Bible Study

09/01/15 Daily Devotion – Don’t let Satan outwit you!

If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven–if there was anything to forgive–I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes. (2 Corinthians 2:10, 11 NIV84)

We know Satan’s schemes! We have faced and fallen into them enough times to know how he works. He can’t stand grace and forgiveness! By “can’t stand”, I don’t mean that he hates them (which he does) but that he cannot stand, work, function, exist or survive in the presence of grace and forgiveness. This is why the greatest expression of grace and forgiveness, the cross of Jesus Christ, was what crushed Satan’s head.

Grudges, revenge, anger, hatred, bigotry, etc. are Satan’s tools. He would have us do anything but express grace and forgiveness. He will attempt to convince us that both are signs of weakness. He will encourage us to justify our judging heart around the rightness of our position or the hurt of our heart. But you see, God alone is the judge. He has not called us to judge but to love and forgive as He has forgiven us.

You want to give Satan a poke in the eye? Love and forgive the one you are holding a grudge against. Set yourself free from the responsibility to judge, and give it back to God. Let’s not let Satan outwit us!


Pastor Tom

08/31/15 Daily Devotion – Restore your love…!

I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. (2 Corinthians 2:8 NIV84)

A believer of the Corinthian church fell into some kind of unrepentant sin. He refused to respond to the leaders of the Church, so Paul previously told them that the man had to face church discipline. And that is exactly what happened. The unrepentant sinner was cast out of the church in hopes that this severe consequence would awaken his heart and move him to repentance. And that is exactly what happened. Everything went as well as it could go given the situation, except for one thing. The church did not lift their hand of discipline and offer him arms of grace. Hence, in  our verse for today, Paul urges them to reaffirm their love for the repentant man.

2000 years later, not a whole lot has changed. Christian churches, and Christians themselves, refuse to deal with the willful sin of fellow believers in the right way. We tend to let the person live in their sin, quietly saying to ourselves that they deserve what’s coming. We refuse to have the heart of compassion that Jesus had for us. We tend to want to hold the sins of others against them. We become judge and jury and condemn the lost. When the unrepentant sinner returns in repentance and contrition, we turn a cold shoulder and refuse to accept their repentance. We tend to permanently label the fallen as such and refuse to offer them grace and forgiveness.

Notice that Paul tells them to reaffirm their “love” for him. We need to love those who are weak and fallen! Why? Because God loves us even though we are broken and fallen. We need to see ourselves and those around us with the eyes of Jesus. May both our discipline and restoration be rooted in love!


Pastor Tom

08/30/15 Daily Devotion – God placed His seal of ownership on you!

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22 NIV84)

One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 43:1, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are Mine.” Immediately my mind races to when Moses went before the burning bush–God called him by name. And when Jesus called Zaccheus from the Sycamore tree, He called him by name. Lastly, I think about how the book of Revelation says our names are written in the book of life. God loves us so much that He knows us by name. He claimed us as His own, and Jesus says, “no one can snatch us out of His hands.”

He put His seal on us. In the Roman world, the emperor’s seal was the epitome of authority and ownership. No one dared to break his seal. This is why the Roman seal was put on Jesus’ tomb. It was the declaration that only the one whose seal was on the tomb had the authority to claim whatever was behind it. With that backdrop, Paul tells us that God has placed His seal on us. No one (and God means no one) has the authority to claim us but Him. We are His! He has placed His Spirit in our hearts as our assurance that His seal is on us.

Given the fact that God knows us and has called us by name and that He has placed His seal of ownership on us, may we be confident of our eternal home with Him.


Pastor Tom

08/29/15 Daily Devotion – God’s promises are “Yes” in Christ!

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him, the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2Cor. 1:20 NIV84)

I don’t know how the Apostle Paul does it! Here he is explaining to the finicky Corinthians why his travel plans had to change concerning his visiting them, and he lays down one of the most profound theological thoughts known to man. Read it again, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. An absolute statement made with stunning clarity. All of God’s promises come to fulfillment and become “Yes” in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Lord. There are no “No’s” and no “Maybe’s”! There is only “Yes”.

Think about that for a minute. Have you ever wondered or doubted the promises God has placed in the Scriptures? Have you ever thought that they were really nice, but for someone other than you? Today, be certain that they are as much for you as they are for me and everybody else on the planet. Are you looking for the promise of hope to be fulfilled? Turn to Jesus! How about peace? Jesus! How about deliverance, forgiveness, hope, healing? Jesus! How about the certainty to be in Heaven when we die? The “Yes” is still found in Jesus.

Today, are you wishing that God’s promises would come true for you? Stop wishing and be certain that in Jesus, all of God’s promises are fulfilled and real for you!


Pastor Tom

08/28/15 Daily Devotion – The amazing thing about prayer!

as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (2 Corinthians 1:11 NIV84)

The amazing thing about prayer is that there is such a thing. Certainly an omnipotent and omniscient God could choose to do as He pleases without the need to consider the thoughts and desires of His creatures. He simply could impose His will upon us. The amazing thing is God allows us, His creatures, to call upon Him and plead for him to hear and respond with consideration to our will and desire. In the midst of moving His kingdom forward, He not only has the ability, but the desire, to hear the prayers of His people and work their requests into the movement of His will. Maybe I’m just simple minded, but that seems to be amazingly complex and unnecessary.

So why does God do it the way He does? Because He loves us. He truly loves us as a Good father loves his children. Paul, knowing this to be true, requests the prayers of his friends and associates. He tells them that he looks forward to the day in which they will all be able to give thanks to God together because He granted answers to their prayers. I think this ought to be our attitude about prayer. It is not a chore–it is an opportunity. An opportunity to share everything with the One who knows us best, and faithfully anticipate His gracious answers to our petitions.


Pastor Tom

08/27/15 Daily Devotion – Even the Apostle Paul experienced deep despair!

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, (2 Corinthians 1:8-10 NIV84)

I don’t know whether I want to laugh or cry when I hear a Christian say that a Christian with real faith in God should never experience despair or depression. They somehow characterize despair and depression with the absence or weakness of faith. When faced with Christians who think that way, I love to bring up the verses of our text. The Apostle Paul himself admits to facing a despair so deep that he despaired of life itself. What happened? Did Paul face a time of weakened faith? I don’t think so! Paul is admitting that sometimes this life can get so wicked, evil and challenging that even the best of Christians can face despair.

If you are a Christian who has faced those dark days, or may be facing them, please know that it may not be because your faith is wavering. It may be that your faith is exactly what God is wanting to identify. Paul says, “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God.”  Our faith is what relies on God. Our reason is what relies on ourselves. So, it makes sense that if Satan would want to misdirect us during tough times, he would get us to doubt the one thing we need–our faith–and cause us to turn to our own reason. In tough times, God desires just the opposite. He wants us to rely on our faith, even if it is challenged, because it is the only thing that relies 100% on God.

May we all, on our darkest days, turn our faith toward God and rely on Him alone who can change our situation. Paul ends our verses for today by saying, “God delivered us from such a deadly peril…On Him we set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.”  May we each rely on the one who alone can deliver us.


Pastor Tom

08/26/15 Daily Devotion – Father of compassion and God of all comfort!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 NIV84)

More and more, as I study the Word of God, I am drawn to the comparison of Christianity to other religions of the world. I am amazed when people say that there are basically no differences between the major world religions. I politely want to say, “Are you kidding me?” You see, there are huge and extreme differences between the world religions, and one of the most vivid differences is their differing views of God. Judaism and Christianity uniquely present a God who is kind and compassionate, even to those who are separated from Him. But this compassionate and comforting side of God is known especially by His people. Throughout the Scriptures, God is mindful of the suffering that His people are experiencing, and responds to them with grace, mercy, compassion, and comfort.

As Christians we see all those characteristics in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. He was gracious and merciful to the broken and broken-hearted. He had compassion upon the sick and the suffering. He provided comfort to those who were overwhelmed with suffering and pain. Peter says, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you into His eternal glory, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” (1Pet. 5:10). But there is more! He comforts us so that we might in turn comfort others. God’s acts are never singular with intent. When He acts He gets a multi-layered return. Is anyone around you hurting or suffering? God has called us to reach out to one another with the same compassion and comfort that we have received from God. God uses us as His instruments to reach out to others with His grace and mercy.

He is truly the Father of compassion and God of all comfort! May He be such to you and through you!


Pastor Tom

08/25/15 Daily Devotion – Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

“…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” (1 Corinthians 15:4-8 NIV84)

Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Yes! It’s a simple answer because it’s a historical fact. Christians don’t wish the resurrection to be true. They know it to be true, and so they stake their lives on it and put their hope in it. In our verses for today, Paul tells us that Jesus appeared to more than 500 disciples over a 40-day period after His resurrection. As Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, Paul said that most of the 500 were still living and could testify to seeing Jesus alive. Jesus didn’t just appear to his Apostles, He appeared to many of His followers. The book of Acts tells us that when He appeared to them He spoke of the ministry of the kingdom of God that they were to be involved in.

Paul goes on to tell us that he, too, was a witness to the resurrection of Jesus as one “abnormally born.” You see, Paul did not see the risen Jesus during the 40 days after His death and resurrection. Paul met Jesus after He ascended into heaven. Paul (Saul) was persecuting the Church and Jesus knocked him off his horse and blinded him for 3 days. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Paul was converted to the faith. It was after his conversion that Jesus appeared to him and revealed the truth about the kingdom of God. Paul actually spent time being taught by Jesus in preparation for his ministry. Let’s stop to understand this from a historical perspective. A man who openly admits to being a persecutor and unbeliever of Jesus Christ also professes to being confronted and taught by this same Jesus months after His death. Would it make sense for Paul to make that up? Would it make sense that believers during this time would rather die than deny the fact that they saw Jesus risen from the dead? Of course not! These men and women saw Jesus after His resurrection. It is a fact.

Finally, something for everyone to consider: Since Jesus rose from the dead, He has accomplished something that no other religious leader has ever been able to do. Jesus alone completely bore humanity’s sins and victoriously rose from the dead just as He said He would. There is not another religious leader throughout history who has done, or ever will do, what Jesus has done. He defied death itself!

He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life!


Pastor Tom

08/24/15 Daily Devotion – Works must be accompanied by love!

“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:3 NIV84)

Paul already let us know that without love, a faith that can move mountains and a wisdom that discerns the truths of mysteries is worthless. In our verse for today, Paul tells us that our actions don’t mean anything if they aren’t accompanied by love. Even if our actions are self-sacrificing, like giving to the poor and martyring ourselves for the cause, they mean nothing if they are not rooted in love. With all of this Paul wants us to know that without the right motivation, our lives will lack definition. You see, God sees beyond the outward appearance of our actions. He sees the motivation of our hearts. He knows the real reason why we do what we do. It is His desire that our actions are motivated by the same love that His actions are motivated by.

We gain nothing if love is absent from our actions. We gain everything if it’s present. What do we gain? We gain a close relationship with the God who loves us. Could there be a greater blessing than to know that the motivator of our hearts (love) is the same thing that motivates God’s heart? Our faith and life must begin at the foot of Jesus’ cross. It is there that we see how much God loves us and how far He was willing to go to show us. May all of our works be acts of gratitude for what God has done for us.


Pastor Tom

08/23/15 Daily Devotion – One Spirit, many gifts, common good!

“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He gives them to each one, just as He determines. The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11&12 NIV84)

The Holy Spirit does more than just create faith in our hearts. The Spirit also raises us from the death of our sinful nature and creates a new nature within us. Paul said: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone, and the new has come.” And there’s more! The Spirit also gifts the new creature in us with spiritual gifts so that we can do our part for the kingdom of God. As Christians, we are members of the body of Christ. We Christians are many members with many varying gifts, but we all serve one Kingdom with Christ as its leader. In order to fulfill our role, we ought to discover our gift and begin to use it for God’s service.

The problem that I see is that many Christians do not know what their spiritual gift is. Like the servant who received one talent, we leave it buried and unused. This is why in most congregations in America, 20-25% of the members do all of the work. This trend has to end! We need to get the members of our churches into Bible classes. It is in and through God’s Word that the Holy Spirit works in us to reveal our gift. It is mostly there that we find opportunities to exercise and try those gifts for the first time.

And let’s remind ourselves why we ought to make the effort. First, because our Lord and Savior has work for us to do while we live on this earth. We wants us to do our part to fulfill His Great Commission. Second, our many gifts are for our common good. We all need to be doing our part so that we might minister to one another. A giftless church is going to miss opportunities to be Christ to one another in their time of need.

So today, let’s get close to the Spirit of God through God’s Word and discover our spiritual gift!


Pastor Tom