Archive for September, 2012

The Mystery of His Will (Ephesians 1:1-14)

September 28, 2012

“In Him we have obtained an inheritance, have been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” Ephesians 1:11

Last week I had the honor of sharing Christ with a 73-year-old man who is dying with cancer.  His name was given to me by his brother who lives on the opposite end of our state.  He called our church and left his brother’s address.  He was concerned about his eternal destiny.  John and I found his house and knocked on the door.  We were greeted by his wife and then beckoned to come in.  She proceeded to go and get her husband who was asleep in the bedroom.  She returned with her husband who was clearly in the last stages of cancer.  As we sat down, I felt the sweet presence of the Holy Spirit.  I also felt the strong urgency of this moment.  The gospel was shared, Randal’s eyes were opened, and Jesus came in.

As I thought about this moment of mercy and grace, I found myself locked into our More For Christ readings.  The book of Ephesians gives us Pauls great treatise on the doctrine of grace.  Here in chapter one we see the mystery of his will.  When I consider God’s grace to Randal and God’s grace to me, I am amazed at the mystery of His will.  Here is and outline of these verses:

1.  I am overwhelmed with His blessings, Vs: 3-10

This great God blessed us by choosing, adopting, and redeeming us.  This great God has showered us with his riches of grace and his rich understanding.

2.  I am overjoyed with His blessings, Vs: 11-14

How can we do anything less than give him praise for all he has done. He has given us, grace, His Spirit, and His sealing for eternity.  We are His.  All I can do is say thank you!!!

Oh the great mystery of a great God who would save sinners such as you and I.  Today, I challenge you to give praise to our Great God and I challenge you to share the message of Grace!!!  The mystery of his will could be revealed this very day.

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The Test (Galatians 6:1-18)

September 27, 2012

“But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.”  Galatians 6:4

For some people the word “test” stirs up feelings of fear and for some people the word “test” stirs up feelings of pride because they are confident about the outcome.  Question, “What feelings are stirred up in you when you hear the word “test?”

Certainly your response will depend on your experience with the word test.  For me, I think about all the years of being in school, ranging from the spelling test in first grade to the final test for my Master’s degree.  For others, it could be the test at the doctor’s office, or the test to get into an exclusive club.  The fact is, there are many different types of test in life.

Consider for a moment, Our More For Christ readings. The Apostle Paul is writing about a particular test in Galatians 6.  We would refer to this test as the test of self-examination.  The chapter begins with a command, “if anyone is caught in a transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

Wow, what a test!  Paul commands us to do two things in the first 10 verses of this chapter:

1.  Responsibly engage others who are followers of Christ, Vs: 1-2

This is a great test.  We are to dedicate ourselves to others restoration.  But to accomplish this we must be responsible people.  This is a great test. We have to be Spiritual and Gentle in our character.  This is the test of walking in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

2.  Responsibly evaluate our own lives as followers of Christ, Vs: 3-10

This is a great test.  As we evaluate ourselves we are looking for several things:  1) We evaluate how we are living.  2) We evaluate how we are sharing.  3)  We evaluate how we are sowing.  If these things pass the test, we are challenged to keep on doing them because they will pay great dividends in our lives.

Question:  “Have you passed this test?”  The answer lies in how you treat others.  The fact is, if we daily test ourselves in these two areas we will develop a life that centers on the mercy of God that is best exhibited at the cross (6:11-18).  When this test in place you will be seen as one who according to Paul, “Bears in our body the marks of Jesus.”

Oh, how I pray that you and I look like people who have passed the test!!!

Being Set Free (Galatians 5:1-26)

September 26, 2012

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1

This past week I read the story of a Iranian  man who converted to Christianity.  He has sought and received asylum in the United States.  Here is a small sampling of what he said during a Fox News interview, “Following Christ means that I am now a target of radical Islam.  Even here in the United States I fear for my life.”

Question, “Is your life better or worse as a follower of Christ?”  This may seem like a strange question, but it is a legitimate question.  Consider our More For Christ readings, the Apostle Paul speaks with authority when he writes, “Stand firm.”  The truth is, it is not a cakewalk to follow Christ.  The people in Galatia were facing legalistic Jews who were teaching false doctrine and they were exerting pressure to emphasis their point.  Here is and outline of Paul’s response:

1.  Stand firm in your freedom, Vs: 1-15

Notice the contrast:  If we do not stand firm we are trying to live life apart from grace.  If we do not stand firm we will try to live in a way that will not be approved by God.  However, if we do stand firm we live by faith.  This faith brings freedom and this freedom evidences itself in love for God and love for our neighbors.

2.  Stay focused in your freedom, Vs: 16-26

Living a free life is not easy but it is effective.  The freedom we possess must be protected from the attacks of the flesh that would remove us from a place of freedom.  This life demands a focus that understands the war that is taking place.  This life demands a focus that clearly seeks to walk in the Spirit.  Such a person is led by the Spirit into a life that evidences the presence of the Spirit through 9 distinctions (Vs: 23-24).

One of the distinctions is peace.  Certainly our Iranian  brother faces a legitimate threat to his life, but in Christ he has been set free to have peace in his circumstances.

Brothers and sisters, here is where real faith comes into play.  Those who have truly been set free live a life that not only acts correctly but also thinks correctly.

Question:  “What are those things that hold you in bondage in your mind?”  Submit them to God’s Spirit.  Seek His answer to these issues in your mind.  Stand in the freedom of what He says.  This is truly a free life.

Consider What You Are Doing (Galatians 4:8-31)

September 25, 2012

But now that you have come to know God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”  Gal. 4:9

Could it be possible that human beings, with all the wisdom before us, are not considering what we are doing?  The fact is, we often do many thinks in a day without considering what we are doing.  Allow me to give you and illustration of this:  “I was leaving for work a few days ago, I pulled out of our subdivision to the main road.  As usual I had to wait for a spot in the traffic because it was very busy.  As I sat there I began noticing the people who were going by.  One in particular stands out.  He came by at a rapid speed.  He had a razor in one hand and was talking on the cell phone with the other.  All the while he was speeding down the main road.”  In this moment I prayed, “God protect Him, for he does not know what he is doing.”

In our More For Christ readings, I believe Paul was praying this same prayer for those Galatian believers who were not considering what they were doing.  Here is a suggested outline of our text, Ga. 4:8-31:

1.  A startling question:  Vs: 8-11

“How could you turn back?” “Why would you want to turn back?” Paul was afraid his work was in vain.  Could it be possible that they missed the truth of the gospel?

2.  A starting reaction:  Vs: 12-20

When Paul first went to their city, they embraced him and they embraced the gospel.  But now it seemed as if they had turned on Paul and they had turned away from the gospel.  The problem was simple, “Christ had not been formed in them.”  They had not given themselves to growing to maturity in Christ.  They were not considering what they were doing!

3.  A sufficient illustration: Vs: 21-31

Here we find and illustration of Abraham seeking to do things his way (Works) vs doing things God’s way (Grace).  God would not accept Abraham’s way and he will not accept the Galatians way.  Brother and sister he will not accept our way!

Today, just like that guy who was shaving, driving the car, and talking on the phone all at the same time, you and I often live our lives with so much distraction that we do not consider what we are doing.

Today, our goal should be, “Christ being formed in us.”  This is our goal.  We must consider it and we must concentrate on doing this by grace.  We work because we have been saved, not to be saved.  So, take time this day and consider what you are doing.

All The Same (Galatians 3:21-4:7)

September 24, 2012

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,”  Gal. 3:28

Imagine going to the grocery store to discover that there was only one kind of any item on your shopping list.  For me that would be a blessing when I take “The List” given to me by my wife.  But the fact is you and I have gotten very used to having variety in our selections.

Here in our More For Christ readings we discover just the opposite when it comes to God’s description of Christians.  I remind you of this fact, “Paul is writing to a church that was under theological attack.  This church was founded on “Salvation, by grace alone, through faith alone.”  But now the church was facing this attack in which the attackers were portraying themselves as legal theologians.

In chapters three and four Paul contrasts the differences between his teaching and the teaching of the false theologians.  In their view-point, the Jew had a better opportunity for eternal life than did the Gentile because they were possessors of the law of God.  But Paul refutes their viewpoint by clearly stating two things:

1.  The purpose of the law, 3:21-39

The law was never the means for a person’s salvation.  The law was added because men were sinners and needed to be made aware of their sin.  The law points out our sin and the law points us to our need of a Savior,

2.  The power of the Gospel, 3:29-4:7

Only Christ can liberate us from our transgressions.  Only Christ can free us from the captivity to the law (Law says we are sinners).  Only Christ can lead us to live a new life.

Whether Jew or Gentile we are all one in Christ.  We are all born as sinners under the law.  But Jesus came for both Jew and Gentile.  We become heirs of Christ.

This very day, we are all the same.  We are all sinners and we all can be saved in one way.  This way is through Jesus Christ.

So as I spend this day engaging people, I pray that I remember, “Jesus is the solution for all of our sin.”  We are all the same.

So as you engage people of different faiths and some without any faith.  Keep in mind that they are all the same.  Sinners who need the Savior.

Counter-cultural living (Galatians 1)

September 21, 2012

“Who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Gal. 1:4-5

“Wow, that was different.”  These words were spoken by guy number 66 in line at McDonald’s a few months ago.  What this guy did not know what that earlier on in the morning, 66 cars ahead, a guy simply said to the lady who was receiving his payment for his drive through order, “I want to pay for the person behind me.”  This set off a deal that last for over two hours.  This guy was number 66 in line that had his meal paid for.  Wow, is right, so counter-cultural.

This morning we being a new book in our More for Christ readings.  The book of Galatians. The epistle is Paul’s answer to the problem of salvation by grace verses salvation by man’s own merit.  Many have correctly identified this book as the great treaties on the doctrine of justification.  Here is a suggested outline of chapter 1:

I.  Jesus gave himself, Vs: 1-4

Our Lord gave himself for our sins.  Our Lord delivered us from the pain and penalty of sin.

II.  Man distorts himself, Vs: 5-10

Humanity does not want to admit that he or she is spiritually bankrupt. Humanity does not want to admit he or she is total unable to save oneself.  Mankind wants to retain part of his self-worth.

III.  Paul submits himself, Vs: 11-24

Paul admits his inability to save himself.  He glories in the gospel.  The gospel is God’s Word, Vs: 11-12.  The gospel is God’s work, Vs: 13-17.

Paul’s life was forever changed by the gospel.  This gospel came to Paul because God has chosen to open his eyes.  Paul’s life would now be lived in a counter-cultural way as he would model his Savior in giving his life to serve others for the sake of the gospel.

Sadly enough the number of people who received free food ended at 66.  This guy was amazed at what happened, but he had no thought of giving grace to the person behind him. How tragic that men cannot live counter-cultural.  This is why we even more glory in our Savior.  He alone can save and He alone can place us on a different path.  Praise God for His amazing grace!

And Important P.S. (Romans 16)

September 20, 2012

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.”  Romans 16:15

His comments were encouraging and uplifting until the “P.S.”  This was my summation of a persons comments to me at half-time of a basketball game that I was officiating at Southern Seminary.  This person was so uplifting about how he enjoyed how the game was called. But just before he went back to the bench he commented, “But you missed two walking calls.”  Sometimes the P.S. of life can be discouraging.

Here in Paul’s concluding remarks to the Romans we find a very encouraging P.S.  Paul begins his P.S. with and aggressive word, “Appeal.”  This words speaks to the importance of what he is about to tack on to this letter.  Here is what he tacks on:

1.  Avoid disunity, Vs: 17-19

There will always be people who’s P.S. bring disunity in the church.  They divide, cause obstacles, and teach false doctrine.  Their goal is self-glorification.  They prey on people who are naive to think that everyone is seeking to lift up Christ.  Paul’s strong appeal leads us to understand that we must choose our friends carefully.  We must see them in action and we must test their understanding of God’s Word.

2.  Avail yourself with discernment, Vs: 19-27

Every Child of God needs to know the difference between what is good and what is evil.  Every Child of God needs to know they have victory over the enemy through Jesus Christ.  Every Child of God needs to know where their strength comes from.

When we have discernment we both avoid distractions and we avail ourselves with joyous discernment that leads us to praise the only true God forever!

So here is our takeaway:  1.  Seek to avoid the daily P.S. that would take you away from loving God and being led by God.   

2.  Seek God’s wisdom in understanding the P.S. that come from God’s Word.  They are there to give you the strength you need for this present hour.  Get into His Word and experience the glorious P.S. 

 

Never Idle (Romans 15:22-16:7)

September 19, 2012

“”But now, since I no longer have any room for work in these regions, and since I have longed for many years to come to you,” Romans 15:23

“How do you do it all?”  This was the question I posed to our dear friend who serves as a missionary to the people of Romania.  It is also a question that I could ask each who read this blog today.  The fact is, “everyone I know seems to have their schedules filled with activity.”  Doctor’s tell us there is and elevated increase in people who have chronic stress symptoms because of their schedules.  In other words, “very few people are idle in today’s world.”

Consider Paul in our More For Christ readings.  His life was lived with constant activity.  But it seems to me that his activity had a greater purpose than most in our world.  Here is and outline of our text:

1.  Paul was passionate about the delivery of the gospel, Vs: 22-29

Paul had fulled his commitment to his present mission (The gospel to the gentiles in Europe and Asia).

Paul now turns his attention to a future mission (The gospel to the people in Spain).

I am amazed as I read these verses because Paul was not idle between missions.  Presently he was taking monies to the Jerusalem church that he had raised while on mission.  The church was facing hard times and this offering would help.

2.  Paul faces a problem in delivering the gospel, Vs: 30-33

Paul knew there were enemies of the gospel.  These unbelieving Jews would try to extinguish the gospel by destroy the proclaimer of the gospel.  Paul seeks prayer and Paul seeks the peace of God.

3.  Paul praises those who are dedicated to the gospel, 16:1-7

Chapter 16 is filled with names of people who cared for those who delivered the gospel.  Many risked their lives for the sake of the gospel.  They were hard workers who’s lives were never idle.

This morning I came away from this passage with and increased burden to take inventory of my daily life.  I asked the Lord to show me what was valuable and what was not valuable.  “Lord, remove the useless things and replace them with the one important thing.”

This day I challenge each of you to make the gospel the main thing.  If you are a missionary, be careful that you day does not get cluttered with things that do not benefit the gospel.  If you are a missionary in the public sector, be sure you make the most of the moments you are given.  Protect your calendar from idle things.

Bottom line: “WE NEED NEVER BE IDLE AS LONG AS WE HAVE THE GOSPEL.”

Pleasing Someone Else (Romans 15:1-21)

September 18, 2012

“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” Romans 15:2

“It’s just not that easy.”  These were the words I spoke to our Lord as I read Romans 15:1-21. The fact is, there are all kinds of people who are just not easy to be around.  I will go even farther to say, “there are some people who are tough to be around.”

Now, before you think, “Pastor has lost his faith,” I challenge you to read the scripture before you.  Paul is writing to believers and he is practically teaching them how to live out their faith in various contexts.  Here in chapter 15 we discover how to live our lives with others in mind.

Here is a suggested outline of the text:

1.  We see the exhortation to Christ-likeness, Vs:1-2

Paul reminds us that we have and obligation to live and build up people who are difficult to be around.  We are to build up their faith.

2.  We see the example of Christ life, Vs: 3-13

Our Lord denied himself and suffered for the benefit of others.  We also see this in John 5:30, 6:38. Christ denied himself for the sake of the glory of the Lord.

In Christ we see both a love for the Jew and the Gentile.  In Christ we have joy, peace, and love for all we see.

3.  We see the evangelism of those without Christ, Vs: 14-21

We are to be ministers of Christ Jesus to all people.  Our goal is to minister Christ to those who have never heard and never understood the gospel.

So, what does all of this mean for our lives?  It means that we seek to please someone else.  How to we accomplish this task?  We give them the gospel.  Yes, there are people who are tough to live by, live with, or live near.  But we must remember, we would be the same way without the gospel.

This day, I challenge you to consider your heart attitude toward those who are near you.  This day I encourage you to peace them by being Christ to them.  The gospel will work.  Keep it up for the glory of the Lord.

And, no I am not loosing my faith.  God is strengthening my faith in teaching me how to have mercy!!!

A Judgment Call (Romans 14)

September 17, 2012

“Each one must be fully convinced in his mind.”  Romans 14:5b

Recently I was reminded of how much of our lives are lived with judgment calls.  The fact is, far to much of our lives are lived with judgment calls.  Here are a few examples:

1)  We see a person in line at the grocery store.  They look unkept, sloppy, and even unkind.  We judge them as lazy, without responsibility, and a heathen.  But in reality they have been up all night with a sick neighbor and now they are buying groceries for them.

2) We encounter a person who is so against the gospel.  They are angry and they are even vicious.  We judge them as people who are filled with the Devil.  But in reality they grew up in a home where the gospel was used in a legalistic way and they  where abused in the name of Christ.  The fact is, they are blind and they need to hear the true Gospel.

3)  We encounter our children who seem in the moment so disrespectful.  They seem to disregard everything you are saying.  But in reality they are carrying the weight of what the future holds.  They cannot give attention to you because they are consumed with this weight they are carrying.

At this point I sense what you are thinking, “Stop giving illustrations, I get it already.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Romans 14 gives us practical advice concerning the subject of judgment calls.  I encourage you to read with great interest the chapter before you.  Look for the following in the chapter:

1.  Illustrations, Vs: 1-12

2.  Instructions, Vs: 1-12

3.  Intention of the Lord,Vs: 13-23

Our Lords intention is for the believer to never become a stumbling block but to walk in love and to build up the family of God.  Paul concludes this text: “Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.”

We must be Christ-centered in our judgment calls.  Much is on the line every moment of our lives.

If you have been making the wrong judgment calls, “repent and focus on Christ.”  If you have been lingering in a judgment call, “cling to Jesus love and you will get through.”  Finally I challenge each of you to leave all judgment to God’s direction.