Archive for September, 2020

What Are You Doing? (Galatians 4-6)

September 30, 2020

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

Each day it seems that I begin with a zeal to accomplish great things, but before I can blink an eye, the day seems to be over. To be revealed, there are mornings when I simply ask God: Am I being effective for You?

As Paul writes to the church at Galatia, he is wondering if he has been effective with the church. The church was wavering in their belief of salvation by faith alone (Gal. 2:16). Paul takes this very personally. Paul writes: “I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.” Gal. 4:11.

Brothers and sisters, I do not want to come to the end of my life and find that I have labored over things in vain.

I know the key to effectiveness is to live out a life of faith in Jesus Christ. This faith life understands and embraces the teaching of Paul in Galatians 5.

We know the following:

  • Faith in Christ Jesus frees us from self-effort, 5:12. We have been saved by grace.
  • Faith in Christ Jesus frees us from our sinful past, 4:4.
  • Faith in Christ Jesus frees us to focus on serving others, 5:14.
  • Faith in Christ Jesus frees us to now serve our creator as we were intended to do under the Holy Spirit’s direction, 5:16.

The evidence of such a life is given in chapter 5:

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 

Let’s make this personal. What is the fruit that our lives are bearing this day?

Be assured, the fruit of 5:22-23 does not just happen because we are saved. Each day we are called to both submit to the Holy Spirit and to be led by the Holy Spirit. When we submit and when we are led by the Holy Spirit, we keep in step with the Holy Spirit (5:25) which means we are truly being effective for the one who saved us.

This is what I want to do every day. This is how I want to be remembered. I want to be know as a man filled with the Spirit and empty of me.

Father help each who read this blog to be submitted and led by the Holy Spirit today and every day!!!

What Are You Saying by the Way you Live Your Life? (Galatians 1-3)

September 29, 2020

14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:14

Have you ever been guilty of saying one thing but doing another? I know I have to admit that I have been guilty of negating the weight of what I said by the weight of how I lived.

During his lifetime, the Apostle Paul proclaimed the gospel for over 20 years. Not only did Paul proclaim the gospel, Paul lived out the gospel in his daily life. His message and his manner of life far exceeded him around the world. Here is what Paul writes in Galatians one:

21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

Paul was a changed man. Day in and day out, Paul proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia he dealt with both doctrinal and practical errors that would rob the gospel of its power. First, he dealt with the doctrinal error. There were those who were turning away from the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:6-7). Paul seeks to turn them back to the truth of the gospel. Here is this truth in summary statements:

  • The Gospel is given by revelation of God, 1:12. It is God who opens our hearts and minds.
  • The Gospel is received by faith alone, 2:16.
  • The Gospel is lived out by faith alone, 2:20.
  • The Gospel is power:
    • Power that brings us to life, 3:3.
    • Power to live out the Christian life, 3:3.
  • The gospel is for all people, 3:28.

These truths of the gospel dictated to Paul the correct way he was to live out the gospel which is the practical side of a life of faith.

Please come to understand the following: “Sometimes our conduct hinders the gospel because our actions are casting a shadow over the gospel.”

We see this even in Peter’s life:

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.[g]13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 

Oh how heartbreaking it must have been for Paul to see this in Peter’s life. Question: How do we overcome such conduct?

I believe we must come to the place where the cross (Galatians 2:20) becomes the control-center of our lives. We must come to the place where our ways of living are directed by a Cross-Centered world view.

Peter knew better than to get caught up in prejudice living (Acts 10:34-43). But in the moment, his old life crept up. But praise be to God that Paul confronted Peter with the cross and Peter took it to the cross.

Brothers and sisters, if there is anything in your life that has not been nailed to the cross, it is time that you give it to God, Col. 2:13-15. The gospel demands a life that mirrors the cross.

Who Can and Who Can’t? (Acts 15-16)

September 28, 2020

15 But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”  Acts 15:1

Over the weekend SEC Football kicked out with a strange set of rules. Because of Covid-19, seating was limited to a certain amount to people. This new rule caused a frenzy for loyal fans. The question was, who could and who could not get a ticket for the game.

In Acts 15, Luke records a strange twist of events that occurred because of a virus caused by false teaching. A group of converted Pharisees began to spread that were additional requirements for salvation than what Paul and Barnabas has been teaching the Gentiles. The question was: who could and who could not be saved.

Brothers and sisters, what are the requirements for getting into Heaven?

  • All Muslims believe you must follow Allah and his prophet.
  • Buddhist believe you must follow the Urantia.
  • Mormons believe you must follow the teachings of Joseph Smith.
  • The Jewish people believe you must follow Moses Law.

Question, who is right? When I read Acts 15, I believe the church had come to a crisis of belief.

Pay close attention to the content of this chapter. In this chapter the church clarified the gospel. Here was Peter’s summary teaching:

And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Brothers and sisters, Jesus is the way we get to Heaven. Jesus is the truth we must believe. Jesus is the life we live now that we believe in Him.

I am so glad the good news leads men and women from a self-effort to a total surrender to His saving. In Acts 16, Paul led a jailor to saving faith when the jailor believer on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31).

For 2000 plus years the church has preached the clear message of Jesus power to save. For me, the question today is simply this: Who will believe in Jesus alone as their way into Heaven.

The Hymn writes understood this in that classic hymn, “My Faith has found a Resting Place.”

My faith has found a resting place
Not in device nor creed
I trust the Ever-living One
His wounds for me shall plead. Enough for me that Jesus saves
This ends my fear and doubt
A sinful soul I come to Him
He’ll never cast me outI need no other argument
I need no other plea
It is enough that Jesus died
And that He died for meMy heart is leaning on the Word
The written Word of God
Salvation by my Savior’s name
Salvation through His blood

Fighting and Fussing (James 3-5)

September 25, 2020

18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:18

Are you familiar with the phrase: fighting and fussing? In the mountains of Eastern Kentucky I grew up hearing all kinds of sayings that honestly to outsiders did not make any sense. It was as if we had a language all our own.

When someone was having a hard time in their family, their arguments were often described as fighting and fusing. I thought of this description as I read the first half of our focal text for the day.

James begins chapter three with a detailed discussion concerning the tongue (3:1-12). It is clear from the text that the tongue has great influence. Christians have the power to either speak words that encourage or discourage life.

It seems that James focus is toward those who are fighting and fussing. It seems that there are those who are speaking in the flesh (James 3:14-16)

14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

But at the same time there were those who were speaking out of the wealth of Heaven’s wisdom:

 1But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

It has been my experience that when I am fussing and fighting with others, I am speaking in the flesh. It has also been my experience that when I am loving and encouraging, I am speaking in the Spirit of God’s wisdom.

Question: How often do you fight and fuss?

In James 4 we discover our greatest fight is within. We really fuss and fight with others because we lose the battle with our old nature. But this does not have to be our story. James teaches us how to win the war within so that we can live a life of joy and peace. Here is how it must happen:

 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Each day awaken with a heart that says:

  • God, I want your will to be mine.
  • God, I cannot accomplish your will in my strength.
  • God, I am submitting to your power.
  • God, forgive me when I am about me.
  • God, strengthen your Word in my mind and mouth.

Brothers and sisters, now the battle is the Lord’s! Now your day will be filled with wisdom and words that win the battles of this life.

Is the Pressure Getting to You?

September 24, 2020

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him, James 1:5

As I was driving home yesterday evening, after a very productive day with our team, I suddenly felt a great weight fall upon me like fog settling in after a rain. My mind was suddenly flooded with questions, problems, and the unanswered questions of our day. At first I tried to ignore the feelings, but I could not. I next turned the radio on. But to no avail it did not help. Finally I called someone, but they did not answer. It was just me and the pressure.

Does anyone out there identify with me?

The people James wrote too would identify with this. These Jewish brothers and sisters had been forced out of their homes due to persecution (1:1). James letter to them are oh so precious to those who feel the pressure.

Here is one example:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him, James 1:5

Has the pressure left you? The pressure left me as I rolled the flood of unknowns over to God. James directs his readers to ask God for wisdom in the midst of their pressure moments.

What does God say in response to our questions? Here are the top six responses from God:

  1. Read my Word.
  2. Trust what I am doing in your life.
  3. Walk in faith.
  4. Listen to Me.
  5. Do not give into temptation.
  6. Wait for Me, I am on my way with the answer (a miracle from Heaven).

By the way, the top six responses come directly from James 1:1-18.

Brothers and sisters, James led me to do the following as I rolled over my pressure to God:

  • God led me to rejoice because the first sign of pressure is God’s indicator of something wonderful that is coming our way, James 1:2-4.
  • God led me to lean into prayer because the pressure moments are faith moments, James 1:5-12.
  • God led me to see His goodness in every previous pressure moment. He never fails, James 1:13-18.

As I write this the pressure is off because I know God has it all under His control. My goal is simple:

So teach us to number our days
    that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

The Open Door (Acts 13-14)

September 23, 2020

27 And when they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. Acts 14:27

In his commentary on the book of Romans, author Tim Keller makes a statement that truly challenges our minds. Here is what Tim stated: “The gospel is both boundless and bound.”

When I first read this statement, I felt the weight of the paradox. How could it be possible for the gospel to be both bound and boundless?

According to Scripture the gospel is boundless when it is correctly proclaimed and correctly believed.

In Acts 13 we see an example of this as Paul preached the boundless gospel in Antioch of Pisidia. Luke gives us Paul’s conclusion of his message in Acts 13:38-39

38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. 

This gospel was boundless:

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

But at the same time it was bound because there were those who refused to believe:

45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him.

Brothers and sisters, according to Luke’s account of Acts 13-14, the gospel truly is boundless and bound at the same time. In this moment in time, can I get up-close and personal with you?

In your personal life is the gospel boundless or bound?

In Paul and Barnabas lives the gospel was boundless. I think it’s important that I share this footnote with you: A boundless gospel is very costly.

For these first two missionaries of the church it was very costly. It cost them their freedom to live for themselves. It cost them a live of ease. They were often run out of cities for preaching the gospel. In Acts 14 Paul was stoned and left for dead. Daily both men faced the threat of terrorism. But the boundless gospel did its work and these men loved the Lord with boundless love.

You and I must know the boundless gospel could lead to our personally be bound. “We will enter the Kingdom through many tribulations.” Acts 14:22.

Brothers and sisters, I believe it is worth the cost.

Here was my prayer from my journal this morning:

“Father, I want to speak boldly for the Lord. I want to bear witness to the Word of His grace. I know people will be divided in their response. Please open hearts and minds for salvation. I know the gospel cannot be bound, so I am waiting for the lid to be removed.”

Are you Praying? (Acts 12)

September 22, 2020

So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. Acts 12:5

Brothers and sisters we are living in the most critical days at least in my lifetime. In America we are only 8 weeks from a presidential election and our president is faced with the decision about another Supreme Court nominee. It could be that God is about to open a greater door of opportunity for the church than ever before.

Do these days demand our prayer? I would say, yes. I would also say, it is not only for our nation that we need to pray, it is for every nation of this world that needs our prayer.

In Acts 12 we are reminded of the power of prayer. As Dr. Luke continues to write about the beginning days of the church, we find ourselves back in the days when the early church had finally carried the gospel to the Gentiles. It was in this time when the believers were first called, “Christians,” (11:26).

Chapter 12 begins with a reminder of the constant persecution of the church. The Bible tells us of the wickedness of King Herod. The Bible uses the word “violent” to describe his actions. This word reminds us of the hatred, abuse, and murder of millions of Christians through the years of our history.

Herod killed James the Apostle because he knew it would increase his popularity in sight of the Jewish people. He then takes Peter into custody intending in a few days to do the same to him.

However, the Bible says, “earnest prayer was made for him by the church.”

I love what happened next: As the church interceded God intervened.

Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

Brothers and sisters, would God have intervened if the church had not interceded?

I really cannot answer the above question because this is the business of God. My business and your business is to pray. What should we be praying? Here is what Jesus said:

 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Luke 11:9-10

Jim Maxium writes so insightfully in his book, 21 Days of Prayer: “God tells us over and over again that His desire is to listen and answer our prayers,” (Jer. 29:12).

  • Prayer works, James 5:16.
  • Prayer takes work, Matt. 6:5-8.

I know we believe the first bullet point and I know we sometimes fail to pray because of the reality of the second bullet point. Brothers and sisters, if we want God to intervene in the critical hours we must must intercede boldly before God’s throne!

“God has not changed; and His ear is just as quick to hear the voice of real prayer, and His hand is just as long and strong to save as it ever was.” R. A. Torry

First Hesitations (Acts 10-11)

September 21, 2020

 20 Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, Acts 10:20a.

For quite a few years I have been known to make a point with someone by light heartedly saying, someone’s words must be recorded in the book of first hesitations. Certainly you know there is no such book.

However, there are many sayings and many beliefs that are fiction because of the hardness of men’s hearts. Whenever God says, do something and we do not, it is coming from our book of hesitations.

I wonder, do you have a book of hesitations?

We see this in Peter’s life in Acts 10. You remember Peter? Peter was already known, in his day, as the leader of the Apostles. It had been Peter who had been granted the assignment of taking the gospel to the nations. Jesus said, “I give you the keys to the Kingdom,” Matt. 16:19.

On the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, the Holy Spirit was given as the power to accomplish the gospel. Peter began fast out of the gate as did the church. But there was the problem of first hesitations. What was this problem? Peter was prejudice toward Gentiles.

Three things happened that changed everything for Peter:

  1. Jesus spoke directly to Peter and said “Do not look at the Gentles as unworthy to have the gospel,” Acts 10:15.
  2. The Holy Spirit directed Peter to go without hesitation to the Gentiles, Acts 10:18.
  3. Peter was obedient to go and meet an entire house filled with Gentiles, Acts 10:29.

Oh the scene in that household when Peter cast aside his hesitations, 24-25.

Question: Are there any hesitations you and I need to cast aside? In Acts 11 Peter spoke before a Jewish council. His words are the cry of my heart today: “I will not stand in God’ way.”

Brothers and sisters, if there are any hesitations in your life, cast them at the feet of Jesus. The souls of men are to important to allow our preferences to stand in the way.

What do you do with a violent man? (Acts 8-9)

September 18, 2020

 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Acts 8:3

Brothers and sisters, I did not get very far in Acts 8 before God arrested my heart and mind. This past Tuesday I listened to a message on this text by a pastor who entitled the message, Crisis and lift. He said in the message, “the crisis was the persecution and the lift was the church launching outside Jerusalem with the gospel.”

Here is how Acts 8 begins: “A great persecution arose against the church.”

As I considered what was taking place, my mind went directly to the one guy who was spearheading the persecution. This man was Saul. According to Galatians 1:13-14, he was a violent man. According to his own self-witness we discover the following about this violent man:

  • He was advancing toward the highest position in Judaism.
  • He worked harder to protect and propagate his beliefs than did anyone of his contemporaries.
  • He felt a personal calling to destroy the church.

Question: What would you do with such a violent man? Here are three suggestions:

  1. Pray for such people.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; Matthew 5:44.

2. Trust in the divine revelation of God.

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.[c]12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:11-12

3. Share the gospel when the door is opened by God. I Peter 3:15

Take the time to read the account of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9. If the gospel could reach Saul it has the power to reach anyone. Be encouraged today to pray, trust God, and to share the gospel with those who seem the hardest to reach.

It could be your Saul will become a Paul. This is the power of the gospel.

When It Get’s Personal (Acts 7)

September 17, 2020

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. Acts 7:54

Has anyone ever blasted you in a conversation only to end the blasting by gazing into your eyes and saying, please don’t take this personally? I am sure most of us have had this experience. When I was a younger man, I took everything personally. In my sinful state I considered everything said about me as an attack on my ministry. But then I came to realize it was not my ministry.

When that reality came, things changed in my life. Now the blasting did not stop, but my response changed. Here is what Jesus had to say about our discussion:

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Matthew 5:11-12

In Acts 7 we find the story of Stephen who had gotten in trouble for the gospel (See Acts 6 and yesterdays blog). In chapter 7 we read Stephen’s defense and we read about Stephen’s death.

Here a suggested outline of the chapter:

  1. Stephen simply recounted the steps of his ancestors, 7:1-50.
  2. Stephen confronted the sins of his people, 7:51-52.

The nation of Israel had been prideful and rebellious since their very beginning. Even Stephen’s own generation had followed in the same sinful path. In each generation Israel had either persecuted or murdered God’s messengers culminating in the crucifixion of Jesus.

At this point the people were angered by the truth they heard. The light that was shinning on their darkness, cut them and they pushed back. The anger began to boil over. Suddenly the crowd erupted and they began to pick up stones to kill Stephen.

At the same time we see Stephen in a totally different frame of mind. The man of God was:

  • Filled with the Spirit.
  • Focused on Heaven. Stephen saw the Glory of God and he saw Jesus standing in Heaven ready to receive Stephen home.
  • Filled with forgiveness in his heart.

Stephen was modeling what one Christ-hater would one day write:

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17

Oh the different response we can have when we are walking in Christ. Brothers and sisters, I have come to realize every moment of every day is to be personal.

Each moment is our moment to be different from the world and to be a delight in God’s eyes so that He can use us as His light bearer’s in the world.