Monthly Archives: September 2013

September 30 Bible Reading: Genesis 12:1-3; 22:16-18; Psalm 2:8; 98:2-3; Isa. 2:2-4; 42:6; 46:9

One significant part of Joel’s prophesy regarding God’s Spirit being poured out (see yesterday’s reading) was that it would be upon “all flesh” (Joel 2: 28).  God’s intent and purpose had always been that salvation would be for all men and the offer of salvation would go to all people.  Unfortunately, by Jesus’ day, the Jewish nation had come to see themselves as the exclusive objects of God’s interest.   Such a conclusion could not be further from the truth—as evidenced by the Spirit’s leading the conversion of Gentiles as recorded in the books of Acts.  Today’s reading is a sampling of prophecies that clearly show that God’s interest has always been in all of mankind.

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Are My Interests Aligned With God’s?

Devotional Text: Genesis 12:3

God includes; man excludes.

God’s intention in calling Abraham was to ultimately bless all families of the earth (Gen. 12:3).  His kingdom would not be exclusive to one people but would fill “the whole earth” (Dan. 2:35).  The Lord’s house would not be limited to a certain race, but “all the nations shall flow to it” (Isa. 2:2).  And, of course, God’s love is for the whole world (John 3:16).  There are no bounds to  those whom God desires to call His own.

Man, on the other hand prefers exclusive.  We desire those things that distinguish and separate us from others; that put us into categories and classifications from which others are excluded.  Apparently we feel that this somehow this gives us significance and personal worth.

So it is that human history is littered with human endeavors to segregate people, to elevate one group above above, or worse, the corresponding effort to repress, suppress and oppress one group by another.

That’s why the statements of Scripture are so powerful that in Christ Jesus “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female” (Gal. 3:28).

From heaven’s perspective there are only two kinds of people, those who are in Christ and those who are not.  What’s more, it is heaven’s desire, intention and effort to get as many from the latter group into the former.  Period.

To include or exclude; where do my interests lie?

–David Deffenbaugh

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September 29 Bible Reading: Joel 2

When Jesus gave instructions to the apostles immediately prior to His ascension, it was to remain in Jerusalem “until you are clothed with power from on high.”  This He also called “the promise of my Father” (Luke 24:49).  That, of course, was the coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles (Acts 1:8).  As Peter explained the strange events on that Pentecost day to the wondering multitude, He said that what they were witnessing was none other than God pouring out His Spirit on all flesh as prophesied by Joel.  That prophecy, fulfilled on that fateful day, is found in Joel 2:28-32.

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Call on the Lord’s Name; Do You Know How?

Devotional Text: Joel 2:32

I know I must “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved, but how do I do it (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13)? What does it mean?

Some common, but faulty approaches to determining meaning are:
• what I think it means
• what I want it to mean
• meaning contrived to support what I already believe/understand
• what I’ve heard other say it means

When it comes to determining meaning, many factors come into play, but none any more so than context.

Let’s start with the Acts 2 occurrence. This same crowd to whom Peter quoted from Joel 2, soon asked him—in response to others things Peter said—“Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).  To which Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38).

In Romans 10 the discussion has been on the role of belief and confession in salvation (Rom. 10:10).  Then, after quoting Joel (in v. 13), Paul says that being able to call on God is going to depend on the preaching of the good news of the word of Christ (vv. 14-17).  That is precisely what Paul had preached (written) to the Romans and said they had been freed from sin when they had become obedient from the heart to “that standard of teaching to which you were committed” (Rom. 6:17).  What was that standard?  Just previous he had written, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into he death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).

Just like Peter said, our baptism is an appeal (or call) to God for a good conscience (1 Pet. 3:21).

–David Deffenbaugh

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September Week 5 Supplemental Reading

September Week 5: Supplemental Reading
September 29-30

This month we have completed our reading of the first 20 chapters of Acts, which, among other things, covers Paul’s three missionary journeys.  Also we have read the books of Galatians and 1 & 2 Thessalonians, all very early epistles of Paul’s.  Next month we’ll devote to reading Romans and 1 Corinthians, lengthier correspondence also written during the time of Paul’s travels.  For the two days of supplemental reading this month we will return to the Old Testament for readings related to the events of which we’ve read this month.

For September’s Bible reading introduction CLICK HERE

September 28 Bible Reading: Catch Up Day

Today is the regularly scheduled “Catch Up” day for the fourth week of September.  If needed use it to go back and cover some readings where you may have fallen behind—it happens.  Otherwise, below are some thoughts for your consideration for today from this week’s readings.

1. The magnitude of the issues Paul addresses in the Galatian letter have led some people to designate it the “Magna Carta of Christian Freedom” or the “Christian’s Declaration of Independence.”  This book was particularly influential during the time of the Protestant Reformation Movement as it responded to the oppressive system of works of Roman Catholicism.

2. The force of Paul’s language my be somewhat masked in our English translated Bibles.  Some translations have attempted to keep Paul’s strong vocabulary.  For instance where we often read “O foolish Galatians” (3:1), lesser known versions have “You stupid Galatians” (NEB) or “You idiots of Galatia” (J.B. Phillips).  Later Paul expresses his wish that those who were causing the troubles in these churches “would even cut themselves off” (NKJV).  Other translation carry the graphic nature of Paul’s words; “emasculate,” “mutilate,” and even “castrate themselves” (NASB, ESV, NET Bible).

3. Some people believe they gain insight to Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:7) from the Galatian letter.  Paul mentions a problem with regard to his physical condition (4:14) but does not specify what it might be, only that it posed some kind of challenge to these people.  Further, he says, hypothetically, that they would have gouged out their eyes and given them to him (4:15).  Additionally, in the concluding comments, Paul makes reference to how large the letters are with which he is writing this letter by his own hand (6:11).  From these references it is suggested that Paul’s malady was some condition which left him with poor eye sight.  This, of course, is conjecture but interesting to consider.

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A Different Gospel

Devotional Text: Galatians 1:6

The level of Paul’s concern and amazement is evident in his language.  His letter to the Galatian Christians expresses the depth of his emotions.  It is “highly charged emotionally” (NET Bible notes).
• “I am astonished…” (1:6)
• “You stupid people of Galatia…” (3:1; GWT)
• “I am perplexed about you.” (4:20)
• “I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!” (5:12)
That is some strong language.

What had Paul so fired up?  Because some people had taught “a different gospel” and these Christians had embraced it.  It is important to understand what exactly this altered gospel was and its implications.  But, our point here is the unchangeable nature of the gospel of Christ.  It could be changed in many other ways than the one the Galatians fell for and any change is disastrous, as Paul’s emotional response reflects.

Two critical points should be emphasized.  One, the gospel must not be changed.  I’m not sure how that point could be made any more strongly than Paul made it. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8).  And if that weren’t enough he immediately repeats the warning verbatim in the very next verse (see 1:9).

The second point is that if and when we encounter any such alteration of the gospel it should be met, challenged and refuted forcefully.  It doesn’t matter who might be involved.  Paul had even rebuked an apostle for actions inconsistent with the gospel message (see Gal. 2:11-14).

The pure and simple gospel message is God “power to salvation” and so to distort it in any way is an absolute travesty (Rom. 1:16; Gal. 1:7)!

Not only do we glean much good instruction and encouragement from the Galatian letter, we get a good lesson in the level of emotional investment with which we handle the treasure that is the gospel.

–David Deffenbaugh

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September 27 Bible Reaing: Galatians 6

Paul’s great letter to the churches of Galatia concludes with practical instructions and encouragement as well as a final warning regarding the error he’s been addressing throughout the letter.

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Restoration, Not Condemnation

Devotional Text: Galatians 6:1

When something is broken, there are two options; fix it or trash it.  Unfortunately many products are so made today as to really not be fixable.  They’re disposable and made to be that way.  That’s too bad.  It gets us into a “throw away” state of mind and it appears to have invaded our thinking about people too. We tend not to try to fix relationships, we trash them.

God’s preference is for fixing.  He certainly could have destroyed humanity in its broken condition of sin; it would have been “right” to do so.  Instead, he opted for fixing the problem.  Thank God!

He wants us to be in that same mind set as well.  When we see a brother at fault He wants us to restore (Gal. 6:1).  Restoration is not easy and not everyone is able to make it happen.  This is a job for the “spiritual” and ones who will take on the task with gentleness and a keen sense of ones own weakness and vulnerability.  But it’s worth the challenge.

God loves restoration.  As a matter of fact all heaven rejoices over it (Luke 15:7, 10, 23-24).

–David Deffenbaugh

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September 26 Bible Reading: Galatians 5

Genuine freedom in Christ does not mean that we simply do as we please.  That only demonstrates that our lives are dominated by the flesh and not by God’s Spirit.  True freedom is found in Christ; and Christ is in us when God’s Spirit is in us; and God’s Spirit is in us when in our lives are born the fruit of the Spirit.

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