Archive for September, 2015

Free to Serve (Galatians 5; I Kings 1; Psalm 80; Ezekiel 32)

September 29, 2015

“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Galatians 5:14

It almost seems like a complete paradox to say, “I am free to serve.”  In our society freedom is often referred to as follows, “the ability to do what I want to do or the ability to serve my self.”

However, in the Christian society, “Freedom is something entirely different.”

Think it through:

Paul is proving our inability to be free from the bondage of sin, Galatians 1-4.  Paul has proven how we are set free, Galatians 2:16-17.  Here is how Paul sums this us:

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

Paul’s teaching on Christian freedom is amazing here:

  • Christ sets free all who come to Him, Vs: 1-4
  • Christ will set us free when He comes for us, Vs: 5

Paul reminds us of the varied enemies of Christian freedom, Vs: 7-13

  • Other people are enemies, Vs: 7-12
  • We are our own enemies, Vs: 13

Paul reminds us of this fact:  “When God has set us free, we have a desire to serve others,” Vs: 14

Christians are people who have been set free from the life of bondage which is motivated by an inner desire to serve ourselves and to take from others what is theirs.

Even after being set free there is a daily battle.  We see the battle in Vs: 16-25

The key to our victory is in “walking in the Spirit.”

When we walk in the Spirit we both conqueror the flesh and we evidence Godly fruit.  i.e “we are free to serve.”

Our response:

Question:  “When you look at the fruit of your life, are you serving others or are you serving yourself?”  Please listen carefully here:  “This does not mean you will never do battle with the old life.”  There are moments when I desire to just do for myself.   However, I do battle in the Spirit knowing it is better to give than to receive.

Child of God, you and I have been set free to serve!!!

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“I’m In” (Galatians 4; Psalm 79; Ezekiel 31; II Samuel 24)

September 28, 2015

“And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”  Galatians 4:6

Years ago Sherry and I were flying together (believe it or not) to Texas for the SBC Convention.  We were flying on buddy passes.  We had never before flown this way.  The deal is simple, “If there are seats that have not been purchased you can have the empty seats.”  We landed in Ohio and quickly went to the gate to get on the standby list.  The attendant did not give us much hope. She said, “It does not look good.  It is a full flight.”  We found ourselves sitting at the gate praying, “Lord get us on the plane.”   It was a very nervous hour.   The plane began to board and we waited. After a pause, the attendant called us over and said, “Two people did not arrive, so the seats are yours.”  Consider this, “Someone else had to be inconvenienced so we could get on the plane.”  I remember texting the brother who gave us the buddy passes.  I texted, “I’m In.”

When you come to Galatians 4, you can sense the passion of Paul in trying to correct the error in the church in Galatia.

  • The Galatians were confused:  They believed faith in Jesus alone could not save.
  • Paul was clear: We get in because of Christ alone, Galatians 2:16-17.

Think it through:

Paul knew this confused view would lead to the those who would hear the preaching of the Galatian church to miss salvation.  Paul knew this confused view would lead the believers to miss out on the glorious work of both the Spirit (Galatians 3:2-3) and sanctification (4:19).

We cannot grow apart from the Spirit!!!

Sherry and I could not get on the plane apart from the sacrifice of someone else. Greater still Sherry and I cannot get into heaven apart from the sacrifice from someone else.  This is Jesus Christ work of salvation. “Christ redeemed up from the law.” Galatians 4:4 

Our response:

On this Monday, I want to proclaim to the world, “I’m In.”  On this Monday, I want to present the clear gospel so the world will know how to genuinely get in!!!

The Astonished Apostle (Galatians 1; II Samuel 21; Ezekiel 28; Psalm 77)

September 25, 2015

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.”  Galatians 1:6

Question:  “What are the things that cause you to be astonished in life”

Before you answer the question it would be good to define the word, “Astonished.”  The word means to be bewildered our in a daze.

There are many things that leave us bewildered in life.  Some of those things are bewildered about what is wrong and some are a bewilderment about what is correct.

Consider Paul:

  • He was astonished (bewildered) in how the Church at Galatia was turning from the gospel

Paul had proclaimed the gospel to this church in years gone by.  He had proclaimed the true gospel.  He makes reference to this gospel back in the first 5 verses of chapter one:

  1.      Jesus gave himself-John 3:16; Romans 4:25
  2.       Jesus delivered us-I john 5:19
  3.       Jesus obeyed the will of the Father-Philippians 4:20

Paul’s concern was for the false gospel that was being proclaimed.  Paul was restoring the truth of the gospel, Galatians 2:16-17!!!

Application:  We live in an astonishing time when churches and pastors are preaching false gospels.  We must take our stand as did Paul in correcting the error by every available means.

  • He was astonished (bewildered) in how Christ had saved him.

If anyone understood the transforming power of the gospel it was Paul, Galatians 1:11-24.  Even after all these years, Paul still, with freshness shared the story of God’s transforming power in his own life.

Application:  I find myself astonished today when I occasionally hear the story of someone who has been radically changed by the gospel.  I feel great conviction that God wants each of us to have this wonderful story in our lives.

My takeaway is clear:

  • Be changed by the gospel.
  • Seek to others changed by the gospel.

Confrontation 101 (II Corinthians 13; II Samuel 20; Ezekiel 27; Psalm 75-76)

September 24, 2015

“For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong.  Your restoration is what we pray for,”  II Corinthians 13:9

At times it seems as if life is spinning out of control.  Consider the following:

  • In II Samuel 20, “David faces an enemy that is trying to divide his nation.”
  • In Psalm 75, “Men stand against God people and God’s work.”
  • In Ezekiel 27, “Tyre believes she has all the riches and resources to stand against anyone, including God.”
  • In II Corinthians 13, “Paul is faced with church members who are living without repentance.”

As we read these chapters it becomes clear, “Confrontation cannot be avoided.”

Question:  “Are there circumstances in your life where confrontation is needed?”  If your answer is, “yes,” pay close attention to Paul’s timely insight into confrontation in II Corinthians 13.

The goal of confrontation is two-fold:

  • If the person who need’s confronting is a Christ-follower, your goal is restoration.
  • If the person who need’s confronting is not a Christ-follower, your goal is redemption.

Let’s dig deeper.  The word restoration speaks about being restored to a previous position.  When there is an argument between brothers and sisters, God intends for restoration to come between the friends, Ephesians 4:12.  When there is a sinful act or actions, as is in the case with the Corinthians, our goal is for the person or persons to be restored, through repentance, to their fellowship with God. Acts 3:19

Paul helps us even more to see how this looks:  “Finally brother, rejoice.  Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace be with you.”  II Corinthians 13:11

It can really be difficult to get to this place.  But be assured, you will never get to this place apart from confrontation!!!

Now, let us consider how we confront those who are not Christ-followers.  Again the goal of confrontation must be before us.  This goal is their redemption!!!  God’s desire is not that men would be lost but that they would be saved.  God will never reject anyone who comes to him in repentance, John 5:35-37.

The problem is:  “Many do not know they needed redemption.”  In love you and I must be committed to both knowing and sharing the gospel of Christ.  This gospel not only includes the love of God, John 3:16, but it also includes the judgment of God, Psalm 76.

The problem intensifies when a person does not want to repent.  This person is like the people in Psalm 75 who will face the cup of God’s wrath.  In this instance we must pray for their eyes to be open to their need of redemption.  II Corinthians 4:4-6

I pray, “God uses you as his instrument of confrontation in someone’s life today!!!”

What If? (Ezekiel 26; Psalm 74; II Samuel 19; II Corinthians 12)

September 23, 2015

“Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold I am against you, O Tyre, and will bring up many nations against you, as the sea brings up its waves.”  Ezekiel 26:3

Ezekiel 26 was my last chapter to read in our daily reading plan.  I had labored over Paul’s anxiety because of the Corinthians sinful behavior in II Corinthians 12.  I had rejoiced over God’s love for Israel even though she was in anguish over losing the temple in Psalm 74.  I felt deep gratitude for our eternal King who like David in II Samuel 19 showed mercy to all his enemies.

Then I came to Ezekiel 26 and the “what if.”

Ezekiel is the prophet of God who has been called to represent God in the darkest of days for Israel in the Old Testament error. His ministry spans a time when Israel is forced to her knees by God’s chosen vessel of judgment who is the king of Babylon.  In the book of Ezekiel we find hope beyond the moment when God will restore the people.

But we see God’s judgment is not for Israel alone.  We see many of the surrounding nations experiencing the same judgment.  Here in Ezekiel 26 we see God’s pronouncement of judgment against the people of Tyre.

Quick lesson about these people:

  • These are the Phoenician people in whom Israel had occasional conflict.
  • The nation spread pagan cults, especially the Baal worship of Jezebel, Judges 10:6; I Kings 11.
  • Israel traded with these people.

God’s judgment came because this people were polluting the true worship of God and they were assuming they were superior to Israel’s God.

In this moment, all of this information led me to begin to contemplate the following:

If God judges every nation who does what the people of Tyre did, there will not be any nation spared the wrath of God.

Think it through:

What if God is against the nation where you live?  What is ahead for you and your people?

This morning I cried out, “Dear Father, return our world to true worship of your name.”

Brothers and sisters, “If God is against us, we are done for in our world.”

Our response:

It must be our task to pray for an awakening and to plead for the power of God to fall in proclaiming the message of the gospel.  Maybe you are thinking, “There is no way, the opposition is to great.”  Consider this, “If God be for us, who can be against us.” Romans 8:31

This day we serve a God who is able.  I have decided to follow Him!!!

The gift of a thorn( II Corinthians 11:1-12:10; Psalm 73; Ezekiel 25; II Samuel 18)

September 22, 2015

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from being conceited.”  II Corinthians 12:7

Two evening ago I settled down in my recliner to watch the last part of a very old movie, “The African Queen.”  In one particular scene Humphery Bogart picked up a thorn in his shoe that went into his foot.  It did not take but a second before he was immediately hindered by the thorn.

Question:  “Have you ever considered a thorn to be a gift?”  Certainly we would never say this about a literal thorn!!!  But when we consider Paul’s reference to a thorn, he suggests it to be a gift.

Think it through:

In chapter 11 of II Corinthians Paul begins the chapter by defending his apostleship as well as exposing false apostles.  Certainly there is great relevance to our day.

For our time this day I want to focus on II Corinthians 11:24-12:10.  Here Paul presents His thorn as a gift from God.  Pay careful attention to the fact that Paul is making reference to the thorn being the difficulties he faces in life.

Here are three points to govern our study:

  • Paul opens our eyes to the dangers he endured, 11:24-33
  • Paul open our eyes to the discouragements he endured, 12:1-8
  • Paul opens our eyes to the discovery he embraced, 12:9-10

It is to the last point that I want to focus.

Often scholars have debated the what of the thorn.  We see a wide range of options.  I personally think God left it this way so we could identify by placing our thorn in the scene.  Whatever Paul’s particular thorn is we do not know.  But we do not know the discovery he embraced.

Paul came to realize God had gifted him with a thorn that caused him to experience the power of God for the glory of God in ways he would have never known apart from the gift of the thorn.

It is so true, “When we are weak, it is the power of God that is on display.”

God’s challenge to me was simple.  Leave the thorn with the faith that God is about to do something amazing for His glory!!!

Here is Paul’s and our needed response:

“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  II Corinthians 12:10

What to ask a King (Psalm 72; II Samuel 17; Ezekiel 24; II Corinthians 10)

September 21, 2015

“May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.”  Psalm 72:8

The fact is, “everyone needs somebody at some time in life to help in times of need.”  Consider the places where help is offered:

  • Banks offer help when financial needs arise.
  • Doctors offer help when physical needs arise.
  • Education offers help when mental development is needed.
  • Governments offer help when issues of government arise.
  • Police offer help when you are being threatened.
  • Religion offers help when spiritual needs arise.

Each of these places represent real people who really believe they have the help we need.  However, this help cannot be administered unless we are willing to ask and to receive help.

In Psalm 72 the writer is asking God to bless the king of Israel.  As you read the text you realize two things:

  1.  The writer is asking for the King to be blessed to accomplish righteous deeds.
  2. The writer is asking for the King to have dominion over the entire earth.

Think it through:

This morning I was greatly challenged to understand how often I spend my time with “The King” of the universe in simply making requests.

As You read through Psalm 72 you get the feeling that the writer is not just speaking about Solomon, but one greater than Solomon, the king who is still to come.  Acts 1:11 promises the following, “one day Jesus will return to this earth.”  I Thessalonians 4:17 “We will be caught up in the clouds with Him to forever be with the Lord.”

Brothers and sisters, the place of our true help is in the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!!!  Revelation 1:4-7

The help we need will be completed when Jesus returns.  So here should be what we are asking the king:

  • Lord, you be glorified in all the earth.
  • Lord, come and restore your dominion in all the earth.

Our response:

When we ask for these things we are clearly asking for peace on the earth!!!  Oh how I pray that you know the Prince of Peace!!!

Rape, Murder, and Dysfunction (II Samuel 13; Psalm 66-67; Ezekiel 20; II Corinthians 6)

September 17, 2015

20 And her brother Absalom said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this to heart.” So Tamar lived, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house.”  II Samuel 13:20

Question:  “Did this morning’s title shock you or has it become a part of the daily news?”

The scene before us in II Samuel covers a period of 5 years in the life of David’s family.  Certainly it is not all-inclusive of the events in his family.  Actually there are only two detailed scenes from the years.  However these two scenes clearly indicate the dysfunction in David’s family.

Pay close attention to these two dysfunctional scenes:

I.  The scene of rape, Vs: 1-23

Please take time to read the entire text.  As you do notice the following:  Unrestrained fleshly craving; a friend who was corrupt; a father who was carless; and a family who was totally dysfunctional.  The end result was a daughter who was raped and left in a life of brokenness and without justice.

II.  The scene of murder, Vs: 24-33

Two years pass as David’s oldest son has no accountability for what he did to his sister.  During these two years Tamar’s brother seethes with hatred for his older brother.  Absalom kills him older brother without David stepping in or taking responsibility for what happens.

Three more years pass with Absalom being a fugitive without justice.

Brothers and sisters, this is a tragic daily scene in our world.  What hope is there for a society that is so much steeped in dysfunction?  Answer, “Jesus Christ.”

When a person comes to Jesus he or she has a new life, II Corinthians 5:17.  When a person comes to Jesus he or she can be cleansed from the old life, II Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  When a person comes to Jesus he or she has new life living within them, Galatians 5:16.

Bottom line:  “Until Jesus rules and reigns in the hearts of men you will always have out of control dysfunction!!!”  Pray that Christ would reign in men’s hearts!!!

Judgment, Atonement and Grace (II Samuel 12; Psalm 64-65; Ezekiel 19; II Corinthians 5)

September 16, 2015

David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.  And Nathan said to David, the Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die,”  II Samuel 12: 13

Yesterday we focused our “Continuing The Work,” on the subject of “the thing.”  The thing being, living a life that displeases the Lord.  Today we see the results of what happens when the thing is brought out into the open.

David experiences three heavy moments:

I.  David experiences the judgment of God, Vs: 1-12

When the Bible says, “And the Lord sent Nathan to David,” I cringe because the hammer is about to fall.  The prophet of God is not coming to give a feel good message from God.  He is proclaiming the judgment of God.  The judgment begins with David hearing an illustration of his sin.  David evokes true judgment upon himself.  Nathan proceeds to speak the indictment against David.  David humbly repents of his sin.  We see more details in Psalm 32 and Psalm 51.  

Question:  “Have you ever experienced a Nathan moment?”   As I prayed, the Lord reminded me of those moments when God placed a Nathan in my life.  I am thankful for God’s accountability.  Without it, I would destroy my life.

II.  David experiences the atonement of God, Vs: 13-14

In this moment there is a shocking twist of events.  God does not destroy David because of his sin.  Got puts away his sin.  Be careful here in that you wrongly think, “God just let it go.”  The fact is, “Jesus would go to the cross bearing the full weight of David’s sin so that David’s sin and my sin could be atoned for. Psalm 65:3-4; II Corinthians 5:21.

Question:  “Have your sins been atoned for?  If you have not placed your life in God’s hands, you will pay for your sins, II Corinthians 5:10.

III.  David experiences the grace of God, Vs: 24-25

Yes, there were earthly consequences for David’s sin.  We see one of those in Vs: 15-23.  But we also see amazing grace in God giving David a son that would become the next king of Israel.

Question:  “Can you see the amazing grace of God at work in your life?”  All I have is a gift from God.  All I have become is only because of the grace of God.  I do not deserve any of God’s grace.

Today I challenge you to walk through this chapter again and again, until you understand what God did for you!!!

The Thing (II Samuel 11; Psalm 61-62; Ezekiel 18; II Corinthians 4)

September 15, 2015

“And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.  But the thing displeased the Lord.”  II Samuel 11:27

In one verse God display’s his displeasure with the actions of David in II Samuel 11.  Question, “Do you and I ever do “the thing” called displeasing the Lord?”

Think it through:

II Samuel 11 is one of the most written about chapters in all the Bible.  There was a time when most, in the Bible belt would know about this story. But that day is long behind us.  Consider this:

  • Many in the world have never heard anything from the Bible.
  • Still many others live every day with the story of II Samuel 11 as a part of the daily routine of life.
  • Still others follow false teachers who reason away the sin in II Samuel 11

Let’s for a moment consider the sin in II Samuel 11.  David sins in two ways:

  1. He breaks the Law of God

Here David breaks at least 4 commandments:  Murder, Anger, Lying, and Coveting his neighbors wife.

2.  He belittles life

When David hears the news of Uriah’s death and the other solders he belittles their lives.  His sin has left him hardened to what he has caused.

In this moment God speaks, “the thing David did displeased the Lord.”

Brothers and sisters I cannot possible explain the depths and heights of the weight of this moment!!!  All I can say is this, “We need a Savior!!!”

Our needed response:

In this moment David has lost his witness, his strength of leadership, peace in his family and in his nation, and his perspective of faith.

Here is where we cry out:

  • “We are reminded of our own sinfulness.”

David walked closer to God than we possibly could.  We are at best sinners in need of great grace, Ephesians 2:8-9.

  • “We are reminded of our great need of a Savior.”

David could not save himself in this moment.  God’s displeasure is always followed by His judgement.

  • We are reminded of our Great Savior who has provided a Great Salvation.”
    • Our hope is planted firmly in him, Acts 2:35-36
    • Our victory over the thing is in Christ alone, Revelation 5:5 “the Root of David has conquered.”

This very day I want the world to know there is one greater than David who has provided a way for us to overcome the thing!!!