “marriage ceremony” will precede the "marriage supper of the Lamb”, Revelation 19:7-9. It is exciting to consider the wedding garment we will wear at that ceremony for our groom, Jesus Christ.

However, it is a bit concerning to realize that one day, possibly very soon, at the Rapture we will stand face to face with Christ and have to respond at the Judgment Seat of Christ. This should motivate each us to get things in order so we will be ready to face Jesus. It could be today!

PRAYER THOT: Help me to do all works in His power and only for His honor and glory.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Romans 9:13

As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

For further study - Romans 9:6-14

Tucked into the doctrinal teaching of Paul in this prophetic ninth chapter of Romans we find an example of the sovereignty of God as well as a very significant prophetic truth that will be played out in the end times.

Our key verse is a quote from an Old Testament prophet, the last of the prophets, Malachi. The quote is taken from the first chapter of Malachi where the Lord is speaking through "His messenger Malachi" to the Jews and the Palestinian people of today. I'll get into more on that in just a moment.

Malachi had told Jacob and the descendants of Jacob, the Jews, that he loved them, Malachi 1:2. Then in verse 3, Malachi records the words of the Lord that He "hated" Esau. This is the quote that Paul wrote to the Romans and in particular the Jews in the church in Rome.

Remember, Romans 9, 10 & 11 are a message to the Jews about Israel past, Romans 9; Israel present, Romans 10; and Israel prophetic, Romans 11.

Verse 14 of our extended reading for today is an answer to anyone who might question the Lord as to whether He was unrighteous in His statement that He "hated" Esau. This word "hate" is not expressing an "emotional experience" of the Lord.

Reading verses 10-12 will help us to understand that this is an example of the "sovereignty" of God, not a "hatred" of Esau and his descendants. Notice in verse 11 how that before the twin boys of Isaac and Rebecca were even born, "neither having done any good or evil", that the Lord, through "sovereign selection", selected the younger twin to be born Jacob, to be served by the elder brother, Esau.

That was contrary to tradition. The eldest son was to receive the “birthright” and the “blessing” given to him by his Father so that he would continue the heritage of his Father. God changed that and while the boys were still in their mother's womb God determined that the “elder” would serve the “younger”.

This act of "hatred" had nothing to do with salvation, but "selection", selecting the elder son to serve the younger son. This is a significant selection by the Lord. It put in place a 4,000 year old conflict that will only be settled when Jesus returns to earth.

A study of a number of passages will reveal that Jacob, the second born, "selected seed," would become the nation of the Jewish people, Israel. The elder son, Esau, would be the father of the Edomites, the Palestinian people of today. (See my audio series, "Esau and the Palestinians.")

Ezekiel 35, Malachi 1 and the little Old Testament book of Obadiah reveal that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict started over 4,000 years ago and will only be resolved when Jesus Christ returns to Jerusalem, Obadiah 15-18.

All the efforts of world leaders today will not completely resolve the Israeli-Palestinian (Jacob-Esau) conflict. Only Jesus can do that when He comes back.

By the way, the prophecies of this conflict between the Jews and the Palestinians have never been as intense as they are now, or at any other time in history. The prophetic resolution of the conflict could be very near to fulfillment.

The stage is set, all the actors are in place and the curtain is about to go up on the final act of this prophetic drama, keep looking up!

PRAYER THOT: Dear Lord, please help me to recognize Your prophetic scenario, playing out in current events, and help me to live my Christian life in light of Your soon return to settle all conflicts.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Acts 2:22

Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:

For further study - Acts 2:1-24

As we approach a very controversial passage of scripture for our devotional reading today I would like to share several thoughts with you that may help each of us to understand better what actually did happen on that "Day of Pentecost" almost 2,000 years ago.

"Pentecost" is one of the seven Jewish feast days that God gave the Jewish people, the last of the four spring feasts. It was the day that the promise of Jesus was fulfilled as He said it would be, the Holy Spirit would come to the new converts of Christ, those who would be called Christian, John 16:7-13.

I would like for you to think about several thoughts I have gleaned in my study of this portion of scripture. On this particular "Day of Pentecost" there were Jews from "every nation under heaven", verse 5, in Jerusalem.

Pentecost was a "pilgrim feast day" and the Jews were required to come to Jerusalem to observe the "feast". This meant that all twelve tribes were in Jerusalem, no "ten lost tribes" were missing.

Also, please notice that on Pentecost there was no such thing as people speaking in "unknown tongues or languages". The passage gives us a list of all the languages spoken that day, verses 6-11.

By the way, notice what they were speaking in the languages of the peoples gathered there that day, verse 11, "the wonderful works of God". That phrase is interpreted in verses 22-24 where Peter, the preacher on the "Day of Pentecost", gave the Jews gathered in Jerusalem, the "gospel", the death of Jesus Christ, verse 23, and the resurrection, verse 24.

On this day "about 3,000 souls", verse 41, were saved. There is one more controversial item to deal with, Peter's reference to the Prophet Joel's prophecy, found in Joel 2:29-32.

I want you to know that whatever Peter was saying, he was not saying that Joel's prophecy was being fulfilled that day. It's interesting to note that nowhere in Joel's prophecy does it call for “speaking in tongues”.

It does, however, call for “marvelous signs in the heavens” to happen, verses 19-20, and none of those things happened that day. What did happen, as Joel said, was that those "who called upon the name of the Lord", verse 21, did get saved.

One other thought about Joel's prophecy, verses 15-21, it could not have been fulfilled on that "Day of Pentecost" because the ancient Jewish prophet Joel said that this prophecy would be fulfilled during the "Day of the Lord".

That period, "The Day of the Lord", does not begin until after the Rapture of the Church and takes place during the lead-up to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, during the Tribulation Period. That's what Joel's prophecy is describing in Joel 2, "the Day of the Lord", this is a prophecy yet to be fulfilled. (Please see my audio series on "Joel".)

The "Day of Pentecost" was a great day for me as a Gentile, it marked the beginning of the "Church Period", verse 47. From that day, until the Rapture, both Gentiles and Jews who come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are part of the "body of Christ", the Church, His bride.

PRAYER THOT: Thank you Lord for that special group, the Church, of which I am a part and whom You will call to be with You in heaven at the Rapture of the Church, which could happen today.