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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Arrogant Response

Acts 12:18 – 23 documents Herod’s response to God’s miraculous release of Peter from Herod’s maximum security lock up.  He pitched a fit.  He executed the 16 guard.  When the world and its systems do not get their way, they lash out violently.

Herod was arrogant.  He thought that God was not a real issue.  He saw himself as a god.  In his case, God took him out in mid-sentence.  Herod suffered the same fate as those whom he used to stand against God, the guards he executed.  Those who place themselves over God are destroyed unless God draws them.  All who reject the relationship God offers, are placing themselves over God in that they are saying that He is irrelevant and not needed in their life.  They are autonomous, the poem Invictus, which I really like, is a prime example of that attitude.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Henley, William Ernest (1888). A book of verses. London: D. Nutt. pp. 56–57. OCLC 13897970

As good as this is, it describes a life committed to self and self-determination as opposed to trust and dependence on God.  It is our nature to live this way.  It appeals to us.  2 Chronicles 36:16 reminds us that while God is one of patience, grace, and mercy; there is a limit to the latitude He gives us.  We do well to respond to Him before the last clause of that passage… “until there is no remedy.”

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Contrasting “Powers”

Acts 12:3 – 17 is an interesting contrast in purpose, instrumentation, and power.  Herod’s purpose was to execute Peter to please the religious, which was his end, his purpose.  Herod’s means were a jail and four squads of soldiers.
Contrasting “Powers”
In contrast the purpose of the church, their end, was to have Peter released, delivered.  Their means was prayer, fervent prayer.

Herod threw all he had to contain one man.  A jail and four squads of soldiers.  A squad had 4 soldiers; so sixteen men.  Sixteen men and a jail vs prayer.  The people praying did not really believe it would work, when Peter showed up, they did not believe it.  By the way their halting faith and the result of their prayer gives me hope.  Because in reality they in large part reflect much of my attitude in prayer.

The outcome of the contrast between the ends and means of Herod and religion vs the church is stunning.  All of the means that the tetrarch had at his disposal could not prevail against the prayer, the halting, unbelieving prayer of the saints.  It was not a matter of the faith of those who prayed rather it was a matter of to whom those prayers were directed.  This was about God’s purpose, His control, His sovereignty over one who thought himself important and one who was committed to the world’s system.  He thought himself as one who could stand against what God was doing.  We find in the next couple of paragraphs the end result of his delusion.  We will leave that for tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Hostile Environments

Acts 12:1 – 3 is an interesting read.  In there we see two systems or entities that resist Christ and by extension Christianity.  The first is the government.  Herod rounds up believers including apostles and kills them.  He kills John’s brother James, and then makes a move on Peter.  The believers were not functioning as the government wanted.  So they used power and force to attempt to stop the spread of their influence
Hostile Environments
The other entity that rejects here Christ and Christians is religion.  John 16:1 – 4 also speaks to this.  The alignment of the world and religion is close.  All forms of religion including “Christian” religion is hostile toward Christianity.  Religion by definition is a system of trying to please God through performance or standards.  It is man’s, the flesh, the world’s choice.  On the other hand, Christianity, discipleship, is God’s choice.  He chooses to relate through His Son’s sacrifice to those whom He has chosen.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Including

Yesterday I started sharing some observations on Acts 11:19 – 26, here is the second…
Including
Antioch was hopping.  Barnabus was thrilled with what he saw.  As we saw yesterday he encouraged the new believers and many more trusted Christ.

It would have been easy for Barnabus to assert his position as emissary of the apostles.  Barnabus could have done as many do today and take the ministry over.  Instead he knew that he needed a team.

He went for the one he knew could teach well.  Saul had demonstrated in Damascus that he was a capable teacher.  Barnabus was one who was a peace maker a connector.  He ran interference for Saul with the Apostles in Jerusalem.

The combination of gifts and personalities was powerful in this community of new believers.  The application for us is huge.  We need a team.  We cannot minister on our own.  It takes a team of gifts in order to build up the Body of Christ.  Isn’t that what all of the passages on gifts tell us, Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11 – 16.

One error to avoid is that of taking on the role of leader when we need to have others involved in the battle with us.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Inclusion

In Acts 11:19 – 26, we read about one of the first of the churches outside of Jerusalem.  Some of the scattered disciples (scattered because of the persecution with which Saul was involved), traveled north to Antioch.  When they got there, they shared the good news of Jesus.
Inclusion

Many believed.

When that word reach Jerusalem, rather than have them come to Jerusalem to validate their conversion, the apostles sent Barnabus.  This was the first instance of one being sent who was not an apostle.

We read that Barnabus encouraged the believers in Antioch and many were brought to the Lord.  There is no record of Barnabus instituting the same things that were in Jerusalem.  He simply encouraged the believers.

He was not concerned with anything other than their remaining true to the Lord.

What is the lesson for us there?

But that is not all that he did…  More on that tomorrow.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas

On this day that we celebrate the birth of our savior, we wanted to wish you and your family a Blessed Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Immediate Zeal

Still working through Acts, look at Acts 9:19 – 22.  Paul immediately after regaining his sight began to proclaim the gospel in Damascus to the point that he confounded the Jews who were trying to refute him.
Immediate Zeal
God took Paul’s zeal to persecute the Church and repurposed it.  It is the case that God is sovereign over all of our lives including the period of time that we were not in relationship with Him.  In the case of Paul he was trained by the best Pharisaic legal minds.  He was a scholar.  He was devout.  He was committed to the cause.  All of that zeal, all of that knowledge was immediately channeled into a passion to share the gospel.

All of us who have come to the Lord have training and experiences prior to that decision.  It is the case that like Paul, God was sovereign over and intentional about those experiences.  He uses them to prepare us for the role that He has for us in His kingdom.

We need to celebrate the new convert’s zeal to share.  God has prepared him to do just that.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Lessons from the Road

This week I was working on a summary of Acts.  Typically, when I study a book, I do an overview, study the parts, and then do a summary – the movement is from the whole to the parts and back to the whole…
Lessons from the Road
I was going back over my study looking at some of the things I wrote in response to the text.  Acts 9 was one of the places that the Lord really spoke to me.

Look at Acts 9:1 – 19, it is the account of Paul’s conversion through his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus and the subsequent visit by Ananias.  I thought through what those men might have learned from those events.

Paul’s learning:
  • The call of God for redemption is through the Body of Christ.  Individual believers are instrumental in the propagation of the Bible, 2 Corinthians 5:14ff.
  • Forgiveness is not dependent on the heinous nature of an offense, 1 Timothy 1:15.
  • God will sometimes intervene and stop persecution, thus if He allows it, it is part of His plan and has purpose.  (see further note below)
What was the lesson for Ananias?
  • He was useful to the Lord.
  • The Lord’s assignments do not align always with logic.
  • He cannot prejudge a person’s usefulness to the Lord.
  • God allows us to question Him without retaliation, He is gracious.
But the most important part of any study is what can I apply…
  • A person’s known behavior past or present is not an indication of their value to the Lord in the administration of His Kingdom.
  • I can know that even in the midst of a group of very bad people God may have His hand on someone.
  • God is sovereign over the events in my life.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Hand or Face

My wife and I were called to the hospital.  There we were informed that two in our family were threatened by an aggressive cancer.
Hand or Face
That Sunday during church I felt like I should spend some extended time in prayer about what those two were facing.

Extended time in prayer is not a strength of mine.  Extended time in the Bible – I am all in.  Prayer – I run out of things to pray fairly quickly.  I struggled praying for four hours over the specifics that I knew, asking the Lord to intervene and heal.

The next morning I opened my journal for my devotional time with the Lord.  I wrote down the passages from the reading plan that I have been using this year and began to turn to read the first one – I do not hear the Lord audibly.  But from time to time He impresses on me passages that I should read.  Turning to the first passage I was redirected to Matthew 5:6.

It was as if the Lord was saying to me, “You spent four hours yesterday praying the lives of those in your family would be spared from this cancer.  When is the last time you have pursued Me with that much fervor?”  I was filleted.

I was hard at seeking what God could do for my family, His hand.  I was not as hard after seeking His face, to know Him.

It was a hard lesson.  One that I am still processing and still weakly attempting to apply…

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Surprise Answers to Prayer…

Today my reading took me back to John 11.  You know the story.  Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that their brother, Jesus’ good friend Lazarus, is sick.
Surprise Answers to Prayer…
Essentially, they are praying that Jesus will come and heal their brother.

Jesus delays.

When He finally arrives Lazarus is not only dead he has been in the tomb for four days.  Jesus brings him out.

My takeaway today?  When I pray, I normally have in mind how and when God will answer.  Matter of fact my prayers are many times couched in those terms, almost, similar to Martha and Mary, a demand.

God may answer in the affirmative – by the way “no” is an answer – but as with the sister’s request, He may choose a different time and a different means.  They expected a timely healing.  Jesus brought their brother back from the dead.

My family has been facing four life and death situations for the past several weeks.  That has been the reason there is such a gap in these posts here.  I will be sharing some of what I have been learning through this in the next weeks.  I am constrained by what I can share for I am honoring requests not to share details.  But there are some lessons, especially in the area of prayer, that I am compelled to share…

Monday, November 7, 2016

Another All In

I was challenged the other day by something I read in 2 Kings 3:7.  Look at the passage.  Jehoram asks Jehoshaphat for help against Moab.  Jehoshaphat’s response is a model of how we should be as servants of one another is it not?
Another All In
  • I will go up
  • I am as you are
  • My people are your people
  • My horses are your horses
Total commitment.  Total support.  Jehoshaphat was “all in” in his support of Jehoram.

When I accept an assignment, I need to accept it as from the Lord.  Probably would be a great idea to pray and make sure that the Lord wants me to engage, but when and if that is the case, Jehoshaphat’s attitude and commitment should be my model.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Comfort

For the past several days our family has been dealing with a dire circumstance.  I will not share the details here, suffice it to say that it is a continuing life and death matter that impacts members of our family.  The situation has resulted in some travel, much prayer, and many tears.  It is one of the reasons I have been absent from the blog in the past week or so.
Comfort
One of the family members who this most deeply impacts came to our house a week or so ago.  They had a question.  Their pastor was working through the Gospel of John in his messages.  The family member wanted to study the gospel as the pastor spoke on each passage.  There was a question of how to find cross references to some of the issues that were presented in the text.

We were in the kitchen when the question came up, my office is next to the kitchen (close to the source of coffee).  I grabbed some tools out of my office and we stood around the island talking through what they wanted to do.  We spent some time working through this together and then I gave them my Strong’s concordance and one of my Bibles that had center column references.

I share this because this individual was in a place where many would be practically incapacitated.  When I share what is going on in their family, the universal response is stunned silence.  Even their pastor confessed he had no words to share.  This is a hard, hard reality they are facing.

Which makes the conversation in the kitchen remarkable.

There was a question related to the issue just before they left, but the majority of our conversation was on how to more effectively study the Word.

This individual is handling this situation better than the vast majority of people would.  Why?  It is that they are continually in the Word of God.  Look at Psalm 119:50, 52.  Note that “comfort” is associated with God’s Word in both of those passages.

Life is hard.  We will, as believers, face suffering and disease as will the rest of the residents of this planet.  However, we are also promised suffering, which Jesus promises and both Paul and Peter reiterate.  To handle those realities, while it is important to be in community that will support one in those times; if one does not have a strong foundation in the Word of God, if it is not a priority in their life, if the study and application of the Book is not a way of life for them, the comfort will be shallow and fleeting.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Overwhelming Power

I understood something that I had read several times before yesterday.  Ever happen to you?  You read something in the Word that you have read a hundred times and suddenly the tumblers fall into place and you see.
Overwhelming Power
Look at 2 Kings 7:6.  You know the story.  Elisha has taken Elijah’s place with a double portion of his spirit.  He is in Samaria.  Aram has Samaria under siege.  There is no food.  The residents resort to cannibalism.  Not a PG type of story.

Elisha tells king that on the next day there will be an abundance of food.  The king’s officer does not believe it.  The next morning four lepers go to the Aramean camp and find it completely deserted.  Why, reread 2 Kings 7:6.

The Lord caused the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots, chariots that were not there.  He caused them to hear a sound of horses, horses that were not there.  The sound of a great army, that was not there.  They ran.  They also made irrational decisions.  They left their horses and donkeys which would have allowed them to leave faster.

The Lord controlled what they heard.

The Lord led them to make irrational decisions.

Think of that.  Our Lord can control what people hear.  He can control what people see, 2 Kings 6:17.  That may be a reality that informs your prayer for those to whom you minister and those whom you are praying would come to Christ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

More Strength in Suffering

Yesterday I suggested that the reality of our place in God’s kingdom is one of the certainties that allows us to have peace in the midst of suffering, tribulation.
There is another.

It is who we worship and on whom we are dependent, God.  Specifically, it is about who God is in actuality.

We read in Psalm 139,several aspects of God’s nature and character that guides His interaction with us and the path of our lives.

First in Psalm 139:1 – 6, we read that there is nothing that God does not know about our lives.  He knows our path in detail, He scrutinized it.  There is nothing that comes into our lives that is not known by God.  His knowing implies as well His sovereignty over those events.

1 Corinthians 10:13 also implies that sovereign control.  He limits what comes against us to what He knows we can endure.  He knows what we can endure with absolute certainty.

Those truths conspire to suggest that we can trust Him with all that comes into our lives.  Trust Him absolutely and completely.

There is more about His sovereignty that I will share tomorrow.  It is somewhat of a mind blower.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Strengthened in Suffering

A couple of days ago we looked at the certainty of suffering.  Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 – 3, in order to strengthen their faith by reminding them that he, Paul, was destined to suffer.  On the surface one could wonder how that strengthened their faith.
Strengthened in Suffering
Paul often says that he is imitating Christ.  Christ led Paul in this.  Look at John 16:33.  Christ, speaking to the 11 and by extension us, tells us that He shares what He shares so that we can have peace.  Then He states that we are going to have tribulation in this world.  Which again could raise the question how that knowledge engenders peace.

I have just begun to work through this.  I wonder if the peace that Christ is offering is that certainty of the resurrection and our place in His kingdom.  It seems that one of the themes throughout the New Testament is His call to us to put His kingdom first, Matthew 6:33.  Paul picks this up in Philippians 3:20 – 21.  We are citizens of His kingdom.  We are not primarily citizens of the country that issues us our passport.  We are to put His kingdom first.

Our peace, our strength in facing whatever resistance, persecution, suffering, or tribulation may lie in the fact that ultimately it is His kingdom that prevails.  Our peace is that we will be secure in that kingdom.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Certainty of Suffering

I live in an area in which many teach that to know Christ is to be assured of healing, to live a materially prosperous life that it is just a matter of how much faith one has.  Those who hold and teach this, seem to have missed or have ignored several passages of Scripture and additionally defined success and prosperity differently than the Bible presents it.
Certainty of Suffering
One example is 1 Thessalonians 3:2 – 3.  Paul is writing the Thessalonian believers reminding them that they strengthened and encouraged their faith by reminding them that they would be afflicted, would suffer, and that it was their destiny to experience this.

Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12 that if it is the case that we wish to live a godly life, we will be persecuted.  Paul is only repeating what Jesus said.  Look at John 15:18, the world hates Christ, so it will hate those who follow Him.  There are many more passages.

Bottom line?  This journey we started to follow Christ is consistently, passionately, and fully resisted by the enemy of our Lord.  Revelation 12:17 tells us that the dragon is committed to war against those who obey God and hold to the testimony of Christ.

So if you are following Christ.  Suffering is assured.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thankful for Struggles?

For the past year the Lord has had me in school, prayer school.  It started about this time last year.  I was reading 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – 12.  I was struck by the types of things Paul was praying for believers.  I used his model and found myself wondering what else he prayed, which lead to putting a prayer card together that I put in my journal.
Thankful for Struggles?
I mentioned a couple of days ago that I was confronted in my prayer by my attitude in a difficult situation.  That lesson continued today.

I was in Psalm 111.  Look at verses 3 – 4.  God’s works are described a splendid and majestic.  There are times, and the last week has been one of them, that I find it difficult to agree.  But that is what the text says.  Psalm 139:3 tells us that the Lord scrutinizes our path and our lying down (click on this sentence in this post: He analyzes our path as closely as a civil engineer would use a nested sieve to analyze aggregate in a concrete mix.).  So when someone we love is struggling with a disease or another situation, it is not something that took God by surprise.  He knows and knows in detail, further, He has a reason, a splendid and majestic reason.  We may not see it.  I certainly do not in the things that are facing my family.

Praying through that this morning I was taken to Philippians 4:6 – 7.  You probably have that passage memorized.  There are two instrumental statements in the passage:

  • by prayer and supplication
  • with thanksgiving

The two phrases are structurally connected.  The implications seem to be that our prayer and supplication needs to be supported by our thanksgiving for God’s involvement in all of the things that we are facing in our lives.  Including cancer.

That led me to ask – and I am struggling with the answer – do I have to get to the place where I am thankful for what I am praying for God to remove for my prayer to be effective.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Foundation of Leadership

We are picky about who we choose to lead us.  We look for the most qualified.  The one who has the best resume.  We look for good schools, a great track record.  We surmise that great training will produce great results.
The Foundation of Leadership
It is the same in our churches.  We want men who have been to seminary.  Who did well.  Some fellowships covet advanced degrees, it sounds better if their leader has a Dr. in front of their name.

Then there is God’s way.

Look at David.  Specifically look at Psalm 78:70 – 72.  David wasn’t recruited from the B schools or the T schools he was taking care of sheep.  He wasn’t a scholar.  He was a shepherd.  He wasn’t handsome, he was ruddy.  He spent most of his time outdoors.  Outdoors with stinky, dumb sheep.

In God’s estimation that is what prepared him to lead God’s people.

Wonder how we got the idea that degrees were better?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Journey Through Incredible Pain

For the past six years I have written here most days.  This month has been the exception.  There are a number of reasons for that.  I have been traveling.  Members of my family and I are struggling with various forms of cancer as well as other significant health issues.  One such situation has consumed most of my emotional and spiritual reserves in the past few days.  Another has also been challenging requiring some of the travel.  Frankly, I just haven’t felt like writing.
Journey Through Incredible Pain
Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon in prayer about one of these cases.  There are two lives at stake.  Multiple difficult issues – such that when I have shared the details with close friends it renders them speechless.

I am not all that good at prayer.  Especially, protracted prayer.  However, I was impressed that I needed to try.  It was hard work.  Really hard work.

This morning was the Monday study, we were in 1 Samuel 3.  I shared what was happening with the men there with the same result, speechless.

I got home and started my time with the Lord.  I had passages I was supposed to read, but it was if the Lord was not through with me from yesterday afternoon.  Matthew 5:6 and Psalm 42:1 came to mind.  As I prayed and processed those passages several things came to mind.

The question was when have I invested that much time and emotion in just seeking His righteousness?  When have I hungered for Him as I hungered for this healing?  When have I wept over my sin as I have wept over this cancer?  I want what His sovereign power can provide, am I satisfied with Him?

Tomorrow morning five of us are looking at 1 Samuel 3 & 4.  This afternoon I was finishing up my prep for that study.  I observed that Israel did the same thing.  They used the ark as a talisman in battle.  They wanted victory over their enemy, not so much did they want Him.  They did not even bother to ask.  They just brought the ark into battle.  The Philistines response to them in 1 Samuel 4:7 – 8 was the appropriate response.  They recognized the latent idolatry of Israel’s action.  They were afraid of the mighty gods.

I am cut to the quick by this.  He is enough, but I find myself longing for more… hopeless.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Good Question

A friend of mine asked me a question a couple of weeks ago.  He has asked me that question before, but it is a good one and beard repeating.

As we were ending our conversation he asked me, "What is the Lord teaching you know that you thought you already knew?"

I have an answer.

In August I was in the middle of a project in another country.  I was meeting with people in underground churches.  We were going through several topics.  The first day the conversation was lively.  I did not understand it because it was in a language that I do not speak.  I was working through a translator.  I would ask a question and the room would erupt with them talking back and forth.  

The next day tough, they were not reacting the same way.

My primary gift is exhortation.  Feedback is my life blood.  The second day, I wasn't getting any.  I was working though this in my journal and trying to figure out what was going on.  The Lord essentially asked me why I needed the feedback.  The clear message was, "Obey me."  It is more important for me to do what He had led me to do than get the response that I thought I needed.

For the past few weeks I have been in conversations with a Christian organization that indicated they wanted my help with part of their ministry.  It is a part that I have been equipped to deal with for the past 40 years.  The process was proceeding rapidly and a few days ago just stopped.  

Same reaction.  I was working through that in my journal and asking the Lord to bring a resolution to the process.  "Why?" He asked.  As I thought through that I realized that I wanted them to follow through with engaging me to help them to validate me as useful.  

He reminded me that He was all of the validation that I need.

I thought I knew that already.  Still learning.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Lord Loved

We read in Acts13:22 and 1 Samuel 13:14 that David was a man after God’s own heart.  We have already seen that he was a man of prayer.  But he was far from perfect.
The Lord Loved
Read the Psalms that David wrote (David is specifically noted as the author of Psalms 3 to 9, 11 to 32, 34 to 41, 68 to 70, 51 to 65, 101, 86, 103, 108 to 110, 124, 122, 133, 131 and 138 to 145.  He is also credited with Psalms for which he is not specifically noted as the author, chief among these is Psalm 119).  You will note that in many cases David seems angry with God and tells Him so.  But then halfway through the psalm David begins to praise God.  There is a lesson there.

But David was a man.  He took more wives than he should have.  He murdered Uriah to cover up his adulterous affair with Bathsheba.  You may have done some stuff of which you are ashamed but I would bet David has you beat in the sin department.  The result of the affair with Bathsheba was a son whom the Lord took.

But then we read one of the more amazing passages in the Word of God, 2 Samuel 12:21.  David and Bathsheba have another son, and the Lord loved him.  Think of all of the mess that David made.  Based on what Christ said in Matthew 5:31 – 32, this is technically still an adulterous relationship, but God loved the son that was born out of this sin.  So much that He had Nathan tell David to name the boy, Jedidiah, beloved of the Lord.

David, the man who is described as one after the heart of God, a flawed human.  God, one who loves those who are flawed.  This is a great story in which we get to participate.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Contentment

You ever heard that we are supposed to be content as believers?  You may have even memorized Philippians 4:11 – 12 in order to help you remember that we are to be content in all circumstances.
Contentment
Did you memorize 2 Corinthians 12:10 – 11 as well?

It is one thing to be content with humble means or prosperity, it is something else again to be content with:
  • Weaknesses
  • Insults
  • Distresses
  • Persecutions
  • Difficulties
That is a whole different level of contentment.  That takes a level of trust in and perspective on what God has said He is doing and is going to do in our lives.

Many of us, myself included, are not content when people do not go when the light turns green.  That did not even make Paul’s ball park.

I don’t know about you but I have a lot to learn about contentment.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Build it Up

Earlier this month I shared some thoughts about the purpose of leadership, I stated that authority, leadership is given for the purpose of building up the Body of Christ.
Build it Up
In that post I shared a list of all of the places the word that is translated “build up,” οικοδομη (oikodomē), is used in the New Testament.  One of those references, 1 Corinthians 14:3, came up in my reading a few days ago.

In 1 Corinthians 14:3 Paul is speaking about the effect of the gift of prophecy on the Body of Christ.  There are three effects of this gift on the Body, edification which is our word οικοδομη (oikodomē), exhortation, and consolation.  Earlier in 1 Corinthians 12:7 that the gifts are given for the common good.  That is reinforced in Ephesians 4:16 where Paul tells us that each of us, each part of the Body, as it works properly causes the building up, again οικοδομη (oikodomē), of the Body.

Bottom line?  All leadership and every gift of the Spirit given to the Body, of which each believer is a recipient, has the purpose of building up the Body of Christ.

Each of us.  Not just leaders.  Each of us is gifted for a purpose.  Each of us is to steward the gift the Spirit has given us and use it in building up our communities of faith.

As the commercial says, “Just Do It.”

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Casting Burdens

Are there passages that the Lord continues to use in your life?  Psalm 55 is one of those for me.  A couple of weeks ago that Psalm spoke to me yet again.  Look at Psalm 55:22.
Casting Burdens
In that verse David describes one imperative for us that results in two actions by the Lord.
  • We cast our burden on the Lord
  • He sustains us
  • He will not allow us to be shaken
That picture in itself is sustaining.  But there is more.  I remembered other verses with that same imagery:
  • 1 Peter 5:6 – 7 (more casting)
  • Philippians 4:6 – 7 (how to cast)
Coming to the Lord, bearing my soul to Him, casting my burden on Him:
  • Sustains me 
  • Makes me unshaken
  • Humbles me
  • Exalts me
  • Guards my heart
  • Guards my mind
It is not that the requests are granted.  It is that assured confidence that the sovereign king of the universe is involved in my life, intentionally.  I can rest and have peace that he is engage in whatever I am dealing with at the time.

That is a good deal.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Presence and Prayer

The Tuesday morning study is finishing up 2 Corinthians this week.  We finished the chapter by chapter study last Tuesday sharing what we learned in chapter 13.
Presence and Prayer
Take a minute and read through those 14 verses.

There are at least three take aways for me in this passage:
  1. Paul invested a lot in this community.  On his second missionary journey he spent 18 months teaching the Word of God.  So he spent more time only in Ephesus.  What happened in Corinth was similar to what Paul told the elders of Ephesus would happen in Acts 20:29 – 30.  The church was assaulted by false teachers and the Corinthian church drifted from what Paul and his crew had shared with them.  Thus the two letters.  The take away for me is that regardless of how much we pour into our kids, an individual, or a community there is the reality that the enemy will continually and intentionally work to lead them astray.
  1. Paul left Corinth after 18 months.  Paul got reports from there and sent some of his people there to continue the ministry.  Seemingly as soon as he left the false teaching and the drift away from the truth began.  This suggests that we need to have a consistent presence in mission efforts.  While short term missions are transformative for those who go on the mission, it is the ones who stay that have the greatest impact.  In either case, whether present or absent, those who were impacted by the mission must be reminded of the truth continually.
  1. Twice in Paul’s closing remarks he mentions that he is praying for the Corinthian church, 13:7 and 9.  There are three things that Paul prays for them:
    • That they do no wrong.
    • That they do what is right.
    • That they will be made complete.
The first two of Paul’s prayer focus are presented in two contrasting statements.  He is praying that regardless of their view of him, they will do no wrong but do right.  Significant implications there which space and time precludes investigating.

This last take away is huge for me.  The work Paul did in Corinth was not complete.  He had to remind them but more importantly he had to pray for them.  Our main work in investing in our families, others, and our communities is in prayer.

I am weak in that.  Lord teach me to pray.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Burning Concern

A few months ago I wrote 2 Corinthians 11:28 – 29 on one of the pages in my prayer folder.  That passage turned up again in my devotional time (M’Cheyne Reading Plan).
Burning Concern
I am struck by Paul’s intense concern for all churches.  By the way the last phrase of 29, translated in the NAS, “without my intense concern”; in the ESV and NRSV, “and I am not indignant”; and in the NIV, “and I do not inwardly burn”; in the Greek is literally, “and I not burn”.

That phrasing from Paul reveals a heart that reaches beyond the immediate to embrace all that the Lord is doing in His Body.  It occurs to me that if it is the case that we are to be imitators of Paul, 1 Corinthians 4:16, 11:1, then we should have the same burning concern for the entire Body of Christ.

When we hear of a church or organization that is struggling or drifting away from the truth, we should burn.  If it is the case that we are to seek first His kingdom, then part of that kingdom focus is for us to burn with concern for our brothers and sisters who are not only in other communities of faith in our town, state, or country, but also for those who are following Christ in other countries.

One practical way to do so is to get a copy of Operation World and use that for prayer fodder in your time with the Lord.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Appeasing the World

A few days ago Ezekiel 13:2 – 3 was in my reading project.  Thinking through that passage led me to four others:
  • Ezekiel 22:25
  • Ezekiel 22:28
  • Lamentations 2:14
  • Jeremiah 23:28 – 32
Appeasing the World
Reading that you get a clear picture of the state of leadership for the nation.  They told the people what they wanted to hear.  They shared their own ideas.  They did not hold fast to God’s Word.

This seems like a commentary on what is happening now.

I reviewed two academic catalogs today.  I get them because I am a member of the Evangelical Theological Society.  Among the Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Ethiopic texts were a number, great number of works that were essentially dealing with issues that the world is attempting to force on the Church.  Unfortunately, some seemed to be aimed at portraying the Body as tolerant and responsive.

The issues that those works addressed are covering behavior that the Word says is sin.  There is no Biblical way to say that behavior is not sin and remain true to what the Bible says without redefining words or critically removing passages from the discussion.

We are living under constant pressure to conform to the world, Romans 12:1 – 2.  We are under constant attack by the enemy to remove the influence of the Word of God on our communities, Mark 4:13 – 20; 1 Peter 5:8.

We are in danger of doing what the Pharisees did with the Law; redefine to align with our image, our thinking, our ability to obey.  The problem with that is clearly outlined in Matthew 5:3 – 7:27, with the kicker coming in Matthew 5:28.  The standard, the standard that we cannot escape is the nature and character of God.  If we are not like Him, and the world some are attempting to appease is not even in the ball park, we are not in the kingdom.  We will never see it.

As a pastor friend of mine said recently, we have to hold up and exalt God’s Word.  We have to heed what is says, we have to obey its author.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Negotiating the Kingdom – 2

Day before yesterday we started this.  Look at 1 Samuel 15:22 – 23.  God is not interested in our intention, He is concerned with obedience.  Further, He is not interested in our altering His plan as Saul did in this case.  No matter the resistance Saul got from the people, God expected obedience.
Negotiating the Kingdom – 2
Saul’s partial obedience was viewed as full disobedience.

Paul, in Romans 15:4 reminds us that passages like these are written for us.  They are instructive.  We should learn from them.  In the first post I referred to Matthew 5:48.  Perfection.  The perfection of God is the standard.  It is by that standard our obedience, our lives will be measured.  It is not how well we do in comparison to say Adolf Hitler.  This is not a competition.

The standard – the perfection of God – is impossible to meet.  Which is the point of Matthew 5:3 – 7:27.

For me or anyone else for that matter to obey requires the empowering grace of God in full measure.  I am incapable of obedience apart from the enabling life of the Savior, Galatians 2:20.  I can only obey through the Spirit’s help.

There is no negotiation, no deal that I can strike for a lesser standard.  It is what it is.  I cannot meet the standard, which leaves me outside the Kingdom.

But…

The great, awesome news is that if I choose to follow Christ, His life, death, resurrection, and ascension becomes mine.  Since He is the standard and since His life becomes mine, then through Him I measure up.  Not by my obedience, but by His.  For the reality is no matter how hard I work at it, my obedience will never be complete.  Romans 6.

I am grateful for that truth.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Negotiating the Kingdom

Since I got back from the overseas project last month I have been processing some of the reactions to the Word that happened.  I have mentioned this in the past month, there was resistance to obedience to the Word of God.
Negotiating the Kingdom
I asked those participating to write questions that they wanted the group to answer as they worked through the topics we addressed.  At the beginning of each topic I asked them to write down questions that they had about the topic that they wanted the group to discuss.

During the session where the resistance started, I remarked to them that the questions they asked were similar to the questions I have heard in the United States and other counties.  One of them came to me after the session and said that the questions had to be unique because of the hostile climate in which they live.

I reminded her that every word that was penned in the New Testament was penned under duress.  All of the apostles were martyred, there are some who hold that John was also martyred.  Paul wrote some of his epistles from prison.  Peter wrote from prison as well.

As I have thought through this exchange as well as the others during that time, I am struck by the universal reaction to the Word that just may be human nature.  It is not just those who are in difficult circumstances that conclude that because of their "unique" circumstances they cannot obey the Scripture.  We all do that at some level.  We often engage with the Scripture as if we were in negotiations with the Lord as to what He really wants us to do.

Actually what He wants us to do is pretty simple.  Obey.  1 Samuel 15:20 and Matthew 5:48.

It is not a negotiation.

There is more, I will continue this tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Purpose of Authority

Yesterday I suggested that one of the reasons leaders fail is that they become more concerned about how people are responding to them than in obeying the Lord.
The Purpose of Authority
That suggests at least one important question.  What is the purpose of leadership in the community of faith?  There are probably multiple responses to that question.  Paul gives his thoughts in 2 Corinthians 10:8 and again in 2 Corinthians 13:10.  In both places Paul insists that Jesus gave him authority to build up believers.

That may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you consider leadership.

The word that is translated “build up” is οικοδομη (oikodomē).  You can get a sense of how the term is used by looking at how it is translated in the New Testament.  Here are all 18 of the instances of the use of οικοδομη.

If Saul had had the attitude that God gave him authority to build up Israel, perhaps he would have worked at building up David rather than trying to kill him out of jealousy.

Jealousy, comparison, and competition have damaged the ministries of many leaders.  We must both be aware of this and also watch for it in our leaders.  A cursory reading of 2 Corinthians reveals that Paul used his authority in a selfless way that demonstrated his exhortation to the Philippian church in Philippians 2.

It is not natural for us to respond in this manner.  It requires the grace of God active in our lives.  It requires abiding in Him, John 15:5.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Starting Well, Ending Poorly

What do you think of when you think of King Saul?  First image I get is him begging his armor bearer to kill him, and when that did not work falling on his sword.  He did not end well.  But he started really well.
Starting Well, Ending Poorly
Look at these passages:
1 Samuel 9:21
1 Samuel 10:16
1 Samuel 10:23
1 Samuel 10:27
1 Samuel 11:13

The picture painted is one of a humble man who is surprised and resistant to the attention.  He does not seek attention or acclaim.  Rather he hid from it.  What happened?  How did he get off track?

He did so quickly.

Now look at:
1 Samuel 13:8 – 9, 11
1 Samuel 13:14
1 Samuel 15:7 – 21

Saul either forgot or never realized the purpose of authority (more on that tomorrow).  He became more interested in what people thought of him, whether they esteemed him and followed him, rather than doing what the Lord had commanded him to do.

That is a subtle trap.  A couple of weeks ago I was working with a group of people in another country.  The first day the conversation, although in a language I do not speak, was spirited and the feedback from the interpreter was encouraging.  The next day the energy in the room was significantly less.  I could not tell how they were responding to the passages we were discussing.

My initial reaction was to wonder what was going wrong.  I wrote about that in my journal – by the way, that is one of the best ways for the Lord to get my attention.  It slows me down and I am able to hear His prompting much better.  The key for me is to be honest about what I am thinking and with what I am struggling – the Lord reminded me that it was not about their reaction.  It was about my obedience to Him.  My doing what He had laid on my heart to do.  The result was not my responsibility, it was His.

That is partially what Saul forgot.  It is a trap for any leader.  It is easy to get focused on the result of what we are doing rather than whether we are doing what God had directed us to do.  Sometimes we can get so focused on doing, that we forget to ask what it is He wants.

It is then that we are beginning to walk in Saul’s path.

Not a good direction.

Friday, September 9, 2016

An Inquiring Heart

In there is a thread that runs from 1 Samuel through 2 Samuel.  It is “inquiring of the Lord.”  The two main actors in that thread are Saul and David.
An Inquiring Heart
Here are the relevant passages:
David Saul
1 Samuel 23:2 1 Samuel 18:6
1 Samuel 23:4
1 Samuel 30:8
2 Samuel 2:1
2 Samuel 5:19
2 Samuel 5:23

Note that every time David inquired of the Lord, David got an answer.  Saul, on the other hand, did not.

Saul, though chosen by God to be king, nearly immediately after Israel was united behind him, disobeyed God.  In 1 Samuel 13:8, Saul was to wait for Samuel to offer sacrifice.  When Samuel was late, Saul, when he saw the people leaving him, offered the sacrifice himself.

Note Samuel’s response to this in 1 Samuel 13:14.  The Lord is looking for one after his own heart.  That is how David is described in Acts 13:22 with the words out of 1 Samuel 13:14.

Saul though chosen, never had the heart that David did.  David though he struggled, came to the Lord for direction even when the circumstances seemed to be identical.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Trusting Omnipotence

Take a look at 1 Samuel 14:6.  The context is that Jonathan and his armor bearer are sneaking up on the Philistines.  Jonathan is doing this on his own.  He has neither told his father nor asked permission.  He just went.
Trusting Omnipotence
What strikes me about this passage is the last part of the verse, “…perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few.”  In this statement Jonathan places himself in sharp contrast with his father, Saul.

Jonathan was willing to risk his life and the life of his armor bearer on his faith in the Lord’s ability to act.  Saul did not think this way.  Later in the chapter, 1 Samuel 16:37, Saul inquires of the Lord, but the Lord does not answer him.  Already, the relationship between Saul and the Lord is blocked.

Jonathan’s action is based on his belief in the omnipotence of God.  There is no force that the Lord cannot defeat.  Numbers are not the issue.  The issue in whom Jonathan trusts.

I wonder what application, if any, that has for our missions.

On the surface Jonathan’s action may seem presumptuous, reckless.  But his action is evidence of one who has placed himself completely in the Lord’s hands and is sold out to doing whatever the Lord wants.

If I had to choose I would follow Jonathan’s example rather than Saul’s.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

More Results of Hope Misplaced

Skim through 1 Samuel 9:1 – 10:27.  As you see it is the story of Samuel following the Lord’s direction in picking Saul to be the first king of Israel.
More Results of Hope Misplaced
Note what we read about Saul:
Verse Saul's Response
9:21 Saul does not understand the attention Samuel is giving him.
10:16 Saul did not tell his uncle he had been anointed king.
10:22 Saul hid by the baggage rather than be introduced as king.
This reads like a man who is humble and not impressed with himself.  He was overwhelmed by the attention and did not promote himself as king.

What happened?  Although he seemingly started well, he finished incredibly poorly.

Instead of humble and overwhelmed, he became self-centered and entitled.  The office became his focus, his identity, his hope.  Not the Lord that placed him in that office.

Regardless of what the Lord does for us.  Regardless of the opportunities He gives us.  Regardless of the things He enables us to do for Him.  It is He who is our focus, our identity, our hope.  To begin to revel in what He enables us to do for Him, is to follow hard after Saul.

Not a good plan.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Source of Hope Examined – 2

Continuing the thought from yesterday…  If it is the case that I do not have boldness in my speech based on the saving grace that has been provided me by the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of my Lord it may be that the source of my hope is misplaced.
Rather than having rejoicing hope in the completed work of the Savior in my life, it is in my position, etc.  That being the case then my lack of boldness is based on fear of losing that in which I have placed my hope.  If that hope is placed on anything other than Christ’s work, I will lose it.  That is certain.

1 John 4:18 tells me that perfect love casts out fear.  That would seem to suggest that if I lack boldness, then my love of Christ is less than perfect.

By the way I am writing this for myself.  I desperately need this reminder.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Source of Hope Examined

Yesterday I suggested, well actually it was Samuel and Paul, that boldness in proclaiming our faith and trust in Christ is based on our rejoicing hope.  How does that work?  Why does it not seem to work more than it does?
Source of Hope Examined
I have mentioned that I recently returned from a two week mission in a country that is hostile to Christianity.  Sharing one’s faith is illegal.  Especially if one damages the faith of one who practices the dominant religion in that country.  Interacting with those who were in underground churches there, resulted in resistance to the notion of bold proclamation of the gospel, for fairly obvious reasons.

But one does not have to live in that type of culture to resist sharing the gospel.  In my experience, personal and observed, those of us who are believers are fairly creative in finding reasons why we should not speak to others about Christ.  The threat of rejection leaps to mind.  We build up rejection of the gospel as a personal attack.  We hesitate or do not share because we see doing so as involving some personal risk.  Whether that risk be loss of reputation, job, standing, or whatever.

That seems to indicate that those of us who are hesitant to proclaim boldly the grace of God to those who are doomed to a torturous eternity may have placed our rejoicing hope in something other than that grace given salvation that we say we have received.

Rather than rejoicing in the hope of our salvation, perhaps we are rejoicing in our comfort, the salary we earn, or our great standing in the community.

One question to ponder and then I will try to finish this tomorrow…  If we are obedient to our Lord and we are seeking His kingdom and righteousness first, what would be some reasons we would not proclaim the freedom He has provided us in Christ, in season, when it feels right and comfortable, and out of season when we feel threatened and diminished?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Source of Hope

A few days back I was reading 1 Samuel 2:1, I was struck by the last half of that verse, “…my mouth speaks boldly against my enemies, because I rejoice in Your salvation.”  I immediately thought of 2 Corinthians 3:12:
Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech,
Source of Hope

The source of our boldness is rejoicing hope in the salvation of our God.

Think about that.  I want to develop it further.  In the next day or so…

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Trust and Death

Much of what I have shared in the past six posts is my processing of what I encountered during the last trip.  In response to some of the passages in the Sermon on the Mount some in the group stated that in their culture it was not possible to follow what Christ commanded.  They would face imprisonment, physical harm, and possibly death if they were to obey.
Trust and Death
In thinking, praying through this, and looking at what the Word of God reveals, it seems that the Lord does things in ways that are at best counter intuitive and frankly opposite of what we as humans would chose to do them.

If we are at war we would gather the strongest force we could to wage that war.  Not so with the Lord.  He chooses to engage the enemy in ways that do not entirely make sense to us.  Look at:

Matthew 10:24 – 39
Philippians 1:12 – 26
Matthew 24:4 – 14
Revelation 4 – 5; 6:1 – 11
Psalm 2

One of the key passages in that mix is Matthew 10:28.  I have already mentioned 1 Corinthians 15:26.  Look now at 1 Corinthians 15:50 – 58.

The fear of rejection, persecution, imprisonment, and possible execution for one’s faith are some of the main weapons of the enemy.  Death of course is his ultimate weapon.

With the resurrection, Christ destroyed that weapon.  As believers, followers of Christ we are told not to fear death.  It has no power over us.  That is the focus of 1 Corinthians 15:50 – 58 is it not?  We are to trust in the sovereignty of God, the certainty of our resurrected life in the Kingdom validated by the resurrection of our Lord.

On that foundation we are to stand fast in the face of rejection, persecution, imprisonment, and execution.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Validation of Trust

The last five days I have not written here.  There are several reasons for that.  Primary, is that I am still processing what I have been sharing about doubt.  This is not something that I have completely sorted out either in my understanding of the text or in application to my life.  I am very much a work in progress in this, as, I suppose, you are.
Validation of Trust
That said, there have been some events and Scripture (not in order of importance) that have validated some of the things I have been processing in the past few days.

Recently my wife and I went to a small group meeting at a church we have been visiting.  I shared earlier that in the country from which I recently returned, the people said that they were unable to apply the Scripture because the culture oppressed Christianity.  I heard essentially the same objection in so many words at that recent small group meeting.  It validates my sense that regardless of where we live, what pressures our culture brings to bear on our faith, we will be likely to use that cultural reality to justify our disobedience.

As a counterpoint to that look at these passages:
  • 1 Corinthians 15:12 – 28
  • Romans 6:2 – 11
It is the case that, if we have chosen to follow Christ, we have been transferred into His kingdom, Colossians 1:13.  That reality means that we are citizens of the kingdom which we are commanded to seek first, Matthew 6:33; Philippians 3:20.  God’s is sovereign.  He is in control.  We can rest and trust in the certainty of His rule (More on that in Psalm 37).

What validates that certainty?  Not a coronation.  Not the installation of a leader.  Not an election result.  Not the swearing of an oath of office.

A resurrection.

That event has radical implications for us a believers.  We will examine some of those implications
tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Doubt vs Trust

In the context of the passages we have examined the opposite of doubt is trust.  If you review Matthew 5:1 – 7:29, it seems that Jesus is doing at least two things.
Doubt vs Trust
First He is raising the bar.  He is defining the expectations of the Law, the expectations of His Father, radically differently than the religious leaders had been teaching them.  He moves from action to attitude, thought.  Looking lustfully at a woman is adultery, not acting on the thought, the thought is a problem.

This part of His purpose culminates in Matthew 5:48.  The standard is hopelessly high.  We are to live out the perfection of God.  It is impossible.

The next purpose is that we have to surrender any notion that we are sufficient to do much of anything, and rather than try to make life work, we are to trust God.

So faced with the crushing, relentless attacks of the enemy.  Faced with all of the vagaries of trying to navigate life well, the charge is not to seek our own purposes.  No, we are to fully engage in seeking the fulfillment of the first part of the prayer Christ outlines, in Matthew 6:9 – 13a, we are to first, seek His kingdom.

We are to trust God for the rest.

Trust or doubt.

What does God have to do to validate that we can trust Him?

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Source of Doubt? Part 2

The Source of Doubt?  Part 2This is a continuation of yesterday’s post.  We established yesterday that the arenas in which we live, the various cultures, or live situations are one of the things that pulls us toward doubt.  The other we mentioned but did not develop is our adversary.

Satan is committed to our destruction, 1 Peter 5:8.  He is a ruthless, evil, persistent enemy.  He has declared war on all believers.  Look at Revelation 12:7 – 13:10.  This enemy is by nature a liar and a murderer, John 8:44.  He is continually at work to separate us from the Word of God, Mark 4:3 – 25.

He will settle for doubt.

So in the face of this what are we to do?  How are we to deal with this onslaught of means that are designed to move us from faith to doubt?

Thoughts?  I will begin to construct a possible solution tomorrow.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Source of Doubt?

For the past couple of days we have been looking at the reality of doubt and a possible cure.  Where does it come from?  What is its source?  Let me suggest it is our arena and adversary.
The Source of Doubt?
Our arena is the world in which we live.  This world is under the dominion of our adversary, on whom we will expand in a bit.  John tells us in 1 John 2:15 – 16, that all, not some, all that is in the world is not from the Father, but is from the world.  Yet, we are pulled toward the world.  Our arena, our cultures, regardless of where we live, push us relentlessly toward the world.  We are told in every culture, every arena that if we do not have the latest stuff, be it clothes, cell phones, car, or home we are somehow diminished.

I just returned from a trip overseas, in an arena that would not be considered one of the richer arenas in the world.  In fact outside of the cities, the arena presents as deep poverty.  Yet everywhere I went there were billboards and advertisements telling me I needed a new home, a new cell phone, and a new car.

I went through Paris and Atlanta on both legs this time.  It seems like they build the airports around malls.  I could not get to my gates without being asked if I wanted to try the latest fragrance, buy my wife a diamond, or myself a suit, or a tie, I literally had to walk through shops to get to the gates.

This kind of input is constant.  Apparently in all arenas, cultures.  The persistent, not so subtle message is that we need things to be fulfilled.

That pull creates the worry and doubt about which Jesus talks in Matthew 6:25 – 34.

But that is not the only source…

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Cure for Doubt?

Yesterday we looked at the men who had been with Jesus for 3+ years.  When they saw Him after the resurrection, some doubted.  We doubt.  What is the remedy for that doubt?
The Cure for Doubt?
Then days later these same men, some of whom doubted.  Led a movement in Jerusalem and thousands responded.  Those same men who were hiding in a room after their leader’s execution stood in public accusing not only the government but the people who were listening of rebellion against God.  The result?  Thousands came to believe in Christ.

What was the difference?

Their experience with Christ was empowered and activated by the Holy Spirit.  That was the source of their power.  He was the difference in their lives.

As believers we have a choice.  That choice is something that we have to make on a daily basis.  Paul refers to that choice in Romans 12:1 – 2.  Daily we have to choose to be a living sacrifice.  We have to choose to move from doubt to trust in Christ and reliance on the Holy Spirit to navigate this journey which we began when we trusted Christ.

But there is more…

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Reality of Doubt

I recently returned from a project in a country that is hostile to Christianity.  It was a couple of weeks working with believers who are in underground churches.  In 10 days of meetings we covered a lot of ground.  Some of it was hard.

The Reality of DoubtSome of it the people living in the land did not want to accept.  It was just too hard in their eyes.  In light of the realities in which they live, they just could not see how it could work.

Doubt.

Doubt is OK.

We are not the first to trust in Christ who have had to deal with this.  Look at Matthew 28:18 – 20.  You know this passage, it is the Great Commission.  But notice the verses just prior, 28:16 – 17.  These men had been with Jesus for 3 years.  They had seen his miracles.  They watched Him walk on water, calm the storm on the sea, they were with Him when He fed thousands of people with essentially nothing.  They had seen demons fall to His feet and obey His commands.  They watched as Lazarus walked out of a tomb taking off his grave clothes after four days of death.  Some of them were present when He was transformed into His glory.

They saw all of this.

Look at how they responded when they saw His resurrected body…  Some doubted.

Those who had been with Him for three years – doubted.  So is it any wonder that we who have not seen all of those miracles, have not seen the resurrected Lord – doubt?  Probably not.

What is the solution, what is it that removes our doubt.  Stay tuned…

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Obey First

On this trip, yesterday was a struggle.  The group I was leading did not seem to be engaging as they had during the first part of the week.  Part of that, I know, was a check on my heart.  I won’t get into that here, now.
Obey First

My reaction was to spend some extended time thinking and praying through what I was going to do today.  This morning I got up, early for here, and spent time praying and working through the day.  I was in Jeremiah 32.  The Lord used that time to set up the rest of the day.

Jeremiah is in jail.  He is there because he told Zedekiah that Nebuchadnezzar was going to overtake Jerusalem and take Judah into captivity…  Zedekiah, did not like the message, so exercising cognitive consistency, he threw the messenger in jail.  Zedekiah was suffering a bit of denial since the siege ramps were already built and the city was surrounded.

In this context, the Lord gives Jeremiah a really weird command.  Buy some land.  Now if I am Jeremiah, cooling my heels in Zedekiah’s jail, with Nebuchadnezzar’s siege ramps built, and the city about to be sacked, my response to the Lord would probably be on the order of, “Say what?”

Not Jeremiah.  He buys the land.

Then, after he obeys, he goes to the Lord and shares the situation siege ramps and all, asking, in so many words, “Why?”

The Lord then shares with Jeremiah what He is doing and what He is going to do.  We have several of the passages in the Lord’s answer cross stitched on pillows or on greeting cards in our Christian bookstores.  That is interesting in light of the context.

This challenges me at a significant level.  Jeremiah did not flinch at the strangeness of God’s request.  He just obeyed.  It was after his obedience that he asked why.  I get that reversed.  Pretty much all of the time.