Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Living letters ...

"You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." -- 2 Corinthians 3:2-3
I remember reviewing the many degrees and diplomas on the wall of my orthopedic physician. I finally took a close look at an interesting picture by the window. The photo was of an injured NFL football player who was being treated by my doctor. I believed then that I was in good hands; not because of framed certificates on the wall, but because of the living experience portrayed in the photo.
As Paul said; our letters of recommendation are people changed by our ministry, not diplomas and ordination certificates. We are often more impressed by a man's academic credentials than the results of his ministry. After all is said and done, when we appear before the Lord, will he ask what degrees we have acquired? Or will he review the lives that were changed for Christ by our testimony and influence? Our ultimate credentials are the living letters of people.
Are you pursuing a degree right now, or sometime in the near future? This is a good thing if it will provide you with the tools to better care for the souls of others. But never rest in the certificates on the wall as your credibility for ministry. The call of God, a servant's heart and lives changed are your recommendations. Your single and most valuable credential will always be the living letters of people changed for Jesus.

Think about this: "Before the judgment seat of Christ my service will not be judged by how much I have done but by how much of me there is in it. No man gives at all until he has given all. No man gives anything acceptable to God until he has first given himself in love and sacrifice."
- A. W. Tozer

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Hoarding or Blessing?

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." -- 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
In January 2010, a Magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti. The weeks that followed brought tons of supplies into the country, but many reports suggested that the provisions were undistributed, being held up in warehouses. Such stories of delayed relief were most distressing and raise the question; why give so much, to relieve so few?
When we reflect on the outpouring of God's blessings in our lives, Paul gives us food for thought. God "comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those who in any trouble". The Lord gives blessings to us in great abundance to share, not to hoard. The beauty of this truth is that the more we give to others, the more God gives to share. After all, why should the Lord give so much, to relieve so few?
When was the last time the Lord poured out his blessing in your life? Did you seek the opportunity to be a great blessing to someone else as a result? If the doors of your life were opened, would it look like those who are called "hoarders" on TV? Or is your life like a fresh stream, ever flowing into the lives of others with God's abundant provisions? Don't let the Lord give you so much, and relieve so few!

Think about this: "We are never more like God than when we give."
- Charles R. Swindoll

Monday, September 16, 2019

A grip and glove...

"Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love." -- 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
My grip is no different than most men my age. I can easily crush a soda can with one hand or maintain a firm grip on my dog when she wants to chase a squirrel across the street. At the same time I can hold a new born infant tenderly or carry an egg across the kitchen without breaking the shell. It's God's creative gift to have a steel grip in a velvet glove.
The believer has much the same quality spiritually. As Paul counsels, we are to be firm and strong, doing everything in love. Our guard should never be down and our courage should never wane. We are to have a spiritual strength that confronts evil forcefully and presses on toward righteousness powerfully. At the same time we are to minister with the loving compassion and tenderness of our heavenly Father. We are born again with a steel grip in a velvet glove.
How about you my friend? Are you the kind of believer that is known to be firm and strong? Yet, is it rare that anyone experiences your loving touch? Or are you quite loving in everything and have no courage to deal with evil and pursue righteousness? The Lord created you with a unique grip physically and a similar spiritual quality. As you fully exercise all that you are spiritually, you too should have a steel grip in a velvet glove.

Think about this: "Joy is love exalted; peace is love in repose; long-suffering is love enduring; gentleness is love in society; goodness is love in action; faith is love on the battlefield; meekness is love in school; and temperance is love in training."
- Dwight Lyman Moody

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Never in Vain ...

"Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." -- 1 Corinthians 15:58
This spring was a painful experience for me. I decided to install a two car driveway with blue chip and Belgian block at our home. I ended up seeing the Chiropractor for the rest of the summer, but the driveway is a real honey! My labor was not in vain.
Paul's teaching on the resurrection is a great motivator. The promise of a glorified body in our future gives us hope and a driving force to press on in our spiritual lives. The work of the ministry may be hard and exhausting, but as we push ourselves for Jesus there will be a final day when our work will be complete. Then we will find, not a great driveway or some other magnificent achievement, but an imperishable body that will inherit the kingdom of God. Our labor for the Lord is never in vain.
Last week, or last month may have been grueling. You may be so tired and almost too weary to continue. Don't give up my friend. The way may be hard, but the end will be sweet. Keep your eye on the prize and be assured that your labor in the Lord is never in vain.

Think about this: "Christians that would hold on in the service of the Lord must look more upon the crown than upon the cross."
                                                                  - Thomas Brooks

Saturday, September 14, 2019

All encompassing ...

"If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." - 1 Corinthians 15:19
When you are considering new employment, benefits are a major priority. Yes, you appreciate a weekly salary that will pay your bills, but your focus is definitely on the future. If, after thirty years, all you have is a drawer full of pay stubs but no retirement, you may feel quite empty. Future hope is all encompassing.
When you take into consideration the daily blessings we have in Christ, the above verse is quite thought provoking. Isn't grace for the journey enough to satisfy? The answer may be found in the idea of "journey". Without a risen Savior we are all on a "journey" to nowhere. Future hope is all encompassing.
One day at a time is good advice, but when we come to the end of all our days what will we have? With a risen Savior we have both daily blessings and heaven as well! In light of such a promise there is nothing to pity. Future hope is all encompassing.

Think about this: "Everything antecedent in the incarnate life of our Lord moves towards the resurrection and everything subsequent rests upon it and is conditioned by it."
                                                                             - John Murray

Friday, September 13, 2019

Work harder ...

"But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me." -- 1 Corinthians 15:10
Ah yes, we are what we are by the grace of God. Such is a profound truth that should keep us focused every day of our lives. But, as a result, do we work harder? In another place we read, "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13). We love His grace and HIS working, but what about OUR working?
Evangelicals have battled so much over "grace alone" for our salvation that we forget about the fact of Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." God gives free grace, and we should freely work.
How about it my friend, are you working harder today because you are what you are by the grace of God? Are you so devoted to His cause that you work with unlimited diligence? In the words of our Lord, "As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4) By the grace of God, work harder.

Think about this: "You cannot be too active as regards your own efforts; you cannot be too dependent as regards divine grace. Do everything as if God did nothing; depend upon God as if he did everything."
                                                                - John Angell James

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Order to be productive ...

"What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church... For God is not a God of disorder but of peace." -- 1 Corinthians 14:26, 33
The first edition of Robert’s Rules of Order, whose full title was Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, was published in February 1876 by U.S Army Brigadier General Henry Martyn Robert and is currently in its tenth edition. Robert desired a means to provide order in church and various business meetings. Over the years I have used this little treasure successfully to keep organization and peace. There needs to be order to be productive.
From the time Paul penned the above words, to church meetings conducted last week, without organization and orderly direction there can be no benefit. There are many who come to services and meetings with much to offer for the strengthening of the assembly. But like a beautiful symphony, each part must be contributed at the right time and in the right way to the produce sweet music. There needs to be order to be productive.
The next time you attend a service, special meeting or business session, allow good order to prevail. Pray for the leadership to have wisdom to guide the event in a peaceful manner. Should you have something to contribute; remember that you are only one part of the whole and are participating in a Divine symphony. There needs to be order to be productive.

Think about this: "Christians in concert are an abridgment of heaven, shining like a firmament of bright stars."
                                                            - George Swinnock

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

No meat, No meal...

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." -- 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
We were reminiscing recently and remembered a family member ordering a lobster dinner some years ago. When the little critter arrived at the table and the claw was cracked open, there was... nothing! Absolutely nothing! The appearance on the plate was quite promising, but with no meat, no meal.
The spiritual life and ministry is very much the same. The outer shell may look great and might attract great interest, but it's what inside that counts. Love is not just an action; it's the very heart of the matter. Believers that appear pleasing may look quite promising, but with no meat, there is no meal.
Our ministry is the saving and nurturing of souls. The Lord has sent us out into the world to satisfy hungry and thirsty lives with love. But we can never accomplish this calling with empty shells that just look good. Are you filled with and compelled by the love of Jesus? The world needs more than an empty promise of love, because with no meat, there is no meal.
   
Think about this: "Not tongues nor faith nor prophecy nor knowledge nor martyrdom nor philanthropy, but love is the Christian's mark of distinction."
                                                                           - Vance Havner

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Every part is needed ...

"The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!"" -- 1 Corinthians 12:21
Since I had knee surgery I have been very cautious in how I bend. Over the summer I was so cautious that I lifted the wrong way and injured my back. Each part of my body is important and needs proper care, because each part is needed.
Paul gave wise counsel to a church family that had suffered from divisiveness. There was no member that was any more important than the next. Paul wrote in verse 27, "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it."  As each one is a part, each one is important. They are all needed.
As a member of the body of Christ you are important. You have spiritual gifts and purposes that have been given by the Spirit of God. While these are incredibly significant, always remember that the body is made up of many parts. We are all important and all needed.

Think about this: "Church-goers are like coals in a fire. When they cling together, they keep the flame aglow; when they separate, they die out."
                       - Billy Graham

Monday, September 9, 2019

Check it out...

"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup." -- 1 Corinthians 11:27-28
There are many physical maladies that need to be detected early. The best way to discover certain problems is to do a regular "self-examination". Along with such "self-exams" are those pesky annual physicals. Over the years I have received positive medical care due to these exams and always wondered why anyone would ignore such helpful procedures. I guess some people just figure "what you don't know won't hurt you".
Paul had a very different belief. He knew that unchecked sin leads to an unsafe life. The Lord's Table is to be approached with a prepared and cleansed heart. The bread and the cup are to be received in a worthy manner by an examined people. Careless and sinful living is not a lifestyle that will just be ignored over time. A "self-examination" is imperative because, "what we don't know can hurt us".
As we come to the communion table, we are reminded of our Lord's sacrifice to redeem us and set us apart as a people of God. Moments of examination bring us back to the basics of our relationship with the Lord. Take time to check out what may have broken your fellowship and pray with David, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)

Think about this: "An humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than a deep search after learning."
                                                              - Thomas à Kempis

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Together ...

"Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. - 1 Corinthians 11:11-12
We had to say farewell to my mother-in-law this summer. Her home-going was not unexpected, but a sad time nonetheless.  As my wife was with me through my parents passage, I am making every effort to be there for her. While our roles within the family may differ, we are never independent of each other in the challenges of life. We are in this thing together.
Paul gave clear and distinct directions for marital roles of leadership and partnership. Over the years these instructions have either been ignored by some or misinterpreted and abused by others. Right in the middle of his instruction Paul gives the balance of dependence to protect from both extremes. And for every marriage to be blessed, the central truth is highlighted... "All things are from God".
My friend, the strength of our marriage should always be the ruling presence of the Lord and the supportive partnership of two. We should laugh together and weep together. We should grieve together and grow together. We are never independent of each other, and all that we are and have is always from God.

Think about this: "Love is not a state, it is a movement. Personal contact is not a state, but a fleeting movement that must be ceaselessly rediscovered. Marriage is not a state, but a movement—a boundless adventure."
- Paul Tournier

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Glorify God ...

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31
When I turned sixteen my Pastor gave me a copy of "In His Steps" by Charles Sheldon. This book, which was first published in 1897, has since sold over 30,000,000 copies which places it as the ninth best selling book of all time. The full title is "In His Steps: What Would Jesus Do?" While the lingering phrase "What Would Jesus Do?" has been quite popular, the more precise and Biblical question should be: "Does It Glorify God?"
Paul led believers to live a selfless life that considered others first. The greatest focal point was the honor and glory of the Lord in everything. He never handed out wrist bands or bumper stickers that raised a qualifying question for decisions. He just stated a simple word of counsel; "whatever you do, do all to the glory of God". Life becomes so much clearer and far more simplified when we bring every decision and action into line with this mandate.
Here it is my friend... Will that purchase glorify God? Does that conversation glorify God? Is that thought or action bringing Glory to God? Does your treatment of that person Glorify God? Is your conduct at work glorifying God? You may ask; What does God have to do with it? EVERYTHING. Remember... "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever" (Westminster Shorter Catechism)

Think about this: "The ultimate end of all things that come to pass, including the ultimate end of the great drama of redemption, is found in the glory of the eternal God."
                                                                   - J. Gresham Machen

Friday, September 6, 2019

Lessons from the past ...

"Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did." -- 1 Corinthians 10:6
It has been said that the only thing we learn from history is... that we don't learn anything from history. Could this be true? Is it possible that some people never learn from the past? While in high school drivers education I remember being shown pictures of auto collisions caused by careless drivers. That same year one of my classmates died from the same kind of careless driving. Some lessons from the past are never learned.
As Paul wrote to believers who were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, he was confident that they could learn from history. While the unbeliever is lost in their sin-bound condition, every believer has the freedom and power to learn from the past, avoid evil and live rightly. Examples are recorded in the pages of Scripture as lessons to keep us from careless living. Lessons from the past are given to be learned.
Do you regularly read the Scriptures from Old Testament through the New Testament? Have you considered the positive lessons to follow as well as the examples of evil to avoid? Don't be like my friend who ignored tragic examples of the past. "... if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!" (verse 12)

Think about this: "I have for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once a year. My custom is to read four or five chapters every morning immediately after rising from my bed. It employs about an hour of my time, and seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day. In what light soever we regard the Bible, whether with reference to revelation, to history, or to morality, it is an invaluable and inexhaustible mine of knowledge and virtue."
- John Quincy Adams, sixth president of the United States

Thursday, September 5, 2019

As many as possible ...

"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible... I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." -- 1 Corinthians 9:19, 22
They call us at dinner on a daily basis. They send us brochures in duplicates. They come knocking at our doors on a regular basis. Who are these nefarious schemers that seek our attention with such determination? They are sales people! They strive to win us over to buy their product or service and they won't take no for an answer. They will do whatever is necessary to win as many as possible.
While you will readily relate to the above experiences, do you believe that there might be a greater reason for which to win people? Don't you think that a heavenly home is more valuable than new siding for your earthly one? Sales people are seeking the big paycheck, but Paul was seeking the big blessing of souls saved. He was willing to do whatever was necessary to win as many as possible.
Are you afraid of offending people with your witness for Christ? Paul said earlier in chapter one, verse eighteen, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." A soul is worth far more than a paycheck, so never give up. Do whatever is necessary to win as many as possible!

Think about this: "I would rather win souls than be the greatest king or emperor on earth; I would rather win souls than be the greatest general that ever commanded an army... My one ambition in life is to win as many as possible. Oh, it is the only thing worth doing, to save souls; and, men and women, we can all do it."
                                                                          - R. A. Torrey

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Known by God...

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God." -- 1 Corinthians 8:1-3
The world is full of scholars and experts in their various fields. They know that they know, and know how to inform others about that knowledge. There are very few who have the capacity to exercise their knowledge graciously to benefit others. These are those who are moved with love and compassion to use their knowledge to build up, not criticize and tear down. Such individuals are often well known by the world.
In the church there are also those who are scholars and experts in Biblical matters. They know the right and wrong as well as all the implications of both. But it takes a special love from God to exercise such knowledge with care and understanding. These brethren care little about what they know, but care very much about how they love. Such individuals are always well known by God.
Which one are you my friend? Do you know that you know, or do you know that you might love with such knowledge? As Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:15 "...speaking the truth in love... we will in all things grow up". When we love God and his church with all that we know, we will always be known by Him with love.

Think about this: "Let me always remember that it is not the amount of religious knowledge which I have, but the amount which I use, that determines my religious position and character."
                                                        - Alexander Maclaren

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The balanced life ...

"I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord." -- 1 Corinthians 7:35
The balanced Christian life is a difficult pursuit. Within the context of Scripture marriage is a blessing from God, but as with everything else, balance is the key. As Paul presents the converted lifestyle, he would have us conduct ourselves with an undivided devotion to the Lord in view.
There are many people who are quick to live the Christian life in the extreme. They choose to withdraw from almost everything possible to be distinct for Christ. Yet, Paul says, "Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him." (verse 17) Be devoted to the Lord and live your life to the glory of God.
The principle is clear my friend. Live an "undivided" life for Jesus. Make your choices wisely about any change, and be sure that such changes never jeopardize your devotion to the Lord. It's all about balance and keeping the main thing the main thing.

Think about this: "It may be true that there are two sides to every question, but it is also true that there are two sides to a sheet of flypaper, and it makes a big difference to the fly which side he chooses."
                                                                                                    - Source unknown

Monday, September 2, 2019

Not our own ...

"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." -- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Over the years, our church family had one young man serving our country as a Ranger Officer and three other young men serving in the Navy. As many of us have experienced, these men were bought and paid for as military property. As a result they were to honor their country with all that they had and were. At that time, they were not their own.
While we might resist the thought, as believers, we have also been bought and paid for as God's property. The price was higher than we could possibly comprehend. We were purchased by the blood of Jesus and sealed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The only thing left for us to do is honor God with our body. Now and forever, we are not our own.
Why do we think that we are free to live any way that we choose? We come to Christ and receive his marvelous gift of salvation, but we refuse to wear the uniform of the day? Those that try to live this way in the military are most often tried as deserters. While military personnel have personal freedoms, they always live within certain perimeters. So it is with us: Christian liberty should always be lived within the perimeters of being a temple of the Holy Spirit, owned by God. Be sure to honor Him today my friend!

Think about this: "The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they have not yet come to the end of themselves. We are still giving some of the orders, and we are still interfering with God's working within us."
                                - A. W. Tozer

Sunday, September 1, 2019

More is caught ...

"Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." -- 1 Corinthians 4:15-17
I will always remember the man who led me to Christ and his Christian testimony. It has dramatically marked my life and my spiritual devotion. I watched his conduct and listened carefully to his witness and counsel because he was my spiritual father. I am thankful that he was consistent in his walk with Christ.
Paul noted that believers have many teachers that come along after the new birth, but only one spiritual parent. He always encouraged those who came to Christ through his witness to follow his example. Such was a bold word of counsel and quite demanding for Paul. Since children learn from their parent's lifestyle, a consistent walk is critical.
Have you ever led someone to Christ? If so, have you proved to be a faithful example for them to follow? Has your lifestyle been one of consistent study in the Word, dedicated times in prayer and passionate witnessing of your faith? Remember that other eyes are watching and as someone once said, "More is caught than taught"!

Think about this: "If God's goodness to us be like the morning light, which shines more and more to the perfect day, let not ours to him be like the morning cloud and the early dew that pass away."
                                                         - Matthew Henry

Saturday, August 31, 2019

He knows best...

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:5-7
Football season is upon us. These days take me back to when I played “Pop Warner” football. I didn't have a very stellar beginning, as I was assigned the position of offensive tackle and I always wanted to run the ball. I was constantly struggling to accept my task and trust that the coach knew best.
Church ministry needs servants who will be faithful to their “assigned task”. Each one is important and is needed for overall success. Yet, as each worker does his or her task, God alone makes the church grow. Wisdom tells us to accept our task and trust the Lord to do his part.
While it may be hard for you to accept your place in ministry, remember that the Lord knows best. In divine wisdom God assigns your role and faithfully fulfills his. When you do your part you will be most blessed and the ministry will be most successful.

Think about this: "There are no trivial assignments in the work of the Lord."
                                                                       - Vance Havner

Friday, August 30, 2019

No more secrets...

“However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” — but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10
Secret societies and fraternal organizations have existed for ages. People are drawn to them because they promise the knowledge of secrets that only members can know. We all seem to be interested in knowing secrets of the hidden past and the unknown future. But the only secrets worth knowing are those that can change our lives for the good.
From ancient times, God prepared to help his people with unheard and unknown blessings. In a real sense they are secret blessings that begin with salvation by grace. With this gift comes the Holy Spirit who reveals even the deep things of God to all his children. There are no more secrets.
Why look elsewhere for spiritual wisdom my friend? There is no church or special group that will give you that certain edge to know the mind of God. Take advantage of the truth that Paul writes, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (vs.12) Walk in the Spirit and know the mind of God.

Think about this: "The true knowledge of God will result, not in our being puffed up with conceit at how knowledgeable we are, but in our falling on our faces before God in sheer wonder and crying, "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how unfathomable his ways!" Whenever our knowledge becomes dry or leaves us cold, something has gone wrong."
           - John R. W. Stott

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Boast in HIM...

"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God." - 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 
People have flocked to hear skilled and eloquent speakers for generations. The story is told of an occasion when the ever popular New York pastor, Henry Ward Beecher was on vacation from his pulpit. Ward's brother was scheduled to preach in his place and when he came to the platform a number of people gave sighs of disappointment. As the guest preacher began to speak he offered this invitation: "Those who came to hear Henry Ward Beecher may feel free to leave at this time, and those who came to hear the Word of the Lord, please remain seated." God intentionally chooses to use the foolish, the low and despised and those who are considered nothing that He alone will receive all the glory.
Paul lived and ministered in a day when traveling speakers were very common. Large crowds would gather whenever a well spoken personality came to town. Average preachers and lesser public speakers were ignored or ridiculed. How interesting that into such an atmosphere God sent fishermen, tax collectors and men like Paul to proclaim the eternal truths of God's Word. As a result, there was no room to boast in the presence of God.
Take note my friend. We are all different. This is as God intended. In His providential wisdom the Lord has called his servants from every walk of life; some with great strengths and others with incredible weaknesses. Yet, no one can ever boast of anything other than God's grace and mercy in His calling. Listen with open hearts to those who sincerely open the Word of God and grow thereby. In turn, be the man and woman that God called you to be and allow Him to use you to His fullest glory.

Think about this: "God's main concern is that we are more interested in him than in work for him. Once you are rooted and grounded in Christ the greatest thing you can do is to be. Don't try and be useful; be yourself and God will use you to further his ends."
               - Oswald Chambers


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The power of the Cross...

"For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." -- 1 Corinthians 1:17
Over two thousand years have passed since the above passage was written. Yet to this very day the average public is still drawn to the eloquent speaker. There are times that they will choose one personality over another because of well spoken words. Lack of experience or skill may be overlooked if the crowd can be wooed with fine words of human wisdom. Words may satisfy, but they can never save.
Salvation comes from a work, not words. The cross of Christ is the power of God to save the souls of men and women. When religious charlatans lead people astray by winsome words they have emptied the cross of Christ of its power. So, when a faithful preacher gives the message of the gospel it should be simple and focused on the power of the cross and not the proficiency of words.
Be careful who you listen to my friend. Be wise in your choice of preachers. Those who are well spoken may tickle your ears and make you feel good, but are you receiving the truth in all its power? Never sacrifice the life of the cross for the love of words.

Think about this: "In the cross is health, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from enemies, in the cross is heavenly sweetness, in the cross strength of mind, in the cross joy of the Spirit, in the cross the height of virtue, in the cross perfection of holiness. There is no health of the soul, no hope of eternal life, save in the cross."
                     - Thomas à Kempis

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Be wise...

"Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy over you; but I want you to be wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil." -- Romans 16:19
The pursuit of knowledge can be quite profitable. Next week classes will be filled with students seeking an education in preparation for a career. While these studies can be good, there are some college experiences that would be best avoided. Some students will graduate wise in what is good, but others will not be so wise.
Paul was very well educated. His writings and testimony reveal great insight and understanding in many areas. But he saw the need to be discerning in our pursuit of knowledge. With only so much time and too much to learn, Paul directs us to be "wise about what is good, and innocent about what is evil"
Knowing all about evil will never improve our ability to deal with temptation. Being wise about what is good will deepen our walk with God and strengthen our resolve against sin. Choose your reading and media carefully my friend. Someone wisely said, "You are what you read.

Think about this: "The things you read will fashion you by slowly conditioning your mind."
                                  - A. W. Tozer

Monday, August 26, 2019

You need others...

"I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf" - Romans 15:30
You go to your doctor, lawyer, professor or some other professional for specific help. You see them as people who have expertise in their field to give help, not receive help. But, don't they ever need support from others? Doctors need nurses, lawyers need paralegals, and professors need research assistants. No man is an island ... people need people.
In that spirit, Paul was never so independent that he didn't need others. He was a premier apostle with credentials galore and yet he sought help from brothers in Christ. His request was made with passionate words that acknowledged the need for prayer support. No Christian is an island ... believers need believers.
Are you always ready to pray for someone in need my friend? This is good, but when have  you been transparently honest about your own needs? When was the last time you asked for prayer and support from others? Follow the example of Paul and be as ready to ask for help as your are to give help. You're not an island ... you need others.

Think about this: "For the early Christians koinonia was not the frilly 'fellowship' of church-sponsored bi-weekly outings. It was not tea, biscuits and sophisticated small talk in the Fellowship Hall after the sermon. It was an unconditional sharing of their lives with the other members of Christ's body."
                                                                  - Ronald J. Sider

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Acceptance...

"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God" -- Romans 15:7
Being accepted onto a college campus as a freshman can be quite a challenge. It all begins with someone who is willing to welcome you. An upper class-man that remembers receiving a kind welcome themselves always helps. Acceptance leads to acceptance.
Paul knew what it was like to be suspect as a new believer. To be accepted by Jesus was a great blessing after he had persecuted so many believers. This gracious reception by the Lord marked Paul's ministry forever. Acceptance led to acceptance.
In the Christian family we all stand on level ground. Jesus forgave each of us and lovingly receives us into his fold. If our Lord is so accepting of us, how can we not be accepting of one another? Acceptance should lead to acceptance.

Think about this: "God has a secret method by which he recompenses his saints: he sees to it that they become the prime beneficiaries of their own benefactions!"
                                                                             - I. D. E. Thomas

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Wake up!

"And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed." -- Romans 13:11
Have you ever been awakened by the alarm clock, wondering about the time? Did you find yourself so groggy that you weren't sure what day it was? Thankfully, after a few moments and a splash of cold water on your face, you were awake and ready to take on the world. That's a good thing, because the day wouldn't go so well if you walked around in a state of slumber. The blessings of life will pass you by when you're asleep.
Our spiritual lives are no different. While we have been made alive in Jesus, we're not always awake. If we were, Paul would have no reason to write this admonition. If we walk through life in a state of slumber we won't understand the present time or live in readiness for the Lord's return. Spiritual blessings will pass you by when you're asleep.
Occasionally you will read about someone who has been in a very long coma. When they waken they are shocked and saddened at how much time has passed since they slipped into the deep sleep. Don't be a coma Christian my friend. Wake up from your slumber and live your life to the full for Christ. Get the most out of God's challenges and blessings before they pass you by.

Think about this: "Spend your time in nothing which you know must be repented of; in nothing on which you might not pray for the blessing of God; in nothing which you could not review with a quiet conscience on your dying bed; in nothing which you might not safely and properly be found doing if death should surprise you in the act."
                                                              - Richard Baxter

Friday, August 23, 2019

Zeal...

"Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." -- Romans 12:11
When I was growing up I played football and soccer. We always looked forward to game day. Practices were not as much fun or exciting. We were driven by our coaches to built our stamina and skill. To win on game day, we needed to maintain our zeal.
The spiritual life is no different. We all want to do the fun ministry activities. But if we don't practice by performing spiritual disciplines, we'll never build stamina. The Lord wants us to have energy and zeal in the second half of our lives. To win the race set before us by the Lord, we need to maintain our zeal.
You may be excited about preaching, witnessing and counseling those in need. But if you hope to keep your fervor over the years, you need stamina. Make quality time to pray and read the Scriptures every day. Listen to the voice of God and nurture a deeper walk with him through discipline. Get back to the basics of your spiritual life and then you will have the zeal to win.

Think about this: "A disciple can be forgiven if he does not have great mental ability. He can be forgiven also if he does not display outstanding physical prowess. But no disciple can be excused if he does not have zeal. If his heart is not aflame with a red-hot passion for the Savior, he stands condemned."
                                                                      - William Macdonald

Thursday, August 22, 2019

It's all about HIM!

"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." -- Romans 11:36
Aristotle embraced the geocentric model, believing the earth to be the center of the universe. In 1543 Copernicus proposed a new paradigm placing the sun in the center. Over the years I have met some rather unusual individuals that dogmatically believe that they themselves are in fact the center of the universe. Could they all be wrong?
Paul has taken the Roman believers from the answer for mankind's lost condition to the divine elective plan for Israel. When all the detail and design is thoroughly revealed the reader can see that all the glory belongs to the Lord of creation. The whole universe comes together with beautiful symmetry when we acknowledge God as the true Center. Paul alone was right.
The best day is the one that begins with this truth: "For from him and through him and to him are all things." Every day continues to grow better and make more sense when, the Lord is given all the glory. Life is never about us... it's ALL about Him!

Think about this: "True have his promises been; not one has failed. I want none beside him. In life he is my life, and in death he shall be the death of death; in poverty, Christ is my riches; in sickness, he makes my bed; in darkness, he is my star, and in brightness, he is my sun; he is the manna of the camp in the wilderness, and he shall be the new corn of the host when they come to Canaan. Jesus is to me all grace and no wrath, all truth and no falsehood; and of truth and grace he is full, infinitely full."
        - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

One way or the other...

"But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace." - Romans 11:6
We make decisions every day. Do you want fries with your order? Does the brown couch match better than the beige? Should you take the highway or the local road? In most cases you have to choose one or the other, but you can't have it both ways.
We find the same issue in spiritual matters. You will worship Jesus Christ or another God. You may believe God's Word or man's word. You may choose heaven or hell. Ultimately you must choose God's gift or your works, but you can't have it both ways.
Don't you wish you could "have your cake and eat it too" my friend? Some may teach you that heaven is reached by grace AND works. Others believe that our sins are paid for by Jesus AND our efforts. But the truth is clearly stated in the above verse. It's one way or the other, but you can't have it both ways.

Think about this: "Grace in the New Testament is not... an impersonal energy automatically switched on by prayer and sacraments, but the heart and hand of the living almighty God."
                                                                  - J. I. Packer

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Zealous for God ...

"For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." -- Romans 10:2-4 
The pilot announced, "I have good news and bad news; the good news is, we're making great time and the bad news is, we're lost." Yes, it's an old worn out joke, but it readily applies in this case. Zeal and progress may be tremendous, but when the knowledge is lacking and the direction is wrong, all is lost.
Religion may seem to be just right, but if it isn't true to Scripture then people will suffer, both now and eternally. Paul wrote about his nation and the incredible zeal they had for God. Their relationship was solely built on a righteousness of their own without submitting to God's righteousness. For these "religious" people, there was no place for Christ, the end of the law.
Too many people are under the persuasion that they "know" all there is about the Bible and religion. Their zeal is unfounded and misdirected as a result. The reason to read the Scriptures is to find truth and find our way to God. While Paul wrote in verse 13, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”, he also wrote in verse 17, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ."  Don't be in such a hurry that you lose your way. Stop and read the Word and be zealous for what is true.

Think about this: "Zeal is like fire; in the chimney it is one of the best servants, but out of the chimney it is one of the worst masters."
                                                                  - Thomas Brooks

Monday, August 19, 2019

Selfless Compassion ...

"I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race..." -- Romans 9:1-3
I attended an ordination service for a good friend some years ago. He was being ordained to the Gospel ministry with a focus on inner city mission work. His brother spoke of growing up near the city and making many visits as a family. One thing he remembered about my friend was the way he wept over the homeless and downtrodden of the city. To this day my friend has unceasing anguish in his heart for the city. He has selfless compassion.
Sincere ministry should be passionate. The passion comes from deep within and motivates us as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14, "For Christ’s love compels us..." In the above passage he is also moved by the lost condition of his brothers and he has a passion for their salvation. His passion is so strong that he is willing to be cut off from Christ for the sake of his brothers. He had selfless compassion.
Jesus gave his life for the salvation of the lost, what are we willing to give? Do we love the Lord and the lost enough to be passionate about their salvation? May we pray for the passion of Paul as we look to the fields that are white unto harvest? Sincere ministry needs selfless compassion.

Think about this: "It is a fair rule of thumb that only that love of neighbor which can also draw people to Christ is truly a reflection of that love for God which is its source."
                                                                                               — Jeremy C. Jackson