New Testament In a Year: November 23 – 1 Peter 1

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1 Peter 1
(3-12) Born Again to a Living Hope
Our hope is alive because it is in the person of Jesus the Christ, Who was resurrected from the dead and will continue living forever. This is why we can endure difficulties, persevere through trials, and be optimistic in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Psalm 42:5 says, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.” Our hope is not an idea or an aspiration. It is a Person.

John Piper describes Biblical hope as not just a desire for something good in the future, but as a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. We must be confident that the good we expect and desire will be done. Therefore, it is right for us to have confidence that we will one day receive the imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance that is being kept in heaven for us. At the present moment, things may not be ideal for us, but we can rejoice because we have hope about the good that will take place in the future. The hard times that we go through on earth are sometimes tests of out faith. Is our faith genuine? Is our faith strong? If it is, we will pass whatever test comes our way.

We have not yet seen Jesus the Christ face to face, but we love Him and we believe in Him. This belief gives us inexpressible and glorious joy because we know that we will one day be with Him forever.

(13-25) Called to Be Holy
As we are told elsewhere in the Bible, we must not allow ourselves to be conformed to the world. We must not go back to the way we were before we knew about Jesus the Christ and received His salvation. Instead, we must strive to be holy in all that we say and all that we do just as Christ is holy. He did not ransom us with silver and gold, but with His own blood. His precious, perfect sacrifice is all the more reason why we should constantly strive for holiness. Through Christ, we are believers in God. Through Christ, we will be raised from the dead to join God in glory. Through Christ, our faith and hope is secure.

Holiness will create within us a genuine heart of love for God and for others.

Favorite verse: (8) Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.

Women of the Word: Grandmother Maakah

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The books of 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, and 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament summarize the lives of many kings of Israel and Judah. Some of the kings did what was right before God and some of the kings did what was wrong before God. One of the kings who did what was right was King Asa. 1 Kings 15 says Asa did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, as his father David had done. (It should be noted that David was not Asa’s immediate father, but is referred to as being a righteous ancestor). This Scripture passage goes on to say that Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. 2 Chronicles 15 describes how Asa worked diligently to rid the land of idols and repair the Lord’s altar. He also led the people into a covenant to seek the Lord with all their heart and soul.

Unfortunately, Asa’s grandmother, Maakah, did not desire to seek the Lord like he did. She made idols and continued her worship of false gods. When Asa got wind of this, 1 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 15 both record that he deposed Maakah from her position as queen mother and cut down and burned the idol that she had made. 1 Kings 15:13 says:

He even deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down and burned it in the Kidron Valley.

2 Chronicles 15:16 says:

King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley.

So committed was Asa to the Lord that he did not even let family members influence him to do wrong. Asa’s father, Abijah, who was king before him, did what was wrong before God and had a heart that was not fully devoted to the Lord. The same can be said about Asa’s grandmother, Maakah. The Bible does not mention anything about Asa’s mother, so we do not know what her attitude was toward God. But Asa’s life is certainly one we can emulate. However, it is Maakah who we are focusing on at the moment. What can we learn from her life? Continue reading

New Testament In a Year: November 22 – James 5

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James 5
(1-6) Warning to the Rich
Those who store up riches for themselves, especially when those riches are gained at the expense of others, will be judged by God. He sees all wrongdoing that humans do against one another and He will not let it go unpunished forever.

(7-12) Patience in Suffering
After planting the seed, the farmer has to wait several months to harvest the produce. So we also must wait patiently for the second coming of the Lord. Even amidst suffering, we must endure and remain faithful just as Job remained faithful when he was hit by much affliction. If we do so, we will be blessed for the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

(13-20) The Prayer of Faith
There is power in prayer, especially prayers that are said in faith. People can use prayer at all moments of life, especially when they are sick and suffering. Through prayer, illness can go away and sins can be forgiven. Prayer is powerful when we pray alone or just for ourselves, but there is a special power in prayer when we pray with others and for others. Jesus the Christ said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” For our prayers to be effective, however, we must make sure that our hearts and lives are righteous before God.

If we bring back someone who wanders from the truth of the Gospel, we will be responsible for bringing him or her to salvation in Christ and having that person’s sins covered. Even though Christ is the only one who can actually save souls, this Scripture passage shows that it is our duty to be actively involved in helping the lost get found.

Favorite verse: (15) And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

New Testament In a Year: November 21 – James 4

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James 4
(1-12) Warning Against Worldliness
When we try to get the things we desire and covet on our own, instead of asking God for them, we only end up fighting with one another and cannot obtain anything. But if we ask, we will receive. However, this is not to say that we will get everything and anything that we ask God for. We must make sure that we want something for the right reasons and that our hearts have God at its center. We should ask for things that please God, instead of things that would bring us pleasure.

Not being a friend of the world does not mean we hate the world. But we must realize that the world has nothing to over us. All of its glory, entertainment, and fame is vapid. But Christ offers us everything and everything that He offers is awe-inspiring and eternal. Our love for God compared to our love for the world must be like hatred. We must draw closer to the Creator and not His creation. The nearer we get to God, the nearer He gets to us and the more He gives His grace. He desires for us to be humble before Him so that He can exalt us.

(13-17) Boasting About Tomorrow
Tomorrow and the day after tomorrow is not promised to us. Only God knows what the future brings; therefore, we should not make plans and leave God out of them. Our trust should be in God. We should lean on Him and not on our own understanding. In all our ways and thoughts and plans, God should be acknowledged.

Favorite verse: (8) Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

New Testament In a Year: November 20 – James 3

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James 3
(1-12) Taming the Tongue
This Scripture passage reminds me of the song:

O be careful little mouth what you say
O be careful little mouth what you say
There’s a Father up above
And He’s looking down in love
So, be careful little mouth what you say

Human beings have managed to tame every kind of beast, bird, reptile and sea creature, yet we have not been able to tame our tongues. The tongue is a small member of the body, but it can do some of the most damage. We should be careful of the things we say because God the Father is watching us. We cannot bless Him and pray to Him and sing praises to Him, but then curse others and insult people by calling them offensive names. After all, these people are made in the image of God. When we belittle, minimize, or disparage another person, we are actually belittling, minimizing, and disparaging God. When we hurt creation, we also hurt the Creator.

(13-18) Wisdom from Above
The wisdom that comes from above is wisdom that comes from God, and if we ask Him for this wisdom we will not be full of jealousy and selfish ambition. Instead, we will be pure and peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. Our good conduct will reflect the wisdom from above.

Favorite verse: (17) But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

New Testament In a Year: November 19 – James 2

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James 2
(1-13) The Sin of Partiality
Just as Jesus the Christ does not favor one group of Christians over another group or even favor Christians over sinners, we are not to be biased toward certain people. Rich Christians are not better than poor Christians. White Christians are not better than Black Christians. American Christians are not better than Asian Christians. Before God, we are all one and the same – equally precious in His sight. We should not make distinctions among ourselves and divide the body of Christ by race, class, gender, or education status.

Those who are poor are often rich in faith and will be blessed of God to inherit the kingdom of Heaven.

Instead of favoring some over others, Christ commands us as believers to love everyone as we love ourselves. We cannot pick and choose which parts of God’s laws we want to obey. We must obey them all. And if we break one, then we break them all.

(14-26) Faith Without Works Is Dead
Faith and works go hand in hand. It is not enough for us to talk about our faith, we must also show our faith through our actions and by the way we live. This is not to say that works save us. They don’t. Only faith does that. But once we are saved, what we do becomes just as important as what we say and what we confess. Jesus didn’t say, “By their words you will know them.” He said, “By their fruits you will know them.”

Without works, faith is dead.

Favorite verse: (13) For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

New Testament In a Year: November 18 – James 1

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James 1
(2-18) Testing of Your Faith
The trials we go through in life are not meant to kill us, but to make us stronger. They are meant to increase our faith. If we endure trials and count them as joy, we will soon be made perfect in Christ and lack no good thing. It is wisdom that helps us understand that God is working on us, working in us, and working through us when trials come. If we do not yet have the wisdom to understand this, then we should ask God for it. He will gladly and generously give us wisdom if we ask for it in faith, without doubting.

If we do not waver under trial and if we withstand the tests that come our way, we will be blessed. Remaining faithful shows that we love God, and all those who love God will receive the crown of life. Trials and tests often come in the form of temptations, and while God allows us to be tempted, He is not the one tempting us. God cannot be tempted with evil and He cannot tempt anyone with evil. God is the ‘Father of lights’ and He only gives good and perfect gifts from above. He cannot give anything that contradicts His righteous character.

(19-27) Hearing and Doing the Word
We are not only to hear the Word of God. We are also to do the Word of God. This means that we are to strive after righteousness and rid our lives of all filthiness and wickedness. Through the Word of God, we should see ourselves as we really are – as if we were looking in a mirror – and then act on that Word.

If we have true religion, we will only speak godliness. We will also care for others such as orphans and widows, and keep ourselves unstained from the world.

Favorite verse: (17) Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.