LOVE GIFTS FROM GOD

The title of my devotional this morning are the words that crossed my mind the first time I set my eyes on my new granddaughter. That has not changed with each subsequent visit as I am sure is the case for all of you with grandchildren.

As parents, there are certain responsibilities such as naming rights but the most important is to bring the infant to Jesus as Christ Himself requested in Matthew 19:14. This devotional is not to discuss the merits of infant baptism but to acknowledge the importance of receiving the act of blessing upon a newborn as shown when Zachariah blessed the child (his child) John later to be called the Baptist (Luke 1:67-80).

Infants need to be brought up in the words of Scripture as they have an enormous capacity to believe (Matthew 18:6). This instruction is given to parents, sponsors and family in 2 Timothy 3:15 and I believe most importantly asked of fathers (Ephesians 6:4) who are to be the spiritual head of the family.

This spiritual training needs a support network and understanding which can only come through worshiping in God’s House. It has often been said that the family that prays together stays together. That begins in the home but culminates in church. It is at those moments we best understand the LOVE GIFTS FROM GOD.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Infants are an inheritance that give understanding to the name Immanuel (God with us).

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Matthew 18:6 “Infant capacity to believe”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord thank you for each gift of love You send.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Does Scripture suggest infant salvation and if so where?
  2. What are the arguments for infant baptism versus believer baptism?
  3. Reflect on your spiritual upbringing and that of any children you may have?
  4. Who is your support network?

 

WHY COMMUNION?

Communion is according to Scripture to be a time of deepening friendship and for people of faith to develop their common vision and goals. It goes back to the time of Abraham where we are told in Genesis 14:18 that Melchizedek as priest of God most high brought out the bread and wine. It was a public ceremonial meal unlike the wafer and swallow of wine of today.

If indeed we desire communion with God there are certain pre-requisites the first of which is to be reconciled with God available only through the man Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). We know that Christ alone brings us to God as Christ tells us in John 14:6. Unless we accept that truth we take communion in vain. Sadly today there are many who call themselves Christian who believe there are multiple ways to God.

Communion or fellowship with God also requires obedience. As Christ tells us in John 14:23, God’s love comes with our obedience to His Word. It is what makes our study of God’s Word daily so important. Communion must be only with believers (2 Corinthians 6:14) and to believe you have to be able to distinguish between light and darkness.

As saints living according to the will of God we need to be in constant fellowship with our Lord and Savior. For now that means to be in prayer according to Christ’s instruction given in Matthew 6:5-15. One day that fellowship or communion that now is evidenced in ceremony and prayer will be fully realized in Heaven (Revelations 7:13-17). This is the answer to WHY COMMUNION.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Communion with God comes with total commitment to Jesus Christ.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: John 14:6 “Communion with God pre-requisite is acceptance of Christ.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I desire to be in constant fellowship with You.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How should communion be celebrated?
  2. When you are ‘breaking bread’ with someone what does that mean?
  3. How often are you in communion with God?
  4. Are you in your life able to separate darkness and light?

THE IMPORTANCE OF BLOOD!

When asked what our first thoughts might be when we hear the word ‘blood’ many likely come to mind. Perhaps a pact you made with a ‘blood brother (sister)’ never to reveal a secret or it may be as it was for me seeing in the movie The Ten Commandments Moses perform a miracle in turning a river to blood (Exodus 7:20). An actual historical event.

The idea of understanding the importance of blood as God would have us understand begins for me with the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. In Matthew 26:28 Christ utters the words we hear at each communion celebration. Those words being “For this is My blood of the new covenant”. Obviously those words are meant to be symbolic as one would understand from John 6:53-56. Were that not so Christ would be encouraging cannibalism. To drink His blood means for us to absorb His self-sacrificing life, motivation and all that is Jesus. As Leviticus 17:11 tells us life is in the blood both literally and figuratively.

With Christ’s arrival to earth blood sacrifices were no longer necessary as some religions still hold to. The sacrifice of the unblemished Son of God on the cross (Hebrews 9:14) took care of that. In fact everything is purified with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. Christ’s sacrifice was done once for all.

Blood is also important to what is often referred to as End Time events. A key is Revelation 7:14 for in the last days there will be tribulation and if we do not capitulate under persecution we will appear before God in garments white as snow (Isaiah 1:18) in all their purity. When the final battle is fought whether at Armageddon (Revelations 16:16) or in your personal life always remember the importance of Christ’s sacrifice and THE IMPORTANCE OF HIS SHED BLOOD.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: The blood of Christ alone releases us from bondage.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Leviticus 17:11 “life is in the blood”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord thank you for Your shed blood.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. Of what do you think when hearing the word blood?
  2. Why do some religions still hold to blood sacrifice in one form or another?
  3. Is there any religious symbolism in the act of embalming at death?
  4. What is the relationship between blood and end time events?

EXAMINATION TIME!

School is back in session and soon teachers will hand out exams to see how well students are doing. Political season which seems ever present leads us to examine policy positions of those seeking leadership. Additionally (especially with increasing age) we have doctors examining us. All necessary but all are cases where others are examining us for our needs or something which is outside the realm of self-examination.

I am someone who has always been reluctant to be examined by others be they teachers, doctors, etc. As a person who is strongly self-driven it seemed for the most part unnecessary. Examination of self by ourselves is indeed Scriptural and necessary (1 Corinthians 11:28).

In 1 Corinthians 11:27-31 we find that it is necessary to do so before we take the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion). As someone once said we should come before the Lord and His table with a soul that is like a crystal vile filled with clear water and not the slightest uncleanness visible. Self-examination before taking communion once was and should again be a serious commitment by each of us.

This self-examination is done through our praying. Opening our life to God. In fact the root word for prayer means ‘to judge’. In our praying we judge and examine ourselves and in our failure to do so we open ourselves to demonic attack which can lead to illness or even death as Corinthians tells us.

King David understood this when in Psalm 26:2 he called in prayer to God to have his heart and mind opened. Doing this (self-examination through prayer) is necessary for real faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Examination by others certainly is important to our well being but self-examination is critical. May we all understand that it is EXAMINATION TIME.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Examination of self is necessary so evil does not establish itself in us.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 11:28 “Examination of self must precede the Lord’s Supper”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord I wish to be cleansed of all my sin.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

  1. How do you approach preparation for Holy Communion?
  2. Do you examine yourself daily in your prayer life?
  3. What other tools of self-examination do you use?
  4. Why is it important to come clean at the Lord’s table?

WHAT BAPTISM REPRESENTS

I once had the honor of serving as a representative. That for me meant that I acted on behalf of and in the place of a great many other people. As all Christian believers should know Jesus did this for us as well and today we will look at another Christian act and the symbolism that it represents as well as the great significance it is to we as Christians. It is the act of baptism.

We begin by seeing baptism as a way the Holy Spirit came upon John the Baptist. It is in John 1:33 that by the presence of the Holy Spirit remaining with him that he was seen to have the authority to baptize. In Acts 2:16-21 we see this authority to baptize by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit will be wide spread in the last days. This was prophesied in Old Testament times and spoken of by Paul in the New Testament times as well.

In Romans 6:3-4 we see why the Sacrament of Baptism is so important as it is through our baptism that we symbolically die and are raised unto salvation. For me baptism alone does not save as scripture states elsewhere or otherwise atheists or non-Christians can have the act performed and go on their merry way of disbelief and doing as they choose.

Finally baptism represents or is symbolic of a unity of the Spirit of all believers everywhere. Unity is one of the ways of living that God wishes for all and through Baptism we fulfill that wish. Indeed baptism is very important most especially for WHAT BAPTISM REPRESENTS.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Christian baptism for a believer is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: Romans 6:3-4 “baptism is figurative of regeneration”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord thank you for a baptism that unites us in Your death and resurrection.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

1. Who should be able to baptize others?

2. Does Acts 2 open the door to perform baptism to all who have taken on the Holy Spirit?

3. Does baptism alone save?

4. Have you and your loved ones come to baptism?

LIFE GIVING BREAD

As you read this (depending on when you do so) I am on my way to the land from which my forefathers (and mothers) came. That place is the south of Germany and as I search out more of my ancestory and its history I will be presenting the next several devotionals from a series of messages I shared with a parish that is currently without a pastor. Today I want to share some thoughts on what most if not all of us eat on a fairly regular basis in some form which is bread..Bread and the wheat grain from which it is made has been and remains very important to the Jewish culture as well as to that from which I come.  In fact some years ago there was a stamp issued by the US Postal Service honoring the Turkey Red Wheat which the Germans from Russia brought to this country and from which we still raise much of our hard red winter wheat.

Christ Jesus used the idea of bread in his bread of life discourse (John 6:22-59) to show how just as wheat before it can be of value must be crushed and broken so His life also was crushed and broken before and at the cross before it’s intended purpose to nourish and save us was fulfilled. In today’s devotional I want to have us focus on John 6:24-35 and the spiritual lessons which we can learn from it beginning with the fact that God wants us to labor in this life seeking out the food which endures to eternal life. That means that we are to seek out those nourishing times and areas which fulfill such as devotional studies, Bible studies, worship services and good conversations.

In the example of bread we can also find Christ’s divinity (vs. 31). Until this text I never realized how important bread was to a Christian. It was manna from heaven that saved the Israelites and loaves (along wish fish) that fed the multitudes. At communion we take the wafer ( a form of bread) to remember Christ and other examples exist as well. Bread truly is life giving. As bread nourishes the body so it is that the “Bread of Life” Christ Jesus nourishes our soul. We cannot live without it and for me it makes the remembrance of communion all the more important to celebrate. In fact it is critical we do so.

For me verse 35 sums up this passage of scripture when Christ tells us to come to Him. The act of coming forward whether at communion or a Billy Graham type crusade or an alter call all symbolize our belief and desire to be nourished and have our life truly fulfilled by Christ our BREAD OF LIFE.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY:  The Bread of Life which is Christ is a banquet to which all should want to belong.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY: John 6:33-35  “bread is figurative of Christ”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:  Lord I desire to eat of the Bread of Life.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

1. What is your understanding of the importance of bread to our lives?

2. How do you feel when you come forward to the alter whether at communion or otherwise?

3. Have you ever considered the historical significance of wheat?

4. How do you understand the communion wafer and its meaning?

 

WHY BAPTISM?

We are commanded to be baptized if we choose to be Christians. It is of such importance that many who may seldom set foot in a church thereafter still feel a necessity to do it. Today I am not here to present views either on infant baptism or believers baptism but rather to share why we must do it.

We begin in Matthew 28:19-20 with the best reason of all which is that it was commanded by Christ. It was of such importance that it was His command to His followers before He ascended to Heaven. Last words are important even to the point that we allow them before death penalties are carried out. It is therefore also important we realize that included in Christ’s final words is the message that it is to be done in the name of the Triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and it is to be tied the teaching of God’s Word. Belief must go with baptism and belief comes only with knowledge and understanding. For a Christian I believe some form of Sunday School must never end.

Peter we are told in Acts 10:47 also commanded it to be done after the Holy Spirit was received. The presence of the Holy Spirit is integral to the beginning of our Christian journey on earth.

This act of baptism was finally commanded to all who minister to others. The example here is that of Saul who would after baptism take the name Paul. Ananias directed Saul toward this act of baptism and making it a requirement before witnessing to others.

That is the answer to WHY BAPTISM and as you share with others your faith ask first if they believe and have repented of their sins and then lead them to the Sacrament Christ commanded.

THOUGHT FOR TODAY: Christian baptism is commanded by Christ.

DEVOTIONAL VERSE FOR TODAY:  Matthew 28:19-20  “Christ commanded baptism”.

PRAYER FOR TODAY:  Lord help me fulfill your Great Commission.

QUESTIONS TO THINK ABOUT:

1. Are you and most especially also those who you most love baptized?

2. If you are baptized what does it mean to you?

3. How are belief and baptism tied together?

4. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in baptism?

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