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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September 18 – There Is No “New and Improved” Gospel Message

Proverbs 30-31 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

“Such men are not true apostles but are workers who lie. They change themselves to look like apostles of Christ. This does not surprise us. Even Satan changes himself to look like an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-14 NCV)

It’s amazing, but Paul had to defend his ministry to the very people who had come to Christ under his ministry. Perhaps the message going around the Corinthian Church was that Paul wasn’t all that and a bag of chips. He wasn’t forceful in person, he didn’t raise money for his needs from them, and, compared to some of those other speakers, Paul wasn’t much of a speaker. Paul reminded the Corinthians that whatever others said, he spoke the truth. He didn’t take money for personal expenses from the Corinthians because of his love for the Corinthians. It’s hard to believe, but the fact that he didn’t raise money to support himself from the Corinthians caused them to think that he wasn’t much of a preacher. Paul made the point that he wanted to cut off the bragging of the false preachers who came just for the money. The false preachers did all they could to make it look like they were God’s men, preaching the truth of the gospel, but they were fake messengers who thought of nothing but the money they could gather for themselves.

There have always been those who perverted the gospel for the sake of riches. Paul dealt with it in the Corinthian Church. He also dealt with in the Philippian church, although he mentioned that in Philippi, the gospel was being preached. It’s easy to make small changes to the gospel, to say things the right way, and to make people think they’re proclaiming the gospel when all they’re doing is lining their own pockets with the offerings from those whose trust they betray. They use the words of the gospel to attain what they really want: money. Money is their god and they act as if they believe that he (or she) who dies with the most toys wins. They measure the success of their activity by how much money they take in, while those who preach the true gospel look at how many lives have been changed as people leave their sins behind and live in the grace of Jesus Christ. Among those who preach the true gospel, money is used meet the needs of the people they serve, while those who would use the gospel for personal gain take the money and use it for self-indulgence. The message of the gospel hasn’t changed since the days of Jesus. There is no new and improved gospel that should cause us to discard our faith and follow the new ways. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. He rose from the dead to show His power over death. He appeared to many of those who had followed Him after His resurrection.  He offers forgiveness of sins and a relationship with God through His grace – there’s nothing we can do to earn it. Anything beyond that as necessary for salvation isn’t a new gospel, it’s an old heresy that Paul fought in the early days of the church.

Lord, it’s so easy to give in to the temptation to gain wealth. It’s so easy to believe that we need to do something to earn Your love. Protect me from falling into those temptations. May everyone I contact learn and follow the true gospel.

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

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September 17 – Bringing the Right Weapon for the Right Battle

Proverbs 27-29 2 Corinthians 10

“We fight with weapons that are different from those the world uses. Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy’s strong places. We destroy people’s arguments and every proud thing that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 NCV)

It’s a tradition for people who are losing the argument on facts to attack the other person. The Corinthians who were causing the problems used that time-honored method by lashing out at Paul, noting that while his letters carried a lot of weight, he was a light-weight in person. They accused him of using strong words, but not being able to back up what he said. Paul’s response was simple: I haven’t had to use strong words in person up to now, but I will if I must. In the middle of that argument, he reminded us of the most important understanding of the battle that all Christians are engaged in: we don’t use the weapons of warfare that the world uses. We don’t use those weapons because they aren’t effective in the spiritual battle that’s taking place. We use weapons that come from our relationship with God that destroy the strongholds the enemy has over us. We proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray for God to work. We follow God in obedience.

Jimmy Malone, Sean Connery’s character in the movie “The Untouchables” criticized his attacker for bringing a knife to a gunfight. He had the better, worldly weapon. What he didn’t realize was that the knife wielder was a decoy who lured him into a deadly trap. It was a better weapon. As Christians, we don’t bring worldly weapons into a spiritual battle – and that’s the war that we’re engaged in. We can destroy other people with our quick wit and heavy sarcasm, but that’s not our ultimate goal. We can gain political power and force people to follow our laws, but that won’t change people’s hearts. We can appeal to our authority in the church if the “battle” is between different groups in the church, but that won’t bring peace. As Christians, we don’t seek a worldly victory over those opposed to us, instead, we seek a spiritual victory over the forces of evil that will open the door for people to see Jesus for who He really is. Our weapons: the gospel, prayer, the love of Christ, changed lives, have been crafted and chosen perfectly by God for this battle. When we “fight” God’s way, our victories lead to a great victory in the lives of those who once were our “enemies.” Keep praying and sharing the gospel in the love of Christ so that we can make the greatest difference in the world today.

Lord, remind me that my battle isn’t against the people who would argue with me. Remind me that You love those people too and that my battle, Your battle, is against the spiritual forces of evil in this world.

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

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September 16 – Learning to Give Joyfully and Freely

Proverbs 25-26 2 Corinthians 9

“Each of you should give as you have decided in your heart to give. You should not be sad when you give, and you should not give because you feel forced to give. God loves the person who gives happily.” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NCV)

I think Paul was a little worried about the Corinthian Church fulfilling their promises to give to support fellow Christians. He spent lots of time in this letter talking about their pledge and the need to be ready to give their gift to the right representatives. He let them know that he was coming to collect their gift, and that some of those from other churches in Macedonia would be with him and they didn’t want to be embarrassed because they weren’t ready with their gift. In the midst of Paul’s warnings, there’s an excellent teaching on how the Christian should give to God’s work. Give as you’ve decided in your heart to give. Talk it over with God, and then give joyfully. Don’t be sad, as if you’re waving good-bye to your money. Don’t give because the usher thrusts an offering plate in front of you. God loves the person who gives out of heartfelt joy.

Our local Christian radio station, KBNJ, is listener supported. That means that they take a couple of times a year where they call on the Christian community that listens to their station to give, cheerfully, to support the work that they do. Some of the stories about how people have been affected because of what they do are amazing. It’s easy to support their work cheerfully, knowing that God’s doing something great there. When our pastor preaches about giving, he reminds people of a couple of things. First, he reminds people that what we do as a church matters, and that’s why he’s not shy about preaching on giving. Second, he gives out gifts when he preaches on giving to remind us that giving is fun! I believe that my church matters and that’s why I enjoy giving. My wife and I give a percentage of our income. If you want to have real joy in giving, give a set percentage of your income every month – then, if you have a really good month and your gift to the church is extra big, you’ll remember that you were able to do so much because God blessed you even more than usual. What’s really great about that is if you want to, you can give more than your set amount. We should give to God’s work and to support God’s people because we understand that all that we have is a gift from God. When we give, we take a small part of that gift from God and give it back to support the work He’s doing in the world. Take the time to find a ministry that does worthwhile work and find a way to give from what God has given you to support that work. You’ll find great joy when you do that.

Lord, You’ve given me so much more than I deserve. You’ve given me eternal life, a relationship with You, forgiveness, and grace as well as many material things. Give me a heart to give to support Your work with my money and my time.

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

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September 15 – If Not Us, Then Who?

Proverbs 22-24 2 Corinthians 8

“At this time you have plenty. What you have can help others who are in need. Then later, when they have plenty, they can help you when you are in need, and all will be equal.” (2 Corinthians 8:14 NCV)

In Israel, the priests took the collections of the tithes and offerings and used them to help those who were poor among the Jews. Those leading the Temple were given that responsibility to distribute food and help take care of other needs of those who were poor. Then, some of the Jews in Jerusalem started following Jesus. This caused a dilemma for those in charge of caring for the poor among the Jews, especially when family members disowned the followers of Christ. It got harder for followers of Christ to find work. Many of them went through difficult financial times. As a result, Paul and many of the churches prepared an offering to meet the needs of their fellow Christians in Jerusalem who were suffering due to the conditions in the city. As Paul wrote this part of the letter, he reminded the Corinthian Church to be ready with their offering.

From the beginning of the Church, followers of Jesus Christ had to take care of each other. Some who followed Christ lost jobs or were disowned by family members. One of the earliest squabbles recorded in the early church dealt with taking care of widows. One of the hallmarks of the Church in the beginning was that it voluntarily took care of its members. We didn’t rely on others to do our job. When Jesus talked about the last judgment, the criteria mentioned involved taking care of others. We don’t do that so much anymore. Instead, we admire those who have great wealth and claim to follow Christ whether they give to help others or not. Accumulation of wealth becomes a goal instead of finding ways to help others. We ask others, including the government, to take on our responsibilities and care for the poor. Paul reminds us that those who have plenty should be finding ways to share with those in need. Sometimes, the table turns and those who are in need now will have overcome their bad situations and be able to help those who gave to others before. Even if that doesn’t happen, the words that I want to hear from Jesus on this subject are “whatever you did to the least of these, you did unto me.”

Lord, You’ve given me the responsibility to care for others – in fact, You’ve given that responsibility to Your Church. Let each person who claims to follow You find ways to help those in need. Help us to be a caring, loving church in an uncaring world.

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

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September 14 – Going On the Offensive

Proverbs 19-21 2 Corinthians 7

“The kind of sorrow God wants makes people change their hearts and lives. This leads to salvation, and you cannot be sorry for that. But the kind of sorrow the world has brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10 NCV)

If hashtags were around in Paul’s day, this section of the letter would be his #sorrynotsorry moment. He’d written some harsh words to the Corinthian Church, and while he had a few pangs of regret over how they would react, he knew he’d said the right thing. The Corinthians, for all their faults, responded to Paul’s rebuke the right way. The repented of their sins. They were sorrowful and changed their ways. When Paul got the news that his letter had the desired effect, he rejoiced and made the distinction between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow. Godly sorrow happens when someone admits that they did something wrong and, with God’s help, commits to do the right thing. (That’s repentance, by the way.) Worldly sorrow happens when people are sorry for getting caught, and they work to avoid getting caught in the future. Worldly sorrow puts the blame on the offended when the apology is “I’m sorry if anyone was offended by this.”

When I offend someone, I take stock. Did I do something wrong, or did I call someone’s attention to their own sin? When I’m wrong, I try to admit it in a way that makes the offended person realize that I’m actually apologizing for doing wrong, and not trying to shift the blame in an underhanded way. That’s easy to do. “I’m sorry if you were offended.” Because most people wouldn’t have been. “I’m sorry I reacted that way when you did your thing.”  Because you did what you did, I had no choice. On the other hand, it’s possible that sometimes what I write here offends people. I try to stay true to biblical truth and point out what we should be doing instead of attacking specific sins, but sometimes, if people read between the lines and understand my thoughts, they might be offended. If I offend you with my devotional writing, you have a couple of good options: the first is to let me know how I was wrong in my understanding of God’s word and plan; the second is to seek God and see if you need to change your life. A third option is to write me off and never read these again. Doing that, of course, would help no one. If my writing offends you enough that you search for God’s truth, I can truly say that I’m #sorrynotsorry. If I’m wrong based on a true biblical understanding, I’ll change my views. On the other hand, if you discover that you need to get things right with God, I’ll rejoice that God spoke to you as you read. The point of these writings is to share what God taught me as I read His word. He corrects my thoughts and attitudes daily. If these words help you repent, I’ll be grateful that God’s causing you to grow.

Lord, thank You that You correct me when I’m wrong. Thank You for using my friends to draw me back to You. Let me be so close to You that if I offend others, it’s not because I’m wrong, but because You’re using me to draw others back to You.

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

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September 13 – How Will People Know That You Follow Christ?

Proverbs 16-18 2 Corinthians 6

“We show we are servants of God by our pure lives, our understanding, patience, and kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by true love, by speaking the truth, and by God’s power. We use our right living to defend ourselves against everything.” (2 Corinthians 6: 6-7 NCV)

How do people know? Seriously, how do people know that you’re a follower of Jesus Christ? Paul noted a couple of ways to look at the proof of his status as a follower of Christ: the hardships he endured in working for Christ, and the purity of his life because of the presence of God in his life. In short, our relationship with God should make a difference. We shouldn’t let the problems that befall us as we live and serve each day deter us from sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, nor should we give in to any form of sinful living because our lives are a testimony to the presence of God in our lives.

The gospel should make us more understanding and patient. It took a long time for God to make that clear to me, but I can testify that as God’s worked on me, I’ve shown a lot more patience. I’m not perfect in that area, but I’m a lot better. One area that most of us can use a lot more work on is showing kindness. There are some who claim the name of Christ who do an amazing job of practicing kindness. On the other hand, we have some who claim to be brothers and sisters in Christ who are the meanest, orneriest cusses in the world. We see those folks featured in the news when they’re attacking others for their sins. We experience that meanness at church when the “holy ones” of the church gossip about the common church folk who aren’t as perfect as they are. There are times to deal with sin, but we need to do so redemptively. We need to draw people back to Jesus if they’re followers of Christ, and we need to make sure people know of His grace and goodness if they aren’t. It’s sad that too often, our efforts to be right about issues make us wrong in dealing with others. If God forgave all that I did without making me endure lightning, the least I can do is show others His mercy and grace without threatening the storm.

Lord, when people look at me and wonder about my relationship with You, may they see my hard work to advance Your kingdom, and a pure life that shows understanding, patience, and kindness.

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

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September 12 – When the War’s Over You Need to Make Peace

Proverbs 13-15 2 Corinthians 5

“God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself. In Christ, God did not hold the world guilty of its sins. And he gave us this message of peace. So we have been sent to speak for Christ. It is as if God is calling to you through us. We speak for Christ when we beg you to be at peace with God.” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20 NCV)

It’s finished. The war is over. The problem is that we have these holdouts who don’t seem to get that they fought for the losing side, and that the irony of that is that by losing the war against God, they end up winning in life. As Paul talked about the war that God used to have with the world, he reminded us that God’s purpose was to make peace with the world. You wouldn’t know that based on the actions of some of my brothers and sisters in Christ – but in Christ, God doesn’t hold the world guilty of its sins. He offers forgiveness and grace to cover all the sins of the world. Our message to the world is not a message of God’s wrath, it’s a message of peace. Other versions translate our job here as “ambassadors.” The message we speak is the message that Jesus would have us speak which is peace. God is calling the world; God is calling each person individually to peace with Him.

If we’re truly speaking for Christ, we should be calling people to peace with God. There are enough people speaking condemnation in the world today. If we can believe these verses, that isn’t our call as followers of Christ. There are many preachers today in churches and on the streets, who love to spend time on and condemn the sins of those listening. While we need to point out God’s truth about sinful behavior, it should always be with the understanding that God forgives, God has mercy, and God has grace. When our proclamations deal with sin, we should always remember that Jesus condemned the religious elite and consoled the sinners. He told those caught in sin to sin no more once they’d established their relationship with Him, but only after He’d brought peace to them. We live in a world that’s restless and ill at ease. People defy God openly with their words and their actions. We have people who are caught up in addictions who see no hope. Our job as Christians is to be these individuals to be at peace with God. The old saying is that we’re called to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I believe that people without God are afflicted and ill at ease no matter how much money they have. I believe that most people that don’t follow Jesus know their own sin deep down, my job is to bring the grace and peace of Jesus Christ to them so that they can choose to follow Him and experience true peace.

Lord, in a world where people are still battling against You even though You’ve already won the war, help me to proclaim peace. Let my words and my actions draw others to You.

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

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September 11 – Let’s Get Everything Out in the Open

Proverbs 10-12 2 Corinthians 4

“If the Good News that we preach is hidden, it is hidden only to those who are lost. The devil who rules this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe. They cannot see the light of the Good News—the Good News about the glory of Christ, who is exactly like God.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NCV)

In ancient Rome and Greece, mystery religions thrived. They were like Fight Club. No one talked about them. Much. Oh, you heard about them in generic terms. You might even know a member or two of those religions, but in order to find out about them, you had to be initiated into that religion. Their beliefs, their practices, even their handshakes were hidden. Paul makes it clear that the Good News, the gospel isn’t hidden. There are no levels of faith that you have to move up to by paying for a course or doing any amount of good works. But wait, he said that the gospel is hidden to those who are lost. Doesn’t that mean that we keep the full truth from some people? No, Paul’s point is clear: those don’t believe don’t because the devil has blinded them to God’s truth.

In other words, to paraphrase Flip Wilson, if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior it’s because the devil made you not do it. God has laid it out. We all have sinned and fall short of His glory. What that means is that no one’s perfect. Can we all agree on that? God loved us enough, even though we weren’t perfect, that He wanted fellowship with us. We needed a perfect sacrifice so that we could have fellowship with a perfect God. We believe that God the Son entered the world, lived on earth, died on the cross to bring us forgiveness, and rose again from the dead. We believe that we can have a relationship with God because Jesus, God the Son, paid the penalty for our sin, our imperfection on the cross. Nothing we did could have earned God’s love; it was only His grace that gave us His love. We have an amazing life while we’re here on this earth, and the promise of a home in heaven with God when we die. That’s the basics. Nothing’s hidden. You don’t need to pay me any money for that and if I remember something else, I’ll share that for free also. You need to accept His grace, if you haven’t already. You need to experience His love if you never have. Once you do, you’ll never go back to your old ways again.

Oh Lord, Your grace is so amazing. You haven’t hid Your truth from us. You make Your salvation available to everyone. Help me to share that message, that hope, with others will all of my being.

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

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September 10 – The Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart – No Matter What

Proverbs 8-9 2 Corinthians 3

“Our faces, then, are not covered. We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NCV)

During the days of Moses, he spent time with God. When he finished, the Israelites saw him, and his face was glowing because of the encounter. Moses then put a veil over his face. For the longest time, I thought he did that so that the Israelites wouldn’t keep seeing the glow. Paul told us that he did that to hide the fact that the glow from his meeting with God was fading. He contrasted that picture with the Christian and their experience with God. We don’t hide our faces because the Lord’s glory is fading; our faces are uncovered because we have the Spirit living inside of us and He’s changing us from the inside to be like Jesus. The glory doesn’t fade because our lives should shine as the Spirit works in our hearts all the time.

This power we have from God, this freedom, should radiate out of our lives. The old joke about Baptists: “Why is it Baptists never smile? They know that someone, somewhere is having fun and they don’t like it,” shouldn’t describe us at all. Our lives should radiate the joy of our relationship we have with God. That doesn’t mean that we’ll always have good times. That doesn’t mean that troubles will never attack. What it means is that no matter what happens in our lives, our face should radiate the joy that God gives in all circumstances. It may take a while, sometimes. It doesn’t mean that we’ll always be smiling. What it means is that people will look through our tears and see the power of our relationship with God in the worst of times or look past the laughter and see that we’re refreshed by our joy in the Lord in the best of times. The one thing that makes Christians different from all other people is our relationship with God. Our lives should reflect that relationship in the best of times and the worst of times. They should recognize God’s presence in our joy, and recognize that we don’t grieve as others do in our sorrow. So, stay spirit-filled my friends.

Lord, remind me that in the battles of the temporal, I have the strength of my eternal life with You. Let me be so close to You every day that people will experience my eternal joy in any situation. Give me the words to share Your love and grace with those who need to hear.

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

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September 9 – An Aroma Pleasing to God or the Stench of Death

oops…I did it again. I forgot to work on this after church yesterday and didn’t get it done. Here’s yesterday’s post today. Today’s post will be later.

Proverbs 6-7 2 Corinthians 2

“To those who are lost, we are the smell of death that brings death, but to those who are being saved, we are the smell of life that brings life. So who is able to do this work?” (2 Corinthians 2:16 NCV)

One of the hardest things to describe when writing is aroma. If you research religious practices, though, you’ll see that aroma plays an important part of many religions. In Judaism, the sacrifices offered are supposed to make a pleasing aroma to God. In fact, there are recipes for incense in the Old Testament that were designed to be used in worship – some to be used only in worship and not at any other time. That which wasn’t from God was described as “strange incense.” Nadab and Abihu were condemned for offering “strange incense,” and such an offering was forbidden in the Bible. Of course, any Texan who really thought about the sacrifices and the aroma would realize that the aroma was obviously pleasing: it smelled like barbecue! When Paul talked about our aroma, to those who are lost and to those who are being saved, the Corinthians understood the concept.

Paul turned the concept of pleasing aromas around, though, and noted that His sacrifice for us would be an aroma to those in the world. For those who were being saved, the aroma would be full of life; for those who were perishing, the smell would be death. If you’re wondering how an aroma could be the sweet smell of life to some, and the smell of death to others, let me share a confession: I don’t like bacon. The smell of bacon turns my stomach. Most people I know smell bacon cooking and their hearts start racing as they think about eating that bacon. Me, I want fresh air. Maybe, by God’s power, that will change. I don’t think so. That helps me to understand that sometimes people don’t want to hear what I have to say about Jesus. Rather than pound the gospel into their head and reinforce their belief that the gospel is a bad aroma, I need to show them that the gospel is life. As they become accustomed to being around me, and as they see the joy I have because of my life with Jesus, their perception might change, and they’ll recognize the presence of God in me like a pleasant aroma and be willing to listen. There’s no sweeter aroma than the grace of God. Our job isn’t to blow smoke in people’s eyes, though, it’s to draw them to the good news of Jesus through lives honoring Him and words spoken in the right way at the right time.

Lord, I deal with so many people every day. To some, the grace I talk about is like a pleasing aroma; to others, it is the stench of death. Let my life reflect Your grace so well that people begin to anticipate that they’ll experience Your grace when they see me.

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

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