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NT40 Convictions for Revelation 7-14

It's the penultimate post (posted a day late due to our Web site going down during the storm) for our 40 day journey! Intense look at the afflictions and tribulations in Revelation:

One thing I learned today...

1. About God: His kingdom has come already but it is not yet fully revealed. Rev 11:15 describes this full revelation, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever."

2. About NT Christianity: They overcame the accusations of Satan the accuser, who leads the whole world astray. How? "For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink form death." Rev 12:10-11.

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): I need an accusation evacuation plan. Satan accuses. This can be more deadly than tempation, because temptation's goal is an initial stumble while accusation's goal is a final defeat by giving up. Since the NT Christians triumphed over the accusations by the blood of the Lamb (grace!) and by the word of their testimony, I'll grab a couple profoundly helpful Scriptures on grace to steady me during times of stressful accusation. Plus I'll capture my testimony to remember how much Jesus has done for me.

NT40 Convictions for Jude, Revelation 1-6

Hurricane Sandy is moving through our area, but we still have electricity, so here's one thing I learned today...

1. About God: God is Able! "To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen." Jude 24-25. 

2. About NT Christianity: All seven churches of Revelation 2-3 faced great suffering and persecution. Despite their afflictions, Jesus steadfastly expected righteousness, pereverence, doctrinal purity, and love. 

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): During a recent evangelism effort at the army base near my house, I was reminded of fresh faith by a recent convert in our fellowship. As we shared the gospel with soldiers on the base, he was beaming with joy and anticipation. I was more dutiful and jaded. It reminds me of Revelation 2:4–5 "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." I'll spend some time today recalling my early zeal for God's Word and His mission - even read my early journals to rekindle that early fire.


NT40 Convictions for 1st, 2nd, 3rd John

As the NT is drawing to a close, John's epistles charge us to love... love God by obeying his commands, love our brothers and sisters, love righteousness, and hate sin.

One thing I learned today...

1. About God: This is a concept that is hard only because I'm an individualistic westerner trying to live as a Chrsitian - namely, "you may have fellowship with us. And OUR fellowship is with the Father and with his son, Jesus Christ." John 1:3. 'My personal Lord and Savior Jesus' is better described as OUR Lord and Savior Jesus. 

2. About NT Christianity: They were real, they were transparent, they were community at the deepest levels. "Fellowship with one another" runs parallel to "confess our sins" in 1John 1:7, 9. Plus they loved in such a way to lay down their lives (and their material possessions) for one another (1John 3:16). 

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): I need to confess sin more frequently (as a matter of regular course of fellowship). Today I will make a call (it's already the end of the day today) to a friend to walk in the light with the same transparency that the early Church experienced. 

NT40 Convictions for 1st & 2nd Peter

As we enter into the last week of our NT Christianity focus, I want to drink deeply from each passage of NT that remains. Each reading has been precious; each application has proved exhilarating; each conviction has struck deeply. 

One thing I learned today...

1. About God: God allows us to be trained ("refined by fire") by trials so that we may be strengthened in our faith. There is purpose in pain. But trials are not to be confused with temptations (which God does not bring). Thus, pain is just weakness leaving the flesh.  "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." 1Peter 5:10.

2. About NT Christianity: I was astounded earlier by the constant "beat down" that Christians experienced for their faith. Each book of the NT reinforced their perserverance under myriad afflictions. And now as we encounter 1Peter, the afflictions seemed to have multiplied! 1Peter 1:6-7, 2:20-21, 3:14, 3:17-18, 4:1-4, 4:12-16, 5:10 are all words of encouragement to a severely persecuted church. And they were persecuted for "doing good rather than for doing evil" "for what is right" "not join[ing] them in in their reckless, wild living" "because of the name of Christ" "as a Christian." 

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): Shepherds of the church are called by Peter to be "eager to serve" as "examples to the flock" rather than as ones who lord authority over them. I'll have much time today and tomorrow with our brothers and sisters - and many chances to be an example and to serve them eagerly.

NT40 Convictions for James

Now here's a hard hitting book of conviction - the book of James. 

One thing I learned today...

1. About God: "Come near to God and he will come near to you" James 4:8. God desires intimacy with us, but he is eager for us desire intimacy with him. 

2. About NT Christianity: They were on their guard against favoritism. Discrimination of any sort dishonors the "royal law" to "Love your neighbor as yourself." James 2:4-9

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): Everyone (including me!) should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:19. I'll have chances to practice this today in our discipleship group, counseling meetings, and bible talk group. Plus, I better put this into practice since it is followed by James 1:22 "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

NT40 Convictions for Hebrews 9-13

I know this sounds redundant, but once again... The Bible is amazing! Hebrews 9-12 lays out our remarkable covenant with God through Jesus.

One thing I learned today...

1. About God: He has provided us assurance of salvation through Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice in this new covenant. "For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy." Heb 10:14

2. About NT Christianity: Hebrews 10:32–34 (NIV) "Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions."

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): "Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy" Heb 12:14. I need to help reconcile brothers and sisters today; I'll make every effort. But I need to do this with an overarching pursuit of holiness (that is, don't go for a peace based on a compromise of holiness).

NT40 Convictions Hebrews 1-8

At first, I thought 8 chapters of Hebrews would a very heavy read for one day, but the author develops the argument for the supremacy of Christ so tightly through these chapters that I found myself eager to complete its course through chapter 10. 

One thing I learned today...

1. About God: These first ten chapters of Hebrews are all about JESUS (it would oversimplification to leave this at "one thing") — radiance of God's glory, exact representation of his being, creator of the universe, sustainer of all things through his word, greater than the angels (although temporarily made lower for us), crowned with glory and honor, brings us into his family to call us brothers and sisters, greater than Moses, the great high priest who makes a once-for-all sacrifice for our sins, a priest on the order of Melchizidek (based on the power of an indestructible life!), the high priest of a new covenant in the true tabernacle!!!!

2. About NT Christianity:  They worked hard with diligence for the faith. "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" Hebrews 6:10–12.

3. DWIS (Do What It Says):  Here's a classic one for today (especially during our midweek service) ->Hebrews 3:12–13 (NIV)See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

NT40 Convictions for Titus and Philemon

Here are the last of Paul's pastoral to Titus and Philemon.

One thing I learned today...

1. About God: Here's a great promise reinforced by Paul in his introduction to Titus, "in hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time" Titus 1:2. God has always —before the beginning of time itself (note that Paul doesn't say since the beginning of time)—has planned for us to have the gift of redemption for eternal life with Him.

2. About NT Christianity: The church had elders (who would be appointed by Titus and earlier by Timothy, both likely evangelists) who were husbands of one wife and whose children were believers (Titus 1:5-9). Also, older men taught younger men, and older women taught younger women (Titus 2:1-8). Self control and prudence was a common area of training "so that no one will malign the word of God" by inconsistent conduct. 

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): Grace is meant to teach us to say No to ungodliness and worldly passion and to live self-controlled upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:12) while we wait for the blessed hope (the second coming). I will go after a day in which I reflect both on the grace that HAS been given to me and the glory that WILL be ours when Jesus returns. I want to live in excited tension between those two great events to promote self-controlled upright and godly living. 

NT40 Convictions for 2nd Timothy

As an evangelist, this letter from Paul to Timothy has always been dear and familiar. Today, I strove to hear the words as though the charge were mine to embrace - and so I do.

One thing I learned today...

1. About God: "He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" 2nd Timothy 1:9-10. God's sovereignty continues to shine through book after book—as does His grace. 

2. About NT Christianity: Paul prepares Timothy for hardships that will be faced both from within and without—persecutions, false teachers, quarrels over words, deserters among the brother. Nonetheless, he is called to endure hardship and do the hard work of the ministry. 

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): There are great charges in this book: No Timidity! Preach the Word! Correctly Handle the Word of Truth! Entrust Reliable Men to Teach Others Still! As I opened this epistle, I assumed that one of those great charges would be my "DWIS," but today the Holy Spirit most convicts with "And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth" 2nd Timothy 2:24-25. Am I resentful toward anyone? Do I need to become better equipped to gently instruct and teach men through difficult cirmcumstances? I'll journal more on this today and make a plan to become better equipped. 

NT40 Convictions for 2nd Thessalonians and 1st Timothy

One thing I learned today...

1. About God: Here's a bit of a different flavor of observation about God, as it is about hell: "They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might" 2Thessalonians 1:9. It seems here that the real horror of hell is that we will be isolated from the presence of God. I think I understand this now, but I'm sure I'll better appreciate the presence of God in the age to come.

2. About NT Christianity: And so it continues - persecutions, trials, suffering, endurance, afflictions. These guys and gals were tough, gritty for the faith! ( 2nd Thessalonians 1:4-5)

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): Pray "for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we live peacful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness" ( 1st Timothy 2:1-2). I rarely, if ever, pray intentionally for our governmental leaders. Today I will do exactly that. 

NT Convictions for Colossians and 1st Thessalonians

After a great time with the men of HRC both last night (at ODU) and this morning at PS15 Men's group, it's time to settle down and reflect on NT Christianity from the letters to both Colossians and 1st Thessalonians.

One thing I learned today...

1. About God: Jesus took on a physical body (and yet the fullness of God dwells in him) because "he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation" Colossians 1:22. The physical is vitally important to God.

2. About NT Christianity: They both imitated and modeled Christianity for one another (see 1st Thessalonians 1:5-6, 2:14). Thus discipleship remained vibrant in the NT Church (also see Colossians1:28-2:5). 

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): Paul describes fathers as ones who are "encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory" 1st Thessalonians 2:12. I will share this with my children today and create a list of ways to encourage, comfort, and urge them.

NT40 Convictions for Philippians

For many of us, Philippians is a book that we hold most dear in the NT. That is with good reason, it is so rich in joy, perseverance, and encouragement.

Here's what I learned today...

1. About God: It's easy to become confused about the triune nature of God — especially since we mainly encounter Jesus in the gospels while He is in His humbled and temporary state. Philippians 2:6-11, the great kenotic hymn, clarifies that Jesus "emptied himself" from "being in very nature God" to be made in human likeness. This hymn is a grand parabola with exaltation at beginning and end and the temporary arc of self sacrificial loving humility at its center. 

2. NT Christianity: "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him" (Philippians 1:29). This is not too different from what Paul asserts in 2Tim 3:12, "In fact everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." If there's one thing that overwhelms me as a theme throughout the NT, it's the persecution of believers. 

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): I just told my discontented school-bound daughter to "do everything without grumbling or arguing" — I'm going to take that challenge today as well. But I'm also so moved by Philippians 4:8-9 that it's my memory verse for today as I head out to pray with that as my pattern for today's prayer.

NT40 Convictions for Ephesians

The great epistle of unity now shapes our view of the NT Church and NT Christianity as we continue down this great path of reading through and living out the NT in 40 days.

What I learned today...

1. About God: If Ephesians is a great call to unity regarding the church, then it is a great declaration of sovereignty regarding God. Ephesians 1:3-14 is an overwhelmingly assuring statement of His love, power, election, and blessings (that we all have "IN CHRIST"). Paul taps the phrase "in Him" or "in Christ/Jesus" 9 times in these verses. Since we are in Him, we live with great spiritual blessings and with great assurance.

2. About NT Christianity: They were unified! Paul calls them to pursue this unity by remaining "completely humble and gentle" and by "making every effort" (Eph 4:2-3). Being humble is hard enough, unity requires us to be "completely humble"! Right after that charge, Paul calls the church to recognize its bases for being one body: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father". As a side note here, if baptism were only "an act of obedience" or "an outward sign" as some assert, then what in the world is it doing in this list?!?! But in Scripture, baptism is the way that ordains for us to receive his gift of salvation.

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word" (Eph 5:25-26). That's pretty direct and convicting. Practically, that means that I do something selfless, sacrificial today for Deb. And to wash her with the Word, I will share what I've learned today in my quiet time.


NT40 Convictions for 2nd Corinthians 8-13

After an action packed weekend of evangelism and worship, we're back to the Bible to be informed in our Christianity by NT Christianity. Here's what I learned today...

1. About God: He Himself assigns spheres of service to us (2Cor 10:13). And it is His commendation that alone matters as He considers our service to Him (2Cor 10:18)

2. NT Christianity: Even in poverty they gave generously to other disciples in need (2Cor 8:2). They gave with cheerful hearts, entirely on their own, even pleading to share in this privelege of giving (2Cor 8:3-5)

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): I will use the authority that the Lord gave me for building up rather than to tear down (2Cor 13:10). I will be intentional about this today with at least one brother.

NT40 Convictions for 2nd Corinthians 1-7

We now head into the most recent Scriptures that we've studied in depth at HRC. It's a joy to re-read chapters that have become more intimate to our lives.

What I learned from today's reading...

1. About God: He is glorious! ( 2nd Corinthians 3-4). And He shares that glory with us (we have this treasure in jars of clay to show this all surpassing power is from God and not from us).

2. NT Christianity: They had a communal experience of "godly sorrow" that helped offending brothers and sisters to repent. I often think of godly sorrow as an individual phenomenon, but the context here in 2nd Corinthians 7:6-13 describes the church's collective response to one's sin in their fellowship. They no longer enable (1Cor 5) and no longer overwhelm (2Cor 2:7); instead, they respond to sin with appropriate grief which helps to bring about the repentance of its members.

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): INTEGRITY! "Or do I make my plans in a worldly manner so that in the same breath I say both 'Yes, yes' and 'No, no'?" 2nd Corinthians 1:17. I am not careful with my plans, my goals, my commitments. I will write out this Scripture and put it at the top of my planner to test each plan I set in place.

NT Convictions for 1st Corinthians 13-16

What a section of Scripture - the Love chapter, orderly worship, and the Resurrection! 

Here's what I learned...

1. About God: God has so much in store for us in the age to come! "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied" 1st Corinthians 15:19. Time to set my hope more squarely on heaven.

2. About NT Christianity: They were not afraid to use strong words for strong leadership. "Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your imcome, saving it up, so that when I come no collecitons will have to be made."1st Corinthians 16:1-2.  Paul issues such a straightforward command to contribute to the work of the gospel. And later in 1st Corinthians 16:15-16, "I urge you brothers and sisters, to submit to such people and to eeryone who joins in the work and labors of it." We don't like the word "submission" today, but there it is applied to godly leadership.

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): LOVE! 1st Corinthians 13:1-8. If I "fathom all mysteries,... have faith that can move mountains,... give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship..., but do NOT LOVE, I gain nothing (earlier - I am nothing). Today — pray through my prayer list in order to stoke the embers of love for each and every person.

NT40 Convictions for 1st Corinthians 8-12

As we seek to be shaped by NT convictions as we live out NT Christianity this month, here's what I learned from today's reading...

1. About God: He is absolutely sovereign; therefore, we have no reason to have an "entitled" attitude. Instead we are to receive what we receive with overflowing gratitude. Paul uses various forms of "exousia"(don't we have the "right"; everything is "permissible" (you say); we did not use our "right") repeatedly through the first half of this letter. Entitlement destroys gratitude and undermines grace. A healthy view of God's sovereignty sets it right.

2. About NT Christianity: 1Cor 12:12-26 says it clearly. We are one; we may be separate parts, we are really one body—the very body of Christ! Any one of us CANNOT say to the others "I don't need you." We're in this together as a community bonded by the very blood of God's Son. That's a difficult one for western individualists. It looks suspicious to westerners whose minds are shaped by our culture. So as we pursue true unity/community it will be counter-culturally challenging. It has indeed arroused suspicions. And we're not even halfway there to aspire to the same koinonia (community) as our NT brothers and sisters.

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): During today's "Scattered Hunt", live as community and work as a team (this is being posted a few days later - we did in fact spend Friday evening and all day Saturday together in exciting evangelistic challenges. Community is sweet!) 

NT40 Convictions for Romans 12-16

It's a bit difficult to cover so much ground as we move through the epistles this week. It seemed to be easier to "keep the story straight" in my mind as we covered similar lengths in the narrative works of the gospels and Acts. Now it's concept upon concept and theological proposition upon proposition. Nonetheless, it's our goal to have our minds informed NOT by our culture but by the Scriptures as we live out NT Christianity. Plus, the original hearers of these documents likely heard them read to them all at once!

One of my favorite Scriptures is Romans 12:2 "Do not conform to thpattern of ths world, but be transformed by the renewning of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." I find that these 40 days are doing just that!

What I've learned today...

1. About God: He cares deeply about the weaker among us! (ch. 14-15:13)

2. About NT Christianity: They were a community, a real "body" ch. 12, who made "every effort to what leads to peace and mutual edification" Romans 14:19.

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): This command comes around again and again through the gospels and epistles - Love your neighbor as yourself! So how do I really do that today? I have a neighbor who has recently separated from his wife. I don't know him very well, but I'll walk over and try to connect with him today when he gets home from work. 

NT40 Convictions for Romans 6-11

Yesterday and today are by far the most demanding days of reading during these 40 days. Romans 1-11 are the most densely packed chapters of theology in the NT. Just today in Romans 6-11 Paul covers ... slaves to sin under the law and in the flesh; slaves to righteousness under grace and in the Spirit; sin and the law; righteousness and the Spirit; God's sovereign choice of Isreal and later us Gentiles; Paul's grief over Israel's branches broken from the tree; Paul's hope that the Gentile's election will arouse Israel to envy and return to the Lord for God's gift and call to them is irrevocable. 

What I learned today...

1. About God: He is sovereign!!! Fully, Big time!!!

2. About NT Christianity: They were slaves to righteousness rather and NO LONGER slaves to sin. They were set free from sin and came to obey from the heart the pattern of teaching that claimed their allegiance. Romans 6:17-18. 

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): Today I will seek to live with the attitude that I am a "slave to righteousness." I'll seek out righteous acts that God has set out for me (and they're plentiful) and do them as one who could nothing else. And after doing them, not to seek praise but reinforce that I do them because I am now made for righteousness. Realizing that I am a slave to righteousness also frees me from a sense of entitlement. Conversely, I will face down every temptation with the godly confidence that I am no longer a slave to sin! 

NT40 Convictions for Romans 1-5

That was some dense truth today — the promise of salvation made sure even to the Gentiles; God's wrath made ready justly for both Jew and Gentile; the value of the Law to Jews only if they obey it; the hope that the Jews through sincerity to the Law would become a light to the Gentiles; the discrediting of the Law by Jews who disobey it; the universal rejection of righteousness by all men everywhere; the augmentation of awareness of this sin through the Law; the real hope for true righteousness is really through a faithful trusting relationship with God that actually honors the Law; Abraham provided an example of that trusting faith in God prior to the Law being given; Abraham had the greatly desired state of righteousness "credited" to him through his trusting faith; we too have righteousness credited to us not through the Law but through trusting faith in God; this credit of righteousness is required because we all sinned in Adam and all stand condemned; but we can now all celebrate the gift of righteousness because of Jesus' reversal of Adam's disobedience through His own glorious obedience. Whew... follow that?

What did I learn...

1. About God: He always had a plan to include Gentiles, and His hope was that the Jews would light the way but did not. Jesus is the fulfillment of that light to both Jew and Gentile.

2. About NT Christianity: Surely Paul knew what he was doing when he wrote this letter to the church in Rome. That means that the NT Christians were able to comprehend the deep waters of this epistle! They must have been very well versed in their OT Scriptures and very attentive to the reading of a letter with this depth of insight. 

3. DWIS (Do What It Says): Since today is "unplugged Tuesday," I will spend this evening in deeper study of this passage (Romans 1-5). The NT Christians grasped it probably because they were so much more familiar with the references Paul makes to Hab 2:4, Psalm 62, Prov 24:12, Isaiah 52 and 59, Ezek 36; Ps 51, 14, 53, 140, 10, 32, and 36, and Genesis 15 and 17. That's my reading plan for tonight!