Monday, October 31, 2011

Deceptive ways...

Week 44:
Romans 3:23 “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, “
How many of us know this passage well, but do not notice the comma at the end of it?  I wandered through life quoting this passage alone without really paying attention to the rest of the sentence.  I truly believe that Satan does this on a regular basis. He deceives us with scripture.

In his attempt to discourage, and deceive us, Satan will use scripture to try and knock us off our game.  In the week 40 devotional thought titled, “Overcoming temptation…,” I made note of how Jesus used scripture to fight off the temptation Satan was using to try and trip up Jesus.  Within his temptation attempts, Satan misquoted scripture.  I believe this still happens today.  He may not be there speaking directly to us like when he was working on Jesus, but it still happens.  Just look at this passage as a case in point.
How many of us know what comes after the comma in vs. 24?  “…24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  My tendency in the past would be to take vs. 23 and apply it one of several ways totally ignoring vs. 24. 
First, I might say as a cop out for my sin, “Oh well, all I have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  The feeling here is, I’m like everyone else and the Bible says I am going to sin anyway. I have free license to sin.  Second, I might take a fatalistic stance and quote the same thing in the same way.  The difference here is that I feel there is not hope, so why try?  The third misuse would be for me to either brow-beat people with the passage or give them license to sin.  I am sure there are other ways I would misuse the passage but these are the main ways.
What just looking at this passage in this way does is prompt me to ask myself, “How many other passages have stuck with me in this way?”  How many times have I bought into a deception of scripture?  How many times have I listened to someone else take a passage out of context and use it improperly?  This is something I have to be careful of when I am reading and using the Word. 
Now, let us go back to this passage.  Notice what is said both before and after vs. 23. “21But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference…”  And, “24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  I can get so beat down or comfortable with verse 23.  But, I need to remember that vs. 23 has a comma and the rest of the sentence is vs. 24.  Vs. 24 is such a comforting and powerful verse.  We are “justified freely by his grace!”
The challenge for me is to read the whole context of the verse.  I really need to do this with all the “favorite” passages that I quote.  I do need to remember that all scripture is useful (II Timothy 3:16-17).  I just have to remember proper usage of scripture. 
Just remember, in this passage, there is a rest of the sentence, “23…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  And, what a great rest of the sentence it is!
1.        What other passages have you sensed that Satan may have misused?
2.       What was one of them and how was it used?
3.       What is the proper usage or context for that passage?
4.       Spend some time this week in prayer and silence and ask Jesus to reveal to you where you may have fallen into this trap.
5.       Share your thoughts around this prayer with someone this week.


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Sunday, October 23, 2011

When God?...

Week 43:
Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Do you ever catch yourself just wanting to give up on this “doing good” thing that the Christian walk asks of us?  I catch myself at times wondering when the harvest will be.  I know I should be taking part in doing the good because that is the right thing to do.  However, there are times that I get discouraged that I am not seeing the fruit of this effort. 

Of course at this point my mind wanders to phrases from various passages like in James, “…the testing of your faith develops perseverance”; or Isaiah, “…those who wait upon the Lord”.  Many others come to mind as well.  However, it just gets discouraging. 
Piggybacking off of last week’s devotional, I am reminded that God creates good works in advance for us to do.  Not only does God do that but He promises in today’s passage that, “…at the proper time” we will see the fruit of our efforts.
One thing I have to reflect upon is…why am I doing the good?  Am I doing this so that I may reap the harvest?  Am I doing good so that I may be recognized as a good man?  Am I fulfilling some affirmation I need in my life?  Is this about me and what I want or need?  What is my motivation?
Therein lays one of the key components to this passage.  What is my motivation?  If I am motivated to do good in order to take care of myself, I will become weary much faster.  I do not want to give off the impression that if we do the good purely for unselfish reasons that we will not grow weary in waiting to see the fruit of the labor.  However, I really believe that when I am doing the good for the right motive, God’s purposes, I have a peace that there will be a harvest.  And, the passage promises there will be a harvest.
What a comfort to know that God is faithful and that the good we do will not go without some sort of fruit and/or harvest.  Persevere and do not give up!  “Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

1.       Describe a time when you have grown tired in the past of doing the good to seemingly no avail?
2.      What is it about the good you do without seeing the lack of harvest that discourages you?
3.      What were some of the first passages that came to mind when you read the Galatians passage?
4.      What are some things you can do to re-charge your energy toward doing the good?
5.      Was there anything else that you feel God was speaking to you about through this passage?  Explain.


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Monday, October 17, 2011

Good works in advance....

Week 42:
Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship (handiwork), created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
For years in my Christian walk I have known and felt that I am made by God.  Even in later years, I realize that Jesus was with God in the beginning and that I am crafted through Jesus the son.  I have read this passage several times only really focusing on the first part of the verse.  It is the last part that has really begun to stick with me in recent times.

Over the past few years, I have really been looking deeper into the nature of God and His character.  Call it maturity or whatever you like, but the good old churchy view of God was not getting the job done for me.  As I began to study God deeper, things really started to unfold.  I have started to see God’s work going on around me more and more. 
This is where the last part of this verse comes in for me.  There are things that I do in the kingdom of God that have been set out for me to do well in advance.  So many times in my life I felt as if I was wandering through just finding random good works that I was to take part in or that God was doing around me.  As I read, “…good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” I realize that what I deem as random is all part of a carefully laid out plan for me.  All I need to do is choose to pay attention and follow what God has laid out.
Now, I do not want to be discouraging, but I also do not want to paint a picture that every good work we do for God is a bed of roses either.  However, when you look at the great men of the Old Testament, you see that their good works for God started with some character building, life-changing events.  Jacob, Joseph, and Moses are prime examples.  There are others as well.  We know the end story.  We have the Bible to tell us.  These men did not.  But, God had good works prepared in advance for these men to do. 
Here are some other thoughts relating to this passage.  One, what a comfort and exciting thing it is that God has a plan for me even though I may not see the end of my story!  Two, I still get to choose whether or not to follow the plan laid out by God.  Three, if I choose the plan, there will be character building moments in order to prepare me for the good works he has laid out for me.  Finally, whether or not I choose to follow the plan, God’s work and purpose will still be carried out.  I enter God’s plan with both excitement of what he has in store for me and fear relating to the further character building I am to face.  With both in mind, I look forward to the journey.
1.      How has this passage set with your heart today?
2.       Reflecting back, what are some character building moments where you now see it was God preparing you?
3.      In your current situation, are you in a character building moment now?  What do you see, feel, or sense God may be doing?
4.      Are you willing to surrender to His character building?  How?


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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New compassion...

Week 41:
Lamentations 3:22-24 22Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  23They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Nestled amongst the verses of Lament is this jewel of a passage about God and His nature.  The Israelites are going through the exile yet, even during the tough times, the author takes time to note that God still loves enough not to consume his people. 
God has every right to wipe the Israelites completely off of the face of the planet.  He has chosen them to be his people yet they continue to stray away from him.  He allows them to be oppressed in order for them to call on him once again.  Yet, amidst all of this, he still has compassion on them.

What a comfort this is to me.  I stray from God and his love and direction…even if it is just a period of distraction.  God has every right to abandon me and say, “This is the last time you stray from me!”  Yet His compassions for me are new, everyday.  Notice the Lamenter saying, “…great is your faithfulness.”  Even when we are not faithful to God, he is still faithful to us.  What a comfort! 
Now the Lamenter renews his vow to stay close to God by waiting on Him.  During this tribulation time, the Lamenter sees God’s compassion and is inspired to wait until God calms the storm.  That is very much what I need to recognize during my times of storm and trial (some of my times of storm and trail may very well be God touching me to call on Him again).  God’s compassion is new every morning and I need to wait on His deliverance.  Great is His faithfulness…I will wait.
1.        Describe a time when you have strayed and felt God’s hand of oppression to bring you back to Him.
2.       When did you know it was time to call on Him again?
3.       How did His compassion show for you?
4.       Spend some time in silence reflecting on God’s faithfulness to you and His compassion on you.  Share that with someone this week.


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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Overcoming temptation...

Week 40:

Luke 11:4c …and lead us not into temptation.
Matthew 6:13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

The other night in our men’s group a friend expressed how much the above verses impacted him.  “Lead us not into temptation.”  As I pondered on what my friend said, I was taken back to a very familiar interpretation around overcoming temptation that God placed on my heart years ago.

As I was teaching about Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness and the temptation that Satan attempted I realized a powerful weapon for overcoming temptation…scripture.
Every time Satan tempted Jesus (we only read of three, but the passage says, [Matt. 4:1] “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” [Lk. 4:2] …”where for 40 days he was tempted by the devil.” So we know it was probably more than three times, likely continuous) he answered with scripture.  Matthew 4:4 “It is written…”  Matthew 4:7 “…it is also written…” Luke 4:4 “It is written…”  Luke 4:8 “It is written…” Luke 4:12 “It says…” Every time except once (and that time he tells Satan “away from me”) Jesus answers with scripture. 

So it was revealed to me, the way to overcome temptation is to have scripture written on my heart.  For years, preachers and teachers urged me to read to Word daily.  And for years I would do okay for a while, with guilt.  There are many purposes for getting into the Word of God; knowledge of Him, life lessons, living in His kingdom, knowing what to obey, etc.  One of the purposes that I had not thought about was to know scripture well enough to stand against temptation. 

Jesus knew the scripture by heart and was able to quote it to Satan and stop his temptation in its tracks.  Now, I know that Jesus was the Son of God, so he should know the Word, since he was the Word.  So, this gives him some kind of advantage, right?  Well, we have to remember that he was fully human as well as God.  Jesus had to do what all Jewish boys had done.  By the time he was 8 years old, he would have had the first five books of the Old Testament memorized.  And since he was called “Rabbi”, I am certain that he had much more memorized by this time. 

What is cool about this is that many times as I look back on past success vs. temptation, I can tie it to the scriptures that are written on my heart.  Now, I do not have passages memorized near like Jesus did, but I do have something written on my heart from past studying.  I have failed many times vs. temptation as well.  Hope fully as God continues to remind me, like he did with my friend the other night, I will dive in to scripture more and be able to stand my ground against temptation.  Hopefully this will inspire you to do this as well.  God will be there right beside you as you write scripture on your heart.  “…and lead us not into temptation.”


  1. Explain a situation in life where you were able to overcome a temptation due to your knowledge of scripture.

  1. What is a favorite passage that helps you stand firm against temptation?

  1. What were the differences between Satan tempting Adam and Eve and Satan Tempting Jesus?

  1. What are you willing to do to re-commit to reading scripture on a regular basis?

  1. Spend some time in silence and prayer and imagine Jesus is sitting right there beside you.  What would he tell you about temptation and the Word?
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