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