Tag Archives: New Testament

Through the Bible, January 31

Read: Hebrews 7

Summary: The Genesis account tells us only briefly of a rather mysterious figure, Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High (Gen. 14:17-24).  But in the New Testament book of Hebrews, the writer makes much of the fact that Abraham, from whom the nation of Israel would descend, offered tithes to this man.  Hebrews contends that the high priesthood of Jesus is based on the priesthood of Melchizedek, of whom we know little, and not Aaron of the tribe of Levi, of whom we know much.

Devotional Thought:

A Priest Too

Jesus is our Savior and He is our Priest.

God’s people have had priests before and even we, as Christians, are priests (2 Peter 2:9). But Jesus is different (of course!).

His priesthood is paradoxical–you know, a seeming contradiction that provides depth and breadth of meaning. On the one hand He is just like us.  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

On the other hand, He’s nothing like us. “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Heb. 7:26).

We need a Savior, and we need a priest.

And in the same way that only Jesus can be our Savior, only He can be the Priest we need.

“But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:24-25).

Through the Bible, January 19

Read: Romans 4; Galatians 3

Summary: When Christians need to know the foundational truth that our justification is by faith, not by works of the Law, the Bible appeals to Abraham as an example of that kind of faith.  Particularly Abraham’s experiences in regard to Isaac, the promised child.

Yes, even for Christians, Abraham is the one who shows us what living by faith looks like.

Devotional Thought:

Pros and Cons

Have you ever drawn a line down the middle of a page and on one side written all the “pro’s” and the “con’s” on the other side? That can be a useful exercise in trying to think through a choice or a decision.  Getting it on paper can clarify our thinking.

Or, it might be misleading.

I don’t know that Abraham ever did this kind of thing or not.  But if he had, his piece of paper would not have supported his conclusion. Regarding the notion that he and Sarah, his wife, would have a child, the paper did not look promising.

On the “con” side of the ledger, were several notable and weighty entries. Things like “physically unable”, that is, his own body “was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old)” (Rom. 4:19). Also, there was “Sarah’s barren womb.”  Ninety-year old, childless women just don’t have babies. Further, it had been so long since the promise had been made–25 years to be exact.  All of these appeared to add up to impossible.

No wonder the Bible says he “believed against hope” (Rom. 4:18).  The “against” list was quite formidable. Except for one thing–literally, one thing.  The “pro” list was short.  It shouldn’t be called a list at all as it contained a grand total of one entry: “God promised.” For Abraham, that trumped everything.

“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Rom. 4:20-21).

It’s no wonder why Abraham’s faith stands as the kind of faith to which I should aspire.

My Delight is the Lord, December 31

Listen More

December 31, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 27:1-28:31

The centurion cannot be accused of not hearing different viewpoints when he had to decide if the ship would winter in Fair Havens. He heard the thinking of Paul, the pilot, the ship’s owner, and apparently others on board. He “paid more attention” to those who thought they should go ahead and set sail, than to what Paul said (27:10-11). Several voices were heard; that of experience (the pilot of the ship), that of vested interest (the ship’s owner), the majority, and an imprisoned preacher (Paul). On the surface it seems some of these opinions should carry more weight than others. But only one was correct and that was Paul’s. This is such a critical lesson, we must be very careful about whom we listen to more than others.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Was Paul’s advice inspired? (27:9-10)
  • What made them think they had made the right decision? (27:13)
  • Who spoke to Paul in the night? (27:23)
  • Did all the shipwreck’s victims make it safely in the same way? (27:43-44)

My Delight is the Lord, December 30

Principled Lives

December 30, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: Acts 25:13-26:32

The Romans were a principled people when it came to their judiciary. As Festus explained, “it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him” (Acts 25:16). Had such noble principles of justice governed Paul’s trial, it would have turned out quite differently. The problem is that those principles must be exercised by people and sometimes people are less than noble; Festus and Felix for instance. So it is also with God’s word, it is true and right. The trouble comes when people fail to embrace what is true or practice what is right. As serious as we should be about identifying timeless principles and eternal truths, we must be no less so about living them.

Questions to Ponder:

  • How did Festus summarize Paul’s charges to Agrippa? (25:19)
  • Why do you think Paul resisted a change of venue back to Jerusalem? (25:20-21)
  • Of whom was Paul’s audience comprised? (25:23)
  • Why did Paul believe Agrippa was aware of what he said? (v. 26)

My Delight is the Lord, December 29

Not Lukewarm

December 29, Thursday: God’s People

Scripture Reading: Revelation 3:14-22

Extremists make us nervous. We prefer people to possess at least a modicum of balance. We would rather their “boat” stay an even keel. Well, that’s not always true. It was not true when Jesus spoke to the Laodiceans. He chided them for their lack of extreme, for their even temperament; or maybe we should say, temperature. Jesus could not stand their tepid spirituality. As a matter of fact He says it makes Him sick. Spirituality hot or cold either one is better than lukewarm! Think about that. As far as Jesus is concerned (and there is no other viewpoint that actually matters) only two valid possibilities exist, spiritually speaking. One ought never to console their conscience for not being on fire by saying, “Well, at least I’m not ice cold.” According to Jesus, as bad as it sounds, you’re better off saying, “At least I’m not lukewarm.”

Questions to Ponder:

  • How is the author of this letter identified? (v. 14)
  • Upon basis did Jesus determine this church was lukewarm? (vv. 15-16)
  • How did these Christians see themselves? (v. 17)
  • What does Jesus do for those He loves? (v. 19)

My Delight is the Lord, December 28

Transitions

December 28, Wednesday: Knowing God’s Son

Scripture Reading: Acts 1:1-11

What started at Bethlehem ended on Mount Olivet. Jesus entered the world in the presence of Mary and Joseph and left it in the viewing of 11 apostles. The Son of God taking on flesh and living among men marked a planned-for and necessary transition in God’s eternal plan. Jesus’ ascension was no less a transition. From this time on His followers’ existence would be lived in light of what He had accomplished and so should be dominated by two realities; one, communicating His message “to the end of the earth” (v. 8), and the other, to anticipate the next great transition–His return (v. 11)! As critical as it is to know and understand the Savior and His message, so also is it to be busy fulfilling the Master’s will in the time in which we live.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What did Jesus talk about between His resurrection and ascension? (v. 3)
  • What was the “promise of the Father”? (vv. 4-5)
  • About what were the disciples concerned? (v. 6)
  • What is associated with the Holy Spirit’s coming? (v. 8)

My Delight is the Lord, December 24

The Way

December 24, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 24:1-25:12

Paul’s accusers referred to followers of Jesus as “the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:5). On the other hand, Paul called that which he believed (along with those who believed the same) as “the Way” (24:14). It’s no wonder that enemies of the faith used terms like “sect,” which implies divisiveness, and “Nazarene,” a town of less than honorable reputation (see Jn. 1:46), to describe Paul and his ilk. Of more interest is Paul’s terminology. While “Christianity” dominates modern vocabulary, Paul uses the very expressive, “the Way.” It’s not a segmented portion of the larger body of Jews identified by their adherence to Jesus (such as “sect” suggests). Rather, this is everything that God has worked toward and for through the long history of his involvement with Abraham’s heirs. It’s that to which the Law and prophets all pointed. It truly is the Way.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What accusations were made against Paul? (24:5-6)
  • Of what was Paul always very careful? (24:16)
  • What interesting insight do we get about Felix in 24:22?
  • What was the real reason Felix kept Paul in custody? (24:26)

My Delight is the Lord, December 23

Take a Stand?

December 23, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: Acts 22:30-23:35

The wisdom of Paul was on full display in his initial trial before the Sanhedrin. Following his arrest by the Romans, Claudius Lysias wanted to know what charges the Jews had against Paul. The apostle, though, realized the impossibility of a fair hearing and therefore used the diverse makeup of the Council (comprised of both Pharisees and Sadducees) to his advantage. Positioning his case as a question of the resurrection the assembly quickly descended into chaos. Paul did not win anything this day. He didn’t even attempt, in this setting, to take a stand. Maybe he saw this as a “pearls before pigs” situation (Matt. 7:6). What he did do was survive to preach and teach and defend himself another day. Not every battle is worth fighting. Not every challenge is worthy of an answer. God, please give us the wisdom to know when to take a stand.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Who called the Jewish council into meeting? (22:30)
  • Does our conscience have limitations? (23:1)
  • What were some key elements of the Sadducees theology? (23:8)
  • Who informed Paul of the plot to kill him? (23:16)

My Delight is the Lord, December 22

Our Opportunities

December 22, Thursday: God’s People

Scripture Reading: Revelation 3:7-13

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will be done (Matt. 6:10). That’s not a petition for God to get busy, it’s about us and what we do. In other words, we’re not asking that God be able to accomplish what he wants–he can and he will. Instead, it’s a prayer that our own will be bent to conform to His; that we’ll become instruments for use in His hands. So Jesus tells the church at Philadelphia about an open door he’s set before them (v. 8). It’s their responsibility to see and seize this opportunity, whatever it was. For God’s will to be done in Philadelphia–or wherever we may be–means, among other things, taking hold of the opportunities God gives us. God’s will being done demands our getting busy, as well as keeping our eyes wide open.

Questions to Ponder:

  • How is the author of this letter identified? (v. 7)
  • For what two things is this church commended? (v. 8)
  • Compare what is said about trials in v. 10 and in 2:10.
  • What kind of crown is this in v. 11.

My Delight is the Lord, December 21

Do You Love Me?

December 21, Wednesday: Knowing God’s Son

Scripture Reading: John 21:15-24

Peter sounds a little exasperated after Jesus asks him for the third time–and he’s already responded in the affirmative twice–if the impetuous disciple loved Him. “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (v. 17). Peter was correct, wasn’t he? Jesus does know all things, including our love for Him. But wait, Jesus didn’t change His response. It wasn’t “You’re right. I already know.” It was,  “Feed my sheep” (v. 17). There is more to loving the Lord than what is in our heart. The confirmation of our love for the Lord doesn’t come from his all-knowing awareness of what we feel toward him. It comes from us and what we do (or don’t do). As Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15).

Questions to Ponder:

  • What did Jesus mean by, “more than these”? (v. 15)
  • How was Peter to feed/tend Jesus’ sheep/lambs? (vv. 15, 16, 17)
  • What would Peter do in his death? (v. 19)
  • What is our ultimate, individual responsibility (v. 22)