Archive for November, 2016

Why would you? (I Corinthians 9-11)

November 30, 2016

22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. I Corinthians 9:22-23

Sometimes I pause from my busy schedule and ask myself the following question: “why do I do what I do?”  At other times I pause, after having viewed other people’s schedules, and I ask, “Why are they doing what they do?”

This day, I ask, “Why do you do what you do?”

For the Apostle Paul this was the answer he was focused in I Corinthians 9-10.  Here is the context:

  • Paul was being maligned and misunderstood in his ministry.

Some people in the church at Corinth were accusing him of being in the ministry for the money.  Other people were saying that he did not have the right to receive a salary while serving in the ministry.

  • Paul’s response was magnificent and mighty in power.

Paul made it clear that he was not in the ministry for the money.  He surrendered his rights to receive money, Vs: 12.  His purpose was to share the gospel for the sake of the souls of men, Vs:19-23.  Paul made it clear, “every move he made was in a disciplined way for the purpose of winning people to Jesus, Vs: 24-27.

This was his answer and it was powerful.  In chapter 10 Paul continued to make it clear, “here is why I do what I do.”  Check out Vs: 33

33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.

The truth is, you will never please everyone who watches your life.  But if you please Jesus you will be reaching the souls of men.  Brothers and sisters, this is why we do what we do!!!

I pray the Lord finds you being faithful in your purpose in whatever season of life you are in!!!

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Your assignment (I Corinthians 5-8)

November 29, 2016

17 Only let each person lead the life[a] that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. I Corinthians 7:17

Question:  “What is your assignment for this day?”

The answer to this question begins, not with the assignment, but with the one who makes the assignment!!!  In life, everyone has daily choices.  Either a person has things assigned to them by others or they assign things to themselves.

So, our assignment is either coming from someone else or it is coming from ourselves.

When we read I Corinthians 5-8 we find a variety of assignments.  Here they are in overview:

  • The church is assigned the task of spiritual discipline for the sake of the purity of the church and the salvation of the sinning believer, I Corinthians 5.
  • The church is assigned to the task of behaving in a different way than the world, I Corinthians 6.
  • The church is assigned with the Biblical mandate for marriage; singleness; and reconciliation, I Corinthians 7.
  • The church is assigned  the task of living a life free from offense to others, I Corinthians 8.

After reading these chapters I ask myself this question:  “Who is the one giving the assignment?”  Is it the Lord or is Paul?  Answer, “The Lord.”

If my assignments come only from men, then I can question the authority, the importance, and the timing of the assignment.  But if the assignment comes from God, then I am compelled to obey because God is my leader, my Lord, and my life.

I want to challenge you to take your assignments from God seriously today!!! When you do, the assignments of men also take on a different meaning.  Why would I take God’s assignments seriously?  I want to live out what He has placed in me.

19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. I Corinthians 6:19-20

 

Full disclosure (I Corinthians 1-4)

November 28, 2016

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. I Corinthians 4:5

“I wonder, what was his reason for wording the question as he did?”  The previous question illustrates for me the following, “It is sometimes hard to understand where a person is coming from in their line of questioning.”

As you and I read I Corinthians 4, we have no doubt as to where Paul is coming from in his writing.  When it comes to the church at Corinth he is both blessed and bothered.  He is blessed as he remembers the glorious grace that was given to the city of Corinth in the birthing of a church, 1:1-9.  He was bothered by the news he had received about the divisions that had developed in the church, 1:10-17.

Paul’s full disclosure was for the purpose of resolving the problem:

  • Paul reminds the church:
    • God Himself had revealed the gospel to them.
    • God Himself filled Paul with truth to share with them.
    • Divisions are indicators of spiritual immaturity.

 

  • Paul refocuses the church:
    • Christ is the leader they must follow, 3:10-22.
    • Christ is the judge they will answer before, 4:1-5.

When the Lord returns He will reveal the full disclosure of every man’s heart. In that day we will know why people do what they do and why they say what they say.

The above truth is very sobering on a Monday or on any day of the week.  I want to challenge you to seek God’s full disclosure of your life on this day!!!  I do not want to waste my life here or His rewards in heaven because I allowed my heart to cover up the true “why’s of my life.”

“Heavenly Father, guide my heart to a full disclosure of what you want for my life.  Direct my heart in a full disclosure away from a selfish motivation to a sincere motivation of love.”

 

Why the Uproar? (Acts 17:1-18:18)

November 25, 2016

13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Acts 17:13

Over the past few weeks our nation has been characterized by the media as a nation that is divided by many different things.  Each evening it seemed as if the media amplified the number of protests in major cities.  The tag line for each of those protests was simple, “people are afraid of what is coming in the new administration.”

However, a deeper and a more detailed look reveals a much different tag line.

It was the same way in Paul’s day.  Acts 17-18 chronicle a series of uproars:

  • In Thessalonica a mob formed to set the city in uproar, 17:1-10.
  • In Berea agitation again stirred up the crowds, 17:11-15.
  • In Athens the intellectual crowd gathered, 17:16-21.
  • In Corinth a crowd tried to destroy Paul, 18:1-18.

What was the tag line?  “Jealously, hate, religion, and Satanic direction.”

In each of these places Paul was simply proclaiming the gospel.  We see a clear presentation in Athens where Paul lifts up our Creator, who is Sovereign over the affairs of men, and who is the giver of life.  He is the God who will judge the world at His return.

Brothers and sisters, the answer for the uproar in our land and in every land is Jesus!!!  The gospel is the only remedy for our jealously, hate, religion, and Satanic direction.

Yes, I admit it is not easy to face the uproar and those who fuel it.  But we are called to do so with the assurance of God’s presence with us, Acts 18:9-10

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 

Much to be thankful for (Galatians 4-6)

November 24, 2016

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5

Each year, in my busy life, Thanksgiving creeps upon me as a shadow coming just before night.  Thanksgiving comes and I am not usually prepared.  However, my saving grace is God’s Word.  This day’s reading keeps me in check as to what I am really thankful for.

Here goes:

  • I am thankful for earthly parents that brought me up in the world with the knowledge of God.

I heard from my earliest days the story of Jesus payment for my sins and I heard of the love of my heavenly Papa.  I heard of the power of the Spirit’s working in the salvation of men as well as the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit to overcome sin.  I heard of the love that I was to have for my brothers and sisters in Christ.  (Each of these things are clearly outlined in Galatians 4-6).

  • I am thankful for the grace of God in opening my understanding to the things of God that I was taught as a child.

These truths have become to be so special to my life.  As one who has proclaimed the gospel for almost 25 years, I owe everything that I am too others!!!

  • I am thankful for a life-time partner in my precious wife for almost 25 years. The love of God in our life has been lived out daily in our walk together.  We have walked through many valley’s and many mountaintops holding onto God’s unfailing hand.  Together God has given us three precious children and now a wonderful daughter-in-law.
  • I am thankful for mission partners around the globe.  I think of brother Ovi who has become such an important parter in God’s work.

I am so very blessed.

Someone once said, “If all you have is Jesus, you are the most blessed person in the world.”

May God’s riches blessings be on your life this Thanksgiving day!!!

In the moment (Galatians 1-3)

November 23, 2016

who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, Galatians 1:4

Notice the above phrase; “Present evil age.”

The Apostle Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, was always relevant to his day.  Paul was always, led by the Spirit, understanding the issues of the moment.  The book of Galatians is Paul’s relevant answer, guided by the Spirit, to the issue of the moment.

Question:  “Are you and I relevant in the things we are presenting as our answers to the issues of our day?”

We will come back here, but for the moment let’s examine Galatians 1-3.  The issue for the moment was, “How is a person made right with God?”  There was a ground swell of opposition to salvation by faith alone.  Paul with deep conviction writes to be point out the false belief and to debunk their accursed view.

Paul knew he had been set apart for this time and for this task (Galatians 1:11-24).  Paul knew he would have to stand strong in his time, even against his own brothers (Galatians 2:1-11).  But the message of the gospel demanded his stand.  Here was the relevant Word for the moment, Galatians 2:15-16:

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified[a] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

The truth is, our freedom in Christ was at stake, 2:4.  But also the freedom of future generations was at stake, 2:14.

Paul was able to present a relevant answer to the questions of his day because of Christ ongoing work in his life, Galatians 2:20 “It was Christ in Him.”

Paul was able to stay the course because the Holy Spirit was guiding His life, Galatians 3:3-4.

Now back to our question:  “Are you and I relevant in the things we are presenting as our answers to the issues of the day?”

Here is the key, If we are daily crucified to Christ and walking in His Spirit we will be relevant and we will speak with a heavenly understanding.

Dear Lord, “Help me to live my life as no longer I but Christ living in me.”

What is at stake (Acts 15-16)

November 22, 2016

And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. Acts 15:2

Brothers and sisters, “pray for me.”  There is an urgency in my mind and heart that is totally unsettling to my days and nights.  As I write this blog I cannot get a handle on how to accomplish the task I am burdened to do, but I know God will give me the vision as I seek to do His will.

Question, “What is the urgency?”

Answer, “the gospel.”

In Acts 15 the church found itself in its first deeply divided theological debate.  What was at stake was of eternal importance.  The issue, “How does a person find acceptance before God.”  The urgency, “Eternity is real and men are ever-moving toward that moment.”  The reality, “Men differ on how one can be right with God.”

  • The division was real:
    • One group said, “Salvation is by grace through faith alone.”
    • Another group said, “Salvation is by grace through faith plus works.”
  • The debate was robust:
    • One group said, “It is not necessary for men to work for their salvation (It would be impossible to achieve).”
    • Another group said, “It is absolutely necessary for men to work for their salvation (Is is impossible without it).”
  • The decision was right:
    • Both groups came to the correct decision!!!

Acts 15:11

11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

This decision settled the issue for the church.  This decision has intensified the urgency for me.  If men are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, then how can they be saved without knowing this is how they are to be saved!!!

This is my unsettling urgency!!!

Please join in praying for me and for every church leader to feel God’s hand and see God’s vision for where there is an urgency in need.  I want to see and hear the call of Acts 16:9 “With urgency, come over and help us!”

Father, in this Thanksgiving season, give the church a clear vision for the urgency of the gospel.  Give us a clear path to accomplish the vision!!!

What Should I do? (James 1-5)

November 21, 2016

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. James 5:16

After reading James letter to the church, I find myself asking one simple question, “What should I do?”  God’s answer to my question:  “Pray.”

The above answer is as familiar to us as is each breath we take.  And just like the breath we take, we really don’t know all that is involved in how we breathe or all that is involved in how prayer works.

This day, I realize two things:

I. Prayer involves both confession and repentance.

This morning I went back through all 5 chapters and wrote down all the things that James called the church to work toward doing and actually doing.  Below is a sample from just one chapter, chapter 4:

“I need to be free from worldly pursuits; I need to be humble, submissive, and to fight the Devil; I need to be repentant when I fail; I need to speak with kindness to others and refrain from being their judge; I need to live each day for the will of God; and walk in obedience to all that I know is right.”

The above sample is God’s check list for my day!!!  As I reviewed the list I found myself confessing to God the areas of my life where sin won the battle instead of my obedience to God.

I want to challenge you to go back through the five chapters and write down every theme and every directive.  Spend time in confession and repentance.  For me, this was an extremely refreshing time.

II. Prayer involved faith and victory.

When we pray having confessed our sins and having prayed in faith for others, the power of God comes into our lives.

Certainly the Christian life is not a cake walk.  Anyone who thinks it is has never eaten a piece of the book of James.  The Christian life of faith and works happens down on our knees.  God help me to pray!!!

The light of glorious grace (Acts 9-10)

November 18, 2016

Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. Acts 9:3

Each morning I have the same routine of getting up be the light of day.  It is always amazing to me how I am very good at walking in the dark.  I hardly ever use a light because I have gotten used to things in the dark.

This morning I was challenged as I read Dr. Luke’s account of Paul’s encounter with the light.  As I read the familiar story I could picture Paul ridding down the dusty Damascus road with a group of hired assassins.  The KJV says, “As they were on their way.”

In this moment, instead of God striking Paul for his disobedience and evil against Him, he shines upon him the glorious light of grace.  As I pictured the scene the reality came, “This is what God did for my life.”  Think it through:

I.  God gave glorious grace to one who hated His Son, Vs: 4.

II.  God have glorious grace to one who was blind to the truth, Vs: 9.

III.  God have glorious grace to the one He chose for a great work, Vs: 15.

This grace freed Paul from the wrath of God, filled him with the Spirit of God, and favored him to the work of God.  This is so amazing to me.  The light of glorious grace worked immediately in Paul’s life:

  • The scales fell off
  • He was baptized
  • He immediately began to witness for Christ
  • There was a shocking change
  • He immediately faced persecution.

When the light came on, everything changed.  Oh my friends, “I want to have this kind of light in my life.”  I want to daily long for and to live in the light!!!

If you have gotten used to the darkness of this world and have been as I , functioning in the dark, settling for less than the light, come to the light and watch God do amazing things in your life.

In Acts 10 we see the light becoming so bright that even the Gentiles were given life, Acts 10:43

43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Rocking someone to sleep (Acts 7-8)

November 17, 2016

60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:60

I can still recall the days of old when I would walk by our children’s rooms, when they were infants, and there in a rocking chair sat a loving mother rocking her sweet baby to sleep.  Oh how awesome to think about the care of a mother in rocking her child to sleep.

This morning the phrase, “Rocking to sleep,” came to mind as I read Stephen’s story in Acts 7.

Acts 7 gives us the account of both Stephen’s address to the angry mob as well as their response to his address.  The end result, “they rocked him to sleep.”

This may be seem odd to you to consider the martyrdom of Stephen in these terms.  I will come back here in a moment.  These were exciting days for the church as she began her mission of Acts 1:8.  Two things stand out to me in chapters 8:

  • Persecution was God’s instrument of mobilization, Vs: 1-3.

When Stephen was rocked to sleep, the religious crowd had tasted the blood of the church and they liked it.  Suddenly the church was thrust into days of great persecution.  These were exciting days because God used persecution to spread the people throughout the world.  As they spread they sowed the Word of God.

  • Preaching was God’s instrument of evangelism, Vs: 4-25.Philip preached the gospel as he went through the cities and villages. This was God’s instrument and it still is today.  We see this example of one-on-one evangelism in Vs: 26-40.

We see this so clearly as the Holy Spirit directed Philip to a divine appointment in the desert!   God filled Philip with the message and favored him in opening the eyes of the Eunuch.

Now back to the “Rocking to sleep,” metaphor.

It seems that many in the church (USA mostly) have been rocked to sleep when it comes to God’s call on our lives to be mobilized for the preaching of the gospel.  We have regressed into useless debates of things of little value.  We have retreated from the field of battle for the souls of men.  We have run from the possibility of persecution.

However, “God would have us to awaken from our sleep an embrace His instrument of mobilization and evangelism.”

For me, being rocked to sleep for the gospel is a cause worth living and dying for!!!  Oh how I pray for the faith to be mobilized as well as for the boldness to preach the gospel to those who would be my captors.