More & More

1 thessToday’s Bible Reading:

1 Thessalonians 4

Grab your paper bible or another device and read this chapter, then keep it open and come back here to walk through this devotion.

Big Truth:

God’s people are to continually grow in holiness, love, and longing for Christ’s return.

Questions from the Bible Reading:

In verses 1-8, what commands are given about holiness? What motivations are given for holiness?

In verses 9-12, what instruction is given about love? What motivations are given for how we treat others?

In verses 1 and 10, Paul celebrates the Thessalonian’s obedience to God then calls them to “more and more.” What does this tells us about our walk with God? Have we ever stopped growing?

In verses 13-18, Paul moves to talking about our future with Jesus. What does looking towards Jesus’ return have to do with living with “more and more” holiness and love? See verse 18.

Application:

Verses 1-8 focus especially sexual holiness. What are the struggles you face in our hyper sexualized culture? How can you press on in more and more holiness?

Even after celebrating their love for each other, Paul invites them to “more and more.” What is God calling you to in deeper relationship, richer love, and a gentler and quieter life before outsiders?

Spend a minute or two meditating on your future. Living with Jesus as king, having a restored body, no more pain, no more death…Let the Spirit use our wonderful future to encourage your heart this morning.

Prayer:

Adoration: Praise God that he is so deep and wide that we never run out of “more and more” in our pursuit of him. Praise him that he is powerful, good, wise, and gracious, allowing us to trust him for our future.

Confession: Confess to God ways you need to turn towards him in repentance as you pursue more and more holiness. Confess to God ways you may not be loving well. Be specific. God knows your heart. Lay it open before him.

Thanksgiving: Thank God for his calling in your life, for the gospel that enables “more and more” obedience. Thank God for the hope of a wonderful future with no death. Thank God for the cross that makes this future possible.

Supplication: Ask God for a deep rooted desire from your heart for more and more. Ask him to not let you be satisfied with your current holiness, love and longing, but to grow them.

Grace & Peace.

Community in Suffering

1 thessToday’s Bible Reading:

1 Thessalonians 3

Recommendation: Grab your paper bible or another device and read this chapter, then keep it open and come back here to walk through this devotion.

Big Truth:

God cares for us through tough times both with his own presence in our lives and by surrounding us with his people.

Questions from the Bible Reading:

 

In Mark 8:34, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Acts 14:22 tells us that Paul told the early churches “that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Paul tells Timothy that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12).”

How does knowing that all Christians will suffer help us understand this chapter, especially verse 4?

How does Paul feels about the people at Thessalonica based on this chapter?

Why did Paul send Timothy?

How was the church doing when Timothy got there? Were they standing faithful, or had they given up?

Application:

What can we learn from how Paul and Timothy cared for the church at Thessalonica? Do we care for our brothers and sisters in Christ like them?

What can we learn from the Christians at Thessalonica?

What can we learn about how God cares for us in tough times through this chapter?

 

Prayer:

Adoration: Praise God that he is with us in trials. Praise him that Jesus has endured ultimate suffering for us and now cares for us in our suffering.

Confession: Confess to God ways that you struggle to trust him in hard times. Confess ways that you may not care for others well as they struggle. Do you find yourself not caring when others have a hard time? Confess that to God.

Thanksgiving: Thank God that he has given us the church. A community to love each other and live out our faith together even in difficult times. Thank him for how he’s faithful to you even when times are hard.

Supplication: Ask God for strength like the Christians at Thessalonica and love for others Christians like Paul and Timothy’s.

Grace & Peace.

PS I’m trying to get a feel for how many folks are reading these posts in their email inbox each day. If you’re reading this in your inbox, would you click this link for me? https://daviddeasley.com/2017/01/01/email-readers  Added bonus, comment and let me know how the blog could be better or how it has encouraged you!

Bold Dependance

1 thess

Today’s Bible Reading:

1 Thessalonians 2 

Recommendation: Grab that paper bible or another device. Jumping back and forth might get old.

Big Truth:

Paul’s passion to spread the good news of Jesus and love the church is an example to us. We’ll see four marks of his faithful spread of the gospel this morning.

Questions from the Bible Reading:

Was Paul fearful or bold in his spread of the gospel? Check out verse 2. What other verses help you see his fear/boldness?

Where did Paul’s boldness come from? Was he just “built tough?” What words come after boldness in verse 2? What does Paul say in verse 13 that helps us have confidence in God as we share the Gospel?

What was Paul heart towards the believers at Thessalonica? Take a look at verses 7,8,11,12, and 17-20.

Paul tells us one thing sharing the gospel and loving people is NOT. What is that? Verse 1.

I’m summarizing these 4 truths as boldness, dependance, compassion, and confidence our labors are not in vain.

Application:

We saw that Paul’s sharing the gospel was both bold, and compassionate. How can we learn from Paul in combining these two?

We also saw Paul say  he was dependent on God and that his sharing of the gospel was not in vain. How are these related? Are there areas of your life where you are not dependent on God? What does this mean about the value of your efforts?

Prayer:

Adoration: God has given us a gospel that is HIS news, not man’s words. His news is that in the cross of Jesus, sinful people can be made right with God. Praise God for his goodness, grace, and empowerment of us in Christ. Praise God that he is powerful enough for us to depend on.

Confession: Confess to God ways that you are not bold, dependent, or compassionate. Confess to him if sometimes you feel your efforts for Christ are in vain. For me, this meant being honest with God that I’m not always faithful to share the gospel with others when it’s “scary.” Be honest with God about this.

Thanksgiving: Thank God that he has given you a message that is powerful to change hearts. That others have been compassionate and loving towards you and that he has used their love to save you. Thank God that through the gospel he “calls us into his kingdom and glory.” Express thanks for anything else that you see God teaching you through this passage or doing in your life.

Supplication: Ask God to give you boldness, dependance, compassion, and confidence that your work is not in vain. Ask him to use you, like he used Paul, to spread his message of salvation in the cross of Jesus. Cast your anxieties on Christ this morning. He desires to bear them for you.

Grace & Peace.

Chosen for Holy Mission

1 thess

Today’s Bible Reading:

1 Thessalonians 1 

Big Truth:

The people of God are chosen by him and sent out to proclaim him in the world.

Questions from the Bible Reading:

How does Paul know these people are “chosen by God? (Verses 4&5)

In verse 8, what “sounds forth” from God’s people? What “goes forth” from God’s people?

Application:

Is God’s work in your life evident? In what ways? In what ways do you desire to see him work in your life?

Is your mouth “sounding forth” the word of God? Is your life of faith “going forth?”

Prayer:

Adoration: Worship God because he’s powerful enough to change hearts and kind enough to send his spirit to sinful people through Christ.

Confession: Confess to God that you sometimes don’t reflect his Gospel’s powerful work in your life. Confess that you often receive his word, but don’t sound forth his word through your mouth and life. Get specific.

Thanksgiving: Thank God that he has given you his gospel and sent his spirit to make it come into your life with power and conviction. Thank him that he’s given you an opportunity to be apart of his work of taking the gospel to others.

Supplication: Ask God to continue to powerfully apply the gospel to your heart through the Spirit. Ask him to turn your heart from idols (get specific). Ask him to help you look forward to Christ’s return. Ask him to help you have a passion for “sounding forth” his gospel to others.

 

Grace & Peace.

PS I’m going to move to a different format on these posts for a while. My intent with these is to serve the students at my church in getting into God’s Word daily.  I hope this new format helps serve that purpose. Feedback is welcome!

PPS I plan to stop posting these daily on social media. If you’d like to get them each day, you get subscribe to the blog, or text “devos” to 41411 for a daily text. Thanks for reading!

Unity & Praise

Adobe Spark-5Romans is such a powerful letter. It contains a robust theology of salvation, rich practical instruction, and even requests to help Paul carry on as a missionary of the gospel to the nations. How would one end a letter like this? What would be the final instruction? What would be the last words? Romans ends with Chapter 16.  Let’s take a look at how he ends this magnificent book.

Personal Greetings (Verses 1-16 & 21-23)

Paul isn’t writing to strangers; he’s writing to a church that he loves. In fact, he begins this book telling them how he prays for them constantly and longs to see them. As he closes the book, he addresses over a dozen people by name. Celebrating what God is doing in and through their lives. I point this out because it helps me to remember that Paul was a real person, and the people who read his letters were just like you and me.  They were people who had believed on Christ, and by his power, they were seeking to live out lives of faith.  Warts and all.

Final Instruction (Verses 17-20)

All this truth, what’s the final word of instruction?

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. (Romans 16:17 ESV)”

Watch out for division. Division in the church is a bitter cup. Silence those who stir it up. Don’t dare be one who stirs it up. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is Paul’s final warning because he knows the first 15 chapters are irrelevant if this isn’t true. The gospel is great news, but what good does it do if the people who are to carry it to the nations are too busy fighting? Watch out for those who cause divisions. Avoid them.

Last Words (Verses 25-27)

How do you close out a book centered around the work of Jesus with anything other than praise? This is a fruit of the gospel’s work in our hearts: We celebrate the wonderful grace of God. All glory be to Christ!

“Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages [26] but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith—[27] to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.” (Romans 16:25-27 ESV)

Grace & Peace.

PS Tomorrow we start 1 Thessalonians!

Endurance

Adobe Spark-4“I’m not really into religion and theology, I just wanna be like Jesus.” Have you ever heard someone say something like this? I don’t want to be negative towards that idea. I really like the heart of it. To strip back all the noise and just follow Christ…that’s what all Christians want right? There is one problem. You can’t “just be like Jesus.”  To follow Christ is his call, but if you have spent much time actually trying to do it, you know how impossible it is.

Paul gives us this high calling again in Romans 15.  He says, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. [2] Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. [3] For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.'”(Romans 15:1-3 ESV) It’s really incredible what Paul is calling us to here! Bear the mistakes other people make like Jesus bears our mistakes. That is definitely being like Jesus! But how could we ever hold up doing that? How can we endure carrying others burdens on top of our own?

Here is the heart of all the application for Christians in the Bible, we follow the example of Jesus in the strength of Jesus. Romans 15:5-7 says, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, [6] that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [7] Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

How do we continually live at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ, even bearing their burdens? We receive endurance from the God of endurance. Jesus sets the example, provides the motivation, and empowers our obedience. I just want to be like Jesus too. But I know I need his Word, his church, his spirit, and his power to do it.

Grace & Peace.

Judging & Tripping

Adobe Spark-3We humans have some funny contradictions in our lives. We want to be free to do whatever we want, but we want to judge people who do things differently than us. We are passionately individualistic, yet we love to label people and personally identify with labels. We admire those with strong conviction and will, yet we secretly long to see them stumble.

In Romans 14, Paul addresses some of these issues that were rising up in the early days of the church. Some people, seeking to honor God, were following some patterns and habits they felt would honor God. Others were learning the freedom they had in Christ and following other, less traditional perhaps, patterns. It seems in the church at Rome, some people were judging others for how they ate and drank, and what religious holiday’s they celebrated.

Paul says, “Stop judging your brother!” It is important to see here, he is not talking about sin/not-sin issues in this passage. So if your Christian brother is stealing, it is right for you to “judge” and say, “Stealing is wrong, you should stop doing that.” But if your Christian brother chooses to abstain from certain foods or beverages, that’s between him and God. If your sister in Christ chooses to celebrate a religious holiday or not, that’s between her and God. Paul says, “Who are you to judge your masters servant?”

So here’s the question. I’m a Christian, and I also love to eat meat. There are other Christians who might feel that this is technically OK because God allows it in the Bible, but it wasn’t going on in Eden, so when possible, we should avoid it.  Now what do I do when it’s time to have dinner with that brother? Romans 14 gives us two helpful rules. Don’t judge the person with different convictions than you, and don’t trip your brother and make him stumble. Meat-eater, don’t try to pressure your brother to eat with you. Vegetarian, don’t make your brother feel judged. Let the law of love apply.

We want to serve each other in the way of Christ. This means sacrificial love. If avoiding eating a certain food is a way I can serve a brother, I can skip the meat when I enjoy a meal with that brother or sister. I’ve used a less controversial example like meat, but there are many things that fall into this category of Christian conscience. Things like piercings, tattoos, alcohol, secular music and movies, how we spend money, denominational affiliations, etc. There are many, many issues on which the Bible gives freedom within boundaries. Paul’s encouragement is for each person to live by conviction before God.

Towards the end of the chapter, Paul says, “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.” This is the wonderful truth of the gospel.  God is at work in all who believe. We want to seek to live together in a way that encourages the work God is doing in each of our hearts.

Take some time to read Romans 14. What are some places you might be judging a brother who has less strict convictions than you? What are some places you might be acting carelessly around a brother who needs you to abstain to help him obey his convictions? Romans 14 will help you navigate these kinds of issues.

 

Law of Love

Adobe Spark-2With God’s glory and grace and mind, Paul invites us to lay our lives down before him as an act of worship in Romans 12. Then he begins to describe what that looks like. Romans 12:9 says, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” This is almost like the chapter heading for the rest of the book. What does living out this genuine love, while holding fast to what is good, look like? Paul gives 3 ways in Romans 13.

Submit to Civil Authority (1-7)

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:1-2 ESV)

This should be the normal mode of operation for Christians. We recognize that God has placed authority in our societies. For us to live in love with one another, we need to respect that authority. There have been times when God’s people have had to make difficult decisions about respecting human authority while obeying God and not man. We just want to remember this is the exception, not the rule. God’s people should seek to obey and support the governing authorities as much as possible.

Fulfill the Whole Law Through Love (8-10)

“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10 ESV)

Paul is digging into what Jesus said in Matthew 22:39. After loving God, the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. The interaction between love for our neighbor and God’s law is a beautiful one. Our our love informs our law abiding, and the law also informs our love for our neighbor. What would it look like to love someone? Well, I can learn that through how God has commanded me to treat people. What is the guiding principle and motivation of God’s commands on how to treat people? Love them!

Look Forward to Jesus Return (11-14)

Paul closes the chapter by looking forward to Jesus’ return. Salvation is near! If this is true, let’s be found “holding fast to what is good” and loving our brothers and sisters.

God has poured out his love toward us through Jesus. Our response to his love is to love him and love the people he has placed in our lives. Let’s look to him who has loved us so much and allow his love to move us towards love for others.

Grace & Peace.

Glory & Grace

Adobe Spark (17)What motivates you? What drives you forward as a person? What motivates you as a follower of Jesus? What keeps you desiring to walk in his ways, love his people, and serve his church? Two words this morning: Glory and grace.

Romans 11 ends with these words:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”  “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

Paul is worshiping. He’s celebrating the wonder of God. He is driven by a desire to see him given “glory forever,” because he has given us grace forever and called us his own. So now what? What is the fruit of a life blown away by the grace of God? What do we do if we want to see our gracious God receive glory and praise? We surrender our lives to him.

Romans 12  begins with these famous words:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. [2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2 ESV)

After worship, Paul says I appeal, I beg you, based on God’s mercy: give yourself fully to him. I want you to go read Romans 12 and ask this question: Is my life submitted to Jesus? Am I living a life fueled by glory and grace? Paul gives a lot of practical instruction in the rest of the book of Romans, and that is a good thing! But little moral instructions don’t fuel us to live on mission for Jesus. What drives us? We want to see God receive glory and honor because of his grace to us. That’s our motivator. Let’s keep it in view as we consider these last 4 chapters of Romans.

Grace & Peace.

The People of God

Adobe Spark-3Have you ever read your Old Testament and thought, “Wait…whatever happened to the Israelites?” Are they still God’s special people? This was a huge question in the early church too. Throughout the book of Romans, Paul is helping the Roman church to think through how the Gentiles (non-Jews) and Jews are supposed to relate to each other in the church. Romans 9 started a conversation that Paul wraps up in Romans 11. In Romans 9, Paul explained that God opening the door to non-Jews does not make him unfair or dishonest in his promises to the Jews. Romans 11 digs in further to this question and asks, “Did God just reject his people?” We know that’s not true, so what is going on? Paul explains with an illustration:

“[I]f some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, [18] do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. [19] Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” [20] That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. (Romans 11:17-20 ESV)

In case you aren’t up on your horticulture, grafting is taking a branch from one plant and  attaching it to another. This isn’t some voodoo of modern science, it turns out people have been doing this for centuries. So Paul is saying that just like you can take a branch from one tree and attach it to another, if you are in Christ, you are attached to the family tree of God’s people. So, who is attached to God’s family tree? People who are born into a certain race or tribe? Well, being born into a family that loves God has it’s benefits, but it doesn’t make you right with God. There’s only one way to be attached to God’s family tree: faith in Christ.

The big idea of Romans 11 is that people in the Old Testament and the New Testament were able to come to God only by faith. The children of Abraham who believe were “natural” branches. We are “grafted” branches. The wonderful news, though, is that we are branches! We are apart of God’s tree through faith in Christ! Romans 11 tells us that this wonderful blessing of being attached to God’s tree is supposed to cause Israelites who do not believe to see how good it is to be attached and want if for themselves. In other words, God hasn’t given up on the Jews, he has just opened the door for the gentiles also.

This is the wonderful news of the Gospel. Jesus has made a way for all people to be apart of God’s tree through Christ. We want to celebrate the diversity of this unified tree.