Archive for January, 2019

Giving it all up (Philippians 3)

January 31, 2019

 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, Phil. 3:7-8

As I listened to this person sharing their testimony, it seemed as if they had made extremely difficult sacrifices to come to Christ.  This person spoke of their old life as if it was amazing.  Tears seemed to swell up in this person’s eyes as they told of their old life.  I wondered, were they longing to go back there?

Question:  Is this Paul’s view as he writes the first verses of chapter 3?  We must admit he uses the following phrases, “I counted all as loss” and “I suffered the loss…” Surely Paul is not longing to go back to his old way of life?

The reality of Paul’s teaching is this: He had to lose his pride and he had to sacrifice his self-confidence in his self efforts to be right with God.   It was suffering to admit all of his efforts had merited him zero value in heaven.

Paul is giving glory to Christ for redeeming him. Paul has received the righteousness of Christ by faith.  Paul seeks the day when he will be resurrected from the dead because of Christ.

Brothers and sisters, there is suffering in coming to Christ.  The suffering of admitting we have wasted years, resources, and opportunities in the past.

Brothers and sisters, there is loss in coming to Christ.  The loss of pride, self-worth, and the loss of the flesh.

But consider what we gain:

20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. Phil. 3:20-21

Question: Have you suffered the loss as of yet?  If not, right now cease placing any
confidence in your flesh. Forget what has been your past and come to Jesus.  Begin now
to pursue Him with everything within you.
Question:  Are you trying to turn back to what you gave up?  Hear me clearly, there is no value in your old life.  Going back would be like going to the garbage dump in search of a meal.
Lean in once again and know Him!!!
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The Mind of Christ (Philippians 2)

January 30, 2019

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, Philippians 2:5

As I walked along the path I suddenly noticed a man coming my way who seemed to be erratic in his behavior.  The closer he got the more I realized something was wrong with his mind.  A few seconds later I found out what was wrong with his mind.  This man’s mind was altered by the massive amount of alcohol intake.

Did you know there were many, in Jesus days on the earth, who considered Jesus as being distorted in His mind?  Here is a list of a few people who accused Jesus of being out of His mind:  His earthly family, the Pharisees, many who followed Him at the beginning of His ministry, and even His own disciples when He told them that He was going to the cross.

Brothers and sisters, what was on Jesus mind when He walked among us?

In Philippians 2, Paul describes Jesus mind-set.  It is out of His mindset that we understand what was on His mind.

Jesus came to serve us and to give His life as a ransom for us.  This was never off His mind.  Jesus never varied from this purpose:

  • When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He stayed the course, Matthew 4:1-11.
  • When Jesus was persecuted by His hometown He stayed the course, Mark 9.
  • When Jesus went to the cross He stayed the course, John 19:31; Hebrews 2:2-3.

Possible some maybe reasoning, it was easy for Jesus because He was God.  Oh my friend, you are not mindful of Scripture:  Hebrews 5:7-9

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;

And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;

Jesus mind was fully committed to His assignment, Ephesians 1:4-7.  Jesus was fully surrendered in His body, Mark 10:45.  Jesus was filled with love in His mind and heart, John 3:16.

The question that we must ask ourselves this day is this, What is in our minds?

I don’t know about you, but in my mind I know  there resides my old man who resists the mind of Christ.  I know each day I must make up my mind to take every thought captive to the mind of Christ  and obedience to Christ. (II Corinthians 10:3-5).

When people meet us on the street of life, may it be said, “We seemed to be out of our mind.”

God at Work (Philippians 1)

January 29, 2019

 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  Philippians 1:6

Each time I read Philippians one I am always encouraged when I consider the greatness of our Holy God who is always at work in His people.  Listen to this, “there is never a second in any day when God is not fully engaged in working in our lives.”

I certainly know this is hard to get one’s mind wrapped around in a world where no one can always be at work.  The church at Philippi was living in the reality of a Holy God who was always at work in them.  One might ask, how was God at work playing out in the church’s life?

  • This working led the church into partnership in the gospel, Vs: 3-5, 8.

It was Paul and Silas who came with their ministry team to Philippi (Acts 16).  They evangelized the city and they established a church.  They appointed elders and they moved forward in their missionary journey.  As they journeyed the church supported them every step of the way.

  • This working led to the church progressing in their Christian walk, Vs: 6.

Paul was confident in these people because it was God who was at work in them.  Paul is teaching the church about the sanctifying work of God.  He knew it was God who brings every sinner to spiritual life and it is God who grows every person to spiritual maturity.

Paul could write this way because each Christian had the backing of a Holy God!!!  His confidence and our confidence are in Christ!!!  Paul knew God was at work.

Brothers and sisters, play close attention here: This teaching from Paul translates into the vital importance of every member of the body of Christ!!!  You are important to the progression of your church!!!

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy[h] of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 

Do you know what your purpose is? Are you living a life that reflects your purpose?

As I wrote the above questions, I was reminded of a scene from Africa.  It is a typical third world scene.  It is a scene of a road construction zone.  You will see many workers standing and many sitting and only occasionally do you see someone working.

It was not that way in the church of Philippi.  We see God at work and we see His people at work.

Today, God wants you and I to join Him in the work of building people who will build His church.

  • This work led the church to be prepared for the Lord’s return, Vs: 7, 9-11.

Some day the Lord will return and the work will have ceased.  May it be said of us that we did our part in the work.

10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 

Back home again (Acts 16)

January 28, 2019

 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Acts 16:9

I often call Malawi my second home.  The Lord has deeply placed Malawi on my heart as a place where I have been called to help.  Last week one of the locals labeled me as an a Malawian.  It was kind of my right of passage.  Each day I pray for my second-home.

But each day I also pray for my first home, Jackson Georgia.  As I landed last Friday back in Atlanta, I was reminded of how 5 years ago (next month) Sherry, John, and I responded to God’s call to Jackson.

We wanted to come and help this church reach this community with the gospel.

This must have been Paul’s desire in Acts 16.  Notice the progression of Paul’s work in this city:

  • Paul investigates the people of the city, Vs: 11-13

Paul takes the time to find out where the people are.  Once he locates the people, he proclaims the message of the gospel.

  • Paul infuses the people with the truth of the gospel, Vs: 14-35.

We see three people coming to Christ.  There was Lydia (rich), a Slave girl (poor), and the jailor (blue-collar).

Each of these three and I believe many more were saved in the same way.  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.” Acts 16:31

  • Paul invested long-term in the city by planting a church.

This is always Gods design of how to get the gospel to the world.  I can see these three first converts becoming leaders in the church.  Yes, it is true that they are from different backgrounds, but the ground was made level at the cross.  There must have been unity and joy as they together were invested in getting the gospel to the nations.

Question:  How are you doing at home in your community?  Do you know who the people are and what they are going through?  Are you infusing your community with the gospel? Finally, are you a part of a thriving New Testament Church?

I find many who profess Christ are going through a time of apathy because they are distracted from their calling.  On this Monday, may the Lord reaffirm your calling to your church, your city, and to Christ!!!

Stay out of the mud (Proverbs 4-6)

January 25, 2019

”The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of disciple, and because of his great folly he is led astray.”  Proverbs 5:22-23

Over and over the writer of Proverbs pleads with his readers to do the following: “Hear wisdom, seek wisdom, and never depart from wisdom.”  But what does his son do?  He refuses to hear wisdom.  He refuses to seek wisdom, and his life is destroyed because of lack of wisdom.

Question:  Do you and I ever fail to listen to the wisdom of God?

On our last day in Malawi we traveled to a village to our orphanage.  As we approached the church where our feeding center is located, the pastor said, “Ovi, park in a certain place, the ground is soft close to the church.” Ovi’s response was classic, “let’s try and see if we can go all the way.”  Well brothers and sisters, we went all the way!  We soon found ourselves buried in mud.

I admit, there are moments when I fail to listen to God’s wisdom.  Here in Proverbs 5,  we find no less than 4 truths about our sinful nature:

  • Our sin nature does not listen to God.
  • Our sin nature leads us into wickedness.
  • Our sin nature becomes addicted.  “Cords around us.”
  • Our sin nature eventually will cost us our lives.

However this does not have to be the path we follow.  God offers us His wisdom through the following ways:

God gives us His Word to study and learn from.

God gives us His Spirit to direct us.

God gives us others to be our eyes and ears in many matters.

This is amazing truth. But what happens when we fail to obey?  If we repent, God gives us grace in getting us out of the mud!

God did this with us when we were so stuck in the mud.  Faithful church members dug us out and a neighboring farmer loaned us his tractor to get us out.

Did you know Jesus Christ came to get us out of the mud!  He came into the world according to I John 4:9 “so that we might live through Him.”

The key to listening is having a heart that desires to listen to God.  Reread Proverbs 4:20-27 to find out how to correctly listen.

Father may each who read this listen to You today!!!

 

What will it take? (John 13)

January 24, 2019

”A New Commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” John 13:34

It happens in every Christians life from time to time.  It usually comes when you least expect it.  It happened with Missionary Ovi yesterday.  What happened?  Let me tell you the story first and then I will tell you what happened.

It was at the end of the Pastor’s conference.  We were sharing a meal together.  Ovi called out to the pastors and said, “if anyone of you need to talk with me personally about a need, come now.”  I watched as 4 pastors moved toward Ovi and waited their turn to talk with him.”  It was here when it happened.

I saw it covering his face and I saw it as his shoulders began to slump.  Ovi was feeling the weight of so much need.  When we got in the car he said,”I wonder if I am even making a difference?”

Do you ever feel this way?  I certainly do.  When I think about the hate in this world and the darkness that drives it I wonder, what will it take to change this world?

In such moments the Devil raises his head and whispers to us, you are wasting your time.  You are not making a difference.

Every Christian knows this feeling.

This morning I point you to John 13 as your weapon of response to the enemy.  You and I are a mighty tool in God’s hands when we are surrendered to the God who loves us and who fills us with His love.  We truly are changing the world one life at a time.

Jesus is the solution to the hate in our world.  But the solution is polluted when you and I allow the enemy to discourage us or when we allow sin to get a foothold in our lives.

Here is the big deal: You and I are called to love others the way Jesus loves us.  Here are a few ways Jesus loved and loves us:

  • His love was and is self-giving, Heb. 12:3 “He willingly with joy went to the cross.”
  • His love was and is sacrificial, Phil. 2:5-6, He gave up everything for us.
  • His love was and is truly a servants love, John 13:16.
  • His love was and is sustaining, Phil. 4:19.  He will provide all we need.
  • His love was and is eternal, John 3:16.

Certainly you and I cannot save anyone. It is Jesus who washes men and women (Vs: 8).  But we can love others like Jesus did in every other way.

Are we making a difference?  I am sure of this:

  1.  If I am clean before God (I am His child), I know I am making a difference.
  2. If I am staying clean before God (Vs: 10), daily dealing with sin, I know I am making a difference.

Missionary Ovi you are making a difference. Brothers and sisters, all will know you and I are making a difference (Disciples) as we love like Him!

What do you see? (Romans 12-14)

January 23, 2019

”Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” Romans 12:2

This morning it seemed different.  I had seen it many times before, but on this day I saw it differently?  You ask, what did you see?

Please don’t laugh.  I saw a picture in the room I have stayed in for many years here at Ovi’s house.  I have often paused an admired the picture, but I had never seen it this way before.

I tried this morning to see the picture through the eyes of the one who drew it.  I noticed the unique way he drew the people of Malawi.  I noticed the way he depicted the poverty of the people.  I noticed how even his color scheme told the story of how he viewed his nation.

Here is a simple truth I took away: We can only live out what we see and know.”

This was the truth I placed before the pastor’s yesterday in our one day meeting.  How can these pastors serve the Lord better unless they come to understand how to do it and why they need to do it.

In Romans 12-14 Paul reminds every believer of their need to present their lives to God for service to Him.

To accomplish this task (our service) we must be transformed in our thinking, our seeing, and in our doing.  Let’s break these down together:

  • In our thinking we are called to a new heart and a new mind.

When God makes a person new in salvation, He opens up his or her mind to a new way of thinking, I John 2:1-6.  You and I have a new capacity to see things differently as we read God’s Word, Hear God’s Word, and obey God’s Word.

  • In our minds we see ourselves differently.

In Romans 12:3 we are reminded of the humility we need to possess before God.  Take time to reread Romans 12:9-21.  Ask God to help you to see differently.

  • In our living we act differently.

Everyone who sees differently will seek to live differently if their minds have been transformed.  We see an example of this in Romans 13:8-14.  Check it out.

Now, I do not know how many years ago this person painted this picture and I don’t know if his view of his nation has changed.  Would he paint the picture differently now?  One thing is for sure, my picture of life is much different because of God’s changing my mind.

I pray the Lord is changing how you see, think, and live each and every day for His glory!!!

Unique (Leviticus 19)

January 22, 2019

”Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy for I a the Lord your God is Holy.” Leviticus 19:2

To say that the world is different is would be a major understatement.  The culture and the climate of the people in Malawi is so different and the way people approach life in Malawi is different.  This morning we meet with the pastors in our network of Hope for the Future.  Each of the pastors come with unique problems and unique opportunities to make Christ know in their part of the world.

I often wonder, am I pushing my American culture on them or am I committed to gospel-centered purposes of life?

As I read our text for the day I was reminded of how often people just want to fit in instead of stand out for the gospel.

Here in this chapter God says, be who I have called you to be.  I believe Scripture is clear, Israel often wanted to be like other nations.  We see an example of this in I Samuel 8 and 9.

However, God wanted His people to be different. God was calling His people to be different in where they were living and where they were headed.  The nations surrounding them had the following characteristics:

  • They dishonored each other, especially their parents.
  • They had no day set aside to worship the one true and living God.
  • They worshipped idols of their own making.
  • They only cared for themselves.  They refused to help the poor.
  • They stole, lied, and they cheated one another.
  • They abused those who were not able to care for themselves.

Does this sound familiar in your context in the world?

God was very specific with His moral laws because the people faced the pressure of sin from within themselves and from the sin of the world.   Such people needed clear reminders of how they were to live.

It is the same with Christians today.  We need to always set the Lord before us!  We need to daily seek the Lord in our walk and in our witness.  Oh how He wants you and I to be a light to our world (Matt. 5:13-16).  If this is to happen we will have to overcome the world system that always is pulling and calling us to follow it’s ways.

This day I want to set before these pastors, the Lord and His ways!  May you and I do the same in every place we find ourselves in this world.

Something Against You (Genesis 4)

January 21, 2019

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door? It’s desire is for you but you must rule over it.”  Genesis 4:7

Yesterday was an amazing day here in Malawi with over 30 people responding to the gospel in the new church plant started by Hope for the Future.  As I preached I watched the Holy Spirit grasp the hearts of the people as even all the children because quiet as I preached the gospel.  The shouts of joy were amazing as people filled with sin became free in Jesus.

Oh, how I long for our nation to come to the freedom of Jesus.  Most in our nation and around the world do not realize they have “something against them.”

You ask, What is against us?

We see an evidence of this in Genesis 4.  The chapter begins with the word “now.”  This word pierces the heart of any Biblical Scholar because this word makes the transition from the garden of sinlessness to a world that has now been plugged into sin and the curse.

Think about how quickly the world was impacted by sin.  Cain kills his brother.  Today those words are so familiar to us. People are hating, fighting, and killing each other every day.  It does not even seem to bother us. But on the day written of in Genesis 4, it sent shock waves through the first family.

We must ask: What happened to Cain?  Was this just a moment of sudden rage that came as a result of an argument between the brothers?  The Bible is clear, I John 3:12, Cain was a man who’s life was characterized by unrighteous deeds.

His brother’s life was just the opposite.  Over a period of time jealously and pride rose up in Cain.  Hatred began to fill his heart and then his mind.  When God called Cain out, he simply ignored God’s warning.

Instead of humbly repenting Cain chose to allow Hell’s rage to fill his mind.  Within seconds his brother was dead.

The truth is, Cain could receive God’s forgiveness, but the deed was done.  Here in warm and friendly Africa there are many people who have something against them that will destroy them and will destroy others unless something happens.  It is the same where you live.  Only when Christ is Lord of a person’s life will their viewpoint of life change.

This week, let us seek God’s viewpoint concerning life and God’s viewpoint concerning our hearts.  May the way of Cain be far from us!!! (more…)

Arrows in my heart (Ephesians 6)

January 20, 2019

”…that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.”  Ephesians 6:19

It is early here in Africa.  In a few hours brother Ovi and Ms. Lita will carry us to a village where the gospel is so desperately needed.  One year ago, we took a small team to this village where there was no church.  We did camps for two days.  On the last day a group of Muslim children came and listened as I proclaimed the mystery of the gospel.  We left that day committed to building a church in that village. One year later, thanks to the sacrifice of Don Ethridge and the members of First Baptist Church in Jackson Georgia, there is now a church there.

Michael and I go today with the arrow of the gospel in our hearts. I cry out the words of Paul in Ephesians 6:19.

Brothers and sisters, it is only the Word of God that can penetrate the darkness in that village. It is only the light of Jesus that can change the direction of these precious people.  Today, I go broken because I know I am no better than these people.  Why did God decide to open my eyes and not theirs?

Tears fill my eyes as I think of all I have been given in my life.  I wonder, have I been faithful?  I wonder, will I lead others to be faithful?  This day, you maybe feeling down and maybe you are worried because your dreams are seemingly slipping away.  Could it be that God has more for you than you are asking Him today?

Allow the arrow of God’s Word to penetrate your heart today!  It could be that a new world will open to you today.  Pray for us as we believe God is about to shine His light today.