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

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October 19 – You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!

Isaiah 56-58 2 Thessalonians 2

“Do not become easily upset in your thinking or afraid if you hear that the day of the Lord has already come. Someone may have said this in a prophecy or in a message or in a letter as if it came from us. Do not let anyone fool you in any way. That day of the Lord will not come until the turning away from God happens and the Man of Evil, who is on his way to hell, appears.” (2 Thessalonians 2:2-3 NCV)

The Thessalonians were worried because someone was teaching that Jesus had already come again. We’ve seen a couple of New Testament Churches that dealt with this problem. Someone was teaching that Jesus had already come again. Paul had to stop that teaching from spreading here and in Corinth as well as a few other places. Maybe it was a group trying to mock Christians and make them lose hope. Maybe it wasn’t someone who was sincerely misinformed. Whatever the cause, Paul had to calm them down and let them know that while Jesus would come again, he hadn’t come yet. In short, he told them that no matter how bad it might seem to them at that point in time, things would have to get a lot worse before Jesus came again.

Fortunately, we don’t have people who are so enthralled by the idea of Jesus coming again that they tell us that He already came, or that they set dates for His return. (Is sarcasm allowed in a devotional?) OK, if I tell the truth on this, we have people setting dates for Jesus’s return all the time. I believe most of them are well-meaning and they do so because they believe they’ve figured out the real time that Jesus is coming, they want to encourage people to evangelize before that time, and they want to encourage Christians who may think they’re going through rough times. Paul made it clear to the Thessalonians and he’d make it clear to us today that we haven’t seen anything yet when it comes to evil. According to this passage, before Jesus comes again, many will turn away from God and the Man of Evil, or Man of Sin in some translations will show up on the scene making himself out to be god. Paul used this understanding to help people grow stronger in their faith because they knew that God was still sharing His grace with people today. If you think about it, as much as we want Jesus to come again and purify this world, there are still too many people who need to hear the gospel. We don’t know that day that Jesus will return. What we do know is that there are still millions of people, some of them personal friends, who need to experience the love and grace of Jesus before He does. We still have our work cut out for us.

Lord, there’s so many people who need to experience Your love and grace before You come again. Use me as an instrument of Your love to people who are hurting, people who need to know the good news.

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

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October 18 Persecution, Love, Grace, And Judgment

Isaiah 53-55 2 Thessalonians 1

“So we brag about you to the other churches of God. We tell them about the way you continue to be strong and have faith even though you are being treated badly and are suffering many troubles.” (2 Thessalonians 1:4)

Persecution against Christians was mostly a local issue at this time, but people in power could make life difficult for those who followed Christ. The Church at Thessalonica was dealing with persecution, but the dealt with it the right way: they loved and supported each other. When troubles come to a church, whatever the reason may be, the church should pull together and love each other more and more. Paul used what was happening there to remind us of God’s justice. Those who caused the trouble for the Thessalonians would face God and deal with His judgment. There are consequences for actions, especially if they are against God or His people.

There are times when the truth that God is just is comforting. Those people who cause me trouble will have to deal with God. At other times, the truth that God is just is frightening. I recognize my sin and realize that I’m guilty before Him. If I depended on my own means as I faced God, I would have no hope. The joy I have, though, is that God recognized that without Jesus, no one had hope and that the penalty for sin that justice demands was paid for when Jesus died on the cross. Paul described that situation later in the chapter when he said, “And all the people who have believed will be amazed at Jesus. You will be in that group, because you believed what we told you.” (vs. 10b) I’m amazed at the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross. I’m amazed at God’s grace that came because He loved me. I know that I will be amazed in Heaven as I experience the goodness and grace of God in a new way. I pray that I’ll be amazed at the people who repent of their evil ways and turn to God through Jesus Christ. May all who trouble me experience the love, forgiveness, and grace of Jesus to live eternally with Him.

Lord, so many of my brothers and sisters are enduring persecution and many other forms of trouble because of their faith. Strengthen and encourage them. Help Your followers to love each other more. Give them comfort, knowing that You are the ultimate judge – but Lord, change the hearts of the persecutors. Destroy them as enemies by making them friends, family even, by Your grace.

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

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October 17 – Appreciate Those Who Lead

Isaiah 50-52 1 Thessalonians 5

“Now, brothers and sisters, we ask you to appreciate those who work hard among you, who lead you in the Lord and teach you. Respect them with a very special love because of the work they do.” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 NCV)

Paul left leaders in the churches he established. These leaders were to teach and preach and do all the work of a pastor. They’d minister to people in need. In most cases, they were bi-vocational. They were probably struggling to learn the truths of the gospel, dealing with the heretical traveling teachers who sought to drag new Christians into the bondage of legalism, and helping evangelize and train new Christians in the faith, all while trying to make a living. I’m guessing that they might have made a few mistakes along the way because even then, they weren’t perfect. It’s so easy to make mistakes, and if you make one mistake and do ten other things right, people remember the mistake. Paul’s message to those with mistake memory was that they should appreciate and honor those who led and taught them.

My pastor might point out that these leaders had two advantages that today’s pastors don’t have: they didn’t have to worry about air conditioning, nor did they need to worry about parking lots. Our leaders in the faith have so many concerns that we don’t even know about. I have friends who have been prevented from returning to countries where they were leading fellow Christians in the faith. The worries of our leaders compound and grow, especially when they’re bi-vocational like Paul and many of the other early church leaders were. October is Clergy Appreciation Month. I point that out because even while it’s always appropriate to let those who lead you in the faith know that you appreciate them, this month is an especially great time to do that. You’ve got two weeks left in this month to take advantage of this celebration. Let those who labor for the Lord on your behalf know how much you appreciate them.

Lord, You have blessed me with some amazing leaders in the faith. I’m grateful for those on staff at the church where I worship. I’m grateful for those who have given their lives and endured hardships of various kinds so that they could serve You. Bless those who lead and teach others about You.

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

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October 16 – How Should We Then Live?

Isaiah 47-49 1 Thessalonians 4

“Do all you can to live a peaceful life. Take care of your own business, and do your own work as we have already told you. If you do, then people who are not believers will respect you, and you will not have to depend on others for what you need.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 NCV)

Paul went through four different themes in this chapter. He began by telling them to live in a way that pleases God by focusing on avoiding sexual sins. He could probably say the same thing to Christians today. He urged them to love brothers and sisters in Christ even more. Imagine what could happen if the church today would love other Christians – especially if they were in different denominations! He encouraged them to live and work peacefully in the community as an example of Christ’s love, showing dependence on God, not on other people. And finally, Paul taught about the second coming of Christ with the reminder that they were to encourage each other with their words. All of those themes boil down to how we live in society, especially among people who aren’t followers of Christ.

Paul urged the Thessalonians to live peaceful and quiet lives, taking care of the business of life and the work they did to support themselves. The end result would be respect from people who aren’t believers and the satisfaction of meeting their own needs. That advice is still good today. I see many believers getting caught up in the issues of this world and doing so in a way that brings ridicule on themselves. Sadly, that reflects on all Christians when we try to show the love of Christ to others. “What about Pastor so and so who was caught in a sexual sin?” “You Christians have all these denominations and you can’t get along. Why should I listen to you?” “All you Christians want to do is get in other people’s business.” Need I continue? You could probably add a number of similar criticisms that you’ve heard when trying to share the love of Christ. Sometimes, that criticism speaks of me or my ways and I need to re-examine myself. At other times, I have to deal with the results of the behavior of other Christians. Let’s take Paul’s encouragement to heart and live peaceful lives, working to make a living, and earning the respect of our neighbors. We can share the love of Christ, knowing that our lives reflect His grace.

Lord, we live in such a fast-paced world that thrives on controversy. It’s easy to get caught up in the controversies of the day. Help me to learn to live peacefully in the light of Your grace. Never let me be silent about injustice, but always help me to love other people. Help me to meet my needs so I don’t need to depend on others.

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

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October 15 – Helping People Stand Strong in the Lord

Isaiah 45-46 1 Thessalonians 3

“So, brothers and sisters, while we have much trouble and suffering, we are encouraged about you because of your faith. Our life is really full if you stand strong in the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 3:7-8 NCV)

We live in an age of instant communication, and so it’s easy to forget what communication was like back in Paul’s day. As I read this chapter, I got the impression that Paul had heard some troubling news from Thessalonica. Maybe someone visited Athens from Thessalonica and made comments about the church when he met Paul. Something troubled Paul, and he sent Timothy to check things out. Timothy checked things out and made it back to Paul. When he heard from Timothy, he was relieved that they were standing strong in their faith and he wrote them a letter to share that joy. He exulted that they stayed strong in their faith despite dealing with troubles and suffering. He let them know that their faith made his day and, in fact, made the work that he did all worthwhile since they were standing strong in the Lord.

For the follower of Christ, that should be our life goal. We should strive not only to introduce the gospel to people and see them enter a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, but to see them grow strong in the Lord. Our call to evangelism is also a call to discipleship. You can’t make disciples until people come to faith in Christ. If people come to faith in Christ, though, we fail them if we don’t help them grow in the knowledge of God. Jesus commanded us to make disciples. That means our call is not just to help people convert to the knowledge of Jesus Christ; our call is to teach people how to grow in Christ. What tools do we use to help people grow in Christ? It begins with the Bible. People need to read God’s word and seek Him when they read. If you want to read the Bible through in a year, you can follow the verses I post at the top of each devotional. That’s why I post them. We need to teach people to pray. Forget the fancy words, just teach people to talk with God. Let Him know your concerns. Listen for His response. Sometimes you get that response during your prayer time, sometimes, you recognize His answer later. Finally, we need to remember fellowship. The gospel isn’t lived in isolation. We should always teach people to live in fellowship with other believers. Those are the basics of discipleship as I see them. Anything else people need to know to grow in Christ will come from those basics – but feel free to add other disciplines you think need to be included. In the meanwhile, get out there and make disciples!

Lord, there are people that need to know You and need to grow in You. Teach me to introduce people to Your love and forgiveness. Help me to teach these new converts to grow in You and become disciples.

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

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October 14 – Whose Message Is it Anyway?

Isaiah 43-44 1 Thessalonians 2

“Also, we always thank God because when you heard his message from us, you accepted it as the word of God, not the words of humans. And it really is God’s message which works in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NCV)

One of the problems that Paul dealt with was that as the time increased since he’d last seen the church he was writing too, their memory of his authority faded. As Paul reminded them of his work among them, he also pointed out that they began their walk of faith by realizing that they didn’t listen to Paul’s gospel, they listened to the gospel from God that works in the hearts of everyone who believes. While Paul’s life, and the lives of those who were with him, reflected the love and grace of God in all their interaction with the Thessalonians, the ultimate truth of the message is that it came from God. The Thessalonians knew that, and we know that today, by the way the gospel works in our lives.

I can look back on how I’ve changed since I believed the good news about Jesus and realize that the gospel message has worked in me. I remember some of the people who helped me along the way, the people who shared the love of Jesus with me. I know that there are some people I’ve forgotten. I hope that there are people along the way that I’ve influenced to experience the love of God in Jesus Christ. Whether they remember me or not is unimportant as long as they follow Christ and let His word work in their hearts. For me, for others, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news, is life changing for the good. Once we come to understand how God works in our lives, we also recognize that we have a responsibility to show His love to all people that they, too, may experience God’s love. As we share, though, we need to be mindful that the message is always God’s message. Our job is to relay the gospel to people who need God’s love.

Oh Lord! What an amazing message of love and grace You’ve entrusted us to share. Help me to share Your work of forgiveness and salvation with all I meet. Let me be Your minister of reconciliation.

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

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October 13 – Recognizing People’s Worth Like God Does

Isaiah 41-42 1 Thessalonians 1

“We continually recall before God our Father the things you have done because of your faith and the work you have done because of your love. And we thank him that you continue to be strong because of your hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 1:3 NCV)

When it was possible, Paul began his letters to the various churches he wrote to with compliments. He wouldn’t pull punches later, and in a few cases, he couldn’t think of anything good to say, but when he wrote to the Thessalonians, he had some very complimentary words to say. His message, though, focused not on nickels or noses, as we’re wont to do these days, he praised them for acting out their faith. He let them know that in spite of some of the suffering they went through, the fact that they worked to share the gospel because of their faith and love, and that they continued to hold strong because of their faith was well known. The great thing is that Paul recognized their accomplishments that happened because of their character and their relationship with God.

It’s hard to give compliments these days. A couple of years ago, someone posted a picture of their daughter that just finished nursing school. Most of the people raved about how beautiful she was. She was beautiful, no doubt about that, but as I read all those compliments, I thought, “This person has just finished nursing school, which requires a lot of commitment and work, and all people are talking about is how beautiful they are. They need to recognize her accomplishment!” At the same time, it’s easy to overvalue accomplishment. There are some people who have achieved fame in their field or have done some pretty amazing things who are rotten people. We’ve seen that especially as people have spoken out about the #MeToo situations they’ve been in. We do the same thing in religious circles when we judge churches on offerings and attendance. Paul struck a great balance here, one we would do well to emulate: he praised the work that they had done because of their faith and their character. What if we began recognizing inner beauty instead of outer beauty? What if we recognized spiritual growth and joy in the Lord instead of how many more people attended church this month. What if we recognized the faith that drove someone to great works instead of merely looking at their accomplishments? I believe that in the long run we’d see a much better world as people sought affirmation for being closer to God instead of buying the prettiest (or most handsome) clothes. Go ahead and compliment the outward beauty, or the accomplishments, but seek to recognize their inward beauty by seeing the worth in them that God saw.

Lord, You see past the outward beauty and look at the heart. You know the spirit of those who accomplish great things. You see the hearts of those who have tried and failed in their own minds. You love each and every one of these people. Help me to see their worth as You see it. Help me to love and appreciate people like You do.

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

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October 12 – Lists of Sins, or Hearts of Love?

Isaiah 39-40 Colossians 4

“Be wise in the way you act with people who are not believers, making the most of every opportunity. When you talk, you should always be kind and pleasant so you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should.” (Colossians 4:5-6 NCV)

Paul gave the Colossians an important principle to live by. He told them to be wise in the way they deal with non-believers. He recognized that they didn’t get too many chances to share the love of Christ with others, so they needed to make sure that they made the most of every opportunity they had. He continued by pointing out that they needed to be kind and pleasant to others. It should be such a habit that even when a natural reaction might be to fight back when someone attacks us, our response should be calm and measured. While he didn’t quote the proverb, he could have told them that a soft answer turns away wrath.

You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and when you’re sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with people who’ve never heard of Him, you want to make sure that you show them God’s love. That’s why I get so upset when I see the people who have posters that list all the reasons people are going to hell. Then, when you hear them preach, there isn’t a touch of God’s love there. Instead of being kind and pleasant, these street condemners take a perverse joy in knowing that other people are going to hell. People need to hear about God’s love. They need to hear that Jesus died to bring forgiveness for all those sins and that He did that because of God’s love. They need to know that God can change us and redeem us no matter what we may have done or been like in the past. When our canned approach is to scare, shame, and bully people into saying the “right words” in a prayer, we’ll never be able to listen to people and hear their needs so that we can answer them in the way that we should to let them know how much God loves them. Lists of sins that will cause people to go to hell is the old legalism that was nailed to the cross. God’s love and grace is the good news we have to share with people who are separated from God.

Lord, there are so many people who don’t know how much You love them. Help me to make the most of my meetings with them. Let my words and my actions show Your love and grace to them.

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

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October 11 – Jesus Loves The Children of the World

Isaiah 37-38 Colossians 3

“You have begun to live the new life, in which you are being made new and are becoming like the One who made you. This new life brings you the true knowledge of God. In the new life there is no difference between Greeks and Jews, those who are circumcised and those who are not circumcised, or people who are foreigners, or Scythians. There is no difference between slaves and free people. But Christ is in all believers, and Christ is all that is important.” (Colossians 3:10-11 NCV)

Living as a follower of Christ isn’t always easy. Paul not only pointed out the kinds of things they shouldn’t be doing as believers, including sexual immorality, engaging in evil behavior, and doing things to hurt others, among other equally bad behaviors, he pointed out that the Colossians, and anyone reading this letter, needed to see their lives becoming more like Christ. When we do that, we begin seeing all people as equal. That was a radical idea back in those days as all of those groups were at odds with each other. Paul’s message was clear: we are all one in Jesus. The current phrase that people use is that all the ground at the foot of the cross is level.

You can’t follow Christ and believe that somehow, you’re superior to other people. In the parable Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus, even in the torment of hell, the rich guy wanted Lazarus to serve him. When those of us who believe come before Jesus at the end of time, we’ll all be standing before Him the same way – as sinners saved by His grace. We’ll fall to our knees as we worship the One who saved us. In the meanwhile, our job is to live like Jesus did on this earth and show everybody His love. True knowledge of God that brings new life loves all people. As the song says, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight…” If people are precious in God’s sight how can we do anything but love them. Sure, I get frustrated with people at times. I get angry when people do evil things. But the best rule to remember is that God allows us to love the people He loves and hate those whom He hates. Since God so loved the world (the whole world) it doesn’t leave anyone for us to hate.

Lord, it would be so easy to look down at people who don’t follow You and show it by doing evil things. It would be so easy to hate those who work at cross purposes with Your desires for the world. When I tend towards acting like that, remind me that one of the purposes of the cross was to offer forgiveness to all people because of Your love for them. Help me to love them like You do.

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

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October 10 – Death To My Old Way, Power To Live My New Way

Isaiah 34-36 Colossians 2

“When you were baptized, you were buried with Christ, and you were raised up with him through your faith in God’s power that was shown when he raised Christ from the dead.” (Colossians 2:12 NCV)

One of the common experiences of all Christians is some form of baptism. As Paul talked about the baptism that the Colossians participated in, he reminded them that, symbolically, their baptism meant that they were buried with Christ and then raised from the dead with Him. The symbolism is that they died to their old way of living. That which was acceptable to Colossian society was no longer acceptable for those who followed Christ. They died to that way of living and buried the old man. They rose from the dead and live each day for Jesus. No longer did they follow the rule of society, they walked with Jesus and lived righteously under His power.

Baptism is a symbolic act that new believers go through as a public witness of their faith. This is the outward symbol of faith that showed the world that the believer has renounced their old ways and has turned to Jesus Christ. It symbolizes the truth that we’ve buried our old sinful selves and that we’re living in the resurrection power of Jesus. To be sure, different denominations express this in different ways. Sadly, it’s a cause of contention between denominations since “my” denomination does it the right way, and “yours” does it the wrong way. We’d avoid all those arguments if we’d remember that baptism itself doesn’t bring salvation, it symbolizes what God’s already done in the life of a believer. As followers of Jesus, do we immerse ourselves in His grace as we prepare to go through the day? Do we live as if we’ve denounced the rules the world would have us follow and are walking with Jesus every day? When we live each day in the same power God showed when He raised Christ from the dead, we’ll be living examples of God’s love for all people wherever we go.

Lord, fill me with Your power and give me the strength to live each day for the glory of Your kingdom.

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

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