Archive for July, 2015

What was driving him? (Acts 18; Mark 13; Jeremiah 27; Judges 14)

July 31, 2015

“When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus.”  Acts 18:5

“But on taking his leave of them he said, ‘I will return to you if God wills, and he said sail from Ephesus.” Acts 18:21

As we begin the long and laboring process of the election process for a new president in the US.  We find 16 candidates on the Republican side, with more to come, plus many who will run on both Democratic as well as independent tickets.  Question, “What would be the driving force that led someone to want to run for president?”

The fact is, the job is 24/7 life in a fishbowl where you know at any given time more and more pressure is applied.  Years ago I read President George W. Bush autobiography in which he answered the question of why like this, “I love my country and I believed I was the one who could make a difference.”

Question:  “What drives you and I?”  If we asked this question to the Apostle Paul, I believe he would give us this answer, “All I do, is for the glory of the Lord,” I Corinthians 10:31.  I believe the New Testament chronicles how his life back’s this up.

Acts 18 is an example of this driving force in his life.  I believe we see two clear markers that serve as book ends on Paul’s daily life:

  • Daily Paul was occupied with the Word of God, Vs: 5

The Word encouraged, equipped, confronted, and empowered Paul.  We see an example of the encouragement in this very chapter, “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will harm you, for I have many people in this city,” Acts 18:9-10

  • Daily Paul was occupied with the will of God, Vs: 21

Paul was led by the Spirit which often provoke his own spirit in God’s direction for his every day.

Think it through:

These two markers must become the book ends of our lives as well.  Each day we should begin by reading God’s Word.  That’s the left book end of our lives.  Then we must say to God, “I live to do your will.”  This is the right book end in your live.  In between the book ends is your daily life.

Could it be this simply, “Yes.”  But it is hard to live every day within these book ends because we sometimes fail to take time to read.  Let our response be simply, “I will read God’s Word before I begin each day!!!”

A Provoked Spirit (Acts 17; Mark 12; Judges 13; Jeremiah 25)

July 30, 2015

“Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.”  Acts 17:16

Question:  “have you ever been provoked into doing something that later you wondered why?”  Recently I was reading a chapter in J.D. Greer’s book on the Holy Spirit.  He said, “Imagine being provoked to eat an entire pie by your self.  Certainly you can do it, but after you will wonder why.”  There are many things that provoke us (Move us to action).

Here in Acts 17 Paul is moved to action because of one thing, “His love for God.”

Think it through:

Paul’s ministry to the church is clearly chronicled in chapter 17:

  • Paul spend’s three weeks in Thessalonica. While there a church is formed even though he is run out-of-town, 17:1-9.
  • Paul travel’s to Berea where the gospel has great impact.  But again Paul is forced to leave town, 17:10-15.
  • Paul then travels to Athens where we see his spirit being provoked, 17:16-31.

What does it mean when the scripture describes Paul as having his spirit provoked?  Now there is much division among people here.  I am at a settled position with the belief that Paul’s own spirit (changed by God) is raised in a God-focused desire to honor God’s glorious name among a people who worshipped idols.  Paul wanted the name of Christ to be put forth so that the people would turn to God, Vs: 30.

When Paul’s spiritual temperature was raised he did the following:

  • He engaged in gospel apologetics, Vs: 17-21
  • He engaged in theological explanation, Vs: 22-27
  • He engaged in the gospel invitation, Vs: 28-31

Brothers and sisters, we know our spirit is provoked in the correct way when we desire the glory of God.

Our response:

The prophet Jeremiah was provoked in spirit in Jeremiah 25 as he proclaimed the word of the Lord.  He was unwilling to back down even if it meant his life, 25:12-14!!!  He lived for the glory of God.

Oh how I pray that you and I check the temperature of our spirit every day?

  • Are we passionate about the glory of God or are we passionate about the glory of men?
  • Are we broken over God’s rule being rejected or our comfort being challenged?
  • Are we serious about Gospel truth?

Take this passage to heart!!!  Become provoked in your spirit for the glory of God.

Thinking of the best (Acts 16; Mark 11; Judges 12; Jeremiah 24)

July 29, 2015

“But Paul thought it best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.”  Acts 15:38

Question, “Do you and I always make the best decisions?”  A humble answer would be, “no.”   A not so humble answer would be, “Yes.”  Brothers and sisters, “this day, be careful in your decision-making.”

Here before us in Acts 16 is the historical narrative of the results of one man making the best decision.  The man, Paul.  His decision, “Take Silas as his ministry partner to Europe.”

This was not an easy decision.  His previous partner, Barnabas, was of great influence in Paul’s life.  He was the first to welcome Paul into the church, he was the first to offer to Paul a ministry assignment, and he had walked with Paul through two previous missionary assignments.  But in this moment, “Paul thought it best to go in a different direction.”

Think it through:

Because of this, “The gospel came to Europe.”

Two things characterized the best things:

  • Paul’s ministry strengthened the church and reached the communities where the church had been established, 16:5
  • Paul’s ministry stretched beyond the existing church to new areas that had never heard the gospel, 16:11-33.

One of the areas was Philippi where the gospel touched people from every economic position:

  • Rich-a woman named Lydia
  • Poor-a slave girl
  • Middle-class-a Jailor and his family

It was here where the glorious gospel invitation rang out, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:31

Praise God for a man who was thinking the best!!!

Question, “Are you and I thinking the best today?”  Often our decisions are based on our wishes instead of the wishes of the gospel.

A needed response:

This day I plead with you to seek the best things.  Allow God to direct your steps and follow the path God sets before you.  If you do, you can be assured that you are accomplishing the best things!!!  Also be assured, there will be moments when you will have to cease doing things as you are.  You will be asked to at times, “change jobs, change cities, even change friendships for the sake of the gospel.  Again, the best things demand our best!

In This Time (Mark 10; Acts 15; Jeremiah 24; Judges 11)

July 28, 2015

“Who will not receive  a hundred-fold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”  Mark 10:30

Question:  “What is happening in this time of your life?”

It seems that for most people, life is lived somewhere been fantasy and fact!!!  The fantasy happens as we have dreams that are just beyond our grasp.  Many of us try to reach for and grasp the dream by using credit cards or by substituting fiction for fact.  But still there is emptiness in the time!!!

Consider the promise of Jesus in Mark 10:30.  The promise comes at the end of a lengthy encounter with a Rich man who is trying to earn eternal life.  The promise comes out of a deep theological debate concerning, “True Salvation.”

Think it through:

We see two viewpoints in the debate:

  • The correct view of salvation is this:
    • Salvation comes to those who have a child-like dependence on Jesus, Mark 10:12-16
    • Such people know they cannot save themselves, Mark 10:27
    • Such people come to believe Christ is the only way of salvation, Mark 10:47
    • Such people realize they are now servants of Jesus Christ, Mark 10:45
  • The corrupt of salvation is this:
    • I can do all of this myself, Mark 10:17-22
    • The cross of Christ was not enough, Mark 10:32-34

In Acts 15 we see the correcting of this correct view!!!

Those who have the correct view are blessed with a hundred-fold blessing.  This blessing is for this time as well as for another time!!!

This time includes the following, “The provision of our needs being meet, a family bigger than we could imagine (the church), and trials (persecutions) that cause us to grow deep in our faith.”

The future time includes the following, “To come eternal life.”

Those who have the corrupt view, can fabricate the in this time.  However they cannot inherit the kingdom of God!!!

Our response:

We should live in this time as true servants of Jesus Christ, Mark 10:45.  Our goal should be to share the true gospel of Jesus Christ with the world.  We do this in this time by authentic living and authentic proclamation!!!  Our goal is not to get all we can get here, but to give all we can because all that we get is still to come.

Which doctor? (Mark 9; Jeremiah 23; Acts 14; Judges 10)

July 27, 2015

“And he answered them, O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you?  How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” Mark 9:19

There are so many doctors who sometimes have differing opinions about how to fix the problem you are having.  In these moments the question is, “Which doctor should you believe and which doctor is the best?”

Let’s dig a little deeper. Our’s is a world of both promises and pretense!!!  Let me explain:  People (health and spiritual doctors) promise joy, happiness, and deliverance if we do what they prescribe.  However, at the end of the day it was pretense because they are unable to spiritually deliver what they promise.  Such are the false religions of the world.

Think it through:

Consider Christ!  Here in Mark 9 we discover amazing truth about Doctor Jesus:

  • We see the transfiguration, Vs: 1-13 (In this scene God the Father proclaims, “This is my Son, listen to Him.”

Out of all the voices that prescribe answers, this one voice is from God.  We hear that voice through the Bible.

  • We see the touch, Vs: 14-29 (In this scene Jesus heals a demon possessed boy).
  • We see the greater task, Vs: 30-32 (In this scene Jesus reminds his followers of the greater task of the cross).  Christ had to purchase the freedom he promised!!!

Follow closely what we are about to see!!!  As one who believes Jesus is the Spiritual doctor I need to follow, it becomes clear how I am to follow Him:

  1. I need to learn to be a servant like Him, Vs: 33-37.
  2. I need to love all servants, even if we do not agree on every small doctrine, Vs: 38-41.
  3. I need to live a sanctified life, Vs: 41-49.
  4. I need to be salt and light to the world, Vs: 50-51

This is Doctor Jesus prescription for a productive life as His follower!!!

Our response:

Question:  “Is this the way your life is being lived?”  If you find yourself following some other spiritual prescription, you need to tear it up and come back to Jesus.  Or if you have never followed Jesus, come to Him today!!!

A ministry like His (Mark 6; Jeremiah 20; Judges 7; Acts 11)

July 24, 2015

“For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat,” Mark 6:32

Whoever said, “ministry will be easy,” really had no experience with a ministry like His.  This morning’s readings seemed to all point to the reality of ministry!!!  In a moment we will look at both Jeremiah’s and Jesus ministry.  But before we do, consider this, “Every Christ-follower is in ministry.”

Paul put it this way in II Timothy 2:20 “In a great house there are not only vessels of honor but also dishonor…”

God calls every follower to approach their Christian life as a ministry with and for God.

Think it through:

  • Jeremiah’s ministry was filled up’s and downs that lead him to weep bitterly in Jeremiah 20.  But still He would not turn away from his ministry because it was the fire inside of him.
  • Jesus ministry was filled with up’s and downs that lead him to the cross.

Often people look at the ministry of Jesus as a glorious work of helping, healing, and happiness.  But the opposite was often the case.  Consider this fact, Jesus ministry was filled with rejection, agony, torture, and betrayal.  In Mark 6 we see Christ ministry being driven with a passion for the end result.

One must approach ministry with this view:  “The cross comes before the crown.”

Here in Mark 6 I find  4 helpful reminders for all ministers:

  1. Ministry begins when we embrace Christ (They were His disciples), Matthew 16:24
  2. Ministry must be endured in the tough times.
  3. Ministry must have moments of escape where we take R. and R. in the work.
  4. Ministry must be filled with the expectation that some day the Lord will return and we will forever be with him.

Our response:

Take some time this day and reread the scriptures for today’s reading.  Notice the 4 reminders being lived out in Jeremiah’s, Jesus, John the Baptist, and Peter’s life.  Write down where you need to grow and write down where you need to escape.  Above all, have great faith in the only one who has it all under control.

Preparation’s being made (Acts 10; Mark 5; Jeremiah 19; Judges)

July 23, 2015

“and he ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 10:42

Each day we as Americans take for granted the daily preparations that are made for our day.  While we sleepily arise, local fire and police departments are changing shifts making preparations to protect us each day.  While we drive preparations were made for traffic lights to work and for roads to be sufficient for us to travel on.  When we arrive at work, custodians and technicians have our offices ready, not to mention the utility companies that have all prepared for our day.  We could continue on and on with illustrations of what we take for granted in our day!!!

Spiritually speaking have you considered the preparations that have been made for your life?

Think it through:

Peter proclaims Christ as the one who made spiritual preparations for our salvation, Acts 10:38-43!  This is so amazing to understand!!!

At the same time have we considered the preparations made by the Lord for people receiving the message of the gospel?  In Acts 10 we see it clearly:

  • Notice how God prepares the sinner to receive the Word, Vs: 1-7

Cornelius is led by God’s amazing grace in receiving a vision of the gospel coming through Peter.  He so believes God that he assembles his entire house to hear Peter’s message, Vs: 33.

  • Not how God prepares the saved to deliver the Word, Vs: 8-26

God open’s Peters eyes and heart to understand the importance of the gospel going into the entire world.

Our response:

As I read this chapter I could not help but pause and praise the Lord for all the preparations He made for me to be able to receive the gospel into my life.  I also could not help but have perspective in knowing I have a part in God’s preparation for others to receive the gospel.

Here is my heart:  “I must deliver the gospel to all people.”  May we heart the words of God to Gideon, “The Lord is with you, o mighty man of valor,” Judges 6:12.  God desires to use His people as a part of the preparation process for the miracle of salvation of many families.

Let us step up and out in faith!!!

Who is in charge here? (Judges 5; Jeremiah 17; Acts 9; Mark 4)

July 22, 2015

“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?  Declares the Lord.  Behold, like the clay in the potters hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”  Jeremiah 18:6

It was the most frustrating day of my life (at least at that moment). I had traveled to Romania for the first time along with a team of pastors and lay people.  When we finally arrived, it seemed to me (in my selfish wisdom) that everything was disorganized.  The longer I was there the more frustrated I became.  In my self-righteousness I thought, “these people are wasting God’s precious time and resources.”  Much later I finally discovered, “The American way is not the way the rest of the world operates.”  In America someone has to be in charge, and sadly we want it to be us!!!

As Jeremiah continues to hear and communicate the Word of the Lord to Judah we come to a moment where God through a dramatic picture teaches Judah about who is in charge!

Think it through:

The example is given of a potter working at the wheel.  As Jeremiah views the scene the potter is working with clay.  Suddenly the potter begins to rework the clay because the vessel he began to make was spoiled (Romans 9:24-27).

Here is the truth being depicted:

  • God is the potter who has created man.

If this man obeys God, He will make him into a vessel of honor by blessing his or her life.  If this man disobeys God, He will make him into a vessel of dishonor by breaking his life.  Jeremiah 18:5-11

  • Humanity is the clay that has rebelled against God.

In this picture we see clay that rebels against its creator.  This clay believes it can live according to its own design.  This clay believes it can walk the path that it sets.   This clay believes it can worship any God it chooses.  Jeremiah 18:12-18

In the end, the clay believes, “I am in charge.”  But on the day of judgment, the Potter makes the final decision, Jeremiah 18:19-23

Our response:

In the New Testament we discover how men are born as broken vessels, II Corinthians 5:10-21.  We discover how God in Christ paves the way so that we can become new vessels that can live according to God’s design.  “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  Behold all things have passed away and all things have become new.”  II Corinthians 5:17.  In Christ we can walk in newness of life, Romans 6:4.  In Christ we have a new position before God, Hebrews 9:15.

We see this illustrated in the conversion of Paul in Acts 9.

Paul submitted to the very Lord he had been fighting.  In that moment he realized who was in charge.

Question, “Have you realized who is really in charge?”  I can still remember the day when I realized in Romania that God works in many ways and in different time schedules.  It was then that I simply said, “Lord, you are in charge of my life.  I will work in your time and in your way!”  By the grace of God I became a vessel he could use for His glory.

Today I challenge you to cease fighting the potters design for your life.  Submit to his molding.  You will have joy as you live according to divine design.

Hitting the Target (Acts 8; Mark 3; Jeremiah 17; Judges 4)

July 21, 2015

“But when they believed Phillip as he preached the good news about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptize, both men and women,” Acts 8:12

This past weekend my youngest son bought his first gun.  It was a cool moment for both he and I as we together decided on the best gun for him.  As I filled out the paperwork to be able to purchase the gun I was surprised at the extend of the paper-work.  Everything had to be in place or we could not buy the gun.  Still of greater importance was the proper training for John to be a good steward of the gun he has been entrusted with.  The process of him hitting the target is much deeper than just pulling the trigger.

Consider with the process of communicating the gospel, i.e. hitting the spiritual target.  The first century church was expanding rapidly in Jerusalem.  So much so that the religious opposition proclaimed, “You have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.”  

Think it through:

God’s desire was for the church to expand its target area, to the uttermost parts of the earth.  Beginning with the martyrdom of Stephen, chapter 7, we see the church expanding it’s target area.

2 points of great interest:

  • The church was scattered in order to share the good news, 8:8

Consider this fact:  The church was continuing the ministry of Jesus that we read about in Mark 3:1-5.  They were preaching, teaching, working miracles, and casting out demons.

Consider this fact:  The church was challenged by false followers who would infiltrate the church, if allowed, 8:9-25.

  • The church was sold-out in sharing the gospel, 8:26-40

Consider the facts:  They were willing to go wherever the Spirit lead.  They were engaging the people wherever God lead.  They were seeing people come to a saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ.

Each time they shared the gospel, they were hitting the target!!!

Today’s response:

What should be the response of the church?

I believe it is clear, “We must do ministry with the same mind-set as was that of Jesus.”  He shared because this was God’s call on His life.

I believe it is clear, “We must understand God’s Word.”  God’s Word has the answer to every circumstance, but it cannot answer the questions we have not studied.

The early church hit the bull’s eye because they were willing to following the path of Jesus!!!

Dear Lord, help us to be dedicated to the process so that we can hit the target every time.  Oh, by the way, “John also hit the target with every shot.”

Miracles 101 (Mark 2; Jeremiah 16; Judges 3)

July 20, 2015

“And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door.  And he was preaching the Word to them.”  Mark 2:2

Jesus ministry was filled with so many miraculous moments that were totally unforgettable to those who experienced the miracles.  Question, “Have you experienced a personal miracle from God?”

Think it through:

We see two groups of people representing those who experience and those who refuse to experience the miracles of God:

  • Those who experience the miracles of God:

We first see the lame man:  Here was His experience, “The son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” Mark 2:10.

We secondly see the tax man:  Here was Matthews experience, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” Mark 2:17.

We thirdly see the Disciples, Here was their experiences:  “Jesus is the Bridegroom who is the Lord of the Sabbath,” Mark 2:18, 28.

  • Those who refused to experience the miracles of God:

The Pharisees questioned every move Jesus made.  They considered themselves righteous and in no need of Jesus miracles.  In the end, they died without the miracle they most needed, “Salvation.

Our response:

In this moment we come face to face with the reality, “We all need the miraculous touch of Jesus!”  But many reject their need.  They decide for a different path.  The same path the Pharisees walked.  This self-righteous path will lead to certain death!!!

Oh that you and I would both experience the miracle of Jesus and to share the miracle of Jesus!!!