Daily Devotionals 2021 - Paul's Epistles

We hope you join us in this daily devotional for 2021.

September 12

“For the Lord is not willing that any should perish but that everyone come to a saving knowledge of Christ.” 2 Peter 3:9

As I have been watching the remembrances of the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attack on the United States by Al Queda, I was impressed by the dedication of the Firefighters, Police officers, and volunteers who were sifting through the rubble of the WTC, the Pentagon, and the field in Somerset Pennsylvania seeking to find one more person to save.  They were on a rescue mission to find those who were hurting and suffering and needed to be saved. 

At that time, no one was asking how much is this going to cost.  No one was asking are the victims democrats or republicans.   The purpose of the recovery efforts was to find one more person to be rescued and saved.

As Christians we too are on a rescue mission.   We have the opportunity to go out into the world where people are hurting, suffering, and rescue them from the penalty of sin and death.    

Thought For Today:   Who do you know that needs to be rescued from the consequences of sin and death?   Who do you know that needs to be saved?  Will you be on a rescue mission for them so that they can be saved and spend an eternity with God in heaven?

Today’s Prayer Focus:  Pray for those you know who need to be saved and rescued from hell.  Thank God that He is not willing that any should perish but that everyone come to a saving knowledge of Jesus.  Deo Volente.

September 11

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 

Today is the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States.    Do you remember where you were on that tragic and fateful day?    When I was pastoring the Christ Presbyterian Church in Hollywood, ever Tuesday morning the elders of the church would meet together for prayer from 6 to 8 a.m. 

As we began our time of prayer, one of the elders, Bob Nozaki came in and said that he was listening to the radio as he was driving in and heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.    Not much news was available at that time, but as we concluded our time of prayer, we turned on the TV and watched in horror as we saw the collapse of the WTC and people scrambling in the dust and ashes to safety.

Later that day we learned that my daughter Sherry’s first grade teacher, Mrs. Hu’s daughter was working at the WTC.   Fortunately, she was a survivor.  My brother Bill was on a business trip in Seattle at that time and with the airlines and airports shut down, he rented a car and drove back to Southern California.

On Wednesday night, ABC televised a story of numerous women whose lives were changed as a result of 9/11.   Some of these women were working at the Pentagon, in the Marriott hotel adjacent to the WTC, firefighters, etc.  It was interesting to hear how their lives were so dramatically affected and still carry with them the, trauma, sorrow and grief of the tragic events of that day.  

Almost 3000 people died as a result of the hijackers.   20 years have passed since that day, but many continue to suffer in the aftermath.   

Thought For Today and Today’s Prayer Focus:   Pray that God’s healing touch and peace will surround those who continue to mourn and grieve the loss of loved ones and for those whose lives have been forever changed.  For those whose health has been affected and for those who have fought, died, and have become injured as they served in the armed forces.  

--Rev. Ted Esaki

September 6

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

Over the weekend while I was in Tuolumne Meadows, Ranger Shelton Johnson who is a legend in Yosemite and has been with the National Park Service (NPS) in Yosemite for over 20 year said, “I can tell when a ranger is getting burned out because they are no longer looking up at the mountains.”   He said, that when new rangers join the NPS, they are excited, they have a big smile on their face, and they are always looking up to learn and discover new things.   He says he worries about the rangers who are no longer looking up but look down at their feet while they walk.  That is when he says he takes them aside and reminds them to Look Up!   

Hearing those words made me think that is true in our Christian life as well.  As new Christians we are excited and smiling because we have just made a great friend in Jesus.   We rejoice over God’s Amazing love and Grace.   AS new believers we are often looking up and discovering the wonder of God.  The tragedy is that often times as the years go by our zeal and passion for the Lord can wane.   We can get into a rut that instead of looking up to God, we try to live the Christian life on our own strength and power.  That is when we need to be reminded to look up!  To discover the wonder of God in new and fresh ways.   Jeremiah wrote in Lamentations 3:23, “… His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness>. 

Thought For Today:  Take time today to Look Up and rediscover the wonder of God’s creation and the beauty he has created for us to enjoy. Look up to the hills where God’s help comes from. 

Today’s Prayer Focus:   Praise God that He is the maker of Heaven and Earth and that his mercies are new every morning.  Deo Volente.  

--Rev. Ted Esaki

September 3

“Be still, and know that I am God.”   Psalm 46:10

From August 27th to 29th, I had the opportunity to spend time up in the high country of Yosemite National Park and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.    I was there for the “Obata Weekend” an opportunity to remember the life of Chiura Obata who has painted more paintings of any artist in Yosemite.   The U.S. National Park Service wanted to honor him for his contributions to Yosemite National Park and his legacy to fight anti-asian sentiments during World War II.  

On Sunday September 29th I had the opportunity to participate in the dedication of the Chiura Obata Great Nature Memorial Highway that goes from the East Entrance of Yosemite towards highway 395.   

Each morning I woke up early, went on a 4 mile walk along the Lyell Fork river and spent time reading the bible and praying with no one within sight.   It was a wonderful time of solitude, a time set apart from the news, internet, cellphone and distractions of the world.  

I appreciated the time to be alone with God.    C.S. Lewis in his book “The Weight of Glory” says that we were made for consistent time in solitude.

He also wrote “We live, in fact, in a world starved for solitude, silence, and private: and therefore starved for meditation and true friendship.   

Have you ever considered that you are “starved” for solitude?   All over the New Testament we see examples of Jesus going off on his own to pray. Mark 1:35  tells us that Jesus, “rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark Jesus departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Jesus, who practiced perfect communion with his heavenly Father while here on earth still needed to spend time in solitude.

Thought For Today:   How do you find time for solitude in the midst of living in Los Angeles.   Take time today to recognize your need for solitude.   Find time today to get way on your own where you will not be distracted by your phone, internet, or TV and quality spend time in the presence of God.   If Jesus needed it, how much more do we.

Today’s Prayer Focus:   In that place free from distractions ask God to calm your Spirit and speak to you through His Word.   Pray what God reveals to you in your time of solitude.   Deo Volente.  

--Rev. Ted Esaki

September 2 - I Corinthians Chapter 14

After establishing that the Holy Spirit will always lead us in love to God, to ourselves and to others, the apostle Paul goes back to talking about the way the Spirit talks to us. If we pray in in unknown tongue, we pray mysteries - the perfect will of God - for ourselves and the world in general. But in prophecy, the Spirit gives us inspired words that come to life in the hearts of fellow church members. This is a gift of the Spirit we can ask for and cultivate to encourage our fellow believers.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Pursue love, and use your ambition to try to get spiritual gifts but especially so that you might prophesy. This is because those who speak in a tongue don’t speak to people but to God; no one understands it—they speak mysteries by the Spirit.Those who prophesy speak to people, building them up, and giving them encouragement and comfort. People who speak in a tongue build up themselves; those who prophesy build up the church. I wish that all of you spoke in tongues, but I’d rather you could prophesy. Those who prophesy are more important than those who speak in tongues, unless they are able to interpret them so that the church might be built up. After all, brothers and sisters, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I help you unless I speak to you with a revelation, some knowledge, a prophecy, or a teaching? Likewise, things that aren’t alive like a harp or a lyre can make a sound, but if there aren’t different notes in the sounds they make, how will the tune from the harp or the lyre be recognized? And if a trumpet call is unrecognizable, then who will prepare for battle? It’s the same way with you: If you don’t use language that is easy to understand when you speak in a tongue, then how will anyone understand what is said? It will be as if you are speaking into the air! There are probably many language families in the world, and none of them are without meaning. So if I don’t know the meaning of the language, then I will be like a foreigner to those who speak it, and they will be like foreigners to me. The same holds true for you: since you are ambitious for spiritual gifts, use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at building up the church.

Therefore, those who speak in a tongue should pray to be able to interpret. If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind isn’t productive. What should I do? I’ll pray in the Spirit, but I’ll pray with my mind too; I’ll sing a psalm in the Spirit, but I’ll sing the psalm with my mind too. After all, if you praise God in the Spirit, how will the people who aren’t trained in that language say “Amen!” to your thanksgiving, when they don’t know what you are saying?You may offer a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I’d rather speak five words in my right mind than speak thousands of words in a tongue so that I can teach others.

Brothers and sisters, don’t be like children in the way you think. Well, be babies when it comes to evil, but be adults in your thinking. In the Law it is written: I will speak to this people with foreign languages and foreigners’ lips, but they will not even listen to me this way, says the Lord. So then, tongues are a sign for those who don’t believe, not for those who believe. But prophecy is a sign for believers, not for those who don’t believe. So suppose that the whole church is meeting and everyone is speaking in tongues. If people come in who are outsiders or unbelievers, won’t they say that you are out of your minds? But if everyone is prophesying when an unbeliever or outsider comes in, they are tested by all and called to account by all. The secrets of their hearts are brought to light. When that happens, they will fall on their faces and worship God, proclaiming out loud that truly God is among you!

What is the outcome of this, brothers and sisters? When you meet together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All these things must be done to build up the church. If some speak in a tongue, then let two or at most three speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. However, if there is no interpreter, then they should keep quiet in the meeting. They should speak privately to themselves and to God. In the case of prophets, let two or three speak and have the rest evaluate what is said. And if some revelation comes to someone else who is sitting down, the first one should be quiet. You can all prophesy one at a time so that everyone can learn and be encouraged. The spirits of prophets are under the control of the prophets. God isn’t a God of disorder but of peace. Like in all the churches of God’s people,the women should be quiet during the meeting. They are not allowed to talk. Instead, they need to get under control, just as the Law says. If they want to learn something, they should ask their husbands at home. It is disgraceful for a woman to talk during the meeting.

Did the word of God originate with you? Has it come only to you? If anyone thinks that they are prophets or “spiritual people,” then let them recognize that what I’m writing to you is the Lord’s command. If someone doesn’t recognize this, they aren’t recognized. So then, brothers and sisters, use your ambition to try to get the gift of prophecy, but don’t prevent speaking in tongues. Everything should be done with dignity and in proper order.

September 1 - I Corinthians Chapter 13

God is love. His Spirit is the Spirit of Love. Anything the Spirit gives us or guides to into will be an expression of love - God's love to us, God's love to everyone around us, and our love for our brothers. The Holy Spirit will always guide us into actions help us and others, and not harm.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.

Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end.We know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I’ve put an end to childish things. Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.

August 31 - I Corinthians Chapter 12

This is an important chapter that tells us about the many ways the Holy Spirit can guide us. These are different than the daily leading the Spirit speaks to our heart, but they are still from the Lord and it is important that we accept them as true and real. Even if you have seen people make mistakes in these areas, allow the Spirit to open your eyes to the different ways He communicates to the church in public settings.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Brothers and sisters, I don’t want you to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. You know that when you were Gentiles you were often misled by false gods that can’t even speak. So I want to make it clear to you that no one says, “Jesus is cursed!” when speaking by God’s Spirit, and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.

Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many.We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink. Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body?If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted.If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body? But as it is, there are many parts but one body. So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. You are the body of Christ and parts of each other. In the church, God has appointed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, the ability to help others, leadership skills, different kinds of tongues. All aren’t apostles, are they? All aren’t prophets, are they? All aren’t teachers, are they? All don’t perform miracles, do they? All don’t have gifts of healing, do they? All don’t speak in different tongues, do they? All don’t interpret, do they?Use your ambition to try to get the greater gifts. And I’m going to show you an even better way.

August 30 - I Corinthians Chapter 11

This chapter is also an answer to questions that the Corinthians asked Paul concerning daily conduct. He follows Christ and he asked them to do the same. How do we follow Christ? We have the Bible as a guide and we have the Holy Spirit to remind us of those words daily as they apply to us.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Follow my example, just like I follow Christ’s.

I praise you because you remember all my instructions, and you hold on to the traditions exactly as I handed them on to you. Now I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered shames his head. Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered disgraces her head. It is the same thing as having her head shaved. If a woman doesn’t cover her head, then she should have her hair cut off. If it is disgraceful for a woman to have short hair or to be shaved, then she should keep her head covered. A man shouldn’t have his head covered, because he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is man’s glory.Man didn’t have his origin from woman, but woman from man;and man wasn’t created for the sake of the woman, but the woman for the sake of the man.Because of this a woman should have authority over her head, because of the angels. However, woman isn’t independent from man, and man isn’t independent from woman in the Lord. As woman came from man so also man comes from woman. But everything comes from God.Judge for yourselves: Is it appropriate for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?Doesn’t nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him; but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? This is because her long hair is given to her for a covering. But if someone wants to argue about this, we don’t have such a custom, nor do God’s churches.

Now I don’t praise you as I give the following instruction because when you meet together, it does more harm than good. First of all, when you meet together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it. It’s necessary that there are groups among you, to make it clear who is genuine. So when you get together in one place, it isn’t to eat the Lord’s meal. Each of you goes ahead and eats a private meal. One person goes hungry while another is drunk. Don’t you have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you look down on God’s churches and humiliate those who have nothing? What can I say to you? Will I praise you? No, I don’t praise you in this.

I received a tradition from the Lord, which I also handed on to you: on the night on which he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took bread. After giving thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this to remember me.” He did the same thing with the cup, after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Every time you drink it, do this to remember me.” Every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you broadcast the death of the Lord until he comes.

This is why those who eat the bread or drink the cup of the Lord inappropriately will be guilty of the Lord’s body and blood.Each individual should test himself or herself, and eat from the bread and drink from the cup in that way. Those who eat and drink without correctly understanding the body are eating and drinking their own judgment. Because of this, many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few have died. But if we had judged ourselves, we wouldn’t be judged. However, we are disciplined by the Lord when we are judged so that we won’t be judged and condemned along with the whole world. For these reasons, my brothers and sisters, when you get together to eat, wait for each other. If some of you are hungry, they should eat at home so that getting together doesn’t lead to judgment. I will give directions about the other things when I come.

August 28 - Psalm 91

Living in the Most High’s shelter,

    camping in the Almighty’s shade,

I say to the Lord, “You are my refuge, my stronghold!

    You are my God—the one I trust!”

God will save you from the hunter’s trap

    and from deadly sickness.

God will protect you with his pinions;

    you’ll find refuge under his wings.

    His faithfulness is a protective shield.

Don’t be afraid of terrors at night,

    arrows that fly in daylight,

    or sickness that prowls in the dark,

    destruction that ravages at noontime.

Even if one thousand people fall dead next to you,

    ten thousand right beside you—

    it won’t happen to you.

Just look with your eyes,

    and you will see the wicked punished.

Because you’ve made the Lord my refuge,

    the Most High, your place of residence—

        no evil will happen to you;

        no disease will come close to your tent.

Because he will order his messengers to help you,

    to protect you wherever you go.

They will carry you with their own hands

    so you don’t bruise your foot on a stone.

You’ll march on top of lions and vipers;

    you’ll trample young lions and serpents underfoot.

God says, “Because you are devoted to me,

    I’ll rescue you.

    I’ll protect you because you know my name.

Whenever you cry out to me, I’ll answer.

    I’ll be with you in troubling times.

    I’ll save you and glorify you.

    I’ll fill you full with old age.

    I’ll show you my salvation.”

August 27 - I Corinthians Chapter 10

Again some very popular verses in our chapter today. Before you read, ask the Holy Spirit to give you a fresh look into those words, to give you something that is personal to you, and expect it. Hearing from the Spirit isn't difficult. It is like thinking your own thoughts, like breathing. For a child of God, it is the most natural thing.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Brothers and sisters, I want you to be sure of the fact that our ancestors were all under the cloud and they all went through the sea.All were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.All ate the same spiritual food,and all drank the same spiritual drink. They drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.However, God was unhappy with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.These things were examples for us, so we won’t crave evil things like they did.Don’t worship false gods like some of them did, as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink and they got up to play. Let’s not practice sexual immorality, like some of them did, and twenty-three thousand died in one day. Let’s not test Christ, like some of them did, and were killed by the snakes. Let’s not grumble, like some of them did, and were killed by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example and were written as a warning for us to whom the end of time has come. So those who think they are standing need to watch out or else they may fall. No temptation has seized you that isn’t common for people. But God is faithful. He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your abilities. Instead, with the temptation, God will also supply a way out so that you will be able to endure it.So then, my dear friends, run away from the worship of false gods! I’m talking to you like you are sensible people. Think about what I’m saying.Isn’t the cup of blessing that we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Isn’t the loaf of bread that we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one loaf of bread, we who are many are one body, because we all share the one loaf of bread. Look at the people of Israel. Don’t those who eat the sacrifices share from the altar? What am I saying then? That food sacrificed to a false god is anything, or that a false god is anything?No, but this kind of sacrifice is sacrificed to demons and not to God. I don’t want you to be sharing in demons. You can’t drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you can’t participate in the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or should we make the Lord jealous? We aren’t stronger than he is, are we?

Everything is permitted, but everything isn’t beneficial. Everything is permitted, but everything doesn’t build others up. No one should look out for their own advantage, but they should look out for each other. Eat everything that is sold in the marketplace, without asking questions about it because of your conscience.The earth and all that is in it belong to the Lord. If an unbeliever invites you to eat with them and you want to go, eat whatever is served, without asking questions because of your conscience.But if someone says to you, “This meat was sacrificed in a temple,” then don’t eat it for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. Now when I say “conscience” I don’t mean yours but the other person’s. Why should my freedom be judged by someone else’s conscience? If I participate with gratitude, why should I be blamed for food I thank God for? So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, you should do it all for God’s glory. Don’t offend either Jews or Greeks, or God’s church. This is the same thing that I do. I please everyone in everything I do. I don’t look out for my own advantage, but I look out for many people so that they can be saved.

August 26 - I Corinthians Chapter 9

It isn't that every day when I read the Bible something stands out to me. Today in reading this chapter, nothing specific stood out. But it is important to read the Bible every day, because it reinforces in us the tone of the Spirit. Seeing and processing a text over and over again leaves an unconscious mark in our memory. And then the Holy Spirit can remind us of those words when we need it in a specific situation. If we don't have that memory knowledge of God's words, it is much harder for us to hear the Holly Spirit.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord? Aren’t you my work in the Lord? If I’m not an apostle to others, at least I am to you! You are the seal that shows I’m an apostle. This is my defense against those who criticize me. Don’t we have the right to eat and drink? Don’t we have the right to travel with a wife who believes like the rest of the apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who don’t have the right to not work for our living? Who joins the army and pays their own way? Who plants a vineyard and doesn’t eat its fruit? Who shepherds a flock and doesn’t drink its milk? I’m not saying these things just based on common sense, am I? Doesn’t the Law itself say these things? In Moses’ Law it’s written: You will not muzzle the ox when it is threshing. Is God worried about oxen, or did he say this entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake because the one who plows and the one who threshes should each do so with the hope of sharing the produce. If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it so much to ask to harvest some material things from you?

If others have these rights over you, don’t we deserve them all the more? However, we haven’t made use of this right, but we put up with everything so we don’t put any obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get to eat food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share part of what is sacrificed on the altar?In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who preach the gospel should get their living from the gospel. But I haven’t taken advantage of this. And I’m not writing this so that it will be done for me. It’s better for me to die than to lose my right to brag about this! If I preach the gospel, I have no reason to brag, since I’m obligated to do it. I’m in trouble if I don’t preach the gospel. If I do this voluntarily, I get rewarded for it. But if I’m forced to do it, then I’ve been charged with a responsibility. What reward do I get? That when I preach, I offer the good news free of charge. That’s why I don’t use the rights to which I’m entitled through the gospel.

Although I’m free from all people, I make myself a slave to all people, to recruit more of them. I act like a Jew to the Jews, so I can recruit Jews. I act like I’m under the Law to those under the Law, so I can recruit those who are under the Law (though I myself am not under the Law). I act like I’m outside the Law to those who are outside the Law, so I can recruit those outside the Law (though I’m not outside the law of God but rather under the law of Christ). I act weak to the weak, so I can recruit the weak. I have become all things to all people, so I could save some by all possible means. All the things I do are for the sake of the gospel, so I can be a partner with it.

Don’t you know that all the runners in the stadium run, but only one gets the prize? So run to win. Everyone who competes practices self-discipline in everything. The runners do this to get a crown of leaves that shrivel up and die, but we do it to receive a crown that never dies. So now this is how I run—not without a clear goal in sight. I fight like a boxer in the ring, not like someone who is shadowboxing. Rather, I’m landing punches on my own body and subduing it like a slave. I do this to be sure that I myself won’t be disqualified after preaching to others.

August 25 - I Corinthians Chapter 8

This chapter is another answer to a question the Corinthians asked Paul about sacrifices to different gods. Paul emphasizes that our conscience is what mattes. For different people actions can vary - because of their knowledge and because of their conscience. Conscience is the voice of the Spirit in us. The more we are aware of our conscience, of our internal voice, the easier it will be for us to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, which will come in the same way inside us.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Now concerning meat that has been sacrificed to a false god: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes people arrogant, but love builds people up. If anyone thinks they know something, they don’t yet know as much as they should know. But if someone loves God, then they are known by God.

So concerning the actual food involved in these sacrifices to false gods, we know that a false god isn’t anything in this world, and that there is no God except for the one God. Granted, there are so-called “gods,” in heaven and on the earth, as there are many gods and many lords. However, for us believers,

There is one God the Father.

        All things come from him, and we belong to him.

And there is one Lord Jesus Christ.

        All things exist through him, and we live through him.

But not everybody knows this. Some are eating this food as though it really is food sacrificed to a real idol, because they were used to idol worship until now. Their conscience is weak because it has been damaged. Food won’t bring us close to God. We’re not missing out if we don’t eat, and we don’t have any advantage if we do eat. But watch out or else this freedom of yours might be a problem for those who are weak. Suppose someone sees you (the person who has knowledge) eating in an idol’s temple. Won’t the person with a weak conscience be encouraged to eat the meat sacrificed to false gods? The weak brother or sister for whom Christ died is destroyed by your knowledge. You sin against Christ if you sin against your brothers and sisters and hurt their weak consciences this way. This is why, if food causes the downfall of my brother or sister, I won’t eat meat ever again, or else I may cause my brother or sister to fall.

August 24 - I Corinthians Chapter 7

This chapter is one of those where Paul is answering a questions the Corinthians asked him. After his answer, he justifies his answer with "and I think I have God's Spirit too." Why does he say that? Because he knows the role of the Spirit is to teach us the things of God that pertain to us and our lives. Times, culture, circumstances change all the time and can be very different for different people. But God's Spirit in our hearts is the same and He can guide us to what's right for us, even if it seems very different for other people. Learn to hear to voice of the Spirit. He will answer all your questions in life.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Now, about what you wrote: “It’s good for a man not to have sex with a woman.” Each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband because of sexual immorality.The husband should meet his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should do the same for her husband. The wife doesn’t have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise, the husband doesn’t have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Don’t refuse to meet each other’s needs unless you both agree for a short period of time to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come back together again so that Satan might not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I’m saying this to give you permission; it’s not a command. I wish all people were like me, but each has a particular gift from God: one has this gift, and another has that one.

I’m telling those who are single and widows that it’s good for them to stay single like me. But if they can’t control themselves, they should get married, because it’s better to marry than to burn with passion. I’m passing on the Lord’s command to those who are married: A wife shouldn’t leave her husband, but if she does leave him, then she should stay single or be reconciled to her husband. And a man shouldn’t divorce his wife.

I’m telling everyone else (the Lord didn’t say this specifically): If a believer has a wife who doesn’t believe, and she agrees to live with him, then he shouldn’t divorce her. If a woman has a husband who doesn’t believe and he agrees to live with her, then she shouldn’t divorce him. The husband who doesn’t believe belongs to God because of his wife, and the wife who doesn’t believe belongs to God because of her husband. Otherwise, your children would be contaminated by the world, but now they are spiritually set apart. But if a spouse who doesn’t believe chooses to leave, then let them leave. The brother or sister isn’t tied down in these circumstances. God has called you to peace.How do you know as a wife if you will save your husband? Or how do you know as a husband if you will save your wife?

Nevertheless, each person should live the kind of life that the Lord assigned when he called each one. This is what I teach in all the churches. If someone was circumcised when called, he shouldn’t try to reverse it. If someone wasn’t circumcised when he was called, he shouldn’t be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing; not being circumcised is nothing. What matters is keeping God’s commandments. Each person should stay in the situation they were in when they were called. If you were a slave when you were called, don’t let it bother you. But if you are actually able to be free, take advantage of the opportunity.Anyone who was a slave when they were called by the Lord has the status of being the Lord’s free person. In the same way, anyone who was a free person when they were called is Christ’s slave. You were bought and paid for. Don’t become slaves of people. So then, brothers and sisters, each of you should stay with God in the situation you were in when you were called.

I don’t have a command from the Lord about people who have never been married, but I’ll give you my opinion as someone you can trust because of the Lord’s mercy. So I think this advice is good because of the present crisis: Stay as you are. If you are married, don’t get a divorce. If you are divorced, don’t try to find a spouse. But if you do marry, you haven’t sinned; and if someone who hasn’t been married gets married, they haven’t sinned. But married people will have a hard time, and I’m trying to spare you that. This is what I’m saying, brothers and sisters: The time has drawn short. From now on, those who have wives should be like people who don’t have them. Those who are sad should be like people who aren’t crying. Those who are happy should be like people who aren’t happy. Those who buy something should be like people who don’t have possessions. Those who use the world should be like people who aren’t preoccupied with it, because this world in its present form is passing away.

I want you to be free from concerns. A man who isn’t married is concerned about the Lord’s concerns—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the world’s concerns—how he can please his wife. His attention is divided. A woman who isn’t married or who is a virgin is concerned about the Lord’s concerns so that she can be dedicated to God in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the world’s concerns—how she can please her husband. I’m saying this for your own advantage. It’s not to restrict you but rather to promote effective and consistent service to the Lord without distraction.

If someone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward an unmarried woman whom he knows, and if he has strong feelings and it seems like the right thing to do, he should do what he wants—he’s not sinning—they should get married. But if a man stands firm in his decision, and doesn’t feel the pressure, but has his own will under control, he does right if he decides in his own heart not to marry the woman. Therefore, the one who marries the unmarried woman does right, and the one who doesn’t get married will do even better. A woman is obligated to stay in her marriage as long as her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry whomever she wants, only it should be a believer in the Lord. But in my opinion, she will be happier if she stays the way she is. And I think that I have God’s Spirit too.

August 23 - I Corinthians Chapter 6

The part of this chapter often quoted is on sexual immorality and our body being a temple of the Holy Spirit. I've heard this so often that my default reaction is, "Oh, I know that." But as I read it today, what I saw is not emphasis on immorality, but simply emphasis on the fact that the Holy Spirit lives on the inside of me. Sometimes I feel in Christianity we are so often told what not to do and we're not told what to do or what we have. I have the Spirit of God - God's very own nature - on the inside of me. I'd like to walk daily with this knowledge. This is definitely something I need to work on.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

When someone in your assembly has a legal case against another member, do they dare to take it to court to be judged by people who aren’t just, instead of by God’s people? Or don’t you know that God’s people will judge the world? If the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to judge trivial cases? Don’t you know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary things? So then if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint people as judges who aren’t respected by the church? I’m saying this because you should be ashamed of yourselves! Isn’t there one person among you who is wise enough to pass judgment between believers?But instead, does a brother or sister have a lawsuit against another brother or sister, and do they do this in front of unbelievers? The fact that you have lawsuits against each other means that you’ve already lost your case. Why not be wronged instead? Why not be cheated? But instead you are doing wrong and cheating—and you’re doing it to your own brothers and sisters.

Don’t you know that people who are unjust won’t inherit God’s kingdom? Don’t be deceived. Those who are sexually immoral, those who worship false gods, adulterers, both participants in same-sex intercourse, thieves, the greedy, drunks, abusive people, and swindlers won’t inherit God’s kingdom. That is what some of you used to be! But you were washed clean, you were made holy to God, and you were made right with God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

I have the freedom to do anything, but not everything is helpful. I have the freedom to do anything, but I won’t be controlled by anything.Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, and yet God will do away with both. The body isn’t for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. God has raised the Lord and will raise us through his power. Don’t you know that your bodies are parts of Christ? So then, should I take parts of Christ and make them a part of someone who is sleeping around?No way! Don’t you know that anyone who is joined to someone who is sleeping around is one body with that person? The scripture says, The two will become one flesh. The one who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with him. Avoid sexual immorality! Every sin that a person can do is committed outside the body, except those who engage in sexual immorality commit sin against their own bodies. Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Don’t you know that you have the Holy Spirit from God, and you don’t belong to yourselves?You have been bought and paid for, so honor God with your body.

August 22

35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  Matthew 9:35-36

Like many of you, my heart goes out to the people of Afghanistan.   Listening to the news reports from the various networks and reading various news articles, we see that Afghanistan is in a state of chaos and confusion.   

The video of hundreds of Afghan people seeking to board a US Military Transport plane to escape terrorism from the Taliban is alarming and heartbreaking.  

Watching one news report a young Afghan said that he was afraid for his life.  Another woman spoke of how her life had changed 20 years ago but is afraid of the Taliban making them go back to some form of sharia law.  There are countless stories just like these being shared everyday in the news.  But behind each story there is a human story of fear, anxiety, worry, and helplessness.  

Matthew 9:36 tells us that when Jesus saw the crowds who were harassed and helpless and wandering around like sheep without a shepherd, he had compassion on them.   

Thought and Prayer Focus For Today:  Let us pray for the people of Afghanistan that they would be helped by Almighty God, the one who knows each person by name and is a God of Compassion. Pray for wisdom of President Biden and his administration to make wise decisions.  Deo Volente.  

--Rev. Ted Esaki

August 21

he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with hispleasure and will.”   Ephesians 1:5

Yesterday was my daughter Sherry’s “Gotcha Day”.   It was on August 20, 1998 that my wife Kazuko and I took Sherry to the Burbank City Courthouse and “officially” adopted Sherry into our hearts and lives.   Sherry has always been the joy of Kazuko and our lives and it was such a blessed day when we first met her on June 22, 1996 as a two and a half month baby.

When we brought Sherry into our lives, we didn’t say, “Sherry, because you are not ours by birth you are not going to get our whole hearts and love.”  No, as our daughter by adoption she has all the rights and privileges as if she were ours by birth.   In the same way, we are adopted into God’s family.   And with that all the rights, privileges as God’s true children.   As believers we have a wonderful inheritance in the kingdom of heaven in which we receive every spiritual blessing in heaven.    

Ephesians 1:5 tells us that before a day existed, God chose to adopt us into his own family through faith in Christ and that it gave him great pleasure.    

Thought For Today:  Reflect on what it means that we are adopted in God’s Family?   Can you think of the spiritual blessings that you received when you accepted Christ.  Take time to thank God for those blessings today.  

Today’s Prayer Focus:   Thank God that we have been adopted into His family with all the rights and blessings as His true children.   Deo Volente. 

--Rev. Ted Esaki

August 20 - I Corinthians Chapter 5

As I read this chapter, what I take away is that we celebrate Christ with honesty and truth. The Corinthians were bragging that despite all the issues in their church, they were a good church. And I see Paul saying to them - be honest about your situation. Don't be defensive or proud. To stay in communion with God, we must always we host with ourselves. What does the Spirit highlight to you as you read this chapter?

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Everyone has heard that there is sexual immorality among you. This is a type of immorality that isn’t even heard of among the Gentiles—a man is having sex with his father’s wife! And you’re proud of yourselves instead of being so upset that the one who did this thing is expelled from your community. Though I’m absent physically, I’m present in the spirit and I’ve already judged the man who did this as if I were present. When you meet together in the name of our Lord Jesus, I’ll be present in spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus. At that time we need to hand this man over to Satan to destroy his human weakness so that his spirit might be saved on the day of the Lord.

Your bragging isn’t good! Don’t you know that a tiny grain of yeast makes a whole batch of dough rise? Clean out the old yeast so you can be a new batch of dough, given that you’re supposed to be unleavened bread. Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed, so let’s celebrate the feast with the unleavened bread of honesty and truth, not with old yeast or with the yeast of evil and wickedness.

I wrote to you in my earlier letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. But I wasn’t talking about the sexually immoral people in the outside world by any means—or the greedy, or the swindlers, or people who worship false gods—otherwise, you would have to leave the world entirely! But now I’m writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls themselves “brother” or “sister” who is sexually immoral, greedy, someone who worships false gods, an abusive person, a drunk, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with anyone like this. What do I care about judging outsiders? Isn’t it your job to judge insiders? God will judge outsiders. Expel the evil one from among you!

August 19 - I Corinthians Chapter 4

People can hide their motives from others, but God knows the heart of everyone. We have to make decisions and judgements daily about situations and people around us, but here the apostle Paul tells us to wait and and not judge things too quickly. The only way for us to judge rightly is to be lead by the Holy Spirit. Ask Him today to guide you again into your decisions, especially concerning people and their motives.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

So a person should think about us this way—as servants of Christ and managers of God’s secrets. In this kind of situation, what is expected of a manager is that they prove to be faithful. I couldn’t care less if I’m judged by you or by any human court; I don’t even judge myself.I’m not aware of anything against me, but that doesn’t make me innocent, because the Lord is the one who judges me. So don’t judge anything before the right time—wait until the Lord comes. He will bring things that are hidden in the dark to light, and he will make people’s motivations public. Then there will be recognition for each person from God.

Brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit. I’ve done this so that you can learn what it means not to go beyond what has been written and so none of you will become arrogant by supporting one of us against the other. Who says that you are better than anyone else? What do you have that you didn’t receive? And if you received it, then why are you bragging as if you didn’t receive it?You’ve been filled already! You’ve become rich already! You rule like kings without us! I wish you did rule so that we could be kings with you! I suppose that God has shown that we apostles are at the end of the line. We are like prisoners sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle in the world, both to angels and to humans. We are fools for Christ, but you are wise through Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, but we are dishonored! Up to this very moment we are hungry, thirsty, wearing rags, abused, and homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are insulted, we respond with a blessing; when we are harassed, we put up with it; when our reputation is attacked, we are encouraging. We have become the scum of the earth, the waste that runs off everything, up to the present time.

I’m not writing these things to make you ashamed but to warn you, since you are my loved children. You may have ten thousand mentors in Christ, but you don’t have many fathers. I gave birth to you in Christ Jesus through the gospel, so I encourage you to follow my example. This is why I’ve sent Timothy to you; he’s my loved and trusted child in the Lord; he’ll remind you about my way of life in Christ Jesus. He’ll teach the same way as I teach everywhere in every church. Some have become arrogant as if I’m not coming to see you. But, if the Lord is willing, I’ll come to you soon. Then I won’t focus on what these arrogant people say, but I’ll find out what power they possess. God’s kingdom isn’t about words but about power.Which do you want? Should I come to you with a big stick to punish you, or with love and a gentle spirit?

August 18 - I Corinthians Chapter 3

If we were plants, it is God who makes us grow. If we were a building, it is God who builds us. We can't of ourselves do nothing. And if we fight with each other about our own rights or importance, it shows how much we don't know God, His ways and His power. This is what I get from the chapter below. Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you through it today - what is it that you hear in the text?

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Brothers and sisters, I couldn’t talk to you like spiritual people but like unspiritual people, like babies in Christ. I gave you milk to drink instead of solid food, because you weren’t up to it yet.Now you are still not up to it because you are still unspiritual. When jealousy and fighting exist between you, aren’t you unspiritual and living by human standards? When someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and someone else says, “I belong to Apollos,” aren’t you acting like people without the Spirit? After all, what is Apollos? What is Paul? They are servants who helped you to believe. Each one had a role given to them by the Lord: I planted, Apollos watered, but God made it grow. Because of this, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but the only one who is anything is God who makes it grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together, but each one will receive their own reward for their own labor. We are God’s coworkers, and you are God’s field, God’s building.

I laid a foundation like a wise master builder according to God’s grace that was given to me, but someone else is building on top of it. Each person needs to pay attention to the way they build on it. No one can lay any other foundation besides the one that is already laid, which is Jesus Christ. So, whether someone builds on top of the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, grass, or hay, each one’s work will be clearly shown. The day will make it clear, because it will be revealed with fire—the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If anyone’s work survives, they’ll get a reward. But if anyone’s work goes up in flames, they’ll lose it. However, they themselves will be saved as if they had gone through a fire. Don’t you know that you are God’s temple and God’s Spirit lives in you? If someone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person, because God’s temple is holy, which is what you are.

Don’t fool yourself. If some of you think they are worldly-wise, then they should become foolish so that they can become wise. This world’s wisdom is foolishness to God. As it’s written, He catches the wise in their cleverness. And also, The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are silly. So then, no one should brag about human beings. Everything belongs to you— Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life, death, things in the present, things in the future—everything belongs to you, but you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

August 17 - I Corinthians Chapter 2

As Paul speaks about the power of Christ and focuses the readers attention of Christ alone, there is an interesting statement about the Spirit of God - that He is here to show us what God has given us. Read the chapter carefully and think about what this means to you. Do you look at the Holy Spirit as someone who will reveal to you something God has for you?

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I didn’t come preaching God’s secrets to you like I was an expert in speech or wisdom. I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified. I stood in front of you with weakness, fear, and a lot of shaking. My message and my preaching weren’t presented with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I did this so that your faith might not depend on the wisdom of people but on the power of God.

What we say is wisdom to people who are mature. It isn’t a wisdom that comes from the present day or from today’s leaders who are being reduced to nothing. We talk about God’s wisdom, which has been hidden as a secret. God determined this wisdom in advance, before time began, for our glory. It is a wisdom that none of the present-day rulers have understood, because if they did understand it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory! But this is precisely what is written: God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being. God has revealed these things to us through the Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, including the depths of God. Who knows a person’s depths except their own spirit that lives in them? In the same way, no one has known the depths of God except God’s Spirit. We haven’t received the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit so that we can know the things given to us by God. These are the things we are talking about—not with words taught by human wisdom but with words taught by the Spirit—we are interpreting spiritual things to spiritual people.But people who are unspiritual don’t accept the things from God’s Spirit. They are foolishness to them and can’t be understood, because they can only be comprehended in a spiritual way.Spiritual people comprehend everything, but they themselves aren’t understood by anyone.Who has known the mind of the Lord, who will advise him? But we have the mind of Christ.

August 15

I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb [who is Jesus]. . . . And they cried out in a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” . . . . They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!”  Revelation 7:9-12

Last Sunday, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics came to a conclusion with the closing ceremonies of the 32nd Olympiad.   High above the Olympic stadium the Olympic flag of the 5 interlocking rings representing the five continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceana, and America flew.  

As the 206 nations entered the stadium it was another reminder that God has said that in heaven, there would be a great multitude of people that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people, and language standing before the throne in front of the Lamb of God who is Jesus Christ.

As the nations of the world gathered together for the closing ceremonies it was a glimpse that one day a great multitude from every nation will gather, not to celebrate their own countries but to fall down and worship the eternal God.   

Thought For Today:   No need to wait until we get to heaven, take time today to worship, honor and glorify the Lord.  

Today’s Prayer Focus:   Praise God for who He is.  That God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.  Deo Volente.   

--Rev. Ted Esaki

August 14

“Can a man hide himself in hiding places So I do not see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?” declares the Lord.”   Jeremiah 23:24

Watching the Tokyo Olympics last week and seeing the photo’s of Mt. Fuji, reminded me of an experience that I had in August 1980.  At that time I was doing a summer mission with JEM, The Japanese Evangelical Mission based out of Three Hills Alberta, Canada.

As my two month missionary stint came to an end, a fellow summer worker and I decided to climb Mt. Fuji.   Having climbed Mt. Whitney the highest point in the continental US, I was looking forward to climbing Mt. Fuji, the highest and most iconic site in Japan.

The day of the climb was cold, foggy and drizzly.   At best, I could only see about 10-20 feet in front of me the whole way to the top.    I can say that I climbed Mt. Fuji, but I didn’t see a thing.

In the same way, we may not be able to see God.  It may seem as though there is a mist hanging over us that keeps us from seeing God.   Jeremiah 23:24 reminds us that our God fills the heavens and the earth.   He is always there and his promise is that I will never leave you nor forsake you.    

Thought For Today:  Do you feel as though you are in a fog today?   Are you wondering where is God?   Take heart, the everlasting God is with you.

Today’s Prayer Focus:  Take time to praise God that he is omnipresent, that he is everywhere even when you can not see him.   Deo Volente.  

--Rev. Ted Esaki

August 13 - I Corinthians Chapter 1

This epistle of Paul the Apostle was written between AD 55 and 57 in Ephesus. It addresses christian life and conduct, because some men in the church at Corinth visited him to report on the condition of the Corinthian church. Also, Paul had received a letter inquiring about doctrinal and ethical matters and here he answers the questions asked of him. This letter reflects the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in our hearts, and we should live holy lives that reflect the unity, love, and holiness of God. As you read, expect to understand more about who the Spirit of God is and how He works in our lives.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

From Paul, called by God’s will to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and from Sosthenes our brother.

To God’s church that is in Corinth:

To those who have been made holy to God in Christ Jesus, who are called to be God’s people.

Together with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place—he’s their Lord and ours!

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always for you, because of God’s grace that was given to you in Christ Jesus. That is, you were made rich through him in everything: in all your communication and every kind of knowledge, in the same way that the testimony about Christ was confirmed with you. The result is that you aren’t missing any spiritual gift while you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.He will also confirm your testimony about Christ until the end so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, and you were called by him to partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now I encourage you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Agree with each other and don’t be divided into rival groups. Instead, be restored with the same mind and the same purpose. My brothers and sisters, Chloe’s people gave me some information about you, that you’re fighting with each other. What I mean is this: that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” “I belong to Apollos,” “I belong to Cephas,” “I belong to Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you, or were you baptized in Paul’s name? Thank God that I didn’t baptize any of you, except Crispus and Gaius, so that nobody can say that you were baptized in my name! Oh, I baptized the house of Stephanas too. Otherwise, I don’t know if I baptized anyone else. Christ didn’t send me to baptize but to preach the good news. And Christ didn’t send me to preach the good news with clever words so that Christ’s cross won’t be emptied of its meaning.

The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are being destroyed. But it is the power of God for those of us who are being saved. It is written in scripture: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and I will reject the intelligence of the intelligent. Where are the wise? Where are the legal experts? Where are today’s debaters? Hasn’t God made the wisdom of the world foolish? In God’s wisdom, he determined that the world wouldn’t come to know him through its wisdom. Instead, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, which is a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called—both Jews and Greeks—Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. This is because the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Look at your situation when you were called, brothers and sisters! By ordinary human standards not many were wise, not many were powerful, not many were from the upper class.But God chose what the world considers foolish to shame the wise. God chose what the world considers weak to shame the strong. And God chose what the world considers low-class and low-life—what is considered to be nothing—to reduce what is considered to be something to nothing. So no human being can brag in God’s presence. It is because of God that you are in Christ Jesus. He became wisdom from God for us. This means that he made us righteous and holy, and he delivered us. This is consistent with what was written: The one who brags should brag in the Lord!

August 12 - Romans Chapter 16

The final chapter of the letter to the church in Rome ends with a paragraph giving glory to God. But what I noticed specifically this time I read it is that it speak about what is revealed in Christ. Something that was hidden a long time in the prophets is now revealed. This reminds me of the words of Jesus that the Holy Spirit will reveal things to us. Sometimes Christians use old testament scriptures about how mysterious God's ways us to us. It is true that we can never predict how God accomplishes His plans, but those plans aren't hidden from us, they are revealed to us through His Holy Spirit that lives inside us.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

I’m introducing our sister Phoebe to you, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae. Welcome her in the Lord in a way that is worthy of God’s people, and give her whatever she needs from you, because she herself has been a sponsor of many people, myself included.

Say hello to Prisca and Aquila, my coworkers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life. I’m not the only one who thanks God for them, but all the churches of the Gentiles do the same. Also say hello to the church that meets in their house. Say hello to Epaenetus, my dear friend, who was the first convert in Asia for Christ. Say hello to Mary, who has worked very hard for you. Say hello to Andronicus and Junia, my relatives and my fellow prisoners. They are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. Say hello to Ampliatus, my dear friend in the Lord. Say hello to Urbanus, our coworker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys.Say hello to Apelles, who is tried and true in Christ. Say hello to the members of the household of Aristobulus. Say hello to my relative Herodion. Say hello to the members of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Say hello to Tryphaena and Tryphosa, who are workers for the Lord. Say hello to my dear friend Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. Say hello to Rufus, who is an outstanding believer, along with his mother and mine. Say hello to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers and sisters who are with them.Say hello to Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them. Say hello to each other with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ say hello to you.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you to watch out for people who create divisions and problems against the teaching that you learned. Keep away from them. People like that aren’t serving the Lord. They are serving their own feelings. They deceive the hearts of innocent people with smooth talk and flattery. The news of your obedience has reached everybody, so I’m happy for you. But I want you to be wise about what’s good, and innocent about what’s evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

Timothy my coworker says hello to you, and Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater, my relatives. I’m Tertius, and I’m writing this letter to you in the Lord—hello! Gaius, who is host to me and to the whole church, says hello to you. Erastus the city treasurer says hello to you, along with our brother Quartus.

May the glory be to God who can strengthen you with my good news and the message that I preach about Jesus Christ. He can strengthen you with the announcement of the secret that was kept quiet for a long time. Now that secret is revealed through what the prophets wrote. It is made known to the Gentiles in order to lead to their faithful obedience based on the command of the eternal God. May the glory be to God, who alone is wise! May the glory be to him through Jesus Christ forever! Amen.

August 11 - Romans Chapter 15

This chapter contain two places that I found that it talks about what the Holy Spirit does in and through us. It makes us acceptable and holy to God. It also gives us power to to live our lives - in Paul's case, an apostle of God to the Gentiles, the Spirit was the power behind the preaching, the signs and wonders and all the results they produced. It's easy to think that this applies only to ministry and church gifts. But I think that if God has called you to be a nurse, or a teacher, or an inventor - His Holy Spirit will supply power to you to live your daily calling. Pray before you read this chapter today and ask for revelation for you personally about these points.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

We who are powerful need to be patient with the weakness of those who don’t have power, and not please ourselves.Each of us should please our neighbors for their good in order to build them up. Christ didn’t please himself, but, as it is written, The insults of those who insulted you fell on me. Whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction so that we could have hope through endurance and through the encouragement of the scriptures. May the God of endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude toward each other, similar to Christ Jesus’ attitude. That way you can glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ together with one voice.So welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory. I’m saying that Christ became a servant of those who are circumcised for the sake of God’s truth, in order to confirm the promises given to the ancestors, and so that the Gentiles could glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,

Because of this I will confess you among the Gentiles,

    and I will sing praises to your name.

And again, it says,

Rejoice, Gentiles, with his people.

And again,

Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,

    and all the people should sing his praises.

And again, Isaiah says,

There will be a root of Jesse,

    who will also rise to rule the Gentiles.

        The Gentiles will place their hope in him.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

My brothers and sisters, I myself am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and are able to teach each other. But I’ve written to you in a sort of daring way, partly to remind you of what you already know. I’m writing to you in this way because of the grace that was given to me by God. It helps me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. I’m working as a priest of God’s gospel so that the offering of the Gentiles can be acceptable and made holy by the Holy Spirit. So in Christ Jesus I brag about things that have to do with God. I don’t dare speak about anything except what Christ has done through me to bring about the obedience of the Gentiles. He did it by what I’ve said and what I’ve done, by the power of signs and wonders, and by the power of God’s Spirit. So I’ve completed the circuit of preaching Christ’s gospel from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum. In this way, I have a goal to preach the gospel where they haven’t heard of Christ yet, so that I won’t be building on someone else’s foundation. Instead, as it’s written, Those who hadn’t been told about him will see, and those who hadn’t heard will understand.

That’s why I’ve been stopped so many times from coming to see you. But now, since I don’t have any place to work in these regions anymore, and since I’ve wanted to come to see you for many years, I’ll visit you when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while I’m passing through. And I hope you will send me on my way there, after I have first been reenergized by some time in your company.

But now I’m going to Jerusalem, to serve God’s people. Macedonia and Achaia have been happy to make a contribution for the poor among God’s people in Jerusalem. They were happy to do this, and they are actually in debt to God’s people in Jerusalem. If the Gentiles got a share of the Jewish people’s spiritual resources, they ought to minister to them with material resources. So then after I have finished this job and have safely delivered the final amount of the Gentiles’ offering to them, I will leave for Spain, visiting you on the way. And I know that when I come to you I will come with the fullest blessing of Christ.

Brothers and sisters, I urge you, through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggles in your prayers to God for me. Pray that I will be rescued from the people in Judea who don’t believe. Also, pray that my service for Jerusalem will be acceptable to God’s people there so that I can come to you with joy by God’s will and be reenergized with your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

August 10 - Romans Chapter 14

This chapter again contains a lot of practical advice on how to live as a Christian. Yet Paul sums up living in Christ by this: God’s kingdom isn’t about eating food and drinking but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is again our guide into all the things of God - into His Kingdom, into living in the Kingdom on a daily basis. Let that become a consistent thought and expectation in you as you live your Christian life - seeking the voice of the Spirit in every situation.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Welcome the person who is weak in faith—but not in order to argue about differences of opinion. One person believes in eating everything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Those who eat must not look down on the ones who don’t, and the ones who don’t eat must not judge the ones who do, because God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servants? They stand or fall before their own Lord (and they will stand, because the Lord has the power to make them stand). One person considers some days to be more sacred than others, while another person considers all days to be the same. Each person must have their own convictions. Someone who thinks that a day is sacred, thinks that way for the Lord. Those who eat, eat for the Lord, because they thank God. And those who don’t eat, don’t eat for the Lord, and they thank the Lord too. We don’t live for ourselves and we don’t die for ourselves. If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to God. This is why Christ died and lived: so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.But why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you look down on your brother or sister? We all will stand in front of the judgment seat of God. Because it is written,

As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to me,

    and every tongue will give praise to God.

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

So stop judging each other. Instead, this is what you should decide: never put a stumbling block or obstacle in the way of your brother or sister. I know and I’m convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is wrong to eat in itself. But if someone thinks something is wrong to eat, it becomes wrong for that person. If your brother or sister is upset by your food, you are no longer walking in love. Don’t let your food destroy someone for whom Christ died. And don’t let something you consider to be good be criticized as wrong. God’s kingdom isn’t about eating food and drinking but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever serves Christ this way pleases God and gets human approval.

So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up. Don’t destroy what God has done because of food. All food is acceptable, but it’s a bad thing if it trips someone else. It’s a good thing not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything that trips your brother or sister. Keep the belief that you have to yourself—it’s between you and God. People are blessed who don’t convict themselves by the things they approve. But those who have doubts are convicted if they go ahead and eat, because they aren’t acting on the basis of faith. Everything that isn’t based on faith is sin.

August 9 - Romans Chapter 13

In this chapter, the apostle Paul gives us a lot of practical advice on how to live our daily lives. It is one big reminder to love our neighbor and to love our brothers and sisters in Christ. There's no better guide for this than the Spirit of God who is the Spirit of Love.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Every person should place themselves under the authority of the government. There isn’t any authority unless it comes from God, and the authorities that are there have been put in place by God. So anyone who opposes the authority is standing against what God has established. People who take this kind of stand will get punished. The authorities don’t frighten people who are doing the right thing. Rather, they frighten people who are doing wrong. Would you rather not be afraid of authority? Do what’s right, and you will receive its approval. It is God’s servant given for your benefit. But if you do what’s wrong, be afraid because it doesn’t have weapons to enforce the law for nothing. It is God’s servant put in place to carry out his punishment on those who do what is wrong.That is why it is necessary to place yourself under the government’s authority, not only to avoid God’s punishment but also for the sake of your conscience. You should also pay taxes for the same reason, because the authorities are God’s assistants, concerned with this very thing. So pay everyone what you owe them. Pay the taxes you owe, pay the duties you are charged, give respect to those you should respect, and honor those you should honor.

Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. The commandments, Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have, and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: You must love your neighbor as yourself. Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is what fulfills the Law.

As you do all this, you know what time it is. The hour has already come for you to wake up from your sleep. Now our salvation is nearer than when we first had faith. The night is almost over, and the day is near. So let’s get rid of the actions that belong to the darkness and put on the weapons of light. Let’s behave appropriately as people who live in the day, not in partying and getting drunk, not in sleeping around and obscene behavior, not in fighting and obsession. Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t plan to indulge your selfish desires.

August 8

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”  I Timothy 4:7-8

As the 32nd Olympiad comes to a conclusion today, it has been inspiring to watch over 11,000 Athletes from 206 countries doing their best to compete in their chosen discipline and honor their nations.    Just to make the Olympic team is a major accomplishment and for most, a life-time dream come true.   

In I Timothy 4:7, the apostle Paul speaks of the Christian life being a race.   In Acts 20:24 Paul said,  “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” 

As Christians, we have a finish line, heaven. We want to run in such a way to obtain the prize, eternal life with Jesus Christ. What do we need to do ensure we cross that finish line? Paul’s mentality was to run the race and to capture the prize. He wouldn’t allow anything to distract him from what he was supposed to do. He cast off all things that hindered him so he could run strong.

Paul stayed focused by constantly seeking the face of God and serving others. These two principles consumed him and filled his heart with purpose and passion. He tells us that is it more blessed to give than to receive. Helping the weak, working hard, and looking out for others filled his heart. 

Thought For Today:  Do you live with the finish line in mind? Do you want to finish the race? It’s so easy to live with a temporary mindset. What’s going on right now? What do I need to do?   Are you making your daily decisions based on how it will affect your long term outcome?  

Today’s Prayer Focus:   Pray that God will strengthen you and enable you to finish your race in a way that is pleasing and acceptable to God.  Deo Volente. 

--Rev. Ted Esaki

August 7

[7] Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. [8] For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”   I Timothy 4:7-8

Have you been enjoying the 32nd Olympiad from Tokyo, Japan.   I love the human interest stories behind each athlete.   Especially those who are Christians and use their Olympic platform to speak about Jesus.   These Olympic athletes have trained for years in order to gain the opportunity to compete in the games.    

For an athlete like swimmer Caleb Dressel who won 5 Gold Medals he trains for 6 hours a day 6 days a week no matter what holiday falls on a training day. He swims approx. 50 miles a week which is about 8 miles every training day, he eats 5 meals a day and consumes 12,000 calories per day and sleeps 10 hours a day.   For all of these Olympic Athletes it takes a lot of time, commitment, dedication, and sacrifices to become a world class athlete.   

I Timothy 4:7 says, “Train yourself to be godly.”  In other words, you and I are responsible to train ourselves. We are dependent upon God for His divine enablement, but we are responsible for our own spiritual growth.  We are not to be passive in this process of becoming godly.  Nobody can train for us to be a gold medalist.     No one can put in the hours of practice for any athlete.  If they want to be on top, they have to do it for themselves.   They have to take the responsibility for their own personal training.  Likewise in the Christian life, we have to take the responsibility for our own spiritual growth.    No one can become godly for you.   No one can read the bible for you, no one can go to Bible Study for you, no one can pray for you.  No one can go to church for you.   And so, do you recognize that for you and I, we are as close to God as we choose to be?    It is our choice to be godly.   Someone once said, “If you don’t feel close to God, guess who moved.”  

Thought For Today:  Remember, godliness is not automatic.  Just as an athlete trains and disciplines their body, we must train our body spiritually.  It takes time, commitment, sacrifice to read the bible, study, pray, and serve the Lord.

Today’s Prayer Focus:  Pray that the Lord would enable you to train yourself to be godly as well as the Union Church family.   Deo Volente.

--Rev. Ted Esaki

August 5 - Romans Chapter 12

In today’s text the apostle Paul shares some very practical advice on how to live daily. Because of God’s mercy, His great salvation by faith, which Paul explained in so much detail, we are to live like children of God.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Therefore, I urge you,brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conformto the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Love must be sincere.Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love.Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

August 4 - Romans 11

God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep! They are as mysterious as his judgments, and they are as hard to track as his paths! These words are usually taken to mean that we can't understand God and His ways. Yet, Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit will be our helper and will show us things to come. God's wisdom is deep and His ways mysterious, but they are hidden from the devil and ungodly people. Yet to us, they are revealed by the Spirit, who guides us in our daily lives.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

So I ask you, has God rejected his people? Absolutely not! I’m an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin.God hasn’t rejected his people, whom he knew in advance. Or don’t you know what the scripture says in the case of Elijah, when he pleads with God against Israel?Lord, they have killed your prophets, and they have torn down your altars. I’m the only one left, and they are trying to take my life. But what is God’s reply to him? I have kept for myself seven thousand people who haven’t bowed their knees to Baal. So also in the present time there is a remaining group by the choice of God’s grace.But if it is by grace, it isn’t by what’s done anymore. If it were, God’s grace wouldn’t be grace.So what? Israel didn’t find what it was looking for. Those who were chosen found it, but the others were resistant. As it is written, God gave them a dull spirit, so that their eyes would not see and their ears not hear, right up until the present day. And David says,

Their table should become a pitfall and a trap,

    a stumbling block and payback to them for what they have done.

Their eyes should be darkened so they can’t see,

    and their backs always bent.

So I’m asking you: They haven’t stumbled so that they’ve fallen permanently, have they? Absolutely not! But salvation has come to the Gentiles by their failure, in order to make Israel jealous. But if their failure brings riches to the world, and their defeat brings riches to the Gentiles, how much more will come from the completion of their number! I’m speaking to you Gentiles. Considering that I’m an apostle to the Gentiles, I publicize my own ministry in the hope that somehow I might make my own people jealous and save some of them. If their rejection has brought about a close relationship between God and the world, how can their acceptance mean anything less than life from the dead?

But if part of a batch of dough is offered to God as holy, the whole batch of dough is holy too. If a root is holy, the branches will be holy too. If some of the branches were broken off, and you were a wild olive branch, and you were grafted in among the other branches and shared the root that produces the rich oil of the olive tree, then don’t brag like you’re better than the other branches. If you do brag, be careful: it’s not you that sustains the root, but it’s the root that sustains you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Fine. They were broken off because they weren’t faithful, but you stand only by your faithfulness.So don’t think in a proud way; instead be afraid.If God didn’t spare the natural branches, he won’t spare you either. So look at God’s kindness and harshness. It’s harshness toward those who fell, but it’s God’s kindness for you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise, you could be cut off too. And even those who were cut off will be grafted back in if they don’t continue to be unfaithful, because God is able to graft them in again. If you were naturally part of a wild olive tree and you were cut off from it, and then, contrary to nature, you were grafted into the cultivated olive tree, won’t these natural branches stand an even better chance of being grafted back onto their own olive tree?

I don’t want you to be unaware of this secret,brothers and sisters. That way you won’t think too highly of yourselves. A part of Israel has become resistant until the full number of the Gentiles comes in. In this way, all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

The deliverer will come from Zion.

    He will remove ungodly behavior from Jacob.

This is my covenant with them,

    when I take away their sins.

According to the gospel, they are enemies for your sake, but according to God’s choice, they are loved for the sake of their ancestors. God’s gifts and calling can’t be taken back. Once you were disobedient to God, but now you have mercy because they were disobedient. In the same way, they have also been disobedient because of the mercy that you received, so now they can receive mercy too. God has locked up all people in disobedience, in order to have mercy on all of them.

God’s riches, wisdom, and knowledge are so deep! They are as mysterious as his judgments, and they are as hard to track as his paths!

Who has known the Lord’s mind?

    Or who has been his mentor?

Or who has given him a gift

    and has been paid back by him?

All things are from him and through him and for him.

    May the glory be to him forever. Amen.

August 3 - Romans Chapter 10

Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation. The scripture says, All who have faith in him won’t be put to shame. There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved. - These words from chapter 10 are some of the foundation of the protestant faith - salvation through faith alone. As you read today, ask the Holy Spirit to refresh this knowledge in you and your assurance of salvation and everything that comes with it - we won't be put to shame.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire is for Israel’s salvation. That’s my prayer to God for them. I can vouch for them: they are enthusiastic about God. However, it isn’t informed by knowledge. They don’t submit to God’s righteousness because they don’t understand his righteousness, and they try to establish their own righteousness. Christ is the goal of the Law, which leads to righteousness for all who have faith in God.

Moses writes about the righteousness that comes from the Law: The person who does these things will live by them. But the righteousness that comes from faith talks like this: Don’t say in your heart, “Who will go up into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “Who will go down into the region below?” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart (that is, the message of faith that we preach). Because if you confess with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation. The scripture says, All who have faith in him won’t be put to shame. There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord is Lord of all, who gives richly to all who call on him. All who call on the Lord’s name will be saved.

So how can they call on someone they don’t have faith in? And how can they have faith in someone they haven’t heard of? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the good news.

But everyone hasn’t obeyed the good news. As Isaiah says, Lord, who has had faith in our message? So, faith comes from listening, but it’s listening by means of Christ’s message. But I ask you, didn’t they hear it? Definitely! Their voice has gone out into the entire earth, and their message has gone out to the corners of the inhabited world. But I ask you again, didn’t Israel understand? First, Moses says, I will make you jealous of those who aren’t a people, of a people without understanding. And Isaiah even dares to say, I was found by those who didn’t look for me; I revealed myself to those who didn’t ask for me.But he says about Israel, All day long I stretched out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.

August 2 - Romans Chapter 9

Growing up in the 1980s in socialist Bulgaria, I was taught a lot about conscience - to develop my conscience to discern how my thoughts, feelings and actions conform to the social norms and demands of my society and people around me. Biblically speaking, the conscience is the voice of our own spirit. We are a re-created spirit. And have a soul and a body. Three distinct Hebrew and Greek words are used for spirit, soul and body. In Christ we have a re-created spirit in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Look at how the apostle Paul opens this chapter of Romans: I’m speaking the truth in Christ—I’m not lying, as my conscience assures me with the Holy Spirit. He says he can recognize with own spirit - his conscience - and the Holy Spirit inside him spirit as well. This is something we can learn to recognize as well, the Holy Spirit inside us.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

I’m speaking the truth in Christ—I’m not lying, as my conscience assures me with the Holy Spirit: I have great sadness and constant pain in my heart. I wish I could be cursed, cut off from Christ if it helped my brothers and sisters, who are my flesh-and-blood relatives. They are Israelites. The adoption as God’s children, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises belong to them. The Jewish ancestors are theirs, and the Christ descended from those ancestors. He is the one who rules over all things, who is God, and who is blessed forever. Amen.

But it’s not as though God’s word has failed. Not all who are descended from Israel are part of Israel. Not all of Abraham’s children are called Abraham’s descendants, but instead your descendants will be named through Isaac. That means it isn’t the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children from the promise who are counted as descendants. The words in the promise were: A year from now I will return, and Sarah will have a son.

Not only that, but also Rebecca conceived children with one man, our ancestor Isaac. When they hadn’t been born yet and when they hadn’t yet done anything good or bad, it was shown that God’s purpose would continue because it was based on his choice. It wasn’t because of what was done but because of God’s call. This was said to her: The older child will be a slave to the younger one. As it is written, I loved Jacob, but I hated Esau.

So what are we going to say? Isn’t this unfair on God’s part? Absolutely not! He says to Moses, I’ll have mercy on whomever I choose to have mercy, and I’ll show compassion to whomever I choose to show compassion. So then, it doesn’t depend on a person’s desire or effort. It depends entirely on God, who shows mercy. Scripture says to Pharaoh, I have put you in this position for this very thing: so I can show my power in you and so that my name can be spread through the entire earth. So then, God has mercy on whomever he wants to, but he makes resistant whomever he wants to.

So you are going to say to me, “Then why does he still blame people? Who has ever resisted his will?” You are only a human being. Who do you think you are to talk back to God? Does the clay say to the potter, “Why did you make me like this?” Doesn’t the potter have the power over the clay to make one pot for special purposes and another for garbage from the same lump of clay? What if God very patiently puts up with pots made for wrath that were designed for destruction, because he wanted to show his wrath and to make his power known? What if he did this to make the wealth of his glory known toward pots made for mercy, which he prepared in advance for glory? We are the ones God has called. We don’t come only from the Jews but we also come from the Gentiles. As it says also in Hosea,

I will call “my people” those who aren’t my people,

    and the one who isn’t well loved, I will call “loved one.”

And in the place where it was said to them,

You aren’t my people,

    there they will be called “the living God’s children.”

But Isaiah cries out for Israel,

Though the number of Israel’s children will be like the sand of the sea,

    only a remaining part will be saved,

        because the Lord does what he says completely and quickly.

As Isaiah prophesied,

If the Lord of the heavenly forces had not left descendants for us,

    we would have been like Sodom,

    and we would have become like Gomorrah.

So what are we going to say? Gentiles who weren’t striving for righteousness achieved righteousness, the righteousness that comes from faith. But though Israel was striving for a Law of righteousness, they didn’t arrive. Why? It’s because they didn’t go for it by faith but they went for it as if it could be reached by doing something. They have tripped over a stumbling block. As it is written:

Look! I’m putting a stumbling block in Zion,

    which is a rock that offends people.

And the one who has faith in him will not be put to shame.

August 1

“He who honors me I will honor.”  I Samuel 2:30

One of my favorite movies is the 1981 picture of the year, “Chariots of Fire.”   The movie is based on the true story of a Scottish runner by the name of Eric Liddell who ran in the 1924 Olympic games in Sweden.    

In one scene, when Eric finds out that the trials for his 100 meter race is to be run on a Sunday, he refused to run.    He lived out the 4th commandment, “keep the Sabbath holy”.  Through the kindness of a teammate, he was given the opportunity to run the 200 Meter dash, a race he had never run before. Just before the race, an American runner, Jackson Shultz who was also a Christian, handed him a note with a quote from the Old Testament in which God says, “He who honors me, I will honor.” 1 Samuel 2:30

Eric Liddell wins the race and walks away with the gold medal. One of Liddell’s quotes is repeated in the movie as he runs this race.  “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

Thought For Today:  In your spiritual race, what do you think that it means to honor God.  Today is our Sabbath, how will you honor God today?    For what purpose did God make you?

Today’s Prayer Focus:  Pray that you may run your race honoring God and living for the purpose for which God made you.    Deo Volente.  

--Rev. Ted Esaki

July 31

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

One of the most celebrated Olympians of all time is a British sprinter by the name of Derek Redmond. Derek Redmond never won a medal, in fact he’s remembered for coming in dead last, but how he finished the race is still etched into enduring memory of the Olympics games.   

In the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona, Midway through his semifinal 400 meter race, Redmond tore his hamstring and fell to the ground in terrible pain. Rather than allow medics to carry him off the field, Redmond limped his way to the finish line supported by his father. A crowd of over 65,000 spectators gave him a standing ovation.

How we finish the race is vastly more important than winning it. As Christians, we need to live every day as if it’s our last because we never know when our last day will come.   Will you be remembered as someone who showed God’s love, compassion, and mercy?   

Thought For Today:   It is not how we start the race but how we finish.   How are you running your Christian race?    Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and run to the finish.  

Today’s Prayer Focus:   Pray that our church family will run a great race.  Deo Volente. 

--Rev. Ted Esaki


July 30 - Romans Chapter 8

For me this is one of the most amazing chapter in the Bible. For us, who has accepted the rightness of Jesus, there's no condemnation - there's no guilty verdict for sin! All we have is life. We have it the moment we accept Jesus and we have it for eternity. Life here on earth and life after we leave our body. Honestly, I know I come far short of the knowledge of all it really entails to live in this God-kind-of-life. What does it mean to be glorified? To be just like Jesus? To have the nature of the Father Himself? These are also things the Holy Spirit can teach us in our daily life.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

So now there isn’t any condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. God has done what was impossible for the Law, since it was weak because of selfishness. God condemned sin in the body by sending his own Son to deal with sin in the same body as humans, who are controlled by sin. He did this so that the righteous requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us. Now the way we live is based on the Spirit, not based on selfishness. People whose lives are based on selfishness think about selfish things, but people whose lives are based on the Spirit think about things that are related to the Spirit. The attitude that comes from selfishness leads to death, but the attitude that comes from the Spirit leads to life and peace. So the attitude that comes from selfishness is hostile to God. It doesn’t submit to God’s Law, because it can’t.People who are self-centered aren’t able to please God.

But you aren’t self-centered. Instead you are in the Spirit, if in fact God’s Spirit lives in you. If anyone doesn’t have the Spirit of Christ, they don’t belong to him. If Christ is in you, the Spirit is your life because of God’s righteousness, but the body is dead because of sin. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your human bodies also, through his Spirit that lives in you.

So then, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation, but it isn’t an obligation to ourselves to live our lives on the basis of selfishness. If you live on the basis of selfishness, you are going to die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the actions of the body, you will live. All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him.

I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labor pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.

In the same way, the Spirit comes to help our weakness. We don’t know what we should pray, but the Spirit himself pleads our case with unexpressed groans. The one who searches hearts knows how the Spirit thinks, because he pleads for the saints, consistent with God’s will. We know that God works all things together for good for the ones who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose. We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters. Those who God decided in advance would be conformed to his Son, he also called. Those whom he called, he also made righteous. Those whom he made righteous, he also glorified.

So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him?

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them. Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us.

Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

We are being put to death all day long for your sake.

    We are treated like sheep for slaughter.

But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powersor height or depth, or any other thing that is created.

July 29 - Romans Chapter 7

Even in the most difficult and confusing passages, we can receive wisdom from the Lord when the Spirit speaks to us. I find that I may not understand many things in the Bible, but I can find a little something in there that speaks to me for my current moment and situation. One of the things I've learned in this passage is that there's no middle position for a human being. We can either be a slave to sin, or a slave to God and righteousness. And if we accept Jesus as Lord, as are accepted by God as innocent of all sin. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how you can apply this to your daily life and give you confidence before God in your prayers.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Brothers and sisters, I’m talking to you as people who know the Law. Don’t you know that the Law has power over someone only as long as he or she lives? A married woman is united with her husband under the Law while he is alive. But if her husband dies, she is released from the Law concerning her husband. So then, if she lives with another man while her husband is alive, she’s committing adultery. But if her husband dies, she’s free from the Law, so she won’t be committing adultery if she marries someone else. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you also died with respect to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you could be united with someone else. You are united with the one who was raised from the dead so that we can bear fruit for God. When we were self-centered, the sinful passions aroused through the Law were at work in all the parts of our body, so that we bore fruit for death. But now we have been released from the Law. We have died with respect to the thing that controlled us, so that we can be slaves in the new life under the Spirit, not in the old life under the written Law.

So what are we going to say? That the Law is sin? Absolutely not! But I wouldn’t have known sin except through the Law. I wouldn’t have known the desire for what others have if the Law had not said, Don’t desire to take what others have. But sin seized the opportunity and used this commandment to produce all kinds of desires in me. Sin is dead without the Law. I used to be alive without the Law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life, and I died. So the commandment that was intended to give life brought death. Sin seized the opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and killed me. So the Law itself is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good.

So did something good bring death to me? Absolutely not! But sin caused my death through something good so that sin would be exposed as sin. That way sin would become even more thoroughly sinful through the commandment. We know that the Law is spiritual, but I’m made of flesh and blood, and I’m sold as a slave to sin. I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t do what I want to do. Instead, I do the thing that I hate. But if I’m doing the thing that I don’t want to do, I’m agreeing that the Law is right. But now I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it’s sin that lives in me. I know that good doesn’t live in me—that is, in my body. The desire to do good is inside of me, but I can’t do it. I don’t do the good that I want to do, but I do the evil that I don’t want to do. But if I do the very thing that I don’t want to do, then I’m not the one doing it anymore. Instead, it is sin that lives in me that is doing it.

So I find that, as a rule, when I want to do what is good, evil is right there with me. I gladly agree with the Law on the inside, but I see a different law at work in my body. It wages a war against the law of my mind and takes me prisoner with the law of sin that is in my body. I’m a miserable human being. Who will deliver me from this dead corpse? Thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then I’m a slave to God’s Law in my mind, but I’m a slave to sin’s law in my body.

July 28 - Romans Chapter 6

In this text Paul continues to explain what it means to be right with God. Sin has no control over us any more. We can choose to do it, but God doesn't see us as sinners. He sees us as His innocent children because of the death of Jesus. So Paul tells us - do not sin; the Father doesn't see you as a sinner, so just imitate Him as a child who loves His Father and imitates Him. Be confident that the Holy Spirit will reveal new things to you about how to be right with God and avoid sin.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

So what are we going to say? Should we continue sinning so grace will multiply? Absolutely not! All of us died to sin. How can we still live in it? Or don’t you know that all who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we were buried together with him through baptism into his death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too can walk in newness of life. If we were united together in a death like his, we will also be united together in a resurrection like his. This is what we know: the person that we used to be was crucified with him in order to get rid of the corpse that had been controlled by sin. That way we wouldn’t be slaves to sin anymore,because a person who has died has been freed from sin’s power. But if we died with Christ, we have faith that we will also live with him. We know that Christ has been raised from the dead and he will never die again. Death no longer has power over him. He died to sin once and for all with his death, but he lives for God with his life. In the same way, you also should consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

So then, don’t let sin rule your body, so that you do what it wants. Don’t offer parts of your body to sin, to be used as weapons to do wrong. Instead, present yourselves to God as people who have been brought back to life from the dead, and offer all the parts of your body to God to be used as weapons to do right.Sin will have no power over you, because you aren’t under Law but under grace.

So what? Should we sin because we aren’t under Law but under grace? Absolutely not! Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, that you are slaves of the one whom you obey? That’s true whether you serve as slaves of sin, which leads to death, or as slaves of the kind of obedience that leads to righteousness. But thank God that although you used to be slaves of sin, you gave wholehearted obedience to the teaching that was handed down to you, which provides a pattern. Now that you have been set free from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness. (I’m speaking with ordinary metaphors because of your limitations.) Once, you offered the parts of your body to be used as slaves to impurity and to lawless behavior that leads to still more lawless behavior. Now, you should present the parts of your body as slaves to righteousness, which makes your lives holy. When you were slaves of sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What consequences did you get from doing things that you are now ashamed of? The outcome of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves to God, you have the consequence of a holy life, and the outcome is eternal life. The wages that sin pays are death, but God’s gift is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

July 27 - Romans Chapter 5

Understanding the Lord comes in the heart, not in the head - not in accumulating knowledge of facts and in logical thinking. Notice the end of the 1st paragraph of this chapter: the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Knowing God is being like Him, allowing Him to transform us - our internal character - into His own - the character of love. That's one of the things the Holy Spirit in us does. Add this to your prayer and expect to see how the Lord transforms you over time.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

Therefore, since we have been made righteous through his faithfulness, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have access by faith into this grace in which we stand through him, and we boast in the hope of God’s glory. But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance,endurance produces character, and character produces hope. This hope doesn’t put us to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

While we were still weak, at the right moment, Christ died for ungodly people. It isn’t often that someone will die for a righteous person, though maybe someone might dare to die for a good person. But God shows his love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. So, now that we have been made righteous by his blood, we can be even more certain that we will be saved from God’s wrath through him. If we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son while we were still enemies, now that we have been reconciled, how much more certain is it that we will be saved by his life? And not only that: we even take pride in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, the one through whom we now have a restored relationship with God.

Just as through one human being sin came into the world, and death came through sin, so death has come to everyone, since everyone has sinned. Although sin was in the world, since there was no Law, it wasn’t taken into account until the Law came. But death ruled from Adam until Moses, even over those who didn’t sin in the same way Adam did—Adam was a type of the one who was coming.

But the free gift of Christ isn’t like Adam’s failure. If many people died through what one person did wrong, God’s grace is multiplied even more for many people with the gift—of the one person Jesus Christ—that comes through grace. The gift isn’t like the consequences of one person’s sin. The judgment that came from one person’s sin led to punishment, but the free gift that came out of many failures led to the verdict of acquittal. If death ruled because of one person’s failure, those who receive the multiplied grace and the gift of righteousness will even more certainly rule in life through the one person Jesus Christ.

So now the righteous requirements necessary for life are met for everyone through the righteous act of one person, just as judgment fell on everyone through the failure of one person.Many people were made righteous through the obedience of one person, just as many people were made sinners through the disobedience of one person. The Law stepped in to amplify the failure, but where sin increased, grace multiplied even more. The result is that grace will rule through God’s righteousness, leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, just as sin ruled in death.

July 26 - Romans Chapter 4

In my walk as a Christian believer, I think understanding righteousness (which is an old-fashioned King James English way of saying being right and innocent) is one of the most important things a believer can know. When we accept the sacrifice of Jesus, we are credited as being right - or innocent before God of any sin. We can still sin, but we are not sinners. Sinners are separated from God. Right people are in union with God and His spirit. Jesus' blood cleanses us from all sin. If we sin without knowing, the blood cleanses us. If we sin knowingly, we must repent, and Jesus' blood cleanses us again. Yet we are still God's children, righteous, right with Him, and not sinners, not people who will stand judgement before Him.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

So what are we going to say? Are we going to find that Abraham is our ancestor on the basis of genealogy?Because if Abraham was made righteous because of his actions, he would have had a reason to brag, but not in front of God. What does the scripture say? Abraham had faith in God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Workers’ salaries aren’t credited to them on the basis of an employer’s grace but rather on the basis of what they deserve. But faith is credited as righteousness to those who don’t work, because they have faith in God who makes the ungodly righteous. In the same way, David also pronounces a blessing on the person to whom God credits righteousness apart from actions:

Happy are those whose actions outside the Law are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.

Happy are those whose sin isn’t counted against them by the Lord.

Is this state of happiness only for the circumcised or is it also for those who aren’t circumcised? We say, “Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness.” So how was it credited? When he was circumcised, or when he wasn’t circumcised? In fact, it was credited while he still wasn’t circumcised, not after he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that comes from the faith he had while he still wasn’t circumcised. It happened this way so that Abraham could be the ancestor of all those people who aren’t circumcised, who have faith in God, and so are counted as righteous. He could also be the ancestor of those circumcised people, who aren’t only circumcised but who also walk in the path of faith, like our ancestor Abraham did while he wasn’t circumcised.

The promise to Abraham and to his descendants, that he would inherit the world, didn’t come through the Law but through the righteousness that comes from faith. If they inherit because of the Law, then faith has no effect and the promise has been canceled. The Law brings about wrath. But when there isn’t any law, there isn’t any violation of the law.That’s why the inheritance comes through faith, so that it will be on the basis of God’s grace. In that way, the promise is secure for all of Abraham’s descendants, not just for those who are related by Law but also for those who are related by the faith of Abraham, who is the father of all of us. As it is written: I have appointed you to be the father of many nations. So Abraham is our father in the eyes of God in whom he had faith, the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that don’t exist into existence. When it was beyond hope, he had faith in the hope that he would become the father of many nations, in keeping with the promise God spoke to him: That’s how many descendants you will have.Without losing faith, Abraham, who was nearly 100 years old, took into account his own body, which was as good as dead, and Sarah’s womb, which was dead. He didn’t hesitate with a lack of faith in God’s promise, but he grew strong in faith and gave glory to God. He was fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised. Therefore, it was credited to him as righteousness.

But the scripture that says it was credited to him wasn’t written only for Abraham’s sake. It was written also for our sake, because it is going to be credited to us too. It will be credited to those of us who have faith in the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over because of our mistakes, and he was raised to meet the requirements of righteousness for us.

July 25

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” I Timothy 4:7-8


As the Olympic games have just begun, one of the comments that I have heard from several athletes is: “I have been training my whole life for the Olympics.” 


In I Timothy 4:7-8, when the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to “Exercise” himself towards godliness he used the root of the English word “Gymnasium.” This word was familiar to Timothybecause every important city in the Roman world had at least one gymnasium. These were centers of physical training as well as centers for discussions, learning, and the arts.

Paul used this reference to help Timothy think about how our bodies develop through diet and exercise. To grow properly, our minds, muscles, and bones need to be used properly and often.

The same principles are true in our spiritual lives. We constantly need to grow and develop spiritually. As Christians, we are born again when we accept Jesus as Savior. So as new believers, we are like babies and need to grow and keep growing.

As Christians, we must remember that it is essential that we mature and become disciplined about our faith. In the same way that athletes exercise to get in shape, we must exercise ourselves spiritually. This means studying the Bible, applying Biblical principles, praying, and sharing the Gospel.

Thought For Today:  No matter how long you have been a Christian, make it a priority to grow in your faith. Don’t be content with where you are spiritually but seek to become more like Christ and exercise yourself toward godliness.

Today’ Prayer Focus: Pray that the Olympic games will be a reminder to exercise spiritually and that you will grow in godliness Deo Volente. 

—Rev. Ted Esaki

July 24

Daily Devotion For July 24, 2021


“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16


Yesterday was the opening of the XXXII Olympics in Tokyo Japan. Although it is 2021, the Olympics retains the name Tokyo 2020 for marketing and branding purposes.  


It is estimated that there will be 11,238 athletes from 205 nations. Several months ago, I received letters from a number of different Christian ministries asking me to donate to their mission. Their hope, desire and prayer is to send missionaries to Japan who will be able to share the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people of Japan as well as those who are traveling to Japan for the games.


From August of 1983 to July of 1986 I had the opportunity to serve with the Overseas Missionary Fellowship in Japan. Most of that time was spent on the northern most island of Hokkaido in the city of Sapporo.  The Christian population of Japan is estimated to be less that 1%. It is a nation that is in desperate need of hearing the Gospel.


During these Olympic Games, pray for the nation of Japan that through the efforts of the local churches, missionaries and mission organizations that a clear presentation of the gospel will be made and that many will come to a saving knowledge of Christ. 


Thought For Today:  What does it mean that God so loved the world? What were the circumstances that led you to believe in Jesus?   


Today’s Prayer Focus: Pray that the hearts of the Japanese and people from around the world will have the opportunity to hear the Good News of the Gospel and respond to Christ. Deo Volente. 

—Rev. Ted Esaki

July 21 - Romans 3

In this chapter begins the great explanation of righteousness that Martin Luther brought back to Christianity after being forgotten for many years. It is still a contentious subject - that we are right with God. Please read these next chapters and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you what it means for you personally to be right with God.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

So what’s the advantage of being a Jew? Or what’s the benefit of circumcision? Plenty in every way. First of all, the Jews were trusted with God’s revelations. What does it matter, then, if some weren’t faithful? Their lack of faith won’t cancel God’s faithfulness, will it? Absolutely not! God must be true, even if every human being is a liar, as it is written:

So that it can show that you are right in your words;

    and you will triumph when you are judged.

But if our lack of righteousness confirms God’s justice, what will we say? That God, who brings wrath upon us, isn’t just (I’m speaking rhetorically)? Absolutely not! If God weren’t just, how could he judge the world? But if God’s truth is demonstrated by my lie and it increases his glory, why am I still judged as a sinner? Why not say, “Let’s do evil things so that good things will come out of it”? (Some people who slander us accuse us of saying that, but these people deserve criticism.)

So what are we saying? Are we better off? Not at all. We have already stated the charge: both Jews and Greeks are all under the power of sin. As it is written,

There is no righteous person, not even one.

There is no one who understands.

    There is no one who looks for God.

They all turned away.

    They have become worthless together.

There is no one who shows kindness.

    There is not even one.

Their throat is a grave that has been opened.

    They are deceitful with their tongues,

        and the poison of vipers is under their lips.

    Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.

Their feet are quick to shed blood;

        destruction and misery are in their ways;

        and they don’t know the way of peace.

There is no fear of God in their view of the world.

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, in order to shut every mouth and make it so the whole world has to answer to God. It follows that no human being will be treated as righteous in his presence by doing what the Law says, because the knowledge of sin comes through the Law.

But now God’s righteousness has been revealed apart from the Law, which is confirmed by the Law and the Prophets.God’s righteousness comes through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who have faith in him. There’s no distinction. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, but all are treated as righteous freely by his grace because of a ransom that was paid by Christ Jesus. Through his faithfulness, God displayed Jesus as the place of sacrifice where mercy is found by means of his blood. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness in passing over sins that happened before,during the time of God’s patient tolerance. He also did this to demonstrate that he is righteous in the present time, and to treat the one who has faith in Jesus as righteous.

What happens to our bragging? It’s thrown out. With which law? With what we have accomplished under the Law? No, not at all, but through the law of faith. We consider that a person is treated as righteous by faith, apart from what is accomplished under the Law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Isn’t God the God of Gentiles also? Yes, God is also the God of Gentiles. Since God is one, then the one who makes the circumcised righteous by faith will also make the one who isn’t circumcised righteous through faith. Do we then cancel the Law through this faith? Absolutely not! Instead, we confirm the Law.

July 20 - Romans 2

I find some difficult passages in the chapter below. When that happens, I've learned not to guess or assume I know the answers, and not try to come up with the answer. I was taught and I believe that's the best approach when we don't understand something in the Bible, is to simply say to the Father - "Lord, I don't understand this, please teach me how that applies to me." And then let it rest. The Holy Spirit knows His job how to teach you. Sometimes that can take some time, because we simply don't know enough to understand many things in the scriptures. But don't be discouraged, He will teach you in due time.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

So every single one of you who judge others is without any excuse. You condemn yourself when you judge another person because the one who is judging is doing the same things. We know that God’s judgment agrees with the truth, and his judgment is against those who do these kinds of things.If you judge those who do these kinds of things while you do the same things yourself, think about this: Do you believe that you will escape God’s judgment?Or do you have contempt for the riches of God’s generosity, tolerance, and patience? Don’t you realize that God’s kindness is supposed to lead you to change your heart and life? You are storing up wrath for yourself because of your stubbornness and your heart that refuses to change. God’s just judgment will be revealed on the day of wrath.God will repay everyone based on their works. On the one hand, he will give eternal life to those who look for glory, honor, and immortality based on their patient good work. But on the other hand, there will be wrath and anger for those who obey wickedness instead of the truth because they are acting out of selfishness and disobedience. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. But there will be glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does what is good, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. God does not have favorites. Those who have sinned outside the Law will also die outside the Law, and those who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law. It isn’t the ones who hear the Law who are righteous in God’s eyes. It is the ones who do what the Law says who will be treated as righteous. Gentiles don’t have the Law. But when they instinctively do what the Law requires they are a Law in themselves, though they don’t have the Law. They show the proof of the Law written on their hearts, and their consciences affirm it. Their conflicting thoughts will accuse them, or even make a defense for them,on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the hidden truth about human beings through Christ Jesus.


if you call yourself a Jew;

if you rely on the Law;

if you brag about your relationship to God;

if you know the will of God;

if you are taught by the Law so that you can figure out the things that really matter;

if you have persuaded yourself that you are:

        a guide for the blind;

        a light to those who are in darkness;

        an educator of the foolish;

        a teacher of infants (since you have the full content of knowledge and truth in the Law);

then why don’t you who are teaching others teach yourself?

If you preach, “No stealing,” do you steal?

If you say, “No adultery,” do you commit adultery?

If you hate idols, do you rob temples?

If you brag about the Law, do you shame God by breaking the Law? As it is written: The name of God is discredited by the Gentiles because of you.

Circumcision is an advantage if you do what the Law says. But if you are a person who breaks the Law, your status of being circumcised has changed into not being circumcised.So if the person who isn’t circumcised keeps the Law, won’t his status of not being circumcised be counted as if he were circumcised? The one who isn’t physically circumcised but keeps the Law will judge you. You became a lawbreaker after you had the written Law and circumcision. It isn’t the Jew who maintains outward appearances who will receive praise from God, and it isn’t people who are outwardly circumcised on their bodies. Instead, it is the person who is a Jew inside, who is circumcised in spirit, not literally. That person’s praise doesn’t come from people but from God.

July 19 - Romans 1

Today we begin the epistles of Paul to the church. Romans is a very important one, where a lot of the protestant theology of salvation comes from. As we read, we will focus on hearing from the Holy Spirit, which is our theme this year. Even when there's nothing specific in the text about the Holy Spirit, I find interesting in this chapter how God makes plain to us His reality and His existence. He is God who reaches out to people. But people can reject Him and His truth. It is important to be able to be honest with ourselves - are we willing to hear from God whatever He tells us, or do we just want to hear what we like.

As always, in learning to discern the voice of the Spirit, use these questions as a guide:

  1. Is there anything that stands out to you in this passage?
  2. Did you notice anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
  3. Does any text bring thoughts that relate to something you are currently dealing with?

From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for God’s good news. God promised this good news about his Son ahead of time through his prophets in the holy scriptures. His Son was descended from David. He was publicly identified as God’s Son with power through his resurrection from the dead, which was based on the Spirit of holiness. This Son is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received God’s grace and our appointment to be apostles. This was to bring all Gentiles to faithful obedience for his name’s sake. You who are called by Jesus Christ are also included among these Gentiles.

To those in Rome who are dearly loved by God and called to be God’s people.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First of all, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because the news about your faithfulness is being spread throughout the whole world. I serve God in my spirit by preaching the good news about God’s Son, and God is my witness that I continually mention you in all my prayers. I’m always asking that somehow, by God’s will, I might succeed in visiting you at last. I really want to see you to pass along some spiritual gift to you so that you can be strengthened.What I mean is that we can mutually encourage each other while I am with you. We can be encouraged by the faithfulness we find in each other, both your faithfulness and mine.

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that I planned to visit you many times, although I have been prevented from coming until now. I want to harvest some fruit among you, just as I have done among the other Gentiles. I have a responsibility both to Greeks and to those who don’t speak Greek, both to the wise and to the foolish.

That’s why I’m ready to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome. I’m not ashamed of the gospel: it is God’s own power for salvation to all who have faith in God, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. God’s righteousness is being revealed in the gospel, from faithfulness for faith, as it is written, The righteous person will live by faith.

God’s wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodly behavior and the injustice of human beings who silence the truth with injustice. This is because what is known about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse. Although they knew God, they didn’t honor God as God or thank him. Instead, their reasoning became pointless, and their foolish hearts were darkened.While they were claiming to be wise, they made fools of themselves. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images that look like mortal humans: birds, animals, and reptiles. So God abandoned them to their hearts’ desires, which led to the moral corruption of degrading their own bodies with each other. They traded God’s truth for a lie, and they worshipped and served the creation instead of the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

That’s why God abandoned them to degrading lust. Their females traded natural sexual relations for unnatural sexual relations. Also, in the same way, the males traded natural sexual relations with females, and burned with lust for each other. Males performed shameful actions with males, and they were paid back with the penalty they deserved for their mistake in their own bodies. Since they didn’t think it was worthwhile to acknowledge God, God abandoned them to a defective mind to do inappropriate things. So they were filled with all injustice, wicked behavior, greed, and evil behavior. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deception, and malice. They are gossips, they slander people, and they hate God. They are rude and proud, and they brag. They invent ways to be evil, and they are disobedient to their parents.They are without understanding, disloyal, without affection, and without mercy. Though they know God’s decision that those who persist in such practices deserve death, they not only keep doing these things but also approve others who practice them.

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