Archives For Devotional

evictionSuppose there was a landlord who rented out his house to others. One day he sends a messenger to collect rent, and the tenants not only refuse to pay, but physically abuse the messenger and send him away empty-handed.

Instead of summoning the police, the owner sends another messenger. After all, this may have simply been a case of mistaken identity. This new messenger will have all of his credentials in order. But this second messenger is likewise abused.

Yet the landlord is still reluctant to evict the tenant, much less to call the police. Instead he sends a third messenger, and this one gets murdered. Still, the landlord holds out hope that one more messenger will do the trick, and get the tenants to pay the rent they owe. So he sends messenger after messenger, some of which are murdered, all of whom are abused and rejected.

Finally he sends his son—his only son—thinking that he will command the respect of the tenants, but instead they of course think, “if we murder the son, then there is nobody to charge us rent, and we can live here forever!”   Continue Reading…

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
– Philippians 3:20 –

TCitizens of Heaven_T_NVhis verse teaches us that the posture of the heavenly citizen is one of patient, eager anticipation of the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. While we usually think of “waiting” and “anticipating” as generally being passive endeavors, the Greek word apekdechomai has a much more active force. The great 19th-century Scottish expositor, Alexander MacLaren, commenting on this verse, wrote, “The eagerness of the waiting which should characterize the expectant citizens is wonderfully described by the Apostle’s expression for it, which literally means ‘to look away out’ … like a sentry on the walls of a besieged city whose eyes are ever fixed on the pass amongst the hills through which the relieving forces are to come.” This eager anticipation is nothing less than the active fastening of one’s gaze and attention on a dearly desired end.

This is how the New Testament speaks of the Christian’s enthusiastic anticipation of the return of Christ.

  • In Galatians 5:5, Paul describes the Christian as one who “through the Spirit, by faith…eagerly wait[s] for the hope of righteousness” (ESV).
  • In his opening words to the Corinthians, he commends them for not lacking in any spiritual gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:7).
  • In 1 Thessalonians 1:9 and 10, this is how Paul defines a Christian: one who “turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven….”
  • And of course, in that section of the believer’s future hope in Romans 8, in verse 23, Paul says, “…even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.”
  • And then in 2 Timothy 4:8, as Paul prepares himself to go to his execution, he looks forward to his heavenly reward and says, “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

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There are no new sins, only more diverse and efficient ways of committing them. Before we let the mainstream of 21st Century culture catch us in its current, let’s hit pause for a moment and get our bearings. Perhaps it’s time to swim against the information flow.

Here are four godly disciplines to pursue in 2014 that have taken on a unique significance in the last five to ten years.

1. Pluck the I out of your iPhone.

not invincibleThe advent of smart phones has introduced an unprecedented rate of interruption into our social interactions. Phones have made us selfish and inconsiderate in ways that used to be deemed boorish and uncultured.

Formerly, if someone walked up to you and began talking while you were already engaged in another conversation, that the person would be considered rude.

But this decade has made us feel rude for not replying instantly to any interruption that hails from our phone.

You know how frustrating it is to be halted mid-sentence by a text chime tone, only to have the person you were talking with treat the “What’s up?” ping as if it were a life-and-death enquiry. I understand if Jack Bauer asked me to hold my thought while he checked the text message from the President. But very few people work for CTU or are on call to intercept a terrorist attack.

Most people answer their phones for one reason only: they heard it “Ping.” How Pavlovian can you get?

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In Luke 2:14 the angels sang these words: “Glory to God in the highest heaven! Peace on earth to those whom he pleases.”

This week I heard a worship leader explain that the lyrics of “Joy to the World” only made sense within the concept of a future millenial kingdom–a time where Jesus reigned on earth, and the ground would refuse to allow sin and sorrow to grow on it. That got me thinking–what other Christmas promises are there that are realized in a future kingdom?

Then I came across a Christmas sermon from Spurgeon on the angel’s declaration in Luke 2:14. This is what he says, and it makes for a hopeful Christmas devotional:   Continue Reading…

How many times have you heard the Christmas story?  Probably dozens of times, if you’ve been in church for any length of time.  People  hear it year after year and everyone seems fairly familiar with it, so there’s always a little bit of pressure to make it fresh/interesting with either new details that may have been previously unknown or new angles that may give a previously unconsidered perspective.

Thinking of the “new details”, I remember when I was in my first or second year of Bible College and an upperclassman told me that the names of the three wise men were Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar (I’d always thought one of them was named “Frank”).  I looked at the upperclassman with shock and awe and immediately started flipping through my bible, wondering where in the Bible he found that amazing gem of insight!

Magician

In the following years, I’ve heard probably a dozen different versions of how many wise men there actually were and where they really came from…all of which were essentially guesses.  (Roman philosophers?  Indian Mystics?  Chinese Astrologers?  Ancient scientists following a UFO?  Yes, that’s a real theory that I’ve encountered…)  Most of the “new details” that I’ve encountered have been, well, questionable (to say the least). Continue Reading…

In preparation for my yearly resolution to read through the Bible (which often runs out of fuel at points and needs fresh motivation), I have begun to carbo-load on motivation by researching reading plans and getting poised for a good year of actually doing what I set out to do.

Lotito eating bicycle

I usually make ten resolutions with the hope of keeping about four. My theory is that’s better than making none or making four and keeping one.

Anyway, I came across this funny Frenchman who inspired me to keep nibbling at my old Bible reading plan until it is done. His name is Monsieur Mangetout (pronounced mun-jê-toot), which is a sobriquet meaning “Mr Eats it All.”

His real name is Michel Lotito (1950-2007). He made his living by entertaining people who were fascinated by what he could stomach. He could and did consume huge quantities of indigestible material, including metal, glass, and rubber. (Though he complained that eating hard-boiled eggs and bananas made him ill.)

In his illustrious career Mangetout downed (these figures might seem hard to swallow, but I’m really not making any of this up) …

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December 19, 2013

God with Us

by Nathan Busenitz

It is only 6 days until Christmas.

Visit your local coffee shop, take a trip to the mall, or just drive through your neighborhood at night, and it’s easy to see that the so-called “Christmas spirit” is alive and well in American culture.

Some of the ironies of our culture’s fascination with Christmas are especially evident where I live in Southern California.

• It hasn’t snowed in Los Angeles in years, but snowflake decorations are everywhere.

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Christian Fasting: it’s one of those “fringe” things in Christian belief that people are somewhat aware of but not a lot of people are clear about.  I’ve never actually heard any teaching on fasting from any church I’ve attended, and I suspect that’s a fairly typical experience for others too.  Due to the lack of instruction on the subject, the ideas of fasting range from “something that happened in Jesus’ day that we don’t need to worry about” to “the secret to spiritual break through.”

fasting breakthrough

Both of these cannot be true.  If fasting is irrelevant, it’s not the secret to spiritual break through.  If it is the secret to spiritual break through, it’s hardly irrelevant! Continue Reading…

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”
– Philippians 3:20–21 –

Citizens of Heaven_T_NVPaul has been exhorting the Philippians to follow his example (Phil 3:17) in pressing on in the race of pursuing sanctification (Phil 3:12–14). In these verses, he gives two reasons, or motivations, that the believer in Jesus should be pressing on with all our might in our fight for holiness.

Our Present Position

The word “our” in that opening phrase is thrown all the way to the very front of the sentence in the original in order to show an emphatic contrast. Sensuality, shamelessness, and worldliness characterize the enemies of the cross (Phil 3:18–19). But as for us, Paul says, our citizenship is in heaven. And because of our present position as citizens, enrolled on the register of the Heavenly Kingdom, our lives must be ruled and governed by the laws of that blessed realm.

And the Philippians would have understood this imagery of “citizenship” immediately. According to Acts 16:12, Philippi was a Roman colony. And the historical sources tell us that Philippi enjoyed an elite status in the Roman empire called the ius Italicum—which is to say that it was governed as if it was on Italian soil. Philippians enjoyed the full rights and privileges of Roman citizenship as if they had been born there themselves. And they were proud of that status. They spoke the Romans’ language, they copied the Romans’ architecture, and they even adopted the way the Romans dressed. Everything about their way of life was governed by a kingdom which they were citizens of but were not presently living in.

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November 29, 2013

Clara’s Heart

by Jesse Johnson

Joe and Jo Portnoy are part of Immanuel Bible Church (the church I pastor), and this year they have been through a tremendous trial with their only child, Clara. On Thanksgiving they told our church how thankful they are for God’s goodness, for God’s salvation, and for the constant reminder that no story ends in this life. Below is a 10-minute video we watched about how this trial has strengthened thier faith, and made them even more thankful for their precious daughter, baby Clara.