Surrendering your rights (I Corinthians 7-9)

February 6, 2019

 

 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.  I Corinthians 9:12

The person said and I quote: “I will do what I want to do when I want to do it.  What I do is no one else’s business.”

Question: does the previous outburst sound familiar?

If you had to guess who made the previous outburst, who would you guess?  Would you blame it on a teenager, or a person going through a mid-life crisis?  Would you label this to people who claim this is the American way?

How would you feel, if I told you that this is how I feel inside in the moments when the flesh comes at me hard?  Now, do not act like you are in shock.  The truth is, every person faces a battle within.  The old nature cries out, I will do what I want to do when I want to do it.

In I Corinthians nine, the Apostle Paul does exactly the opposite of this.  Paul says, I will not do what I want to do for the sake of others.  Follow Paul’s thinking.  He is not advocating a life of freedom to sin.  He is not surrendering his rights to sin.  Paul is surrendering his rights to Christian freedom so that he might not place a stumbling block before others.

When Paul was with Jewish friends he submitted to the law so that he might reach his countrymen with the gospel.  When Paul was with Gentile friends he submitted to their laws to reach them with the gospel.

Paul’s goal in life was not to be free to do what he wanted to do. His goal was to be free to reach people with the gospel.  When Paul did this he really did become free to receive the prize.

Question, are you facing roadblocks in your life today?  Could it be that you are the stumbling block that has turned your circumstance into a road block?  Here is a suggestion, surrender your rights and see how God can use you today!

I am reminded of I John 2:10.  It speaks volumes to me today.

 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him[b]there is no cause for stumbling.

I am going to raise my white flag as I write this.  Who is with me today?

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A spectacle to the world (I Corinthians 4-6)

February 5, 2019

 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.  I Corinthians 4:9

When Paul deepens his argument with the church at Corinth, he dives deep into the difference between his ministry and the ministry of the church at Corinth.

Paul declares his ministry, which is simply to be a servant of Christ who is a good steward of the ministry of Christ, to be a spectacle to the world.

I looked us the word spectacle in the Webster’s Dictionary.  Here is one definition:

                              “An eye-catching or dramatic public display.”

Wow, Paul tells the church that his ministry has caught the eye of the world.  Now, we know the world as an evil system rejected his ministry.  In every city they called him foolish and they made sure he did not profit in any way from his labors.  As one looked on, Paul was poor, he was becoming weaker and weaker from all the beatings he endured.  But when Paul ministered, it was with power!!!  People were being saved and the darkness had no impact against the ministry of Paul.  Truly, he was a dramatic display of the ministry of Christ.

But then there was the church at Corinth.  They also were a spectacle to the world.  But in a far different way.  Paul writes:

  • Many in the church were becoming rich in the world.
  • Some in the church were openly engaging in sexual perversion.
  • Many in the church were suing and taking advantage of each other.

What an eye-catching people they were.  Paul writes to them to clean up their dramatic public display of sin.  He tells them to repent and to change directions.

Question:  What type of public display are you placing before the world today?

For, me I want to follow Paul’s teaching at the end of chapter 6.  Remember these words, you read them a few moments ago:

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.

God has called His church to surrender their bodies to Him for the purpose of His glory being lived out through our lives.  Be assured, it’s time for the church to cease loving the world and to begin to love the will of God!!!

How did you come to know? (I Corinthians 1-3)

February 4, 2019

“And we impart this in Words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” I Corinthians 2:13

Last Friday I had some time to sit with Keith and hear about his work as an electrician.  I must be honest, some of the things he said I had no clue of what he was talking about.  At some point I almost asked, how did you come to know these things.  But then I remembered how six years ago he and I went to the trade school to apply for his apprenticeship.  Now six years later, what they taught him has become to be second nature for him.

Question: How have you and I come to know what we know in life?

Paul’s answer would be this, when we were born we had a natural mind (2:14).  This mind was a gift from God which allows us to learn all-kinds of things in this life.  But this mind is corrupted by the inherited sin nature we received from Adam.

Without another mind we will never be able to understand who God is and how He desires for us to live.   Paul identifies this other mind as “the spiritual mind.”  This is God’s gift to those who surrender their lives to His Son Jesus Christ (2:10-13).

I am so glad the Lord has given His people another mind.  This mind leads us to understand 4 things:

  • We boast not in what we know.  We boast in what He has done.
  • We do not grow spiritual by the flesh but by the spiritual wisdom we receive from God.
  • We do not up lay up treasure by loving the world, but by the wisdom of the Spirit.
  • We live looking forward to the day of the Lord’s return.

It is my prayer that as you and I live this day,  someone will approach us and ask, how did you come to know about God?

What’s On Your Mind? (Philippians 4)

February 1, 2019

What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you, Philippians 4:9

I was just sitting there in my chair when Sherry passed by and paused for a question.  “Keith, what are you thinking?”  In a typical man like fashion I responded: “There is nothing on my mind.”  Are there any men out there who know that I am telling the truth?  Sometimes, I truly just mentally shut down and stare out into space.

As I approach this day, the option of mentally shutting down is not on the table.  I have much to accomplish today, and I am sure you do as well.  I have people to meet with, problems to address, productivity on the calendar, and possibilities ahead.

The question is, what is on my mind as I approach the day?

According to Philippians 4, I am to have on my mind the things I have learned.  Here is what I have learned from reading today:

  • I am to be a true companion to my brothers and sisters in their different circumstances of life.  I am to give them God’s Word concerning their circumstances.
  • I am to focus on rejoicing  in the Lord.
  • I am to give myself to believing prayer.
  • I am to center my mind in the good things of God.
  • I am to practice contentment in the Lord.
  • I am to trust in the provision of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, this is too much to think about on my own!  I need God’s help.  This is where Philippians 4:13 comes in.  God has promised victory for my mind when I follow His plans for my day.

So, here is the deal.  I do not have to stress about my day, I will be successful in Him.  I do not have to try to figure out my day on my own.  I will have a successful plan in Him.  I do not have to spend my day in worry.  I will have confident peace in prayer.

Question: What is on your mind?  You have a choice, either think about the day in your thoughts or God’s thoughts.  I want God’s thoughts because there is too much ridding on my day!

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!!!

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!