Daily Devotionals 2021 - Paul's Epistles

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

November 1, 2021 - Ephesians Chapter 2

Paul write some great and deep truths of salvation in this chapter. At the end, after explaining how God provided salvation for us, he tells us that it is by the one Spirit that we have access to the Father in Christ. The Holy Spirit is not just a companion, he actively participates in our daily life and salvation. 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?

At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.

However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

So remember that once you were Gentiles by physical descent, who were called “uncircumcised” by Jews who are physically circumcised. At that time you were without Christ. You were aliens rather than citizens of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of God’s promise. In this world you had no hope and no God. But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us. He canceled the detailed rules of the Law so that he could create one new person out of the two groups, making peace. He reconciled them both as one body to God by the cross, which ended the hostility to God.

When he came, he announced the good news of peace to you who were far away from God and to those who were near. We both have access to the Father through Christ by the one Spirit.So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household. As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. The whole building is joined together in him, and it grows up into a temple that is dedicated to the Lord. Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.

October 31, 2021

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 

Happy Halloween!!! Once again, this will be a different Halloween for many children and families.  As was last year, many children will not have the opportunity to go out tonight and “Trick Or Treat”. Halloween can be a scary night where people play tricks and dress up as monsters; it can be a time where people focus on the bad of the world instead of the good. 

As Christians we do not need to be scared just because people are acting scary. Trick-or-treating can be a fun time where people go out and collect candy from our neighbors and have fun with friends and family. We know that God is bigger than anything that is scary in this world. This doesn’t mean that life will be perfect, but it does mean that we can trust God. We do not need to walk around in fear because we have a God who loves us and cares very deeply for us and God doesn’t want us to be scared. 

Thought for Today: When you were a child, did Halloween scary you? What types of things tend to frighten or scare you? Remember that God is bigger than anything that can scare you. When frightened and scared seek God and remember how much he loves you. 

Today’s Prayer Focus: Pray that people will stay safe and protected tonight.   Cast your fears upon the Lord knowing that He cares for you. Deo Volente. 

--Rev. Ted Esaki

October 30, 2021

Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to talk with a young man who lost his wife earlier in the year.  His wife would have turned 35 years old yesterday and he is a single father of a 2 year old girl.

Maybe you have noticed in your own life that there are things in life that just don’t seem fair.    You may know people who are under pressure from stress and suffering.  Maybe it is hurt or heartache, maybe it is illness or injustice.   Maybe that person is you.   

The Bible tells us that for the Christian, suffering is not wasted.  Suffering is not an end in itself.   2 Corinthians 4:17 tells us “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”   The spiritual principle that Paul is teaching us is that in some way God uses suffering to change and transform our lives.  Maybe it is to strengthen our faith, to make us fit for His use, or that we can display His glory to the world that is watching to see how a Christian handles adversity.  As I told the young man, we don’t know the why, but we know the who and God wants to teach us to trust in Lord.     

Thought For Today:  In what ways have you seen God change and transform your life through your times of suffering?   What lessons about God did you learn from your times of suffering?

Today’s Prayer Focus:  Thank God that suffering is not wasted but that He can use your time of trials to change and transform your life.  Deo Volente.  

--Rev. Ted Esaki

October 26, 2021 - Ephesians Chapter 1

We are sealed with the Holy Spirit. He is the down payment for our inheritance. The Holy Spirit lives in us. I keep saying the same thing, but it has helped me greatly to see this fact in so many chapters in the Bible. It reinforces for me the reality of God’s spirit inside me; it becomes a conscious reality. God gave me a part of His own to live on the inside of me. The clearer I’m aware of this, the more it can change my life into God-likeness.

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, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will.

To the holy and faithful people in Christ Jesus in Ephesus.

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

Bless the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing that comes from heaven. God chose us in Christ to be holy and blameless in God’s presence before the creation of the world. God destined us to be his adopted children through Jesus Christ because of his love. This was according to his goodwill and plan and to honor his glorious grace that he has given to us freely through the Son whom he loves. We have been ransomed through his Son’s blood, and we have forgiveness for our failures based on his overflowing grace,which he poured over us with wisdom and understanding. God revealed his hidden design to us, which is according to his goodwill and the plan that he intended to accomplish through his Son. This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth.We have also received an inheritance in Christ. We were destined by the plan of God, who accomplishes everything according to his design. We are called to be an honor to God’s glory because we were the first to hope in Christ. You too heard the word of truth in Christ, which is the good news of your salvation. You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit because you believed in Christ. The Holy Spirit is the down payment on our inheritance, which is applied toward our redemption as God’s own people, resulting in the honor of God’s glory.

Since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that makes God known to you. I pray that the eyes of your heart will have enough light to see what is the hope of God’s call, what is the richness of God’s glorious inheritance among believers, and what is the overwhelming greatness of God’s power that is working among us believers. This power is conferred by the energy of God’s powerful strength.God’s power was at work in Christ when God raised him from the dead and sat him at God’s right side in the heavens, far above every ruler and authority and power and angelic power, any power that might be named not only now but in the future.God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church,which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.

October 25, 2021 - Galatians Chapter 6

The apostle Paul often finished his letters with very practical advice. Even though he doesn’t go into the deep realities of God, Jesus and the Spirit in the New Testament, he still teaches us that practical actions have eternal spiritual consequences.

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, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too. Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are important when they aren’t, they’re fooling themselves. Each person should test their own work and be happy with doing a good job and not compare themselves with others.Each person will have to carry their own load.

Those who are taught the word should share all good things with their teacher. Make no mistake, God is not mocked. A person will harvest what they plant. Those who plant only for their own benefit will harvest devastation from their selfishness, but those who plant for the benefit of the Spirit will harvest eternal life from the Spirit. Let’s not get tired of doing good, because in time we’ll have a harvest if we don’t give up. So then, let’s work for the good of all whenever we have an opportunity, and especially for those in the household of faith.

Look at the large letters I’m making with my own handwriting!Whoever wants to look good by human standards will try to get you to be circumcised, but only so they won’t be harassed for the cross of Christ. Those who are circumcised don’t observe the Law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised, so they can boast about your physical body.

But as for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. The world has been crucified to me through him, and I have been crucified to the world. Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t mean anything. What matters is a new creation. May peace and mercy be on whoever follows this rule and on God’s Israel.

From now on, no one should bother me because I bear the marks of Jesus on my body.

Brothers and sisters, may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

October 24, 2021

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sin. Colossians 1:13-14


Today Sherry and I are going to celebrate the one year anniversary since we adopted our cat Huey from the Animal Friends Rescue Project (AFRP) Yesterday we talked about how before we adopted Huey, he was an abused cat who had a number of health issues along with his siblings, Lewey and Dewey.


It is wonderful that there are organizations that are devoted to recusing and restoring the lives of abandoned dogs and cats.  There are also a number of courageous organizations that risk their lives to rescue others from child trafficking, oppression and enslavement. During World War II, Oscar Schindler rescued and saved the lives of more than 1000 Jews during the Holocaust. When I toured Jerusalem I had the opportunity to see where he was buried. What these heroes and organizations have in common is that they value lives.


As we read through scripture, God was also on a rescue mission. The apostle Paul put it this way in Colossians 1:13-14, For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” 


God so valued your life that he sent Jesus to rescue you from the powers of sin and darkness. He sent Jesus to free you from sin and death and give you a place in his kingdom. And in him, you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Because of Jesus’s death burial and resurrection, you are free, rescued from the powers that oppressed and enslaved you.  God rescued you from the powers of sin and death and set you free to experience new life in Christ.


Thought For Today:  Take time to reflect on the fact that God is on a rescue mission for all people and that He has rescued you through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus,’


Today’s Prayer Focus:  Thank God today that you have been rescued and redeemed from the power of sin and death because of your relationship with Jesus Christ.  Deo Volente. 

 —Rev. Ted Esaki

October 23, 2021

 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42


One of the great joys and blessings that I have received in my one year as Consulting Pastor at Union Church has been attending the Saturday morning Zoom prayer meeting that was initiated by Bob Bates.  Each Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m there are about 10-12 prayer warriors who unite their hearts together to life up the joys and concerns of the church before the Lord. 


Acts 2:42 teaches us that the work of the early church was a devotion to prayer. After the apostles gathered together for prayer the church began to grow in numbers as well as spiritual depth and maturity.  Although it may be hard to pray at times, we must resist the temptations of Satan not to pray. I love the quote by the 18thcentury revivalist Andrew Murray. He wrote: 


“It was a master stroke of the devil to bring the church to the point of laying aside prayer. If we give up praying the devil could care less about any structure or program that we would dare to build. As long as we don't bring in the mighty power of God through earnest persistent, believing prayer, there is very little for Satan to fear. But a church and it's people that will unite in common purpose with a foundation built on bold prayer will find an uncommon power with unbelievable results.  


Thought For Today:  What part does corporate prayer play in your spiritual life. Would you be willing to join others in times of prayer.   Please consider joining the Saturday Zoom Prayer meeting.   Remember nothing of “eternal value” happens without prayer.


Today’s Prayer Focus:  Take time to pray that God would give to Union Church a heart of earnest, persistent, believing prayer that we might see an uncommon power with unbelievable results. Deo Volente. 

—Rev. Ted Esaki

October 22, 2021 - Galatians Chapter 5

"Be guided by the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, live by the Spirit, follow the Spirit," - this is how Paul describes our relationship with the Holy Spirit in this chapter. Can you say that you are daily or regularly guided, led, live or follow the Spirit of God? This is a glorious possibility for us today, it should be our reality. If you're not sure how to do that, don't throw it away. Put it in your prayers and expect the Lord to teach 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?

Christ has set us free for freedom. Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again.

Look, I, Paul, am telling you that if you have yourselves circumcised, having Christ won’t help you. Again I swear to every man who has himself circumcised that he is required to do the whole Law. You people who are trying to be made righteous by the Law have been estranged from Christ. You have fallen away from grace! We eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness through the Spirit by faith. Being circumcised or not being circumcised doesn’t matter in Christ Jesus, but faith working through love does matter.

You were running well—who stopped you from obeying the truth? This line of reasoning doesn’t come from the one who calls you. A little yeast works through the whole lump of dough. I’m convinced about you in the Lord that you won’t think any other way. But the one who is confusing you will pay the penalty, whoever that may be. Brothers and sisters, if I’m still preaching circumcision, why am I still being harassed? In that case, the offense of the cross would be canceled. I wish that the ones who are upsetting you would castrate themselves!

You were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only don’t let this freedom be an opportunity to indulge your selfish impulses, but serve each other through love. All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!

I say be guided by the Spirit and you won’t carry out your selfish desires. A person’s selfish desires are set against the Spirit, and the Spirit is set against one’s selfish desires. They are opposed to each other, so you shouldn’t do whatever you want to do. But if you are being led by the Spirit, you aren’t under the Law. The actions that are produced by selfish motives are obvious, since they include sexual immorality, moral corruption, doing whatever feels good,idolatry, drug use and casting spells, hate, fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, conflict, selfishness, group rivalry, jealousy, drunkenness, partying, and other things like that. I warn you as I have already warned you, that those who do these kinds of things won’t inherit God’s kingdom.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against things like this. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the self with its passions and its desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit. Let’s not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other.

October 21, 2021 - Galatians Chapter 4

God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying "Abba, Father." This is what the Holy Spirit does for us. He guides us to Jesus and the Father. He tells us we are children of God. He speaks to our hearts, assuring us of our connection to the Father, our salvation, and our relationship with Him. Expect to hear from the Spirit about this.

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 saying that as long as the heirs are minors, they are no different from slaves, though they really are the owners of everything. However, they are placed under trustees and guardians until the date set by the parents. In the same way, when we were minors, we were also enslaved by this world’s system. But when the fulfillment of the time came, God sent his Son, born through a woman, and born under the Law.This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted. Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!”Therefore, you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God.

At the time, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved by things that aren’t gods by nature.But now, after knowing God (or rather, being known by God), how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless world system? Do you want to be slaves to it again? You observe religious days and months and seasons and years. I’m afraid for you! Perhaps my hard work for you has been for nothing.

I beg you to be like me, brothers and sisters, because I have become like you! You haven’t wronged me. You know that I first preached the gospel to you because of an illness. Though my poor health burdened you, you didn’t look down on me or reject me, but you welcomed me as if I were an angel from God, or as if I were Christ Jesus! Where then is the great attitude that you had? I swear that, if possible, you would have dug out your eyes and given them to me. So then, have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? They are so concerned about you, though not with good intentions. Rather, they want to shut you out so that you would run after them. However, it’s always good to have people concerned about you with good intentions, and not just when I’m there with you. My little children, I’m going through labor pains again until Christ is formed in you. But I wish I could be with you now and change how I sound, because I’m at a loss about you.

Tell me—those of you who want to be under the Law—don’t you listen to the Law? It’s written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and one by the free woman. The son by the slave woman was conceived the normal way, but the son by the free woman was conceived through a promise. These things are an allegory: the women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, which gives birth to slave children; this is Hagar. Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and she corresponds to the present-day Jerusalem, because the city is in slavery with her children.But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. It’s written:

Rejoice, barren woman, you who have not given birth.

        Break out with a shout, you who have not suffered labor pains;

because the woman who has been deserted will have many more children

        than the woman who has a husband.

Brothers and sisters, you are children of the promise like Isaac. But just as it was then, so it is now also: the one who was conceived the normal way harassed the one who was conceived by the Spirit. But what does the scripture say? Throw out the slave woman and her son, because the slave woman’s son won’t share the inheritance with the free woman’s son. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we aren’t the slave woman’s children, but we are the free woman’s children.

October 20, 2021 - Galatians Chapter 3

Notice how real the Holy Spirit is to Paul and according to him to the entire Christian experience: the writes to the Galatians how they received the Spirit, started with the Spirit, are provided by God with the Spirit. Think about these words. What does that mean to you? As a believer, do you consider yourself one who's received the Spirit, one who is provided with the Spirit? If not, ask to Lord about it, endeavor to learn more about this area in Christian 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?

You irrational Galatians! Who put a spell on you? Jesus Christ was put on display as crucified before your eyes! I just want to know this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the Law or by believing what you heard?Are you so irrational? After you started with the Spirit, are you now finishing up with your own human effort? Did you experience so much for nothing? I wonder if it really was for nothing. So does the one providing you with the Spirit and working miracles among you do this by you doing the works of the Law or by you believing what you heard?

Understand that in the same way that Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness, those who believe are the children of Abraham. But when it saw ahead of time that God would make the Gentiles righteous on the basis of faith, scripture preached the gospel in advance to Abraham: All the Gentiles will be blessed in you. Therefore, those who believe are blessed together with Abraham who believed.

All those who rely on the works of the Law are under a curse, because it is written, Everyone is cursed who does not keep on doing all the things that have been written in the Law scroll. But since no one is made righteous by the Law as far as God is concerned, it is clear that the righteous one will live on the basis of faith. The Law isn’t based on faith; rather, the one doing these things will live by them. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us—because it is written, Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed. He redeemed us so that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, and that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Brothers and sisters, I’ll use an example from human experience. No one ignores or makes additions to a validated will. The promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. It doesn’t say, “and to the descendants,” as if referring to many rather than just one. It says, “and to your descendant,” who is Christ. I’m saying this: the Law, which came four hundred thirty years later, doesn’t invalidate the agreement that was previously validated by God so that it cancels the promise. If the inheritance were based upon the Law, it would no longer be from the promise. But God has given it graciously to Abraham through a promise.

So why was the Law given? It was added because of offenses, until the descendant would come to whom the promise had been made. It was put in place through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now the mediator does not take one side; but God is one. So, is the Law against the promises of God? Absolutely not! If a Law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would in fact have come from the Law. But scripture locked up all things under sin, so that the promise based on the faithfulness of Jesus Christ might be given to those who have faith. Before faith came, we were guarded under the Law, locked up until faith that was coming would be revealed, so that the Law became our custodian until Christ so that we might be made righteous by faith.

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian.

You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.

October 19, 2021 - Galatians Chapter 2

When Jesus spoke about the coming Holy Spirit to the disciples, He told them He will show them things to come. Here, Paul speak about how he received the gospel. He recognized Jesus in a vision, but after that for 14 years he lived away from the apostles, yet God revealed to him how to live in this new covenant. It came by revelation - to reveal is to show, to open the curtain. That's what the Holy Spirit does for us today as well. In this chapter Paul talks about how at a certain time, after receiving the knowledge of the new covenant, he went to meet with the apostles, and that was again by revelation - the Holy Spirit showed him he was to go. Don't underestimate all the ways the Spirit can speak to us today and guide us in everyday life. He knows everything there is to know and whatever we ask Him, He has the wisdom we need.

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?

Then after fourteen years I went up to Jerusalem again with Barnabas, and I took Titus along also.I went there because of a revelation, and I laid out the gospel that I preach to the Gentiles for them. But I did it privately with the influential leaders to make sure that I wouldn’t be working or that I hadn’t worked for nothing. However, not even Titus, who was with me and who was a Greek, was required to be circumcised. But false brothers and sisters, who were brought in secretly, slipped in to spy on our freedom, which we have in Christ Jesus, and to make us slaves.We didn’t give in and submit to them for a single moment, so that the truth of the gospel would continue to be with you.

The influential leaders didn’t add anything to what I was preaching—and whatever they were makes no difference to me, because God doesn’t show favoritism. But on the contrary, they saw that I had been given the responsibility to preach the gospel to the people who aren’t circumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised. The one who empowered Peter to become an apostle to the circumcised empowered me also to be one to the Gentiles. James, Cephas, and John, who are considered to be key leaders, shook hands with me and Barnabas as equals when they recognized the grace that was given to me. So it was agreed that we would go to the Gentiles, while they continue to go to the people who were circumcised. They asked only that we would remember the poor, which was certainly something I was willing to do.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was wrong. He had been eating with the Gentiles before certain people came from James. But when they came, he began to back out and separate himself, because he was afraid of the people who promoted circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also joined him in this hypocrisy so that even Barnabas got carried away with them in their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they weren’t acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, “If you, though you’re a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you require the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

We are born Jews—we’re not Gentile sinners.However, we know that a person isn’t made righteous by the works of the Law but rather through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. We ourselves believed in Christ Jesus so that we could be made righteous by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the Law—because no one will be made righteous by the works of the Law. But if it is discovered that we ourselves are sinners while we are trying to be made righteous in Christ, then is Christ a servant of sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild the very things that I tore down, I show that I myself am breaking the Law. I died to the Law through the Law, so that I could live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live in my body, I live by faith, indeed, by the faithfulness of God’s Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. I don’t ignore the grace of God, because if we become righteous through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose.

October 18, 2021 - Galatians Chapter 1

Beginning his letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul talks about how he learned the Gospel. From the book of Acts we know Jesus came to him in a vision and then a disciple laid hands on him to be healed and receive the Holy Spirit. Here Paul explicitly says he didn't learn the gospel from another man, but from Jesus Himself. As we know from the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit had a major part in that. As a former Pharisee, Paul knew the Scriptures of the Old Testament, but it took meeting Jesus in person to recognize Him as the Lord. And then the Holy Spirit became his teacher in revelation. The same Holy Spirit is with us today. We don't have to have a vision of Jesus, because Jesus told us the spirit will take of Him and His and show it to us. The Holy Spirit will always lead us to Jesus.

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, an apostle who is not sent from human authority or commissioned through human agency, but sent through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead; and from all the brothers and sisters with me.

To the churches in Galatia.

Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself for our sins, so he could deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. To God be the glory forever and always! Amen.

I’m amazed that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ to follow another gospel. It’s not really another gospel, but certain people are confusing you and they want to change the gospel of Christ.However, even if we ourselves or a heavenly angel should ever preach anything different from what we preached to you, they should be under a curse. I’m repeating what we’ve said before: if anyone preaches something different from what you received, they should be under a curse!

Am I trying to win over human beings or God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I wouldn’t be Christ’s slave.Brothers and sisters, I want you to know that the gospel I preached isn’t human in origin. I didn’t receive it or learn it from a human. It came through a revelation from Jesus Christ.

You heard about my previous life in Judaism, how severely I harassed God’s church and tried to destroy it. I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my peers, because I was much more militant about the traditions of my ancestors. But God had set me apart from birth and called me through his grace. He was pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might preach about him to the Gentiles. I didn’t immediately consult with any human being. I didn’t go up to Jerusalem to see the men who were apostles before me either, but I went away into Arabia and I returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. But I didn’t see any other of the apostles except James the brother of the Lord.Before God, I’m not lying about the things that I’m writing to you! Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, but I wasn’t known personally by the Christian churches in Judea. They only heard a report about me: “The man who used to harass us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy.” So they were glorifying God because of me.

October 17, 2021

“Dear Children, keep yourself from idols.”  I John 5:21

On Thursday, I made the decision to cancel our Thursday night Bible Study so that I could watch the final game of the National League Division Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers.   Having grown up near San Francisco, I have been a lifetime Giants fan just as many of you have been lifelong Dodger fans.   Vince Scully said of Thursday’s game that it was the most important game between the two teams in their 130 year rivalry.   

My struggle with canceling the Bible study was “am I making the Giants an idol?”   The very first commandment that God gave to Moses and the Israelites was “You shall have no other god’s before me.”  Exodus 20:3

What is an idol?  We may think of idols as a man made object that is venerated or worshipped for a deity, person, or spirit.  

People make gods or idols out of a lot of things.  An idol can be anyone or anything that takes the place of the true God in your life.  For some, it might be their career.  For another it might be their fame. For another, it might be their finances.  But they worship at the altar of that god.  But 1 John 5:21 tells us, “Dear Children, keep yourselves from idols.”   

Sometimes the Lord will bring our gods down so that we’ll understand that there is no god but him.  Have the Dodgers become an idol for you?   

Thought For Today:  Can you think of anything or anyone that has become a false god or idolto you?   What will you do about it?

Today’s Prayer Focus:   Praise God that He is the one true God and there is no other like Him.   Deo Volente.   

--Rev. Ted Esaki

October 16, 2021

Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”  John 3:3

Thursday, October 14, 2021 was my Spiritual birthday.   It was 46 years ago that I invited Jesus into my life.  I said a simple prayer like:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and need your forgiveness.  Thank you for dying on the cross to pay the penalty for my sins.  I now invite you to come into my life to be my Savior and Lord.  Please help me to be the person you want me to be.”    

At that moment I was “born again”.   Some people think that they are Christians because they go to church or because their family members attended church.   That was what I thought.   Growing up in church, I missed the message that being a Christian was not about church or religion but about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  

In John 3 we see Nicodemus who was a very important religious leader who knew and studied the Old Testament Law coming to Jesus at night.   Jesus pointed out to him that no one can have life in the kingdom of God without being born again.   Nicodemus was perplexed and asked, “How can someone be born when they are old?”  “Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born?”  Nicodemus wasn’t being sarcastic, but sounds almost excited as if longing for a second chance.   Yet, Jesus is offering Nicodemus exactly that.  A new start, a new beginning, a new life.   Our God is a God of second chances.    

The Spirit of God moved in Nicodemus and he received Jesus by faith.  Later, he and Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus after his crucifixion and gave him a proper burial.  (John 19:38-42). 

Thought For Today:   Have you been born again?   Is the Christian faith to you a religion or a relationship?   Have you invited Christ into your heart by faith and know that you will be with Jesus in the kingdom of God?    

Today’ Prayer Focus:   If you have been born again, take time to thank God for his Amazing Love and Amazing Grace that gave you new life through a personal relationship with Jesus.  Deo Volente.  

--Rev. Ted Esaki

October 15, 2021 - II Corinthians Chapter 13

The final chapter of this letter. Two things stand out to me: we are to examine ourselves to see if we are in faith. As Christians, we have faith. That's how we got born again and welcomed God and His Spirit into our hearts. But that doesn't mean that everything we do every day is in faith - in the understanding that God is for us, helping us, and that we are in obedience to Him. This is a warning to us - something we are to do. The second thing is the benediction we receive at the end of service every Sunday - the last verse of this chapter - may the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all. This is what I'm endeavoring to learn this year - the Holy spirit is in my heart to commune with me - stay with me, be with me, talk with me, advise me. In all the other things we do, this is the key to making everything else works.

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?

This is the third time that I’m coming to visit you. Every matter is settled on the evidence of two or three witnesses. When I was with you on my second visit, I already warned those who continued to sin. Now I’m repeating that warning to all the rest of you while I’m at a safe distance: if I come again, I won’t spare anyone. Since you are demanding proof that Christ speaks through me, Christ isn’t weak in dealing with you but shows his power among you. Certainly he was crucified because of weakness, but he lives by the power of God. Certainly we also are weak in him, but we will live together with him, because of God’s power that is directed toward you.

Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Don’t you understand that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless, of course, you fail the test. But I hope that you will realize that we don’t fail the test. We pray to God that you don’t do anything wrong, not because we want to appear to pass the test but so that you might do the right thing, even if we appear to fail.

We can’t do anything against the truth but only to help the truth. We are happy when we are weak but you are strong. We pray for this: that you will be made complete. This is why I’m writing these things while I’m away. I’m writing so that I won’t need to act harshly when I’m with you by using the authority that the Lord gave me. He gave it to me so that I could build you up, not tear you down.

Finally, brothers and sisters, good-bye. Put things in order, respond to my encouragement, be in harmony with each other, and live in peace—and the God of love and peace will be with you.

Say hello to each other with a holy kiss. All of God’s people say hello to you.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

October 14, 2021 - II Corinthians Chapter 12

The translation I’m using is the Common English Bible (CEB). Many times it’s refreshing to read the scriptures in a new translation because new nuances come out of the text. Even though there are some modern translations that are paraphrases and not very accurate, reading with discernment can help us learn more about the Lord. The Spirit inside us is our sure guide to teach us truth every time. From an old time preacher I remember reading: “Be honest and ask the Lord the speak to you. Be sincere. He will speak and make it plain to 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?

It is necessary to brag, not that it does any good. I’ll move on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who was caught up into the third heaven fourteen years ago. I don’t know whether it was in the body or out of the body. God knows. I know that this man was caught up into paradise and that he heard unspeakable words that were things no one is allowed to repeat. I don’t know whether it was in the body or apart from the body. God knows. I’ll brag about this man, but I won’t brag about myself, except to brag about my weaknesses.

If I did want to brag, I wouldn’t make a fool of myself because I’d tell the truth. I’m holding back from bragging so that no one will give me any more credit than what anyone sees or hears about me. I was given a thorn in my body because of the outstanding revelations I’ve received so that I wouldn’t be conceited. It’s a messenger from Satan sent to torment me so that I wouldn’t be conceited.

I pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me alone. He said to me, “My grace is enough for you, because power is made perfect in weakness.” So I’ll gladly spend my time bragging about my weaknesses so that Christ’s power can rest on me.Therefore, I’m all right with weaknesses, insults, disasters, harassments, and stressful situations for the sake of Christ, because when I’m weak, then I’m strong.

I’ve become a fool! You made me do it. Actually, I should have been commended by you. I’m not inferior to the super-apostles in any way, even though I’m a nonentity. The signs of an apostle were performed among you with continuous endurance through signs, wonders, and miracles. How were you treated worse than the other churches, except that I myself wasn’t a financial burden on you? Forgive me for this wrong!

Look, I’m ready to visit you a third time, and I won’t be a burden on you. I don’t want your things; I want you. It isn’t the children’s responsibility to save up for their parents but parents for children. I will very gladly spend and be spent for your sake. If I love you more, will you love me less?

We all know that I didn’t place a burden on you, but in spite of that you think I’m a con artist who fooled you with a trick. I haven’t taken advantage of you through any of the people I sent to you, have I? I strongly encouraged Titus to go to you and sent the brother with him. Titus didn’t take advantage of you, did he? Didn’t we live by the same Spirit? Didn’t we walk in the same footsteps?

Have you been thinking up to now that we are defending ourselves to you? Actually, we are speaking in the sight of God and in Christ. Dear friends, everything is meant to build you up. I’m afraid that maybe when I come you will be different from the way I want you to be, and that I’ll be different from the way you want me to be. I’m afraid that there might be fighting, obsession, losing your temper, competitive opposition, backstabbing, gossip, conceit, and disorderly conduct. I’m afraid that when I come again, my God may embarrass me in front of you. I might have to go into mourning over all the people who have sinned before and haven’t changed their hearts and lives from what they used to practice: moral corruption, sexual immorality, and doing whatever feels good.

October 13, 2021 - II Corinthians Chapter 11

In these devotionals I wanted to focus on hearing the voice of the spirit. But in a chapter like this one, there isn’t anything about the Spirit directly. Sometimes I read that and wonder, “How does that apply to me?” Then I remember that the Spirit often speaks to us by bringing things to our memory. So when we read scripture, even if it doesn’t apply to us at the moment, it stays in our memory and is like a reservoir that Holy Spirit can draw on in another situation in the future.

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 hope that you will put up with me while I act like a fool. Well, in fact, you are putting up with me!I’m deeply concerned about you with the same concern that God has. As your father, I promised you in marriage to one husband. I promised to present you as an innocent virgin to Christ himself.But I’m afraid that your minds might be seduced in the same way as the snake deceived Eve with his devious tricks. You might be unable to focus completely on a genuine and innocent commitment to Christ.

If a person comes and preaches some other Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different Spirit than the one you had received, or a different gospel than the one you embraced, you put up with it so easily! I don’t consider myself as second-rate in any way compared to the “super-apostles.” But even if I’m uneducated in public speaking, I’m not uneducated in knowledge. We have shown this to you in every way and in everything we have done. Did I commit a sin by humbling myself to give you an advantage because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by taking a salary from them in order to serve you! While I was with you, I didn’t burden any of you even though I needed things. The believers who came from Macedonia gave me everything I needed. I kept myself from being a financial drain on you in any way, and I will continue to keep myself from being a burden.

Since Christ’s truth is in me, I won’t stop telling the entire area of Greece that I’m proud of what I did. Why? Is it because I don’t love you? God knows that I do!But I’m going to continue to do what I’m doing. I want to contradict the claims of the people who want to be treated like they are the same as us because of what they brag about. Such people are false apostles and dishonest workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. It is no great surprise then that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

I repeat, no one should take me for a fool. But if you do, then allow me to be a fool so that I can brag like a fool for a bit. I’m not saying what I’m saying because the Lord tells me to. I’m saying it like I’m a fool. I’m putting my confidence in this business of bragging. Since so many people are bragging based on human standards, that is how I’m going to brag too. Because you, who are so wise, are happy to put up with fools. You put up with it if someone enslaves you, if someone exploits you, if someone takes advantage of you, if someone places themselves over you, or if someone hits you in the face. I’m ashamed to say that we have been weak in comparison! But in whatever they challenge me, I challenge them (I’m speaking foolishly).

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ? I’m speaking like a crazy person. What I’ve done goes well beyond what they’ve done. I’ve worked much harder. I’ve been imprisoned much more often. I’ve been beaten more times than I can count. I’ve faced death many times. I received the “forty lashes minus one” from the Jews five times. I was beaten with rods three times. I was stoned once. I was shipwrecked three times. I spent a day and a night on the open sea. I’ve been on many journeys. I faced dangers from rivers, robbers, my people, and Gentiles. I faced dangers in the city, in the desert, on the sea, and from false brothers and sisters. I faced these dangers with hard work and heavy labor, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, often without food, and in the cold without enough clothes.

Besides all the other things I could mention, there’s my daily stress because I’m concerned about all the churches. Who is weak without me being weak? Who is led astray without me being furious about it? If it’s necessary to brag, I’ll brag about my weaknesses. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, the one who is blessed forever, knows that I’m not lying. At Damascus the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to capture me, but I got away from him by being lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall.

October 12, 2021 - II Corinthians Chapter 10

I, Paul, make a personal request to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ. The first sentence of this chapter tells us about two fundamental characteristics of Jesus. When the Holy Spirit speaks to us, He speaks what He hears from Jesus and the Father. So when He speaks to us, His tone and words will have the same characteristics- gentleness and kindness. He will never be harsh or pushy. Sometimes we can have thoughts that sound spiritual, but if the tone isn’t gentle, if it is forcing something onto us, it can’t be the Holy Spirit. He can be authoritative and stern, but He’s not condemning, harsh and critical.

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, Paul, make a personal request to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ. I’m shy when I’m with you, but I’m bossy when I’m away from you! I beg you that when I’m with you in person, I won’t have to boss you around. I’m afraid that I may have to use that kind of behavior with those people who think we live by human standards. Although we live in the world, we don’t fight our battles with human methods.Our weapons that we fight with aren’t human, but instead they are powered by God for the destruction of fortresses. They destroy arguments, and every defense that is raised up to oppose the knowledge of God. They capture every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Once your obedience is complete, we are ready to punish any disobedience.

Look at what is right in front of you! If anyone is sure about belonging to Christ, that person should think again. We belong to Christ just like that person. Even if I went on to brag about our authority, I wouldn’t be ashamed of it. The Lord gave us that authority to build you up and not to destroy you.

I don’t want it to seem like I’m trying to intimidate you with my letters. I know what some people are saying: “His letters are severe and powerful, but in person he is weak and his speech is worth nothing.” These people need to think about this—that when we are with you, our actions will show that we are the same as the words we wrote when we were away from you. We won’t dare to place ourselves in the same league or to compare ourselves with some of those who are promoting themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves with themselves, they have no understanding.

We won’t take pride in anything more than what is appropriate. Let’s look at the boundaries of our work area that God has assigned to us. It’s an area that includes you. We aren’t going out of bounds, as if our work area doesn’t extend as far as you. We were the first ones to travel as far as Corinth with the gospel of Christ. We don’t take pride in what other people do outside of our boundaries. We hope that our work will be extended even more by you as your faith grows, until it expands fully (within the boundaries, of course). We hope that our work grows even to the point of the gospel being preached in places beyond Corinth, without bragging about what has already been done in another person’s work area. But, the one who brags should brag in the Lord. It isn’t the person who promotes himself or herself who is approved but the person whom the Lord commends.

October 11, 2021 - II Corinthians Chapter 9

This chapter is again about an offering. The apostle Paul connects giving financially with righteousness and grace. Often we think of money separately, as a physical necessity. But all things that we do in this physical life have a spiritual component and all are accomplished by grace. We need God’s grace to help and guide us on everything. Ask the Holy Spirit today to teach you how grace works in your 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?

It’s unnecessary for me to write to you about this service for God’s people. I know about your willingness to help. I brag about you to the Macedonians, saying, “Greece has been ready since last year,” and your enthusiasm has motivated most of them.

But I’m sending the brothers so that our bragging about you in this case won’t be empty words, and so that you can be prepared, just as I keep telling them you will be. If some Macedonians should come with me and find out that you aren’t ready, we (not to mention you) would be embarrassed as far as this project goes.

This is why I thought it was necessary to encourage the brothers to go to you ahead of time and arrange in advance the generous gift you have already promised. I want it to be a real gift from you. I don’t want you to feel like you are being forced to give anything. What I mean is this: the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop.

Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work. As it is written, He scattered everywhere; he gave to the needy; his righteousness remains forever.

The one who supplies seed for planting and bread for eating will supply and multiply your seed and will increase your crop, which is righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous in every way. Such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us.Your ministry of this service to God’s people isn’t only fully meeting their needs but it is also multiplying in many expressions of thanksgiving to God. They will give honor to God for your obedience to your confession of Christ’s gospel. They will do this because this service provides evidence of your obedience, and because of your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone. They will also pray for you, and they will care deeply for you because of the outstanding grace that God has given to you.Thank God for his gift that words can’t describe!

October 10, 2021

16 Therefore we do not lose heart.n Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardlyo we are being renewedp day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.q 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,r since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

In our Tuesday night Bible study, we were discussing that in the midst of suffering we must never lose hope.   It remined me of the story in John 9 where Jesus heals a man who was blind since birth. Jesus mixed his own saliva with some dirt, spread the muddy mixture on the man’s eyes, and told him to go and wash in a pool—and the man received sight. For his entire life, this man had seen nothing but darkness, but Jesus gifted him with seeing eyes after proclaiming, “I am the light of the world” 

The apostle Paul advises God’s people not to lose heart when the troubles of this life dim our outlook on the future. When we are discouraged by the sin and injustice of the world, a broken relationship, a tough situation at work, a grim financial outlook, a health crisis, and more, it can feel like we are living in darkness. How will this ever be resolved?

It’s all about perspective and what we focus on. We can sit around with mud on our eyes, or we can wash it off and see the light of Jesus. Paul says the problems we see are temporary, but the hope we have in Jesus—though unseen—is eternal.

Our bodies were not created to last forever, but as Christians, we share a bright future in Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Thought For Today:  In the midst of the trials of life, do you feel that you are living in darkness?    Be reminded today that our hope is in Jesus, the light of the world.    May the light of Jesus shine bright today and turn your darkness to light.

Today’s Prayer Focus:   In a world of spiritual darkness and people living through the darkness of death, depression, discouragement and destruction,  pray that the light of Jesus will shine brightly and bring hope.  Deo Volente. 

--Rev. Ted Esaki


October 9

12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!13 No temptation[c] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[d] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[e] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”   I Corinthians 10:12-13

A few weeks ago in our Tuesday Night Discipleship class studied out we have an opponent, who is seeking to do everything he can to keep us from following Jesus.    I made the point that our opponent is that Satan and that he is alive and well.   Even as he wreaked havoc upon the life of Job as he took his health, children, and health, Satan seeks to wreak havoc upon our lives as well.   Through this ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we see his hand at work bringing, anxiety, worry, depression, stress, and a myriad of temptations.  

When Flip Wilson said, “The devil made me do it” it was meant to be funny.   Yet the fact that Satan is alive and well and seeking to cause us to fall into temptation is no joke.    My temptation these days is to resist eating too many sweets for Halloween.   I have been doing a lot more “snacking: this past year and a half during this pandemic.  Also the temptation to resist exercising.  I’ve gained 8 lbs!!!    Paul said in I Corinthians 10:12-13, that we are to remember that there is no temptation that we face that cannot be overcome with the power and strength that comes from God.  God will provide a way out so that we can endure it. 

Thought For Today:   What temptations are you facing these days?   What promise do you need to remember when you face these temptations?   How can God provide a way of escape for you?

Today’s Prayer Focus:   Remember that the Lord’s Prayer teaches us to pray, “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”   Pray for the many people who are mourning and grieving the loss of loved ones in as a result of covid-19.   Pray for God’s comfort and strength to help them through these difficult times.    Deo Volente! 

--Rev. Ted Esaki

October 5, 2021 - II Corinthians Chapter 8

The grace of God works for us in every situation. In this case Paul is talking about finances, an offering, and a joyful heart giving while in need. Paul says it was God’s grace that worked in that situation. Many times I rely on my knowledge, skills, abilities. I work hard. But I want to learn to rely more on God’s grace. Because His grace doesn’t just work to remove sin; it works in every situation. And again, it’s the Holy Spirit that teaches us about grace.

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, we want to let you know about the grace of God that was given to the churches of Macedonia. While they were being tested by many problems, their extra amount of happiness and their extreme poverty resulted in a surplus of rich generosity. I assure you that they gave what they could afford and even more than they could afford, and they did it voluntarily.They urgently begged us for the privilege of sharing in this service for the saints. They even exceeded our expectations, because they gave themselves to the Lord first and to us, consistent with God’s will. As a result, we challenged Titus to finish this work of grace with you the way he had started it.

Be the best in this work of grace in the same way that you are the best in everything, such as faith, speech, knowledge, total commitment, and the love we inspired in you. I’m not giving an order, but by mentioning the commitment of others, I’m trying to prove the authenticity of your love also. You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you could become rich through his poverty.

I’m giving you my opinion about this. It’s to your advantage to do this, since you not only started to do it last year but you wanted to do it too. Now finish the job as well so that you finish it with as much enthusiasm as you started, given what you can afford. A gift is appreciated because of what a person can afford, not because of what that person can’t afford, if it’s apparent that it’s done willingly. It isn’t that we want others to have financial ease and you financial difficulties, but it’s a matter of equality. At the present moment, your surplus can fill their deficit so that in the future their surplus can fill your deficit. In this way there is equality. As it is written, The one who gathered more didn’t have too much, and the one who gathered less didn’t have too little.

But thank God, who put the same commitment that I have for you in Titus’ heart. Not only has he accepted our challenge but he’s on his way to see you voluntarily, and he’s excited. We are sending the brother who is famous in all the churches because of his work for the gospel along with him.

In addition to this, he is chosen by the churches to be our traveling companion in this work of grace, which we are taking care of for the sake of the glory of the Lord himself, and to show our desire to help. We are trying to avoid being blamed by anyone for the way we take care of this large amount of money. We care about doing the right thing, not only in the Lord’s eyes but also in the eyes of other people.

We are sending our brother with them. We have tested his commitment in many ways and many times. Now he’s even more committed, because he has so much confidence in you. If there is any question about Titus, he is my partner and coworker among you. If there is any question about our brothers, they are the churches’ apostles and an honor to Christ. So show them the proof of your love and the reason we are so proud of you, in such a way that the churches can see it.

October 4, 2021 - II Corinthians Chapter 7

Sometimes in chapters like this one I find it hard to figure out how that applies to me. Today in this chapter I see a church that had conflict with their leader and among themselves, but their concern for each other and to do right by their God made them change in the right direction. I trust the Holy Spirit to bring those word to my remembrance as that applies to me.

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?

My dear friends, since we have these promises, let’s cleanse ourselves from anything that contaminates our body or spirit so that we make our holiness complete in the fear of God.

Make room in your hearts for us. We didn’t do anything wrong to anyone. We didn’t ruin anyone. We didn’t take advantage of anyone. I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty. I’ve already said that you are in our hearts so that we die and live together with you. I have every confidence in you. I’m terribly proud of you. I’m filled with encouragement. I’m overwhelmed with happiness while in the middle of our problems.

Even after we arrived in Macedonia, we couldn’t rest physically. We were surrounded by problems. There was external conflict, and there were internal fears. However, God comforts people who are discouraged, and he comforted us by Titus’ arrival.We weren’t comforted only by his arrival but also by the comfort he had received from you. He told us about your desire to see me, how you were sorry, and about your concern for me, so that I was even happier.

Even though my letter hurt you, I don’t regret it. Well—I did regret it just a bit because I see that that letter made you sad, though only for a short time. Now I’m glad—not because you were sad but because you were made sad enough to change your hearts and lives. You felt godly sadness so that no one was harmed by us in any way. Godly sadness produces a changed heart and life that leads to salvation and leaves no regrets, but sorrow under the influence of the world produces death. Look at what this very experience of godly sadness has produced in you: such enthusiasm, what a desire to clear yourselves of blame, such indignation, what fear, what purpose, such concern, what justice! In everything you have shown yourselves to be innocent in the matter.

So although I wrote to you, it wasn’t for the sake of the one who did wrong, or for the sake of the one who was wronged, but to show you your own enthusiasm for us in the sight of God.Because of this we have been encouraged. And in addition to our own encouragement, we were even more pleased at how happy Titus was. His mind has been put at rest by all of you. If I’ve bragged about you to him in any way, I haven’t been embarrassed. Instead, our bragging to Titus has also been proven to be true, just like everything we said to you was true. His devotion to you is growing even more as he remembers how all of you were obedient when you welcomed him with fear and trembling. I’m happy, because I can completely depend on you.

October 3, 2021

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.:  Isaiah 40:29-31

One of my favorite passages in the bible comes from the above verse.  Running marathons and competing in Ironman triathlon’s can often times cause you to become weary, weak, and faint.   But Isaiah says that those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  As I ran with this verse in mind, it always helped me get through to the finish line.  

Today’s many issues can cause us to grow weary, weak and faint.  But, if we put our hope in God, He will renew our strength and help us get through to the finish line!   The key for us is to depend and rely upon God’s unlimited strength.   Psalm 84:5 says, “Blessed is the man who strength is in God.”  

Thought For Today, reflect upon the ways that life can make you weary and weak.  What does it mean for you to hope in the Lord?   Today, remember God’s promise to the weak and weary as you depend and rely on Him for his unlimited strength.   

Today’s Prayer Focus:  Pray that God would renew your strength and for all those who call Union Church home.   Deo Volente.   

--Rev. Ted Esaki

October 2, 2021

“I heard, but I did not understand.  So I asked, “My Lord, what will the outcome of all of this be?”   Daniel 12:8

Watching the national and local news these days we see that so many people are worried and anxious about what the future holds.   At times like this, having a spiritual foundation to which to base our hopes and expectations is so important.    Studies have shown that those who have a strong spiritual foundation have a greater ability to handle mental health issues than those who don’t.   Today, we face the continuing challenges of Covid-19 and it’s variants, the economy, homelessness, international affairs, the concern that Union Church does not have a full-time pastor, and the list goes on and on.   

While it is difficult to understand God’s purpose in our lives these day, the core of a strong faith depends on our ability to trust completely in God, no matter what happens and even when we don’t understand.   The Old Testament prophet Daniel, discovered that true test of our faith comes when things are difficult to understand.  Daniel was a righteous man but found himself in the lion’s den.    Through faith and trust in God, He was delivered.   I’m sure that Daniel was able to say, “I’m glad I was in the lion’s Den because now I know that God can deliver!”   

Thought For Today:   Though we don’t understand what the future holds let us be confident that God is Sovereign and holds the future in his hands.   Let us keep persevering in our faith and trust in God.   Today, reflect upon how you are persevering in these difficult days?   Are you keeping the faith?   

Today’s Prayer Focus:    Praise God that He is the Sovereign Lord.   Let us pray that we will stay strong and continue to build a strong spiritual foundation through our faith and trust in God.  Pray that the Lord would lead the right person to lead and guide Union Church into a bright and prosperous future.   Deo Volente. 

--Rev. Ted Esaki


September 29, 2021 - II Corinthians Chapter 6

I will live with them, says the Lord. He said it in the Old Testament when He instituted the arc of the covenant among the Israelites. Those things were a shadow of what is to come. Today He lives with us through the Holy Spirit that is inside our hearts. I know I keep repeating this, but honestly I’m saying it for my benefit because since I’ve been writing on this topic, my awareness of the Spirit inside me has greatly increased. I hope it has for you too.

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?

Since we work together with him, we are also begging you not to receive the grace of God in vain.He says, I listened to you at the right time, and I helped you on the day of salvation. Look, now is the right time! Look, now is the day of salvation!

We don’t give anyone any reason to be offended about anything so that our ministry won’t be criticized. Instead, we commend ourselves as ministers of God in every way. We did this with our great endurance through problems, disasters, and stressful situations. We went through beatings, imprisonments, and riots. We experienced hard work, sleepless nights, and hunger. We displayed purity, knowledge, patience, and generosity. We served with the Holy Spirit, genuine love, telling the truth, and God’s power. We carried the weapons of righteousness in our right hand and our left hand. We were treated with honor and dishonor and with verbal abuse and good evaluation. We were seen as both fake and real, as unknown and well known, as dying—and look, we are alive! We were seen as punished but not killed, as going through pain but always happy, as poor but making many rich, and as having nothing but owning everything.

Corinthians, we have spoken openly to you, and our hearts are wide open. There are no limits to the affection that we feel for you. You are the ones who placed boundaries on your affection for us. But as a fair trade—I’m talking to you like you are children—open your hearts wide too.

Don’t be tied up as equal partners with people who don’t believe. What does righteousness share with that which is outside the Law? What relationship does light have with darkness? What harmony does Christ have with Satan? What does a believer have in common with someone who doesn’t believe? What agreement can there be between God’s temple and idols? Because we are the temple of the living God. Just as God said, I live with them, and I will move among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among them and be separated, says the Lord. Don’t touch what is unclean. Then I will welcome you. I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.

September 28, 2021 - II Corinthians Chapter 5

God gave us the Spirit as a down payment for our home. The apostle Paul tells us that we are mortal here on earth, but that’s not the end for us. We will live in a spiritual body for eternity, and the evidence of that is the Spirit God put in our hearts. His spirit. He isn’t simply a token, an ornament, He is a living part of God our Father, He is here to talk to us and lead to successfully to eternity. 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 know that if the tent that we live in on earth is torn down, we have a building from God. It’s a house that isn’t handmade, which is eternal and located in heaven. We groan while we live in this residence. We really want to dress ourselves with our building from heaven— since we assume that when we take off this tent, we won’t find out that we are naked. Yes, while we are in this tent we groan, because we are weighed down. We want to be dressed not undressed, so that what is dying can be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very thing is God, and God gave us the Spirit as a down payment for our home.

So we are always confident, because we know that while we are living in the body, we are away from our home with the Lord. We live by faith and not by sight. We are confident, and we would prefer to leave the body and to be at home with the Lord.So our goal is to be acceptable to him, whether we are at home or away from home. We all must appear before Christ in court so that each person can be paid back for the things that were done while in the body, whether they were good or bad.

So we try to persuade people, since we know what it means to fear the Lord. We are well known by God, and I hope that in your heart we are well known by you as well. We aren’t trying to commend ourselves to you again. Instead, we are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us so that you could answer those who take pride in superficial appearance, and not in what is in the heart.

If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake. The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.

So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.

So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!” God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God.

September 27, 2021 - II Corinthians Chapter 4

Jesus’ spirit lives in us, it gives us power to live this life here and go on to eternal life. This is another chapter that reminds us that the Spirit of God lives in the inside us and is here to help us. Keep reminding yourself that. 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?

This is why we don’t get discouraged, given that we received this ministry in the same way that we received God’s mercy. Instead, we reject secrecy and shameful actions. We don’t use deception, and we don’t tamper with God’s word. Instead, we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God by the public announcement of the truth. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are on the road to destruction. The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who don’t have faith so they couldn’t see the light of the gospel that reveals Christ’s glory. Christ is the image of God.

We don’t preach about ourselves. Instead, we preach about Jesus Christ as Lord, and we describe ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. God said that light should shine out of the darkness. He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay pots so that the awesome power belongs to God and doesn’t come from us. We are experiencing all kinds of trouble, but we aren’t crushed. We are confused, but we aren’t depressed. We are harassed, but we aren’t abandoned. We are knocked down, but we aren’t knocked out.

We always carry Jesus’ death around in our bodies so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies. We who are alive are always being handed over to death for Jesus’ sake so that Jesus’ life can also be seen in our bodies that are dying. So death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

We have the same faithful spirit as what is written in scripture: I had faith, and so I spoke. We also have faith, and so we also speak.We do this because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus, and he will bring us into his presence along with you. All these things are for your benefit. As grace increases to benefit more and more people, it will cause gratitude to increase, which results in God’s glory.

So we aren’t depressed. But even if our bodies are breaking down on the outside, the person that we are on the inside is being renewed every day. Our temporary minor problems are producing an eternal stockpile of glory for us that is beyond all comparison. We don’t focus on the things that can be seen but on the things that can’t be seen. The things that can be seen don’t last, but the things that can’t be seen are eternal.

September 26, 2021

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.  30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.:  Isaiah 40:29-31

3 weeks ago, I won a lottery position in the 2022 Big Sur Marathon.  It made me recall one of my favorite passages in the bible comes from the above verse.  Running marathons and competing in triathlon’s can often times cause you to become weary, weak, and faint.   But Isaiah says that those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.  As I ran with this verse in mind, it always helped me get through to the finish line. 

There are many things in life that can cause us to grow weary, weak and faint.  But, if we put our hope in God, He will renew our strength and help us get through to the finish line!   The key for us is to depend and rely upon God’s unlimited strength.   Psalm 84:5 says, “Blessed is the man who strength is in God.”  

Thought For Today, reflect upon the ways that life can make you weary and weak.  What does it mean for you to hope in the Lord?   Today, remember God’s promise to the weak and weary as you depend and rely on Him for his unlimited strength.   

Today’s Prayer Focus:  Do you need to have your strength renewed?   Do you know anyone whose strength needs to be renewed?   Take time to pray for yourself and them today.  Deo Volente.     

--Rev. Ted Esaki

September 25

10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”  2 Corinthians 5:10

It is sad that over 1 and a half years of Covid-19 we continue to watch the number of death cases rise in our country and around the world.   Some people who were unvaccinated have been infected by the Delta Variant have said, “I should have received the vaccine earlier.  Sadly for many, it was too late.    I wonder how many people would have lived their lives differently if they knew their time on earth was limited.    

The 1st century disciples asked Jesus, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  (Matthew 24:3). In the midst of his teaching, Jesus replied, “Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matthew 24:42). In a way, Jesus urges his followers to “seize the day” because no one knows when he will return. But we do know that each of us will come face-to-face with Jesus and give an account of how we have lived for him. Each of us in large measure determines how that encounter will go.  Jesus wants us to be ready no matter when he returns because we must all appear before him to give an account of our lives.   

Thought For Today, reflect upon the question, “Am I ready?”    How would I live my life differently if I knew that I had a day, a month, a year left to live?

Today’s prayer focus:  Continue to pray for those who are sick and in need of God’s strengthening touch.  Remember those who are grieving the loss of loved ones.   Deo Volente

--Red. Ted Esaki

September 24 - II Corinthians Chapter 3

God is a spirit. And the Holy Spirit is the part of Him that can dwell on the inside of people. He is fully God, and He can also live inside the heart of everyone who believes in Jesus. God’s Spirit brings life. It brings freedom. Another way to say that I think is growth, prospering, development. If there’s an area in your life where you feel things are dead, not growing, and you are saddened or hindered by this, ask the Holy Spirit for help. He will speak to you and teach you how to accept the life that’s in Him for 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?

Are we starting to commend ourselves again? We don’t need letters of introduction to you or from you like other people, do we? You are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are Christ’s letter, delivered by us. You weren’t written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. You weren’t written on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

This is the confidence that we have through Christ in the presence of God. It isn’t that we ourselves are qualified to claim that anything came from us. No, our qualification is from God. He has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not based on what is written but on the Spirit, because what is written kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The ministry that brought death was carved in letters on stone tablets. It came with such glory that the Israelites couldn’t look for long at Moses’ face because his face was shining with glory, even though it was a fading glory.Won’t the ministry of the Spirit be much more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation has glory, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness? In fact, what was glorious isn’t glorious now, because of the glory that is brighter. If the glory that fades away was glorious, how much more glorious is the one that lasts!

So, since we have such a hope, we act with great confidence. We aren’t like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites couldn’t watch the end of what was fading away. But their minds were closed. Right up to the present day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. The veil is not removed because it is taken away by Christ. Even today, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts. But whenever someone turns back to the Lord, the veil is removed. The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

September 23 - II Corinthians Chapter 2

Today’s chapter I find a little challenging. It doesn’t talk about the Holy Spirit directly, and the instructions to the church I’m not sure exactly how to apply. But what stands out to me is that the gospel is preached by those who are sent. People can try to make a profit of the gospel and religion, but the ones that are truly sent of God will carry his presence. And the voice of the Holy Spirit will lead us to follow true preachers of the gospel.

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 decided that, for my own sake, I wouldn’t visit you again while I was upset. If I make you sad, who will be there to make me glad when you are sad because of me?

That’s why I wrote this very thing to you, so that when I came I wouldn’t be made sad by the ones who ought to make me happy. I have confidence in you, that my happiness means your happiness. I wrote to you in tears, with a very troubled and anxious heart. I didn’t write to make you sad but so you would know the overwhelming love that I have for you.

But if someone has made anyone sad, that person hasn’t hurt me but all of you to some degree (not to exaggerate). The punishment handed out by the majority is enough for this person. This is why you should try your best to forgive and to comfort this person now instead, so that this person isn’t overwhelmed by too much sorrow. So I encourage you to show your love for this person.

This is another reason why I wrote you. I wanted to test you and see if you are obedient in everything. If you forgive anyone for anything, I do too. And whatever I’ve forgiven (if I’ve forgiven anything), I did it for you in the presence of Christ. This is so that we won’t be taken advantage of by Satan, because we are well aware of his schemes.

When I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, the Lord gave me an opportunity to preach. But I was worried because I couldn’t find my brother Titus there. So I said good-bye to them and went on to Macedonia.

But thank God, who is always leading us around through Christ as if we were in a parade. He releases the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere through us. We smell like the aroma of Christ’s offering to God, both to those who are being saved and to those who are on the road to destruction. We smell like a contagious dead person to those who are dying, but we smell like the fountain of life to those who are being saved.

Who is qualified for this kind of ministry? We aren’t like so many people who hustle the word of God to make a profit. We are speaking through Christ in the presence of God, as those who are sincere and as those who are sent from God.

September 22 - II Corinthians Chapter 1

The Apostle Paul begins this chapter talking about comfort - how we comfort our brothers and sisters in Christ with the same comfort we receive from God. How do we do that? The end of the chapter gives us the answer - we are established by God through the Spirit He put in our hearts. This Spirit is the comforter. The Guide. The Helper. He is a tangible help - not only emotional, but also in power to speak directions, guide us into decisions. Establish your heart is the comfort of the Holy 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?

From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother.

To God’s church that is in Corinth, along with all of God’s people throughout Achaia.

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

May the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be blessed! He is the compassionate Father and God of all comfort. He’s the one who comforts us in all our trouble so that we can comfort other people who are in every kind of trouble. We offer the same comfort that we ourselves received from God. That is because we receive so much comfort through Christ in the same way that we share so many of Christ’s sufferings. So if we have trouble, it is to bring you comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is to bring you comfort from the experience of endurance while you go through the same sufferings that we also suffer. Our hope for you is certain, because we know that as you are partners in suffering, so also you are partners in comfort.

Brothers and sisters, we don’t want you to be unaware of the troubles that we went through in Asia. We were weighed down with a load of suffering that was so far beyond our strength that we were afraid we might not survive. It certainly seemed to us as if we had gotten the death penalty. This was so that we would have confidence in God, who raises the dead, instead of ourselves. God rescued us from a terrible death, and he will rescue us. We have set our hope on him that he will rescue us again, since you are helping with your prayer for us. Then many people can thank God on our behalf for the gift that was given to us through the prayers of many people.

We have conducted ourselves with godly sincerity and pure motives in the world, and especially toward you. This is why we are confident, and our conscience confirms this. We didn’t act with human wisdom but we relied on the grace of God. We don’t write anything to you except what you can read and also understand. I hope that you will understand totally since you have already understood us partly. Understand that in the day of our Lord Jesus, we will make you proud as you will also make us proud.

Because I was sure of this, I wanted to visit you first so that you could have a second opportunity to see me. I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and then come to you again on my way back from Macedonia, at which point I was hoping you would help me on my way to Judea.

So I wasn’t unreliable when I planned to do this, was I? Or do I make decisions with a substandard human process so that I say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? But as God is faithful, our message to you isn’t both yes and no. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is the one who was preached among you by us—through me, Silvanus, and Timothy—he wasn’t yes and no. In him it is always yes. All of God’s promises have their yes in him. That is why we say Amen through him to the glory of God.

God is the one who establishes us with you in Christ and who anointed us. God also sealed us and gave the Spirit as a down payment in our hearts. I call on God as my witness—I didn’t come again to Corinth because I wanted to spare you. It isn’t that we are trying to control your faith, but we are working with you for your happiness, because you stand firm in your faith.

September 21 - I Corinthians Chapter 16

This is another practical chapter I. Paul’s writings - about an offering and logistics. But the mast verse was very meaningful for me today - I’m glad the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write it. It is a good reminder that I can use many days. It is something the Spirit can remind all of us often if we continue reading our bible regularly and listen to His voice in our hearts.

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?

Concerning the collection of money for God’s people: You should do what I have directed the churches in Galatia to do. On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside whatever you can afford from what you earn so that the collection won’t be delayed until I come. Then when I get there, I’ll send whomever you approve to Jerusalem with letters of recommendation to bring your gift. If it seems right for me to go too, they’ll travel with me.

I’ll come to you after I go through Macedonia, and because I’m going through Macedonia, I may stay with you or even spend the winter there in Corinth so that you can send me on my way to wherever I’m off to next. I don’t want to make a quick visit to you, since I hope to spend some time with you if the Lord lets it happen. I’ll stay here in Ephesus until the Festival of Pentecost. In spite of the fact that there are many opponents, a big and productive opportunity has opened up for my mission here.

If Timothy comes to you, be sure that he has no reason to be afraid while he’s with you, because he does the work of the Lord just like I do. So don’t let anyone disrespect him, but send him on in peace so he can join me. I’m waiting for him along with the brothers and sisters.Concerning Apollos our brother: I strongly encouraged him to visit you with the brothers and sisters, but he didn’t want to go now. He’ll come when he has an opportunity.

Stay awake, stand firm in your faith, be brave, be strong.Everything should be done in love.

September 20 - I Corinthians Chapter 15

(Apologies for the absence of our daily devotional. I was pretty busy and had to take some time off.)

This chapter is a wonderful reminder that we are eternal and that death, which most non-Christina people consider permanent, is actually the temporary state. It is also a good reminder that we are not just a body. We are a spirit, and in the future out spirit will put not a spiritual body as well, not a rotting flesh body. In our spirit we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. Let’s remind ourselves to listen for Him speaking 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?

Brothers and sisters, I want to call your attention to the good news that I preached to you, which you also received and in which you stand. You are being saved through it if you hold on to the message I preached to you, unless somehow you believed it for nothing. I passed on to you as most important what I also received: Christ died for our sins in line with the scriptures, he was buried, and he rose on the third day in line with the scriptures. He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve, and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once—most of them are still alive to this day, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me, as if I were born at the wrong time. I’m the least important of the apostles. I don’t deserve to be called an apostle, because I harassed God’s church. I am what I am by God’s grace, and God’s grace hasn’t been for nothing. In fact, I have worked harder than all the others—that is, it wasn’t me but the grace of God that is with me. So then, whether you heard the message from me or them, this is what we preach and this is what you have believed.

So if the message that is preached says that Christ has been raised from the dead, then how can some of you say, “There’s no resurrection of the dead”? If there’s no resurrection of the dead, then Christ hasn’t been raised either. If Christ hasn’t been raised, then our preaching is useless and your faith is useless. We are found to be false witnesses about God, because we testified against God that he raised Christ, when he didn’t raise him if it’s the case that the dead aren’t raised. If the dead aren’t raised, then Christ hasn’t been raised either. If Christ hasn’t been raised, then your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins, and what’s more, those who have died in Christ are gone forever. If we have a hope in Christ only in this life, then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead. He’s the first crop of the harvest of those who have died. Since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came through one too. In the same way that everyone dies in Adam, so also everyone will be given life in Christ. Each event will happen in the right order: Christ, the first crop of the harvest, then those who belong to Christ at his coming, and then the end, when Christ hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when he brings every form of rule, every authority and power to an end. It is necessary for him to rule until he puts all enemies under his feet. Death is the last enemy to be brought to an end, since he has brought everything under control under his feet. When it says that everything has been brought under his control, this clearly means everything except for the one who placed everything under his control. But when all things have been brought under his control, then the Son himself will also be under the control of the one who gave him control over everything so that God may be all in all.

Otherwise, what are those who are getting baptized for the dead doing? If the dead aren’t raised, then why are they being baptized for them? And what about us? Why are we in danger all day every day? Brothers and sisters, I swear by the pride I have in you in Christ Jesus our Lord, I’m facing death every day. From a human point of view, what good does it do me if I fought wild animals in Ephesus? If the dead aren’t raised, let’s eat and drink because tomorrow we’ll die.Don’t be deceived, bad company corrupts good character. Sober up by acting like you should and don’t sin. Some of you are ignorant about God—I say this because you should be ashamed of yourselves!

But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have when they come back?” Look, fool! When you put a seed into the ground, it doesn’t come back to life unless it dies. What you put in the ground doesn’t have the shape that it will have, but it’s a bare grain of wheat or some other seed. God gives it the sort of shape that he chooses, and he gives each of the seeds its own shape. All flesh isn’t alike. Humans have one kind of flesh, animals have another kind of flesh, birds have another kind of flesh, and fish have another kind.There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies. The heavenly bodies have one kind of glory, and the earthly bodies have another kind of glory. The sun has one kind of glory, the moon has another kind of glory, and the stars have another kind of glory (but one star is different from another star in its glory). It’s the same with the resurrection of the dead: a rotting body is put into the ground, but what is raised won’t ever decay. It’s degraded when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised in glory. It’s weak when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised in power. It’s a physical body when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised as a spiritual body.

If there’s a physical body, there’s also a spiritual body. So it is also written, The first human, Adam, became a living person, and the last Adam became a spirit that gives life. But the physical body comes first, not the spiritual one—the spiritual body comes afterward. The first human was from the earth made from dust; the second human is from heaven. The nature of the person made of dust is shared by people who are made of dust, and the nature of the heavenly person is shared by heavenly people. We will look like the heavenly person in the same way as we have looked like the person made from dust.

This is what I’m saying, brothers and sisters: Flesh and blood can’t inherit God’s kingdom. Something that rots can’t inherit something that doesn’t decay.Listen, I’m telling you a secret: All of us won’t die, but we will all be changed— in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the final trumpet. The trumpet will blast, and the dead will be raised with bodies that won’t decay, and we will be changed. It’s necessary for this rotting body to be clothed with what can’t decay, and for the body that is dying to be clothed in what can’t die. And when the rotting body has been clothed in what can’t decay, and the dying body has been clothed in what can’t die, then this statement in scripture will happen:

Death has been swallowed up by a victory.

        Where is your victory, Death?

        Where is your sting, Death?

(Death’s sting is sin, and the power of sin is the Law.) Thanks be to God, who gives us this victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! As a result of all this, my loved brothers and sisters, you must stand firm, unshakable, excelling in the work of the Lord as always, because you know that your labor isn’t going to be for nothing in the Lord.

September 19

“Now the people complained…..” Numbers 11:1

The other day I was talking to a neighbor who seemed to be complaining about many things.   Complaining can seem like a favorite pastime for many of us. We complain about the air quality, our politics, people who wear or don’t wear face masks, we complain about waiting in lines, we complain about traffic and technology, and even complain about how things are going or not going at church. 

For the nation of Israel, complaining was second nature during the 40 years they wandered in the wilderness.  Israel was only three days into their wilderness journey when they started to complain. They complained about their hardships and the wilderness food. They wanted something different from the manna they had to eat day in and day out. The food they had eaten in Egypt seemed so much better.

Life in the wilderness can be hard, but when we complain, we fall into the devil’s trap. When we complain, we tend to glamorize what we don’t have rather than being grateful for what we do have. Did they really have it better in Egypt? Somehow the people completely forgot the hardships they had endured their 400 years in slavery.   When we complain, we tend to see life in a distorted way. Grumbling flows when we think we deserve something better.

Thought For Today:  In Philippians 2:14, Paul said do everything without grumbling.   How can focusing on God’s goodness and grace and being thankful for what we have turn our grumbling to gratitude?

Today’s Prayer Focus:  Take time to thank God for His goodness and grace and the blessings He has given you.  Deo Volente.  

--Red. Ted Esaki

September 18

16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”   2 Timothy 3:16

Are you ready for some football!!   Last weekend was the “kickoff” to the 2021 National Football Season.    It is the hope and dream of every coach, player and fan to play in the Super Bowl?  For the football FANatics, this will be an exciting season as most NFL and college teams are able to resume at full capacity.   


Coming out of the preseason, all of the NFL teams have put in a lot of hard work.  Each Team member must memorize the playbook that the coaches have put together, filled with hundreds of plays for every situation that might arise.   If a player forgets the play or fails to execute the play as it has been designed, the team will fail to score.  The play book is the pathway to victory, a brilliant plan, one that when followed correctly can lead the team to a score and hopefully a win.  

As Christians, we also have a playbook, it is called the Holy Bible!  It is an inspired playbook designed to help us to be victorious in life.   Like the team playbook, there is knowledge and wisdom for every situation.   

Thought For Today:  How will you rely upon God’s Playbook today and this week?   How are you doing in memorizing God’s playbook.  What play will you memorize today?  

Today’s Prayer Focus:   Pray that God will give to you and Union Church a deeper grip on the Word of God by hearing, reading, studying, meditating, memorizing and applying God’s Word to our daily lives.  Deo Volente. 

--Rev. Ted Esaki

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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