Telling your story (II Corinthians 1)

April 26, 2018

For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[b] of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. II Corinthians 1:8

It is so true that some people are better story tellers than others.  The secret to being a good story-teller is in being believable as you tell the story.  Above all the best stories are those which speak of one’s life’s experiences.

Here in II Corinthians 1 Paul briefly tells us his story of an experience in Asia that almost cost his life.  One must believe the Corinthians were familiar with the story.  This is probably the reason Paul was so brief.  But the story make Paul’s point.

Question: What was the purpose in Paul’ story?  We see the answer in Vs:9-10

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.

The purpose of our stories is to tell of the wonder mercy and grace of a Holy God at work in our lives. Paul’s hope was fully in Christ.  Paul wanted his readers to know this hope was always sufficient in his life through every story!

Brothers and sisters we have a story to tell, if we are following Christ.  God wants to us your story to magnify His story.  Take time today to look back over your life and put together some stories that glorify God!!!

Here is a favorite hymn of mine that tells a story:

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Guarding our minds and hearts (Philippians 4)

April 25, 2018

. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 7:7

I think it would be awesome to have someone in our lives who would always guard our minds and hearts so that we would never sin.  Think through this with me.  If you had someone to guard your mind and heart you would always be thinking the correct thoughts and you would be saying the correct things.

This would be super wow.  I mean I would be guarded from getting mad and from being attached by sin.  I would be a person who actually practices what I profess.

But wait a minute, does not the Bible say we have this guard already?  The answer is yes.  We (Christ-followers) have been given the Holy Spirit who guards us (John 16:9-11).  We have also been given the means to stay on course with God as we face the trials and temptations of this life.

The means I am talking about is “prayer.”  Paul writes:

  • Prayer brings us a place of peace. (We have peace with God and we have the peace of God).
  • Prayer brings us to a place of protection.
  • Prayer brings us to a place of power.  (We hear our Lord say, “I have this.”

Remember this sentence from yesterday’s blog: “Don’t wear your mind out worrying.  Wear your knees out praying.”

In the book Apprentice, there is a question for day three reading on Pg. 84, “Why does prayer sometimes seem so insufficient when we are searching for answers?”

I have found in my life the answer is multicolored:

There are times when it is that I want to know why immediately.  At other times I want to get out of it in that moment.  Still at other times I fail to trust God and sometimes I just have let my guard down.

Brothers and sisters, it is of greatest important that we keep the guard up around our minds and hearts at all times.  Take time to-day and put up your guard.

Here is an amazing prayer by Paul:

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family[c] in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen

Growing in Faith (Matthew 14)

April 24, 2018

31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt? Matthew 14:31

Sometimes people’s words stick deep in us and they wound us, when in actuality they should have encouraged us.  The reason for this is because we only hear the first words of what they were saying or we assume the meaning without getting clarity.

Consider Jesus words to Peter in Matthew 14:31.  Peter has just accomplished a feat that you and I have never accomplished.  He has taken steps on the water to walk to Jesus.  Yes, Peter was a water walker for a moment.  But, as you know, he took his eyes off Jesus for a second.  He quickly began to sink.  But he quickly turned his eyes back to Jesus and said these amazing, life-altering words, “Lord, save me.”

You and I have read this so many times.  We have talked about Peter’s failure to keeps his eyes on Jesus.  It is true, we sometimes fail to keep our eyes focused.  But it is also true that Jesus honored his request by saving him.

In this moment, Peter must have been deflated.  Maybe this is where you are in this moment.  Then Jesus adds insult to injury as He says, “Oh you of little faith…”  But wait, is Jesus insulting Peter or is He encouraging Peter with the understanding that Peter has gone from no faith to little faith?

I believe these are encouraging words for Peter and the other apprentices.  Jesus is teaching them about the steps of faith.  Often we fail to understand how our faith is not a sprint but a marathon!  God intends for us to daily take steps of faith, with each building on the other.

Maybe you are in a place where you feel like you have little faith.  Oh my brother and sisters, little faith is so much better than no faith.

When I read the words of Jesus in Matthew 14:31, I get encouraged to not give up but to grow in my faith.  Below are the words of Peter from II Peter 1:3-10.  Grow in your faith.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[c] his own glory and excellence,[d]by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[e] and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities[f] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers,[g] be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Appointments (Genesis 18)

April 23, 2018

14 Is anything too hard[d] for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” Genesis 18:14

In one’s lifetime there are many appointments we have to keep.  For example, Sherry had her yearly checkup last Friday.  It was an appointment she wanted to keep.  Still there are appointments we do not want to keep.  For me, it’s when I have to go to the dentist.  Maybe this blog has reminded you of an appointment you need to either make or keep?

Question: Did you know our God is a God of appointments? The Bible teaches us of God’s appointments with men.   Job wrote of God setting the boundaries of our lives, 14:3-5.  Every person has an appointment to be born and an appointment with death.  Every person has appointments throughout life set by God, Ephesians 5;15-18; Philippians 1:6.

In Genesis 18 we read about one of many appointments God had with Abraham. For the past 24 years Abraham had been following God.  He is 99 years old.  In chapter 17:21, God had promised Abraham of an appointment He had set for this elderly man.  His wife being 89 years old would have a child one year from the day of this appointment.

Chapter 18 gives us three truths about God’s appointments with men:

  1. God favors people in including them in his appointed plans, 18:3.
  2. God plans are accomplished by His power, 18: 14 “nothing is too hard for Him.”
  3. Gods appointments include both blessings and judgments, 18:22-23.

Abraham was being blessed because he was following God.  The people of Sodom were about to be judged because they were not following God.

This is amazing.  Both Abraham and the people of Sodom had appointments with God.  One to receive the blessing of a son.  The other to receive the judgment of fire.

Question:  What appointment do you have with God today?

As a Christ-follower I want to meet with the Lord in sweet fellowship, receiving His assignment for the day.  I want God to bless me with appointments with people who need the Lord.  You ask, why would God give such appointments?  The Psalmist has the answer:  Psalm 145: 20-21

The Lord preserves all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
    and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

The eagerness of Paul (Romans 1)

April 20, 2018

 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. Romans 1:15

I have read Romans 1 so many times, but today I read it with a freshness that welds my heart to Paul’s heart in Vs: 15.

Question: “are you eager as a Christ-follower.  The Message translates verse 15 as follows, I can’t wait to get to Rome so I can preach the gospel to you.”  The New Living Translation renders the verse as: “I am eager to come to you in Rome…”

How does a person keep this eagerness year after year?  I believe we find our answer early in the book of Romans.  Paul identifies himself as a servant who has been called as an Apostle.  This calling is to proclaim the gospel to all nations.

When we understand our status (Servant), our service (to and through the local church), and our assignment (Preach to the nations), we will have an eagerness of life.

We see it in Romans 1 in Paul’s’ life:

  • Paul was truly eager to sever the church, Vs: 8-11.  He wanted to share his spiritual gifts with the church.
  • Paul was truly eager to lead the church, Vs: 12-14.  He knew they would grow even more if he could be there to help.
  • Paul was truly eager to proclaim the gospel, Vs: 14-17.

These three realities in Paul’s daily life led to his daily eagerness of life.  When he came to the end of his life, he had this same eagerness to finish the race (II Timothy 4:6-7).

No matter where you spiritually find yourself today, God has a renewed vision for your life.  He has called you to be a servant to His church in proclaiming the gospel to the nations.  This is truly the eagerness in my heart today!!!

Why can’t you understand? ( I Corinthians 2)

April 19, 2018

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. I Corinthians 2:14

I tried and I tried, but to no avail.  Finally I looked at my sweet wife and said, “There are somethings you cannot understand.”  Maybe you ask: what were you trying to explain to here?  I was trying to explain a mechanical issue with our car, but to no avail.

In a much more series way, you and I (as Christ-followers) want to explain to lost people how they might know Jesus.  But in some cases it seems impossible.  Could it be our technique or could it be our lack of wisdom?  The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 2, reveals to us why some people cannot understand.

Keep in mind Paul has addressed this letter to a church that had been blessed with grace upon grace.  They were very gifted but they were getting weaker as a church because of the multitude of problems in their church.

In chapter 2 Paul seeks to bring them to humble unity.  He wrote about his ministry with them:

  • spoke to you with the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit, Vs: 5.
  • shared God’s Word with those who came to maturity in faith, Vs: 6-9.
  • I shared what I had received  from the Holy Spirit, Vs: 10-13.

It is in verses ten through thirteen where we understand why we can here:

  • We hear because the Holy Spirit has revealed God’s truth to us
  • We hear and understands because the Holy Spirit freely offers us God’s truth.
  • We are able to share with others because the Holy Spirit empowers us to deliver God’s truth.

But what about those who don’t understand?  We find the answer in verse fourteen:

  1. An unsaved man or woman does not possess the Holy Spirit.
  2. An unsaved man or woman does not have the capability to understand the Word.

When he or she hears the word it is like being in a foreign country where you cannot understand their language.  You have no dictionary to translate the words and you have no interpreter.   For us the dictionary is God’s Word and the interpreter is the Holy Spirit.

When a person receives Christ everything changes (Vs: 15).

The Words of the Psalmist take on new meaning when you grasp this truth.  Here is Psalm 143:7-10

Answer me quickly, O Lord!
    My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
    lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
    for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
    for to you I lift up my soul.

Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
    I have fled to you for refuge.[a]
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
    on level ground!

Getting it right (Luke 9)

April 18, 2018

54 And when his disciples James and John saw it, they said, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Luke 9:54

It goes without saying, but I am going to say it anyway: “there are somethings in life you had better get right.”  For example, you had better get it right in who you are marrying or a divorce is headed your way.  You had better get it right in what house you live in our you will be repairing the house all the time.  And above all you had better get it right in regard to who is God because your soul hangs in the balance.

The apprentices of Jesus had it right.  Peter confesses, “Jesus is the Christ!”  The apprentices were able for a moment to glimpse at the glory of Jesus on the mount of transfiguration.  They knew who He was, but there were things they did not get right:

  • They did not get it right with the feeding of the 5000.  They failed to see Him as the all-powerful bread of life.
  • They did not get it right when they were arguing about who was the greatest.  The truly great ones are those who serve others for the glory of God.
  • They did not get it right in a Samaritan village.  Vs: 51-55

I have read Luke 9 many times, but I do not believe I ever found myself so gripped by what James and John said in Vs: 54.  These men wanted judgment instead of mercy to be carried out against this village.  These men wanted wrath instead of forgiveness poured out on these men.

Notice what Jesus said:

56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus came to save men’s lives.  We must get this right for our own salvation.  But not only ours, but for the souls of other men.

Think through this today.  All of us have people in our lives that rub us the wrong way or they are offensive to us.  But we cannot allow the flesh to control us.  God has called us to give mercy and forgiveness to all men.  We have to get this right for the sake of all people.

Peter got it right when he wrote:

Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

How is it working for you? (I Kings 18)

April 17, 2018

 And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.”  I Kings 18:42-43

A friend had made up his mind to lose weight.  He had been on this weight loss program for more than a month when I talked with him.  I asked, “How it is working for you?”  The brother responded, “Not to well, I have gained six pounds.”  In my shock I asked, “What happened?”  His response sticks deep in my mind, “I was hungry all the time so I ate more than usual.”

Could it be that some plans really turn out differently than we planned? Question:  What is your plan for your life right now?

The prophet Elijah had a plan.  It is a simply plan: “Obey God.”  It is a complex plan: “He had to obey God.”  It was a powerful plan: “He obeyed God.”

This is what we see in His life.  Think about how God said, “obey.”  In chapter 17 Elijah was told to confront wicked king Ahab.  He did in 17:1-6..  God provided for his every need, 17:7-15.  It was a powerful plan as God worked a miracle for food and a miracle of raising the dead.

Thing about what it cost Elijah to obey.  He spent over three years on the run from Ahab, 18:1-14.  But it was an awesome time of God daily working in his life.  There were times when it was just Elijah and God.  But the fire fell from heaven when Elijah prayed.  The rain fell from heaven when Elijah prayed.

Question:  How long has it been since the fire fell (Holy Spirit filled power) and the rain fell (Revival) in your life?

The half-brother of Jesus had something to say about this:  James 5:16-18

 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.[b] 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

God plan for your life is this:

  1. Hear God’s command to obey Him.
  2. Step out in faith and commit to obeying Him.
  3. Live in the power of the Holy Spirit as you obey Him.

Behold, an amazing word (Malachi 3)

April 16, 2018

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.  Malachi 3:1

The prophet Malachi is writing to a wicked people.  A people who have called evil good and good evil (2:17).  The people were wicked in every way including robbing God of tithes of offerings (3:9-10).  The people accused God of unfairness (3:13-18) and they were secretly saying, what is the use in serving the Lord.

To these people Malachi writes, “Behold.”

This is an amazing word, it speaks of something that is worth our full attention.  The word cries out you need this!

What did they need to behold? Two things:

  1. The Lord was sending a messenger to prepare the way.  R.C. Sproul comments: “This would be the last of his kind.” Cited from Pg. 726, “Reformation Study Bible.”  This one would be like Elijah the Prophet, Matthew 11:10.  This is John the Baptist, 4:1-5.
  2. The Lord would then come!  John 1:29; I Peter 1:18-23!

You and I know this has already taken place.  We see it in the rear view mirror of the gospels.  But there is more to Malachi’s prophecy.

This Lord who was coming is still to come again!  When He comes:

  • Israel will be purified, 3:13.
  • Evil and evil people will be judged, 3:15.
  • The righteous will be rewarded, 3:16-18.

Listen to me brothers and sisters.  Behold this truth.  Jesus is coming again.  We must be ready and we must know that God is calling us to make sure our families are ready.  We must make sure our friends are ready.  We must make sure everyone is ready because Jesus is not coming to die on the cross again. He is coming to rule and reign forever!!!

Who is willing (Isaiah 1)

April 13, 2018

“Come now, let us reason[c] together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you shall eat the good of the land; Isaiah 1:18-19

It was about this time last year when I witnessed a sight that I cannot get out of my mind.  Pastor Cary was working with our students in the gym.  It was an evening of truth or dare.  The students were asked to engage in games that required them to each strange things, including worms.  I was amazed at who was willing and who was not willing.

As we come to the last day of our readings for this week, we are in Isaiah 1.  The prophet of God begins with a bold proclamation:

Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
    for the Lord has spoken:

The prophet says, I am telling you what the Lord has said.  Here is what the Lord said:

  • The nation has rebelled against God, Vs: 2-4.  They despised the Holy One of Israel.
  • The nation was about to be ruined because of their sin against God, Vs: 5-6.
  • The nation is in a religious nightmare, Vs: 7-15.  They are coming to worship filled with iniquity. 
  • The nation is told to repent, Vs: 16-20.

If the nation would repent they would be redeemed and restored to a place of favor before God.  But the question was, were they willing?  The answer came, they were not willing.

You and I know, Jesus was willing to come to a rebellious world with rebellious people to purchase their redemption, Romans 3:21-26.

What I take away from today is twofold:

  1.  I live in a nation that is just like Israel.
  2. I am called to be an Isaiah to proclaim the truth of the gospel with the world.