Scripture reading for January 9th: Matthew 7, Psalm 7, Prov. 7
Key Scriptures: Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your Name, and cast out demons in Your Name, and do many mighty works in Your Name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.'”
Jesus taught His disciples that confession of faith was not enough in and of itself to guarantee entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Even works done in the Name of Jesus would not qualify a person for entrance. Confession and good works must be accompanied by complete submission to God and yielding to His will in every area of life. Faith confessions must be demonstrated by humble obedience to God’s will and word.
Faith’s confession: Jesus, I confess that You are Lord of my life. I pray that Your kingdom would come and Your will would be done in my life on earth as in heaven. Deliver me from pride and presumption, and fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I may truly know You better each day.
Proverbs 7:1-3 “My son, keep My words and treasure up My commandments with you; keep My commandments and live; keep My teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”
Scripture reading for January 5th: Matthew 3
Key Scriptures: Matthew 3:1-2, 8 “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” . . .”Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves ‘We have Abraham as our father.'”
Overcomers in the last days must understand repentance. Repentance is more than just being sorry for you sins or sorry that you were found out. Our God knows everything! He is not a God that is far away and aloof from His people. He is near! And His kingdom is near as well! This kingdom is not visible to the human eye, but His people know the King Himself and He knows them. True repentance is a change of mind that leads to a changed life! When we repent of sexual immorality, for example, we turn from all forms of immorality and no longer live in rebellion to God’s commands and our conscience.
The human mind is always devising ways to justify our sinful actions or to find an alternative to repentance! We often speak to ourselves about our own righteousness and justify ourselves. God knows exactly where we are! If we are to overcome, we must speak honestly to ourselves, accept responsibility and change!
Observations for over-comers: True repentance brings forgiveness of sin and life! Overcomers are quick to repent and walk in victory over sin by the power of the Holy Spirit and the victory of Christ through the cross! “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10
Scripture reading for May 8th: Nehemiah 1-2
Today we find Nehemiah with a “holy burden” concerning Jerusalem and it’s people. Nehemiah, was an exile in Babylon, held an important position. He was cup bearer to the king. As cup bearer, he was responsible to taste all the wine and drinks that the king received and make sure that they had not been poisoned. His face reflected sadness as he came before the king, and the king asked him what was wrong. Nehemiah prayed quickly to himself, then shared his holy burden with the king. (Nehemiah 2:1-5)
Nehemiah’s burden came from pondering a report about Jerusalem and it’s inhabitants. It had been some time since Ezra had taken men back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and this work had been hindered by opposition. As Nehemiah heard about the discouragement, the broken walls of the city and the burned gates, his heart broke for its restoration and deliverance. He prayed and fasted, confessing sins that had brought about the terrible conditions of the once beautiful city and it’s great temple of the Lord. (Nehemiah 1:3-7) He reminded God of His promises to restore His people if they would return to Him. He asked God for favor with the king as he went before Him. (Nehemiah 1:11) This was why Nehemiah was now able to share his burden with the king!
God graciously turned the heart of the king to allow Nehemiah to go back to his beloved city and work on the walls. Nehemiah went quietly and surveyed the city walls for himself. He then shared the plans with the Jews living there and told them of the provision of God and His guidance. This sparked encouragement and the willingness to begin the work! There was some opposition from locals who opposed both the rebuilding and the Jews themselves. Nehemiah declared in faith to them, “The God of heaven will give us success. We His servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” (Nehemiah 2:20)
Prayer is always the place to start when we have a holy burden. We lay it before the Lord, confess our sin and offer ourselves as a resource. God takes over and leads us onward. A holy burden is His heart’s burden placed on us. Faith then takes us to action that lifts the burden like a balloon filled with helium.
Scripture Reading for February 3rd: Leviticus 4-7
What is the difference between an “intentional” sin and an “unintentional” sin? Does ignorance excuse us? How does God look at the person who doesn’t know anything about God’s law? Is there really such a person who is totally ignorant of God’s basic laws? If after we “ignorantly” sin, someone informs us that what we “ignorantly” did was a sin in God’s eyes and reads us God’s view from the Bible, are we thereafter guilty of an “intentional” sin? Is there any sacrifice for a willfully defiant sin? These questions come to my mind as I read these chapters of Leviticus. (See Leviticus 4:1, 13, 22, 27.)
God has made his basic laws known to all men through the conscience. Each person has a conscience and it is to be trained to know and recognize sin. (Romans 2:12-16) He will be judged by God according to the light he has. The conscience can be seared by repeated sin so that it does not “bleed” any more. This is like taking a hot iron to a bleeding wound to stop the bleeding. (1st Timothy 4:2) We are to keep a “clear” conscience by walking in love towards others. (1st Peter 3:16) Deacons must hold the deep truths of the faith with a “clear” or “pure” conscience. (1st Timothy 3:9) The conscience is the elementary voice of God that like a stop light lets us know when to stop and when to go and when to be cautious!
So, are there really sins of ignorance? Yes! We can have a conscience but not have it trained properly. This is part of the parents job. They are to instruct their children in right and wrong using God’s Word. They are to discipline and teach their children as they go through life and share their days with them. God was instructing the Israelites by these prescribed offerings about how to recognize sin and how deadly it is. Each time they offered and laid their hands on that innocent animal, they had a visual aid leading them to change their behavior and their consciences were strengthened! (Leviticus 4:29) Their confession of sin brought honesty and truth that set them free! (Leviticus 5:5,6)
God is instructing us today as well. The Holy Spirit convicts us when we sin. He does this to enable us to confess and repent and be free from the death penalty! (John 16:8) “If we confess our sins, , he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1st John 1:9) Our priest, Jesus Christ, has already made the blood sacrifice for us. He offered his own blood as atonement for our sins and bore them on the Cross! We can “intentionally” be made clean from our “unintentional sins”! Praise the Lord! What amazing love! (Intentional sins will be covered in a later Leviticus post.)
January 2nd reading: Genesis 3-5
I remember in my early childhood taking my dad’s pocketknife from the stand by his favorite chair and carving pictures on the bedroom door. It was great fun and my sister liked the pictures too. Dad and Mom were out doing chores on the farm and it was still dark outside. After a while, I knew they would come in soon and slid Dad’s chair in front of the door to try and hide the “sin”. I didn’t understand it but they caught on right away when they came in the house! I initially tried to blame my younger sister for being the instigator, but was found out! I was rightfully afraid of punishment and soon reaped what I had so unwisely sown. (That was before the days when spanking was termed abuse!) Genesis 3 came alive personally to me and I would bet every one of us has learned this lesson the hard way!
As I read this section of scripture, I am introduced to the “serpent” who was “more crafty” than any of the other animals that God had made. This “serpent” talks to the woman Eve. His words contradict or twist what God had told Adam and Eve. They are words designed to appeal to desire for that which is forbidden by God. The words appeal to pride and a desire to know what God knows from a source that God warns them would cause them to die. Crafty is the ability to “craft” a plan that gets around truth. It is a lie with some chocolate covering it. Eve is taken in by this “craft” and takes the forbidden fruit. She gives it to her husband who eats as well. She is deceived and he deliberately eats. They suddenly are aware of their nakedness and hide, covering themselves. Fear has entered with death and, rather than being clothed with God’s Glory, shame now clothes them with a fig leaf!
God is walking in the garden. He is reaching out to those made in His image. He is calling to them and seeking those who are now lost! He knows what they have done but is trying to help them get free. When they emerge shaking in fear, God asks them who told them they were naked and if they had eaten from the forbidden tree. Each answer is an attempt to blame someone else or God himself! No one wants to confess or admit guilt. Sin not only brings guilt and shame, but it causes fear of punishment.
Today, do a quick survey of your life. Ask the Holy Spirit if there are things you are doing that you need to take responsibility for. Confess them to the Lord and ask for forgiveness and cleansing. It’s the only way I know to get rid of sin and its consequence, death! “I ate it.”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Genesis 3:12; “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1st John 1:9