Bible Versions and Permissions

Up until January 1, 2018, verses used in each devotional were from the New International Version of the Bible.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

I will be going back and adding this passage to each page that used an NIV quotation per their website

I will be using the New Century Version in 2018.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved

Advertisements
Posted in Administrative Issues | Tagged , , , , , , ,

November 15 – Faith, Hope, Confidence, and Assurance

Ezekiel 1-2 Hebrews 11:1-19

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1 NCV)

Thus begins perhaps the most well-known chapter in the book of Hebrews, the Faith Chapter. This chapter tells us about faith and gives examples of faith in action. It begins, however, with a beautiful definition of what faith is. Faith is confidence in what we hope for. Some have misused that part of the definition to promote their view of materialistic theology. They would tell you that if you believe, if you name it and claim it, you will receive. Faith isn’t a tool to ensure material wealth, it’s a natural result of our relationship with God. As Christians, what we hope for is a growing relationship with God and a home in heaven with Him. Our faith gives us confidence that we’re walking with God and assurance that our home’s in heaven with Him.

Why would we waste hope on anything less than our relationship with God while we live on this earth and our future home in heaven? The things of this earth break, are destroyed, disappear, or fade away. If our hope is found in material things and we get what we hope for, we end up with a problem: we’re usually not satisfied and find something else to hope for. Did you hope for that beautiful three-bedroom house and get it? When you get it did you realize that four bedrooms would be better? Hope should always be focused on God and not on things. Things are nice but are worthless compared to our relationship with God. Our faith is found in our hope in God. Whether we have a lot of material goods or almost nothing, our hope, our faith in God will stay strong.

Lord, my faith, my hope is in You. You will never fail. Even though I can’t see You, I see Your work and I’m assured of Your presence. Thank You that I have hope for life on this world and hope for eternal life with You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 14 – Learning to Encourage and Love Each Other

Lamentations 3-5 Hebrews 10:19-39

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NCV)

These two verses could be introduced by saying that the author of Hebrews was telling his audience: “Now that you’ve got this salvation thing settled with God, here’s how you need to get going in life. (see verses 19-23) In short, the admonition is to work together as God’s children to encourage each other. We should stir up love and good works – not to become saved, but because we are saved. Because we have that relationship with God based on what He’s done, we need to work together as brothers and sisters in Christ; we need to be together in fellowship, and we need to encourage each other as we use the gifts God has given us.

When my wife was going through chemo treatments, every Sunday after the treatment she would feel awful. She slept the Saturday before, but she refused to miss church. She sat there covered in a blanket. She didn’t stand for the songs. She didn’t stand for the Scripture reading. She sat there bundled up in her blanket. For her, it wasn’t a legalistic view that told her she needed to go to church or God would get her. She drew strength from being with brothers and sisters in Christ. She drew encouragement from the music, even though she couldn’t participate. She encouraged others as they saw the strength she exuded in the midst of her physical weakness. Too often in the church, we find ways to criticize others. We compete against each other instead of realizing that we’re working together on the same team. Our job is to minister to people and to share the good news of Jesus with them. We are called to make disciples of those who make decisions to follow Jesus. We’re called to encourage them in their walk as they grow in Christ. The only negative in this section is to the idea of trying to go it alone. We’re in this together, so let’s encourage and love each other.

Lord, we live in such a negative world. Teach us, Your people, to love and encourage each other. Let our word and our deeds be pleasing in Your eyes as we share Your love and grace with a lost and dying world.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 13 – Like Spiritual Spit and Baling Wire?

Lamentations 1-2 Hebrews 10:1-18

“The law is only an unclear picture of the good things coming in the future; it is not the real thing. The people under the law offer the same sacrifices every year, but these sacrifices can never make perfect those who come near to worship God.” (Hebrews 10:1 NCV)

The message of Christians from the beginning of the Church has been the Grace has overtaken the Law. While that issue caused a number of disputes as Paul traveled around the known world, the resolution of all those disputes was that Grace was the way that God dealt with people now. The author of Hebrews described the Law as an “unclear picture” of the good things to come with God’s grace. Paul described it as a teacher that will lead us to grace. The Law, according to Hebrews, dealt with sin under a series of sacrifices that was the same things every year that can’t make people complete or perfect to stand before God. We are made righteous NOT by our yearly sacrifices as dictated by the Law, but by God’s Grace that cleanses us and makes us able to enter into a relationship with God.

Have you ever been in a situation where you needed to fix something when you didn’t have the proper tools or materials? You use spit and baling wire – maybe some chewing gum if you have some. The Law, even though it was God’s perfect gift to the Hebrews as they left Egypt and prepared to enter the Promised Land, was more like spiritual spit and baling wire – an imperfect fix for people that told them how to live, showed them when they were wrong, and offered a temporary fix for sins. With the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, we now have a permanent solution to our problem of separation from God. The Law reminds us of our sins. Grace forgives those sins and brings us into a good relationship with God. The Law involves us trying to reach up to God and never getting completely there; Grace is God reaching down to us in love and compassion so that we can be with God. Our efforts can never make us perfect. Only God can forgive us perfectly and empower us to fellowship with Him.

Lord God, Your Law shows me my failings and it shows me that no matte what I do to fix things, I’ll never be able to fix anything permanently. Thank You for Your Grace which forgives me and makes me complete in Your eyes.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 12 – Ready to Face the Last Judgment?

Jeremiah 51-52 Hebrews 9

“Just as everyone must die once and then be judged, so Christ was offered as a sacrifice one time to take away the sins of many people. And he will come a second time, not to offer himself for sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28 NCV)

One of the beliefs many religious systems have is that of a final judgment. Such a judgment would look at your past life and you would either gain entrance to paradise if you passed or get eternally smacked down if you didn’t. Let’s face it, the entrance requirements to paradise in any religion are ridiculously high. When people died and faced judgment, their results weren’t going to be good. The Christian understanding of the last judgment is similar, but, for the Christian, our sins were taken away by the death of Jesus on the cross and we can appear at our final judgment as blameless in Him. When He comes again, He will bring salvation to those who are still alive and waiting for Him.

Christ was our sacrifice – a one time sacrifice to pay for all our sins. When He died on the cross, my sins weren’t even thought of, let alone committed. Jesus died for them. When I sin today, God isn’t surprised. God’s never shaken His head and said, “Well, that sin surprised me. I’m not sure what to do.” All of our sins were forgiven at the cross. Even more importantly Jesus’s death brought man and God back together again. We are back in a relationship with God that our sin had destroyed. Jesus’s death and resurrection destroyed the power of sin, death and allows us to be in fellowship with God. We don’t fear the last judgment, because we’re already on God’s side. Then, when Jesus comes again, those who are still on this earth will be rescued from the evil events and people of that age and receive physical salvation. This is our sure and certain hope. In a world that’s full of uncertainty, this hope provides a joyous life here on earth and the promise of an amazing eternal life in heaven with God and all His people.

Lord, thank You for the promise we have of eternal life with You in Heaven. Thank You for Your forgiveness which makes that possible. Lord everything comes down to Your love and grace for us.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 11 – Out With the Old, In With the New

Jeremiah 50 Hebrews 8

“This is the agreement I will make with the people of Israel at that time, says the Lord. I will put my teachings in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Hebrews 8:10 NCV)

One of the things that the early church understood was that the New Covenant that God had instituted with all people, including the people of Israel, was a part of the flow of history that God had prophesied. Prophecies from the Old Testament show up throughout the book of Hebrews and this verse today comes from Jeremiah 31:33. The New Covenant message quoted here was that God would be their God, they wouldn’t forsake Him, and that they would be His people because He wouldn’t forsake them. As the message continued, people would know God without being taught about Him and He would forgive and forget their sins.

While we live in the age of the New Covenant through the sacrifice of Jesus, we still have to teach about God and His ways. Perhaps the best way to teach others is through our lives. If God knows us, and we know Him; if God has forgiven us and forgotten our sins, it should make a difference in our lives and in our attitudes toward others. When we realize how great God’s forgiveness was to us, we should be more forgiving, and less judgmental in our dealings with others. Law and judgment are characteristics of the Old Covenant. If we’re living in the New Covenant, we’ll be extending grace and mercy to those who are caught in their sin and we’ll seek to show them the love and mercy of God. The Old Covenant leads to death; the New Covenant leads to life. May we always bring others the joy of new life in Christ by our words and deeds.

Oh Lord, may I always show Your love and Your grace to other people. Let others experience Your presence as I live each day under Your New Covenant that brings life in Christ.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 10 – Our Great High Priest Paid the Price in Full

Jeremiah 48-49 Hebrews 7

“Jesus is the kind of high priest we need. He is holy, sinless, pure, not influenced by sinners, and he is raised above the heavens. He is not like the other priests who had to offer sacrifices every day, first for their own sins, and then for the sins of the people. Christ offered his sacrifice only once and for all time when he offered himself.” (Hebrews 7:26-27 NCV)

In the argument that Jesus was the Eternal High Priest, the author of Hebrews had to overcome a valid objection. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, not Levi which had been given the priesthood by God. The argument was clear: if Abraham could recognize Melchizedek’s priesthood before Levi was born, then there’s another priestly order and Jesus is part of that priestly order by virtue of his pure, holy, and sinless life. As such, He offered Himself as the sacrifice for sins which only needed to be done once. He still lives as our eternal price because of the Resurrection.

Why is the fact that Jesus is our Great High Priest important? Why do we emphasize that He paid for our sins once for all time when He died on the cross? Let me use a mundane example: You go to a restaurant and eat a nice meal. When you ask your waitress for the check, she tells you that someone paid for your meal and she hopes you enjoyed it. Would you argue? Would you call the manager and tell them that you still wanted to pay? Probably not. You would accept the gift joyfully. Jesus paid the price for all our sins on the cross. We hear that and rejoice. And then we try to find a way to pay for them ourselves by confession, acts of penance, or good works. We don’t need to pay again. The price was paid at the cross. In the restaurant example, we may decide to pay for someone else’s meal as an act of gratitude. That’s happened in coffee shops when the person pays for the coffee of the person behind them in line at the drive-thru. As Christians, we can’t pay the price for sins of other people, but we can point them to our Great High Priest who has paid that price and offers them forgiveness.

Lord, thank You for paying the penalty for my sins once and for all. Let me show my gratitude by showing others they way to experience Your love and grace.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 9 – Living With Enduring Hope

Jeremiah 46-47 Hebrews 6

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and strong. It enters behind the curtain in the Most Holy Place in heaven, where Jesus has gone ahead of us and for us. He has become the high priest forever, a priest like Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:19-20 NCV)

Hope is a divine power give to man by God and the author of Hebrews draws on that human capacity to hope as they develop their argument. There are some disturbing verses in chapter 6 that appear to give the impression that we can lose our relationship with God forever, should we go astray (vss 4-6). I’m not sure how to read those verses in the light of other verses in the Bible but let me just say that I’m going to stay true to the hope that God has given me. The author notes that our hope anchors our soul and enters into the presence of God with Jesus, our eternal high priest.

We all need some form of hope. The problem for so many in our world is their hope is found in earthly things and not the love and grace of God through Jesus Christ. Some people had high hopes for the recent election. The results caused some to hope more and others to lose hope. If your hope is found in elections, your hope rises and falls on the whims of people’s reactions to the campaign ads and platforms of the candidates. Exhilaration and hope one year give way to despair and hopelessness a couple of years later. Those whose hope is found in their wealth discover that money can’t buy anything and the more material things they have, the greater their worry about losing them. My hope is in a God who has never let me down, even when I’ve let Him down. My hope is found in the presence of the Almighty God who supports me in every circumstance. Elections may go against my preferences. I don’t lose hope. I may lose all my material things. I don’t lose hope. My hope is in the Lord who will never leave me or forsake me.

Lord, You are my hope and my salvation. I place my trust in You because You’ve never failed in the past and I know that You will never fail in the future. I pray for those who have lost hope because they placed it in earthly things or events. Show them the hope of Jesus that will never be taken away.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 8 – Growing Up As A Christian

Jeremiah 43-45 Hebrews 5

“By now you should be teachers, but you need someone to teach you again the first lessons of God’s message. You still need the teaching that is like milk. You are not ready for solid food. Anyone who lives on milk is still a baby and knows nothing about right teaching. But solid food is for those who are grown up. They are mature enough to know the difference between good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:12-14 NCV)

The author of Hebrews laid down some smack on his audience in the fifth chapter. Their problem was that when they should be teaching others, they still needed to be taught the basics of the faith. The comparison is to a baby who can only drink milk when they’re young. As they grow, they try new foods and eventually, they’re eating the same things everyone else is eating. In this situation, Christians weren’t growing. They were living on the basics of the faith instead of living at mature Christians.

I’m going to be honest with you. I’m not exactly sure what the author means in this section. I’m going to take a clue from that last sentence: “They are mature enough to know the difference between good and evil,” and say that the author was dealing with issues of legalism and grace. While they are spiritually mature enough to know the difference between right and wrong, apparently, they still need to be told. When we first turn to Jesus we want checklists. We want others to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong. As we grow, though, and we begin to understand the enormity of God’s grace, life changes. I shouldn’t need people to tell me what’s right or wrong, I should know that difference in my spirit. My desire to do that which is right doesn’t come from fear that “God will get me,” but out of a desire to honor God. I believe that mature Christian living is living in the grace of God and showing that grace and mercy to others. As I walk with God daily, I see opportunities to help people by showing them God’s love instead of finding ways to make myself look better by putting others down. The basics of the faith are still important and we need to review them, just like older people still drink milk occasionally, but God’s people are called beyond those basics and live in His grace as mature followers of Christ.

Lord, help me to grow up in my faith and walk as a mature believer in Christ. As I experience Your forgiveness and grace, help me to show it to others so that they too might come to know You or grow in You.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 7 – Overcoming Temptation in a World of Sin

Jeremiah 40-42 Hebrews 4

“For our high priest is able to understand our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin. Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 NCV)

The job of the High Priest was to offer sacrifices to take away sins. The most important of those was the yearly sacrifice to take away the sins of the nation on the Day of Atonement. (Yom Kippur) The author of Hebrews makes the case that not only did the office of the High Priest point to Jesus, Jesus not only took away our sins, He did it as the Great High Priest once for all even though He Himself had been tempted just as we are. He’s able to take away our sins because He overcame all of His temptations but didn’t sin. Because He dealt with the same temptations we do, He’s going to be merciful so that when we do sin, we can come to Him to receive grace and mercy.

And oh, how much we need that grace and mercy! We live in a world inundated with sin and we fall into its clutches so easily. Our anger rises whether we’re dealing with kids, driving on the highway, or watching election returns. Our greed and our lust for things grows when we see the cool things our friends get as they post pictures on social media. “Wait? Did my cousin just get a cool new car?” (Thinks about my crummy old car.) Need I go on? Porn is readily available and people in the Bible Belt search for it at a higher rate than other places. All these things are sins because they reveal the sin in our life which is our separation from God. And Jesus knows all our temptations. He endured them. He overcame them. No matter what the thought or action you engage in that reveals your separation from God may be, Jesus not only overcame that temptation, He reaches out to each of us offering forgiveness, mercy, and grace. He brings us into the presence of God the Father as He restores the relationship between us. We can overcome those temptations because of the grace and mercy God has for us through Jesus. Thanks be to God for the power to overcome sin.

Lord, the world is full of temptations and it’s so easy to fall for the allure of sin. Thank You for Your grace and mercy that comes when I need it. Thank You for extending that same grace and mercy to others. Help me today to stay strong in my relationship with You and avoid the allure of sin.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

November 6 – Encouraging Others in Difficult Days

Jeremiah 37-39 Hebrews 3

“But encourage each other every day while it is “today.” Help each other so none of you will become hardened because sin has tricked you.” (Hebrews 3:13 NCV)

The author of Hebrews had just compared today with the past. Today is different. It’s a new day. It’s not like the past when the Hebrew people, after experiencing many miracles of God, hardened their hearts against God in the desert during the Exodus. Instead, since it’s “today,” a new day of walking with God under the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ, we need to encourage each other to stay strong in the faith. We all know people who, having experienced difficulties or being enticed by the pleasures of the world, have fallen away from their relationship with God. It’s too easy to become judgmental when that happens. Here, we’re told to encourage our brothers and sisters in the Lord when anything draws them away from God and show the God’s love and mercy to help them restore their relationship with God instead of becoming hardened against Him.

We all could use more encouragement, and we all could encourage others more. One of our Christian problems is that because we have the right beliefs, and our faith is strong, we have a hard time dealing with others who claim to be Christians who might have some different beliefs or who are going through a crisis of faith. We all have those crises, don’t we? Maybe we’re just tired and need the encouragement and strength that comes from THAT candy bar. Maybe we’ve been worn down by a world that’s constantly negative. Maybe we’re overwhelmed by the problems of the world knowing that we can’t solve all of them. Other believers are like that. When people are going through difficult times we need to keep loving them and encouraging them in their faith; not condemning them for any supposed lack. One of the amazing by-products of encouraging others in the faith is that God brings us encouragement as well. Today, election day, will be difficult for about half the people in the country. Spend some time encouraging others today, letting them know that whatever happens, God is still on His throne.

Lord, help me to be an encourager today. Let me show people Your love and grace when they’re dealing with troubles. May all I do and say today encourage others in their walk with You and give them strength to face the temptations and troubles of the day.

Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Posted in Devotional Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment