1 Corinthians 6

Yes, Lord! My life is in YOUR hands.
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“Just because something is technically legal doesn’t mean that it’s spiritually appropriate. If I went around doing whatever I thought I could get by with, I’d be a slave to my whims…
“Since the Master honors you with a body, honor Him with your body! … remember that your bodies are created with the same dignity as the Master’s body …
“…OR didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. GOD OWNS THE WHOLE WORKS. So let people see God in and through your body.” (v 12-15, 19-20 MSG)

Several years ago, Lord, You helped me learn to sing a song that said, “I am not my own. I belong to You … I can’t explain how belonging to You can make me truly free. But I’ll remain in the joy that I knew when I first came to see Your love for me … There’s still one truth that I can know: I am not my own. I belong to You.”*

Some might look at the verses in this portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and see chains which bind a person and hold her back. But that’s not what it means for YOU to own all of me. When YOU are the Lord and Master of my life, You set me free from all other masters. You supply security, assurance, and peace to me simply because I’m Yours.

Thank You for calling me Your own, for paying the price to redeem me from being a slave to sin. Make all of me a reflection of the You in me, Jesus. Amen.

* from “I Belong to You” as sung by Kathy Troccoli on Heart and Soul, (c) 1984 Reunion Records

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Romans 15

Eyes speak so easily, Lord.  Let the eyes You’ve created for me master the words, “Jesus loves you.”

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“…God wants the combination of His steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever He will do next.  May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all” (v 4-5 MSG).

“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus” (v 4-5 NIV).

ENDURANCE – God’s “steady, constant calling” (Peterson, The Message)*

ENCOURAGEMENT – God’s “warm, personal counsel” (Peterson)

HOPE  – “alert for whatever He will do next” (Peterson)

The purpose of Your Word unfolds here: to teach me, to instill Your character in me.  Intrinsic to You are endurance and encouragement–these are part of Your character.  From the riches of who You are, You reach out to me with gifts of the same.  You are “dependably steady,” enduring through everything. In Your Word, You are steadily, constantly calling me to follow you always.  You are “warmly personal,” full of encouragement, as You set forth “warm, personal counsel” in Your Word, that’s applicable to EVERYthing I have or will ever face, as You keep me “alert for whatever You’ll do next.”

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (v 13 NIV)

“God of hope” –that’s YOU, Papa!  Not that You’re the Subject of hope, but You’re the AUTHOR of it.  “Hope…finds its expression in endurance under trial,” (Vines, p. 563).**  “It is ‘an anchor of the soul’ (Hebrews 6:18-19), staying in place amidst the storms of this life. It is a purifying power (1 John 3:3).

Write on the pages of my heart, the narrative of Your hope as it infiltrates my being.  When the trials come, may You pen how hope spurs me onward, enduring the trying circumstances.  When the storms rage, Your prose can convey how Your hope anchors my life and assists me in riding out the storm.  With “confident expectation” (Vines, p. 562)** set on You, I watch You unfold each chapter of my life and desire for You to purify my heart and mind, just like Jesus’ (1 John 3:3) … until You pen THE END of this life, and begin the sequel set in eternity.  Amen.

*The Message, contemporary paraphrase of the New Testament by Eugene Peterson

**An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by  W.E. Vine

When He Speaks

One day, when Jesus was visiting Simon, the Pharisee, having a meal at his house … a lady came in. She kept sobbing, kissing Jesus’ feet and washing them with her tears and perfume. Simon tried to tell Jesus what a sinful woman that was at His feet. But Jesus cut him off, and told him this story: “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?” Simon answered correctly, “the one who was forgiven the most.”extravagant

After pointing out to Simon all that the woman had been doing since she arrived, He said, “She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.” Then, He spoke to her–the first words recorded–and said, “I forgive your sins. … Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50 MSG)

When we take our wounded and wayward lives (hearts, minds, bodies, spirits) to Jesus, what healing! what pardon! what freedom there is to be found when He speaks forgiveness and peace to us! He wipes the stain away. He affirms our faith. He sends us out in peace, free from the chains we came into His presence wearing.

“I, even I,” said our Daddy, “am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remember your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25). “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!” (Is 43:18-19a). “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist” (Is 44:22).

Though we know in our minds that all sin is sin, sometimes the shadow of our chains lurks around when the sin was one of “those” sins … the kind that come with an “open to the public” sign plastered all over them (even when you didn’t post it!). Still, sin is sin and His forgiveness is real forgiveness.

David Seamands once wrote, “When God forgives, He buries your sins in the sea of His forgiveness and forgetfulness. As Corrie ten Boom says, ‘He then puts a sign on the bank which says: NO FISHING ALLOWED.’ You have no right to dredge up anything that God has forgiven and forgotten. He has put it behind His back.” He chooses to forget.

Romans 7

Eyes speak so easily, Lord.  Let the eyes You’ve created for me master the words, “Jesus loves you.”

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“…The law [of God] started out as an excellent piece of work.  What happened, though, was that sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of ‘forbidden fruit’ out of it.  The law…instead of being used to guide me, was used [by my enemy] to seduce me… the very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong… Sin simply did what sin is so famous for doing: Using the good as a cover to tempt me to do what would finally destroy me.” (v 9-13 MSG)

How true, Father!  When I know what I’m not supposed to do, it’s then that that activity becomes more appealing.  I may have been totally oblivious to it before, but when You say, “No, don’t do that,” I get to thinking I WANT to do that.

“What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.  So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary… I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight.  Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.” (v 19-24 MSG)

Sometimes, Lord, no matter how deeply I love You and desire to do Your will, there seem to be moments when my old nature of sin rears its head and strikes.  It’s more like a small prick that releases a tendency toward rebellion within me.  As the toxin works its way through me, what I don’t want to do, becomes what I just did.  How desperately I need You and Your antidote for this poison in my being!

“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps.  I’m at the end of my rope.  Is there no one who can do anything for me?  Isn’t that the real question? The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does.  He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” (v 24-25 MSG)

Thank You, Father, for Your antidote of grace through Jesus!  Thank You for the victory over sin that can be mine through my faith in Him and my acceptance of His sacrifice from my sin.

Thank You for Your Spirit that convicts me of sin and strengthens me to avoid it and to remain faithful to You instead (1 Cor 10:13)

Thank You for Your Word that tells me how to obey Your will.

Thank You for Your work in my life as You fashion me to be just like Jesus.  Amen.

Acts 28

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“The brothers there had heard that we were coming and they traveled … to meet us.  At the sight of these men Paul thanked God and was encouraged.” (v 15)

After a long treacherous trip and a bit of refreshing along the way, Paul was more than ready to see kindred souls.  It’s the sense of family that comes among us, Your children, Lord, when we encounter one another.  Thanks for the times when You’ve allowed my life to connect with others who know You — whether I’ve hardly known them or known them well.

ASSURED

“It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” (v 20)

The “hope of Israel” was Your Son, Lord.  It’s like what Paul wrote to the Philippians, “…it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ” (Php 1:13 NIV).  No matter what state in which he found himself, Paul knew where his hope was.  Since the word “hope” most often denotes “assurance” when used in Your Word, here Paul expressed the assurance he had in knowing that even his chains were part of Your sovereign will … I have that same assurance available to me, don’t I? … Would You help me to relish it as much or more than Paul did, Father?

CONVICTED

“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (v 28)

Paul knew exactly what You had called him to do and he knew that You had been carrying him along to do it.  He was seeing evidence of Your handiwork all around him, even in the one who guarded him.  He was convicted to carry out Your plan for his life right up to his death.

Father, what is that “one thing” You have for me to do in Your kingdom?  Have I been doing it and not recognizing it fully?  Have I been doing my own thing and not following You completely?  So many lives around me who need to know Your Son or know Him better … show me the niche You have for me and pump in that conviction like Paul had.

EMPOWERED

“Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (v 31).

Paul’s life was Yours; doing Your will was his life.  More and more, with each new dawn of Your mercy, may my will conform to Your will … May I know the reality each day of Your empowering presence within me as You keep on making me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Acts 22

Father, make a difference in my heart that’s daily evident in my life.

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“Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has CHOSEN you to KNOW His will and to SEE the Righteous One and to HEAR words from His mouth.  You will BE HIS WITNESS to all men of what you have seen and heard.  And now what are you waiting for?  Get up be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.'” (v 14-16 NIV)

You let Paul know through Ananias’ words that You had chosen him for a particular purpose in Your kingdom.  Not until later did You reveal more of Your will for Paul’s life in You, but he could know that You’d had him on Your mind and had woven him into Your purposes.

Through Your Word, You’ve let me know much the same affirmations as You did to Paul.  You even used his pen to write them out so long ago so that I could read them: “For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight … In Him we were also chosen … in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of His glory.” (Eph 1:4, 11-12 NIV).

Thank You for choosing me, Lord.  Thank You for making it possible for me to know Your will.  Thank You for allowing me to see You — in Your Word, in Your people, in Your creation.  Thank You for allowing me to hear Your words by reading the Bible and listening to Your Spirit.  You just keep right on shaping me to be more like Jesus.  Amen.

Luke 24

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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Your followers were facing one of the most perplexing times of their lives, Lord.  Having given up everything to follow You for three years, suddenly You were gone.  Their leader had been taken from them and they couldn’t fathom what had just taken place.

I’ve been there, too, Lord … following Your lead, walking through doors You’ve opened, listening for Your guidance.  Then, suddenly the way ahead seems unclear, unmarked, uncertain.  All that I have to go on are Your last words of direction, so I can only keep on following those.

“AS THEY TALKED AND DISCUSSED THESE THINGS WITH EACH OTHER, JESUS HIMSELF CAME UP AND WALKED WITH THEM; BUT THEY WERE KEPT FROM RECOGNIZING HIM.” (v 15-16 NIV)

For Your early followers, You did just what YOU knew they needed in order to comprehend Your plan.  You came alongside them, even though it wasn’t evident to them that it was You.  You spoke to them from what had been written about You in Your Word, bringing to the forefront of their minds the Scriptures they’d learned before.  You fellowshipped with them at different levels, until, at one point, the light came on and they recognized You.  Their reflection on what You’d been trying to say to them became richer.  Later, You continued to open “their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (v 45 NIV).  THEN, You gave them directions and assurance for the times ahead.

That’s the part I’m looking forward to, Lord — the directions and assurance.  Actually, I’m assured and convinced of Your presence, I’d just be glad to have the directions.  Yet, I know YOU and I’m sure that in YOUR time, I’ll recognize Your plan.  Until then, I’ll wait as You keep making me just like Jesus.  Amen.