Jude Devotional

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The symbol above is a Chi-Rho. It is a combination of the first two letters of Christ (Ch-r)! The X is the “Ch” the P is the “R.” This symbol usually has the alpha and omega to mean Christ is the beginning and end, the first and the last.

The purpose of this letter is clearly stated by Jude with an infinitive–to contend for the faith! There are two groups in this letter–those kept in eternal bonds into eternal judgment and those kept in Christ into eternal life. There is no third option.

This letter is very serious. It’s not lighthearted. Eternity hangs in the balance. For those who were looking for a gentle uplifting word from Jude today, will not hear it.

A question immediately comes to mind. How are we to contend for the faith?

First, you need to know why contending for the faith is so urgent and important. Jude gives the reason: “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

In other words, they are people who seek to gratify their senses or body. Jude gives several examples of what this looks like. They are described as the unbelieving in the Exodus. Of angels, they are those who did not *keep their own domain, but *abandoned their proper abode. Of those in Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, they *indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh.

These unnoticed persons, in the same way, do this by relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and slander the glorious ones. They are further described as ungodly who do ungodly deeds which are done in ungodly ways, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Jesus.

You might ask, “How were they not noticed?” Does this not cause you to tremble? It makes me think of the Twelve who had not clue Judas was the one. The word “crept” in reveals a sneaky intent. It should be noted that our enemy Satan clothes himself in light. He doesn’t want to be noticed. The more subtle the better. It also reminds me of the image of wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

I suppose part of the problem comes from what we all seem to get used to. It’s like living near a train track to which many will get to the point of no longer hearing it rumble down the tracks. These persons are grumblers (rumblers). It always ends up being someone else’s fault. They give no thought to others but rather live for their own desires. These “magicians” enchant others with their flattery to win them over. They are marked by selfishness rather than selflessness.

Jude gives MUCH attention to these people. However, he says “but you” must be different. He gives two commands: remember and keep here at the end. Remember the words spoken by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ and keep yourselves in the love of God.

In other words, remember that they said this would happen: “In the last time there will be mockers, following after their own ungodly lusts.” I think we often look like the disciples when Jesus told them things that were going to happen and when they did happen they had forgotten and seemed surprised.

Beloved, remember, people like this are in the church. They are members in good standing. Some of them teach our kids in Sunday School. They occupy committees and organize events. And yet, you have grown up with them and you do not notice the zipper on their sheep outfit. They are divisive but you find yourself wooed to their side by their flattery.

Beloved, keep yourself in the love of God, not the love of the world. How?

(Jude 1:20-21) by building yourselves up in your most holy faith, by praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 maintain yourselves in the love of God, while anticipating the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that brings eternal life.

This must be done together! I should repeat that a 100 times! Grow. Mature. Learn. Observe. Serve. Give. Be selfless. Make disciples that make disciples. Building, praying and expecting are the ways you keep yourself in the love of God.

What might you pray? Pray these last two verses because, though we are responsible to do these things, we cannot be kept unless he who is able to keep us from stumbling keeps us from stumbling.

(Jude 1:24-25) 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Beloved…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

3 John Devotional

Would you like to grow along with me as I seek to grow in praying?

This morning, I heard a short devotional exhorting me to plan my prayer time. This comes and goes with me. I’m not sure how I get in such a rut, but I do. However, following Jesus is always work in progress. It is a series of starts and stops. If you find yourself in a rut, repent and start over. He who began a good work in you will complete it. I bank on this promise frequently.

So, I have decided to begin my prayer time with a plea from Psalm 119. I plan to do one verse per day and that’s 176 planned beginnings. I also want to begin my prayer time with some variation of (2 Tim. 3:16-4:1) “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Since by nature, the Scriptures are breathed out by God that makes them profitable. I want Jesus to change me and that can only happen through his word. I need to be taught, reproved, corrected, and trained in righteousness. That should result in a man of God who is complete–which means equipped for every good work.

The next step after praying a verse from Psalm 119 and the 2 Timothy text, I want to respond to the Scriptures that are planned for me to read today. This year, I am reading through the Foundations reading plan with our church family. Many of us (I hope most of us) are reading through this together. This morning, our reading was from 3 John.

This is my response to 3 John by praying the Truth of God’s Word back to Him.

“Father, thank you for the truth of this letter. Lord, I too desire to be an elder/pastor. But may Your will be done, not mine. Your will and Your way are the only way.

I ask for brothers like Gaius to walk with in the truth. What a gift to have brothers and sisters like this. What an amazing thought it is to be beloved of the Lord.

John prayed for him in all respects to prosper. Help me to know my brothers and sisters like this and pray for them. Though physical health is not primary, may our family and church family be in good health that we might serve You all the more. But most importantly, may our souls prosper.

May our souls prosper by walking in the truth. Keep us, Lord, in the truth. Your Word is the Truth. May we abide in Christ. May we be filled with the Holy Spirit. Give us joy in You…in Your truth and from Your truth. May it give us joy to see each other walking in the truth.

I ask that you would help me see how my brothers and sisters are walking in the truth and encourage them to press on in it. May our love give testimony to Your truth. You are worth walking in Your ways. May others see You in us.

Sometimes I am not sure if I am doing the right thing. Thank you for helping me see John encouraging his beloved brother by affirming that he was acting faithfully towards his brothers and especially strangers.

Would strangers testify to my love before the church? I’m afraid that I am lacking in my love of strangers. I’m not sure that they would but Father cause this word to ignite a love for strangers in my life.

May I be…may we be known for our love of sending faithful brothers out in gospel ministry. And Father, please, may I be sent out and go out for the sake of the Name, not accepting anything from the Gentiles. May I/we be fellow workers for the truth!

Please, Lord, may I never love to be first. If I do, please call attention to it through Your people and may I hear and repent. Keep me from conforming to that which is evil.

And, Lord, I hope to see You soon–face to face! In Christ…amen!

1 John 3 Devotional

An additional theme of love emerges in chapter 3. We know this by the simple observation of repetition. Nine times love is mentioned in this chapter alone while the theme of knowledge continues.

Knowledge and love are inseparable. You cannot love what you do not know. Imagine someone saying they love pizza and you ask them what their favorite is and they reply, “I’m not sure. I’ve never eaten pizza before.” That doesn’t make sense. You can’t love pizza if you do not know what it tastes like. Or someone walks up to you on your way into the office and they say, “I love you” to which you will say, “I’m sorry, do I know you?” That’s strange precisely because the person doesn’t know you. Love and knowledge are inseparable.

The word used in this chapter for love is (ἀγάπη) agape which means “especially of love as based on evaluation and choice, a matter of will and action.” This definition checks several boxes: knowledge to make an evaluation to choose to respond in a manner of one’s will (or desire) that results in some sort of action.

How would you define God’s great love from 3:1? This love was given and is seen in that He was willing to claim us as His children. The act of giving reminds me of John 3:16 where God loved the world by giving His Son. The act of calling us His children makes me think of these verses: (Jn. 1:12-13) But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

What makes this difficult for us to understand is the fact that God knew EVERYTHING about us! That’s is amazing. We were enemies of God who are now called His own children. The clearest image is that of adoption. The Father comes to the orphanage and brings you into His family. Wow!

When you are in God’s family, it is supposed to be obvious. It’s obvious whose family you are in because we begin acting like our Father. We do things like He does. We oppose things that our Father does not approve of. That means we need to know Him and to know Him is to know His ways.

Those who are in God’s family love God’s family. And this love isn’t just simply saying that you love your brothers and sisters, though that is true, but also we demonstrate action…acts of love towards them based on the truth. And John goes so far to say that if we do not love our brothers and sisters then we are not children of God.

I would admit that I can be hard to love at times (maybe all the time). And I would admit there are brothers and sisters that make it hard to love them. But, I don’t know everything there is to know about them. I think our love for each other would increase if we took the time to know each other. I mean God knows the depths of me (the worst of me) and He loves me.

Let me end with this, beloved: (1 Jn. 3:23) And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

  • Intentionally seek to learn more about a fellow believer this week
  • Ask the Lord to help you with this
  • Bring new people into your circle of friends
  • Be genuinely interested in their life story
  • Rejoice in the gifts God has given you
    • His Son who laid down his life for you
    • and each other

1 John 2 Devotion

This letter from John is deeply concerned about knowing the truth. At least seven times, John uses the word “know” in this chapter and even more throughout the letter. Let’s make a partial list of things we should know from this chapter.

  • The letter was written “so that you may not sin.” We need to know the purpose of John’s letter.
  • We should know that if we sin we have an Advocate who made the payment for our sins.
  • John says that “we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”
    • That assumes we know His commandments…
      • the truth
      • His Word
  • Again, “By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
    • We need to know how Jesus walked
  • John wrote this letter to them because…
    • They know Jesus who was from the beginning
    • They know the Father
  • We know this is the last hour because “antichrists have appeared.”
  • “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have *not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.”
    • We know the truth that Jesus is the Christ!
  • Finally, “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him.”
    • Knowing Jesus results in practicing righteousness and therefore you know who have been born of Him.

I recently heard someone point out that men in particular have traded the study for a man cave. That is not a good trend.

The church is lacking in discipleship. A disciple is a learner. Discipleship is teaching all that Jesus commanded and how to walk in his ways! By God’s grace, may we make disciples that know Jesus personally and know his ways!

1 John 1 Devotion

This image doesn’t fully express what I’m after but the options are limited and I cannot paint! However, the apparent struggle on her face was the best way to make a point.

John makes use of creation language in much of what he has written. Let’s hear his introduction.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life- – 1 John 1:1

In the beginning, God created the world and He created man to inhabit the earth and walk in fellowship with Him. However, Eve encountered the serpent. What she heard…what she saw with her eyes…what she touched with her hands was NOT the Word of life but the word of death from the serpent.

You know how the story goes. Man fell into sin which resulted in broken fellowship with God. They were excluded from the Garden with a sentence of death and no way to partake of the Tree of life. Was hope vanquished?

No! A child was promised who would come and crush the head of the serpent. This was the first clue revealed in God’s plan to save His people and restore the broken fellowship. It wasn’t meant to be like this. Man was created to walk with God. But sin changed that. Therefore, God made a promise to send a child!

In 1 John, we hear about the Word of Life. We know John likes to use the Word to talk about Jesus. We know from Romans that Jesus was the second Adam. We know that through him we can be forgiven and counted righteous by faith. Indeed, we can now have fellowship with God…walk with God through this amazing salvation.

It seems like a reversal has happened. Eve heard, looked and touched the word of death but John is saying that they have heard, have seen and have touched the Word of Life! Fellowship was restored. A new creation has come. Hope is secure!

John is beckoning us to come into fellowship with God through Jesus Christ! This is real!!! He begs you to trust what he has said! Come out of the darkness. Come out of grave and walk in the Light of Life. Indeed, come have ETERNAL LIFE..eternal fellowship!

How? But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. – 1 John 1:7

How does it cleanse? He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. – 1 John 2:2

Jesus took the death sentence for you that you might have life! He made the payment for your debt. That’s propitiation. Come to Jesus and be forgiven! Repent and believe and you will be set free!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

John 16 Devotion

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Before we became a follower of Jesus, we were his enemy. We were of the world. We were, primarily, citizens of a particular state as well as a citizen of Babylon. For the most part, people of this world have much in common. You are on the inside and one of the crowd.

As Jesus prepares his disciples for his departure, it is necessary to explain to them how the world will look at them now. We enemies of God have received forgiveness and are now accepted into God’s Kingdom and family. Jesus, the friend of sinners, has changed us and our position in this world. We are now strangers and foreigners in the world but citizens of heaven and children of God.

Though that is a true reality it is not yet complete. We remain in this world for many purposes. One in particular from this context is to testify about Jesus. And when we believe in and speak with certainty concerning the things of God and the gospel, the world will hate us. They will hate us because they do not know (love…believe…trust in) Jesus nor God the Father.

We could speak more about why the world hates us but the reason Jesus tells his disciples these things before they happen is so that they do not fall away. You might be shocked to hear that Jesus’s followers will suffer in this world. In fact, our world is now more difficult in much of the same way it is more difficult to pick up and move to a foreign land.

Becoming a follower of Jesus draws a clear line in the sand. Though we are sinners like the rest of mankind, we have come to believe that God will punish all sinners (indeed He must to be just) unless we repent and believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and being justified by faith alone. We live for the glory of God now instead of making a name for ourselves. And most often, when we believe the world is wicked and in need of salvation through Jesus that brings about division in our relationships in the world.

Jesus goes on to explain the amazing gift and role of the Holy Spirit after he goes to the One who sent him. Indeed, it is to our advantage that Jesus goes to the Father and sends the Spirit to dwell in us. If for no other reason, the Spirit will lead us into all truth. Truth brings freedom…something everyone wants but cannot have apart from the truth. In fact, the world thinks they live in absolute freedom but really they are in bondage.

The world believes they are happy. Again, this is something that every human being wants and will go to great lengths to get it but in reality their happiness is at least temporary but also empty. To trust in Jesus is to find one’s greatest joy and happiness. Nothing makes us more happy than Jesus himself. And this happiness is eternal and full. And someday when we see him, no one will ever steal our joy again.

Maybe this is a place to ask you if Jesus is enough? Are you completely satisfied in him? Is he the treasure of your life? Do you love him more than your family and even yourself?

If this is not true of you then I plead with you…indeed command you to repent and believe in Jesus! Turn from the false hopes of this world…turn from the empty pleasures of sin. Give yourself to Jesus and you will live forever in his perfect Kingdom and your heart will be full of pleasure forever in Jesus. Do not delay.

(Rom. 10:8-13) “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); 9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

A Prayer Born from John 14

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Before writing this prayer, I would like to point out something pretty amazing. My last post gave a brief but important observation about the purpose of Jesus’s love. He loves in such a way to lead people to believe in the greatest news in the world–the gospel!

In the immediate context, the death and resurrection of Lazarus was the means by which Jesus deployed to make himself known. And more precisely, to make it known that God the Father had sent him into the world to save his people.

Some who witnessed this amazing work believed but others went to tell the religious leaders of the day what had happened. These leaders then say this: (Jn. 11:48) If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

In other words, if they let him go on raising people from the dead everyone will believe he is Messiah. First, it’s almost like your 2 year old raising their finger to the parent that is towering over them and saying, “NO!” to their commands. Can you imagine saying something like this: I’m taking down that guy who raises people from the dead.” In other words, that guy is so powerful that he can call the dead back to life but I have enough power to make him dead.

It is pretty funny to think about. It’s also funny that they think they can stop his works by only stopping that guy, Jesus. What they do not realize is that his works will continue on without his bodily presence. And part of the means by doing so is allowing them to “make him dead.” Jesus’s death was the payment for sinners in need of salvation. The works will continue as a result of the finished work of Jesus which is reworking his broken people to do his works in the world.

The Father did His works in Jesus. Jesus is and will do his works in his disciples which glorifies Jesus and ultimately glorifies the Father!

Let’s now, pray the promises of Jesus!

We come before you, merciful Father, to ask in the Name of Jesus that which he has promised to do. He told us that whoever believes in him and the works that he did will do greater works. Because Jesus went to you, he promises to give us whatever we ask in his Name so that You may be glorified.

Jesus came to save his people and we want to join him in that mission. Lord, we want to make disciples of Jesus. We want the nations to know You. We want to share the gospel and baptize those who receive the gift of salvation. We want to teach them how to walk in Your ways.

Holy Father, send us out. May You cause us to do these greater works in the power of the Holy Spirit. Give us a place and opportunity to do these works among a people who will make more disciples that make more disciples. And ultimately, Your great Name is glorified!

We plead these promises. Your Son said he would do anything we ask in his Name. We are Yours. Do with us as You please, Lord. May we do the works of Jesus in bringing glory to You.

Eternal Father, You know we are seeking a place and people in the Name of Jesus. You know all the places we have “knocked” but nothing has opened. We “seek” but we have not found. We are asking You, oh great God of highest heaven, to open a door of opportunity to us.

We ask this in Jesus’s Name, amen!

John 11-12 Observation

Jesus loves in ways we might not understand. He demonstrated love by not going to Lazarus when Jesus knew he was sick and would die. But why?

  • and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” – John 11:15
  • So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” – John 11:41-43
    • …that they might believe…
  • When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. – John 12:9-11
    • …many were believing in Jesus

Jesus’s love had purpose.

Jesus’s love resulted in his intentions.

Jesus’s love was painful but temporary.

But Jesus’s love is also eternal.

How does this change how you encounter suffering and pain in your own life as a believer?

How does this change how you see suffering and pain in the lives of others around you?

The Lausanne Covenant

I think this covenant should be adopted by churches in addition to their statement of faith. And I furthermore believe we should regularly be reminded of this covenant so that we can make adjustments to our lives when we drift away from the purpose and mission of our Lord Jesus.

Consider reading this document or rereading it.

The Lausanne Covenant

John 10 Devotion

One of the most frequent topics of early Christian art was undoubtedly that of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. Maybe Psalm 23 was as dear to the heart of the early church as it qis now. For whatever reason, it is an amazing and comforting truth.

It seems this identity of Jesus (and certainly Jesus is more than Shepherd) is a very humble title for the Son of God. Yet, David writes that same thing when he says, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. – Psalm 23:1.

That’s not the only humble image we have in John 10. Jesus is also called the door or gate. We know that a door or gate is the entrance point of a walled city. We might think of a pasture that has a fence around it and the gate would be the place to enter.

You might already know but our English word for pastor comes from shepherd. The shepherd or pastor would take the livestock out to pasture. Of course, there were no fences. That’s why we no longer have shepherds in America. The fence keeps the animals in and hopefully keeps the predators out.

The shepherd/pastor was responsible for leading the sheep to food and water. He was also responsible to protect them. The sheep were absolutely defenseless against bears or lions. There were no fences to keep them out.

Now having said that, do you not ask questions when the text says this: I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. – John 10:11. Does he mean to say that the Good Shepherd would lay down his life to protect the sheep? Is that what he means? Certainly that is true but is that what he means?

In other words, if the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep who then will protect the sheep? Do you see? That’s why I think this means more than Jesus’s willingness to lay his life down. One answer or way he can continue to protect the sheep is this: For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. – John 10:17

So, even though the shepherd lays down his life for the sheep he will also take it up again. In other words, he will rise from the dead. You might have another question. Why did the shepherd have to lay down his life for the sheep and if he has the power to raise himself from the dead why didn’t he just protect the sheep with that power?

Let’s hear these amazing truths and then answer that question.

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
30 I and the Father are one.” – John 10:27-30

You only read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) for the first time only once. And even then, many of us heard about the cross before we read the Gospel Story. So, the Gospels intend for you to read them with the cross of Christ in mind.

Therefore, when you hear Jesus, the Good Shepherd, say things like laying down his life for the sheep you know he has the cross in mind. And when he says take his life up again you know he means the resurrection.

So, these glorious truths of the Good Shepherd calling his sheep by name and they hear his voice is a clear picture of when we hear the gospel and the Spirit opens our eyes to hear and believe.

That which we believe is in part that Jesus laid down his life for my protection from not just wolves but from God. My greatest enemy is my sin. Sin destroyed the relationship mankind had with the Creator in the beginning because God is holy and just.

And for God the remain just He must punish all sin. That’s bad news for sinners and all of us are sinners. However, God is not only just. He is also merciful. Mercy is not getting what I deserve. But how can God forgive sinners and remain just? Someone must pay for the penalty and guilt of our sin.

Sin brings death. Therefore Jesus, the Good Shepherd, took our death for us…in our place so that we could be forgiven and have a right legal relationship with God.

If you will repent and believe in Jesus you will have eternal life and you are forever protected by the Good Shepherd!