My Delight is the Lord, December 3

Grace Through Faith

December 3, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 15:1-35

Paul preached salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). That also served as the crux of Peter’s argument to those “believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees” who maintained that the Gentiles must first be circumcised and keep the law of Moses to be saved (v. 5). Instead, Peter said God cleansed the hearts of Cornelius and his household–the first Gentile converts (see Acts 10)–“by faith” (v. 9). Not only so, but Jews and Gentiles alike will be saved in precisely the same manner; “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will” (v. 11). As it was for Jew and Gentile then, so it is for everyone still today. By faith our hearts are cleansed and through the grace of the Lord Jesus we will be saved.

Questions to Ponder:

  • With whom was this question discussed? (v. 2)
  • How did God bear witness to the Gentiles? (v. 8)
  • What role did the signs and wonders of Paul and Barnabas play? (v. 12)
  • What is said of Judas and Silas? (v. 26)

My Delight is the Lord, December 2

A Son of Satan

December 2, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: Acts 13-14

Paul vilified Bar-Jesus. He called him Satan’s offspring, the enemy of all righteousness, and filled with deceit and villainy (10). Wow! What awful thing had he done? He sought to turn Sergius Paulus (the proconsul who wanted to hear the word of God from Paul and Barnabas) away from the faith. Bringing people to the faith is what was made possible by Jesus’ own death. To share that message with all people is precisely what Jesus commissioned His followers to do. God’s own Spirit specifically identified Paul and Barnabas for this task (see 13:2). So, the efforts of this magician were in absolute and direct opposition to the will and purpose of God. Such action qualified him as the recipient of Paul’s scathing language. Of supreme concern, then, is my own influence, for good or ill, in regard to the faith of others.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What astonished Sergius Paulus? (13:12)
  • What was the failing of rulers in Jerusalem? (13:27)
  • How did God fulfill His promise to the fathers? (13:32-33)
  • From what does Jesus free man? (13:39)

My Delight is the Lord, December 1

The Lord Knows

December 1, Thursday: God’s People

Scripture Reading: Revelation 2:12-17

What an encouragement to be assured that the Lord knows.  He knows the hardships and struggles we face, as He did of the Pergamum church (v. 13). Their faithfulness to Him in the midst of serious persecution (even death) was not unnoticed (v. 13). That helps. But there’s another side to this as well. God not only knows the good things, He knows the bad as well. Our weaknesses and failings do not escape His notice. We cannot expect that what we’ve done well to make up for where we have failed . These Christians–the ones whom Jesus had just commended–were now called upon to repent or suffer the consequences (v. 17). If we’ve done good for God, that’s great. But we shouldn’t pretend that there’s not another side to this coin. In what ways do I need to address my own failures and wrongs?

Questions to Ponder:

  • How is the author of this letter identified? (v. 12)
  • What is “Satan’s throne”? (v. 13)
  • What insight is here provided about the story of Balaam? (v. 14)
  • To whom is the promise made? (v. 17)

My Delight is the Lord, November 30

Guided by God’s Word

November 30, Wednesday: Knowing God’s Son

Scripture Reading: Luke 24:13-49

The two disciples on the Emmaus road were sad because of all the “things that had happened” (v. 14). Jesus’ crucifixion was not the outcome they had anticipated from the one “we had hoped…to redeem Israel” (v. 21). Think about this, they were sad because what Jesus said was going to happen surprised them when it did happen (see Matt. 16:21). Not only that, but it was the very things about which “Moses and the prophets” had spoken (v. 27). Jesus’ own words and the words of Scripture had not sufficiently shaped the ideas and thinking of these disciples so as to overcome their mistaken notions of the Messiah and what He would accomplish. What a sobering lesson to be learned about the great care needed to allow our own thoughts and ideas to be genuinely guided by God’s word.

Questions to Ponder:

  • On what day did these events happen? (v. 13)
  • How did Cleopas describe Jesus? (v. 19)
  • What was meant by “to redeem Israel”? (v. 21)
  • What is the significance of Jesus eating? (v. 43)

My Delight is the Lord, November 29

Yes, Obey

November 29, Tuesday: Following God’s Way

Scripture Reading: Titus 3:1-11

Obedience is a frequently visited subject in religious discussion. Its vital importance cannot be denied (Heb. 5:8-9; Jn. 14:15). But neither should it be elevated to an “end-all-be-all” status either. It appears here in Titus as something about which followers of Jesus should be reminded (v. 1). Actually it’s one in a list of reminders. The others are submission to rulers, readiness for good work, speaking evil of no one, avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy to all people (vv. 1-2).  Emphasis on one Bible subject ought never to be allowed to overshadow the emphasis on all of what God would have us to know and do. So, yes, obey; but also just as diligently submit, do good works, speak no evil, and so on.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Why should we be gentle and courteous to all people? (v. 3)
  • In what way did God’s goodness and loving kindness appear? (v. 4)
  • What is not the basis of our salvation? (v. 5)
  • What is the basis of our justification? (v. 7)

My Delight is the Lord, November 28

Impressive God

November 28, Monday: God is…

Scripture Reading: Psalm 136

What, to you, is most impressive about God? Of course, the field of possible answers is quite broad and deep; infinite, really. There is so much about God that captures our fancy, elicits great delight, and leaves us in extreme awe. Maybe it’s His limitless power, or understanding, or holiness, or any number of other things. For the writer of this Psalm it is God’s enduring steadfast love. Notice its mention in the second line of every verse–all 26 of them. Note how various translations express this particular love of God; it is steadfast, loyal, faithful, unchanging, etc. God’s love is fierce. That is, it is tenacious and unrelenting. He’s not looking for reasons to love us, He loves us despite our giving Him reasons not to. His steadfast love just does not stop. That impresses immensely!

Questions to Ponder:

  • What should be given to God because of His steadfast love? (vv. 1-3)
  • What events are alluded to in this Psalm?
  • By what were the heavens made? (v. 5)
  • Which of the plagues is mentioned? (v. 10)

My Delight is the Lord, November 27

Recognized Value

November 27, Sunday: Praise God

Scripture Reading: Psalm 116

We’ve all heard the stories of someone going to a flea market or garage sale and buying something of extreme value dirt cheap. How does that happen? The buyer is able to recognize worth that the seller obviously does not. We’re not talking about just being lucky here–like the guy who bought an old, framed picture at a garage sale only to find one of the oldest known copies of the Declaration of Independence behind the displayed picture. Rather, this is the ability to recognize what is genuinely valuable when others do not. That’s the point of v. 15, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” The writer has been talking about God’s people’s lives being threatened (see vv. 3, 8).  This gets God’s attention. He sees those lives as “precious.” They are of great value to Him. Think about the lives that garner the most attention (typically at the time of death) in this culture. Much fanfare accompanies their passing, but that’s not an accurate reflection of God’s outlook.

Questions to Ponder:

  • How is God’s grace, righteousness, and mercy displayed? (v. 5)
  • What is “the land of the living”? (v. 9)
  • What is an appropriates response to the good God does? (v. 12)
  • What sacrifice is appropriate to God? (v. 17)

My Delight is the Lord, November 26

Hostile Environment

November 26, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 12

In the face of persecution, the Jerusalem church prayed. They did not protest. They did not picket and form political action committees. They did not stand on a platform of human rights to decry violations. True, they did not live under a representative form of government devoted to freedom as do we. Our present day avenues for response are much broader than theirs, but they are not any better. In our quest to defend and promote a philosophy of human government we deem much preferable to other alternatives, let us not mistakenly think that the kingdom of our Lord in any way needs the support and help and protection of any kingdom of men. The infant church not only survived but thrived in a hostile environment. They knew what they needed and sought it. Do we today truly understand what we need?

Questions to Ponder:

  • What motivated Herod to apprehend Peter? (vv. 2-3)
  • What is significant about the fact that Peter was sleeping? (v. 6)
  • Where had the church gathered to pray? (v. 12)
  • What role do angels play in this chapter?

My Delight is the Lord, November 25

Wrong Tendencies

November 25, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: Acts 11:19-30

Our tendency is to do what we’ve always done. Call it habit, or a rut, or tradition, or whatever; by itself it is a powerful and problematic motivation. The persecuted Christians who left Jerusalem (see Acts 8:1) took the gospel offshore to Cyprus, to the coastal region north of Galilee (Phoenicia), and to one of the three most populace cities of the entire empire (Antioch; v. 19). These are not Jewish dominated locales as was the place they had fled. Still, “they were speaking the word to no one but Jews” (v. 19). It’s not difficult to understand why. But, the fact that this is all they had ever done was not only insufficient reason to continue in the same way, in this case it was contrary to God’s plan. Our tendencies, if we’re not careful, can put us at odds with God.

Questions to Ponder:

  • From where were the men who preached to Hellenists? (v. 20)
  • Who are Hellenists? (v. 20)
  • What did Barnabas see in Antioch? (v. 23)
  • Whom did Barnabas go find and bring to Antioch? (vv. 25-26)

My Delight is the Lord, November 24

Faithful To Death

November 24, Thursday: God’s People

Scripture Reading: Revelation 2:8-11

Let’s be sure that we understand this; Jesus knew that the church in Smyrna was about to undergo persecution. Some of them would even be thrown into prison. No indication is given that this was to happen in response to any sin on their part. As a matter of fact, this is one of only two churches receiving these seven letters about which nothing negative is said. Now, notice Jesus’ instruction in view of the impending tribulation. Or, first, notice what is not said. Jesus does not encourage them to escape. Neither does He promise to protect them from it. Instead He says, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer” (v. 10). He then encourages them to faithfulness, even to death (v. 10). That’s a statement not of duration, but intensity. This letter is as insightful as it is brief.

Questions to Ponder:

  • How is Jesus identified? (v. 8)
  • What three strikes did the Smyrna church have working against them? (v. 9)
  • Who will be responsible for their imprisonment? (v. 10)
  • What does it mean to be faithful unto death? (v. 10)