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Wednesday, November 20 2019

You are not a useless nobody. God made you in His image — in His likeness. You were made in God’s likeness, thus you are not worthless. You are far from it. You have intrinsic value so that God loves you even when you are a sinner. God formed you in your mother’s womb. You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:13–14). What is your opinion compared to God’s standard? Don’t degrade yourself below what God has made you. It doesn’t matter your body shape, your age, and your success level. Your spouse and your family’s value of you are not greater than God’s love for you. God sets your value, not your spouse, your family, your friends, your boss, or your church family.

            Your business success will not save you (Luke 12:16–21). The rich fool said to himself, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19). However, God declared to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20). God wants you to seek eternal life before you seek retirement and comforts in this life because you are worth eternal life in Jesus Christ.

            After Jesus warned those whom He loved about Hell, Jesus revealed, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6–7). God knows all about you. He knows your every sin, secret, and fault, but that does stop His love for you. God has a goal and mission for you to seek His kingdom (Luke 12:31). God does not want anyone to perish and not be saved and that includes you (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9). God loves you. You are precious in value to Him. Paul wrote, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

            No matter your “winning” or “losing” at life. God loves you. Paul revealed, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:4–5). Your sins can’t stop the love of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:31–39).

            God wants a holy people (1 Pet 1:14–16). However, everyone sins with the exception of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, who came and lived a perfect life. God could have taken Jesus straight into Heaven so that Jesus would never die and exterminated the rest of us. Why not? Jesus earned it and we spurned it. God wanted a holy people, and now Jesus accomplished that as one holy and divine person. God could have allowed Jesus never to die. Instead, God loves you so much that He sacrificed His only Son for sinners to resurrect for eternal life.

            Please, do not degrade yourself and devalue your life. Don’t judge yourself by how you perceive your usefulness or value to others. Stop measuring yourself as Jesus commanded you not to judge by your own standard (Matt 7:1–2). God gave you life and He knows the number of your days (Ps 139:16). God saved you, the believer, by grace and raised you to new life from baptism to become God’s worker now to do good works. Show the world that you work because God saved you by grace. Paul taught, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). Stop valuing yourself by your standards, your perspective, and your expectations of yourself. You’re not God! God has provided you a way to salvation in Jesus Christ. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 08:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, November 17 2019

Jesus did signs and wonders and He marveled at the unbelief of people (Matt 13:58; Mark 6:6). A man with a son who was mute came asking Jesus for compassion and help. Jesus responded, “If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23). “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24).

            The writer of the Hebrews warned Christians about “an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Heb 3:12). Paul warned about the hardening of the heart that comes from “the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:13). His answer was for Christians to encourage one another daily so that they all come to share in Christ and hold firm their confidence unto the end (Heb 3:13–14). Evil and unbelief have always linked together.

            Is there any lack of faith behind worry and anxiety? Today, many credit their anxiety to a mental disability. However, Jesus did not speak of humanity being helpless to address anxiety. Christ spoke of each person being able to confront how they think, feel, and behave even when that person thinks that he or she cannot. Jesus commanded His listeners, “Do not be anxious about your life” (Matt 6:25). Jesus preached on the mount and commanded listeners not to worry about food and clothing. He taught that worry does not help fix problems. Jesus taught that God loves and cares for you more any other living thing (6:26–30). The Son of God declared, “O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Matt 6:30). What is the answer for those struggling with doubt and anxiety over their livelihood? The Righteous One commanded, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt 6:33). The faithful Christian follows Jesus’s commands.

            How did the apostle Peter encourage the church as they struggled with the anxieties of being persecuted? Peter commanded, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:6–7). Why should Christians struggle with worry when others are not persecuting them? All Christians should cast all of their anxieties upon Christ. Casting anxieties on Christ means the Christian should have the faith to give their concerns to God and rely on the Son of the Almighty God. The worst that one experiences are nothing before God and nothing in the end (Rom 8:31–39).

            Jesus and His apostles did not need to become licensed counselors to instruct Christians about how to confront anxiety and stress. Paul commanded rejoicing, faith that God is near, praying with requests to God, and praying with thanksgiving to God (Phil 4:4–6). These commands come with the promise of the peace of God that surpasses all understanding to guard the hearts and minds of those in Christ (Phil 4:7). This is how the Christian must confront stress and anxiety.

            Everyone who feels such a burden can find the rest that God promises. Jesus invited, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28–30). Thank God that He is the God of all comfort!

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Wednesday, November 13 2019

“Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” Crowds of people were stepping on one another to hear Jesus. Jesus responded to the man, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” (Luke 12:13–14). Then, Jesus warned the crowd, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15 ESV).

            Is it coveting to want one’s inheritance? Coveting is greatly desiring something especially when it belongs to another. The tenth command is “You shall not covet […] anything that is your neighbor's” (Exod 20:17). The apostle Paul wrote, “For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’” (Rom 7:7b). That's true for every one of us.

            Paul translated the tenth commandment as “You shall not covet” with the same Greek that translators rendered “lust” in Matthew 5:28. Jesus preached in Matthew 5:28, “but I say unto you that everyone who looks at a woman to want her has committed adultery already with her in his heart” (translation). Jesus is not condemning women for their physical beauty but the act of men to look with want. Sexual sins begin with looking to want. Fathers should teach their sons not to look to covet women (Eph 6:4). Women too should avoid looking to want and fantasizing about another husband.

            Coveting is among Jesus’s list of evil things that come from within and defile a person (Mark 7:20–23). What is so wrong with coveting? Among sexual sins and desires, Paul revealed, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5; cf. Eph 5:5). The Christian must put to death coveting especially wanting a sexual relationship outside of marriage. Coveting is idolatry. Those who covet are worshipping something other than God.

            Jesus taught, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt 6:24a). When a person wants another sexual relationship, that person will come to despise his or her spouse. Foolish people who are agnostic of God do this. Believers who drift from God do the same. Covetousness chokes out one’s life with God. Jesus taught, “And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).

            If you want more than you need or desire what someone else has, then you are coveting (Deut 5:21). Many do not realize they are coveting when they want and try to become someone else who has attention, wealth, influence, or freedom. If you are looking for significance or acceptance in anything other than God and the faithful people whom He has put in your life, you are coveting. If you want someone who is not your spouse, you are coveting. If you want something over church and Bible study, then you are coveting.

            At the root of many personal problems, we have our wants and unmet needs. However, Christians must be very careful not to confuse wants for needs. The personal needs of purpose and love are met by God. Every person is responsible for finding God for God is not far from anyone to seek and find Him (Acts 17:26–27). However, many want more than God and wanting more than God is coveting.

            Thank God that He meets our every need. God loved us when we were sinners (Rom 5:8). God wants us now to be saved and repent (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9). God has gives us an eternal purpose and mission to glorify Him (Matt 5:14–16; 1 Pet 2:9).

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Sunday, November 10 2019

“Paul was only talking about the Old Testament Scriptures being inspired by God.” Many have made this assertion often that the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers were not aware that they were writing new Scripture. They assert this to undermine any certainty in New Testament Christianity.

            The apostle Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3:16–17 recognizing that the Scriptures included the Christian Scriptures as God-breathed and all-sufficient for teaching and equipping for every good work. Paul’s recognition of the Gospel of Luke as “Scripture” confirms the apostolic oversight of the biblical collection (1 Tim 5:18; cf. Luke 10:7). In addition to this, Paul’s associate Luke mentioned previous accounts of Jesus’s life from eyewitnesses including Mark and Matthew in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:1–3). The apostle John wrote about the eyewitnesses of Jesus testifying and proclaiming eternal life including himself who are “writing these things so that our joy may be complete” (1 John 1:4). John recognized that the apostles were writing to spread the gospel as eyewitnesses.

            The writing of authoritative letters by the Holy Spirit occurred early as noted in Acts 15. The apostles with elders in Jerusalem distributed letters concerning doctrine very early in the church about AD 48 (Acts 15:22–25, 30). After this event, Paul began writing epistles to churches.

            Paul declared that his writings were Scripture when he noted that he wrote the command of God for the churches to obey (1 Cor 14:37; cf. 4:17; 7:17). The apostle’s writings were authoritative as Paul wrote wisdom “taught by the Spirit” (1 Cor 2:13; 7:40; 2 Pet 3:15–16). Paul wrote 1 Corinthians to the church at Corinth and for all Christians (1 Cor 1:2). Furthermore, the apostle wrote what God revealed through all the apostles and prophets for churches to read especially in assembly (Eph 3:4–5; Col 4:16). Christians assembled for edification and worship and then read letters from a missionary whom they believed spoke the commands of God (Acts 15). Sadly, many believers struggle to endure the reading of Scriptures today.

            The apostle Peter recognized all the writings of Paul as “Scripture” (2 Pet 3:15–16). Peter noted that Paul’s writings were spread throughout nations including some nations that none of the apostles specifically addressed (1 Pet 1:1; 2 Pet 3:2, 15–16). The early Christians spread the Scriptures throughout the known world in the first century.

            Paul wrote about the gospel that had gone to the entire world when he wrote the church in Rome in AD 57–58 (Rom 1:8; 10:18–20; 16:25–26). Likewise, Paul noted again that the gospel had gone to all the world when he wrote to the church in Colossae in AD 61–63 (Col 1:5–6, 23). The spread of the gospel by the apostles and other Christians explains the spread of the Christian Scriptures as these writings were completed, copied, and distributed.

            Early Christians spread the message of Jesus throughout the world in the first century and the Scriptures spread through the churches. Those Scriptures survive and exist today by God’s providence passed down centuries among various churches to profit all with teaching and equip the church for every good work.

            Christians can and must trust the Scriptures as the all-sufficient guide for teaching and good works as the apostle Paul taught (2 Tim 3:16–17). Thank God that His apostles oversaw the collection and spread of the New Testament Scriptures in the first century.

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Wednesday, November 06 2019

“The Catholic church put the Bible together in the late fourth century, so the New Testament Scriptures do not reveal the true teachings of Jesus and early Christianity.” This is a common assertion of unbelievers, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, and more. However, scholars recognize that the New Testament writings date to the first century and are the earliest writings of the Christian faith.

            Christians can and must trust the collection of the New Testament Scriptures. Jesus never questioned the Old Testament Scriptures that the prophets collected, priests protected, and scribes passed down. Jesus noted the three parts of the Jewish Scriptures, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44 ESV). He also declared, “My words will not pass away” (Matt 24:35; cf. Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33). The scribes that Jesus promised have fulfilled Jesus’s words (Matt 23:34).

            The apostle Paul recognized the New Testament Scriptures being written in his time as he quoted Jesus in the Gospel of Luke as “Scripture” by stating “the laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tim 5:18; cf. Luke 10:7). Paul is quite passive in recognizing the Gospel of Luke as “Scripture” as he expected all Christians to have already accepted this. In Luke’s Gospel, he wrote a consecutive order just as eyewitnesses had written previous accounts about Jesus (Luke 1:1–3). Scholars recognize that Luke quoted from Mark’s Gospel and from Matthew’s Gospel or source confirming the preexistence of Mark’s Gospel and probably Matthew’s Gospel.

            The apostle Paul did not intend his writings only for those explicitly addressed but included “with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” when he wrote the church in Corinth (1 Cor 1:2; cf. 2 Cor 1:1). The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ as the cornerstone (Eph 2:19–22). For this reason, the apostle Paul revealed, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;” (Eph 3:4–5).

            Peter recognized “all” of Paul’s epistles were “Scripture” written to Christians throughout Asia, Galatia, Pontus, Cappadocia, and Bithynia (2 Pet 3:15; cf. 1 Pet 1:1). Peter anticipated that all these churches had all of Paul’s epistles when Paul did not specifically write to churches in Pontus, Cappadocia, and Bithynia. These scriptures demonstrate that the Scriptures did spread throughout the world. Peter encouraged all these Christians to “remember the words spoken” by the Apostles and so to read Paul’s epistles (2 Pet 3:2).

            Peter noted that John and he had “the prophetic word” more fully confirmed than by hearing God’s voice on the mount of Jesus’s transfiguration (2 Pet 1:16–19). Peter added that Christians must attend to this prophetic word knowing “that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:20–21). Peter would have been referring to Paul’s writings among these Scriptures as he noted later in his letter, and this is true in addition to John and him writing Scripture too (cf. 1 John 1:4).

             Christians can and must trust the Scriptures as the all-sufficient guide for teaching and good works as the apostle Paul taught (2 Tim 3:16–17). Thank God that His apostles noted the Scriptures in the first century.

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