How Much Is It Worth?

2 Corinthians 8-9

The TRUTH of God’s Word must be shared. It’s urgent. We see so many Christians, so many churches, stepping away from God’s Word, and the result is evident today in our ever increasingly perverted society. It is frightening.

Christians are leaving churches where the Gospel is preached, and are attending the churches that make them feel good, make them feel spiritual and religious. They don’t have to repent of sin. Sin is never addressed because someone thinks it’s offensive to tell someone they are wrong, it’s not loving if you don’t accept and include everyone.

Good churches are closing their doors for lack of members and financial support. Worthless churches are seemingly bulging at the seams, their pastors driving Mercedes and living in luxury.

I know that’s a broad generalization. I know that’s not true in every mega-church. But you and I both know that is the case way too often.

Paul is thanking the Corinthians for their financial support of the church in Jerusalem. Their support to the ministry is invaluable for a couple of reasons.

So two things will result from this ministry of giving – the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. (verses 12-13)

The needs of the people are met AND God is glorified in the process. Win. Win.

Every year our church takes up a Lottie Moon offering for foreign missions in the SBC. Our pastor encourages us to pray that God will give each of us a number, an amount He is asking each of us to give as individuals, and then to be obedient to give what God has laid on our hearts. That’s different than me looking at my bank statement and coming up with an amount I think fits.

It’s easy for me to throw in a few dollars, and feel like I’ve contributed to this important ministry. Then I hear God say:

Give in proportion to what you have. Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly, And give according to what you have, not according to what you don’t have. (verses 11b-12)

Ouch. That number just went up.

I am not saying that giving money should replace my responsibility to go and make disciples of the people in my life. But I hear God remind me of the responsibility and privilege I have of supporting those who are making disciples around the world, too.

I am also reminded of the responsibility and privilege of financially supporting my local church, to write that monthly check joyfully and eagerly, sacrificially without strings attached, out of what I have, not out of what I don’t have.

(Are we to give that 10 percent out of the gross or net? Is 10 percent my limit so that I am operating just barely in the black on my church-giving ledger? Or should we throw out the 10 percent and, like the widow, give all we have? Or something in between? The debate goes on.)

If the Church is going to survive, and I would assume most of you reading this believe it is important that it does, then along with our prayers, our service, our witness, our worship, it will increasingly need our money.

“But,” you say, “inflation has taken a chunk out of my income and expenses.”

It’s taken a chunk out of the church’s finances, too.

Can you trust God with your finances? Read what Paul has to say about that here in his letter to the Corinthians.

I think the question we all need to ask ourselves is, “What is my salvation worth in dollars and cents?”

Can you put a price on what Jesus did for you there on the cross? He died so that all people can have the opportunity to have their sins forgiven, and enjoy a relationship with Him forever.

How much is that worth?

You Are Chosen

Romans 8-11

Paul specifically says God shows mercy to some people, and chooses to harden the hearts of others so that they refuse to listen. (8:18). He gave Pharaoh as an example. Then he goes on to say, “that’s the way it is. Don’t question God. He will show mercy and compassion to anyone he chooses.”

There are those who base their theology on these and similar verses. They call it election or pre-destination. And as I read these verses this morning, I prayed: Are they right to believe you decide to deny salvation to some based on a criteria we can’t understand? Is that what Paul is saying?

Then I read chapters 10-11 and heard Paul say salvation is for everyone. I was reminded of the “whosoever” of John 3:16, the “not willing that any should perish” of 2 Peter 3:9. How do I reconcile two seemingly opposite views? Because I believe both views are true by the fact they are God-breathed Scripture.

Which makes me think they aren’t all that opposite after all. Here’s what I believe Scripture teaches from Genesis to Revelation: God loves people. Jesus died to save people. God, from day one has been revealing Himself to people, to draw all of us to Himself.

But God created us with the gift of choice. Anyone who chooses God, God chooses to accept. Anyone who chooses to reject God, God chooses to reject. From before creation, God knew who of us would choose Him and who would reject Him. From before creation He chose to save all who choose Him, and condemn all who reject Him.

That’s what He predestined: the means of salvation.

You might not like it. You might think it’s too cut and dry, black and white. Hear Paul say: who do you think you are to question your Creator?

I think many of us have been caught up in trying to figure out predestination, and we may have overlooked the important message Paul wanted us to hear. I think Paul (speaking for God) wanted us to consider the seriousness of rejecting God.

Do you accept that Jesus died to pay your sin debt? Do you choose to believe that He is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life? Have you been born again? Then you are chosen by God to receive His grace!

But if you don’t accept Him on His terms, if you don’t believe, you are chosen by God to receive His punishment without mercy. And hear His warning:

If you reject Him, He hardens your heart. The consequence of denying Him is an ever progressive hardening toward Him, so that eventually you won’t even hear Him any more. Not that He won’t be revealing Himself. But it will be harder and harder for you to see Him.

Rejecting God is serious. And I think that is the important lesson Paul was trying to convey here. You are chosen by God to be His child. Jesus died for you so that your sins can be forgiven. That is His choice for you.

The question is: what is your choice?

The Bible Tells Me So

Acts 18

The more I read the Bible, the more I let it speak for itself. My decades of sitting through sermons, studying Bible study materials, and searching trusted commentaries used to shape my interpretation of Scripture. I’d read a passage and something I’d heard in a past sermon would come to mind, or something I’d read in one of the many books on my shelf would remind me of what the author had said about the passage.

But every day for the past 9 1/2 years, I’ve opened my Bible and let it be the single authority in my quiet time with the Lord. Now, when I read a passage that makes me pause, God brings to mind other Scripture that speaks to the same issue. I’m learning to read the Bible through the lens of Scripture.

It’s not that I don’t read commentaries or refer to Bible study materials while I’m preparing my Sunday School lesson. I’ve been known to Google references. But now, instead of allowing the opinions of these Bible scholars to tell me what God means, I let God show me if they are truly saying what He means according to His Word.

Priscilla and Aquila knew the power of God’s Word. When Apollos was preaching only partial truth, they sat down with Him and used the Scripture to explain to him that Jesus was the Messiah. (vs 28)

Paul, in his letter to Timothy tells us:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (1 Timothy 3:16-17)

God-breathed. That’s incredible. What an amazing Book I hold in my hand.

A You Tuber (Brylan and Lisa) interviewed Andy Stanley, who has stopped referring to the Bible when he preaches. He downplays the virgin birth. He calls it a “story” about Jesus’ birth, and doesn’t think it’s all that important. He says the Bible is not how we know about the resurrection. I encourage you to watch this, “BEWARE This False Teacher/Andy Stanley” on the Brylan and Lisa You Tube channel.

I say all this to challenge you to know for yourself what God has written to you so that, no matter who is speaking or writing, you will be able to recognize what aligns with God’s point of view, and what is merely the opinion of imperfect people. Let Scripture be the authority… BECAUSE IT IS!

Andy Stanley is not the authority on Scripture, neither is your pastor, and certainly neither am I.

Prayerfully read the Bible from cover to cover. Then read it again. And again. Join a Bible study. Go to church and Sunday School. Read a trusted Bible scholar. BUT LET GOD’S WORD INTERPRET WHAT THEY SAY, RATHER THAN THE OTHER WAY AROUND.

Sorry, Andy. Your opinion of Scripture is wrong. The Bible tells me so.

Your Job Description

1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

What does it mean to be a follower of God, a disciple of Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to be part of a church fellowship, worshiping and serving with other like-minded believers? I think Paul gives us a pretty good job description. ( I’m using the NLT today)

  1. Warn those who are lazy. The thing is, none of us should be idle. James tells us our faith
    without works is dead faith. Those who are satisfied to sit on the sidelines need to be warned of that.
  2. Encourage the timid. Baby steps. A new believer, or a believer who hesitates to serve for any reason, needs someone to come along side and support them until they are ready to fly. It’s another description of mentoring.
  3. Take tender care of those who are weak. And who isn’t weak at one time or another? Yet we so often end up condemning the weak instead of nurturing them and giving them the spiritual PT they need be be strong.
  4. Be patient with everyone. Not just the people you like. We are all works in progress.
  5. See that no one repays evil for evil. Paul is not just saying YOU shouldn’t do that. He is telling you to be sure I’m not doing that, either. Yes, we are accountable for each other.
  6. Do good to each other and to all people. Look around. Jesus died for that person, and that person, and that one. Reach out to them for Jesus’ sake.
  7. Always be joyful. That might be a tough one because we all go through times of deep sorrow. Does Paul mean we are to put on a sappy smile? If you are a believer, I think you understand the difference between happiness, and the gift of joy from the Holy Spirit. It’s not just a feeling. It’s what comes from knowing our sins are forgiven, from a right standing with God, and a relationship with our precious Jesus. It’s not dependent on circumstances, but rather on the person of Jesus Christ.
  8. Never stop praying. That constant conversation with our Lord is vital to our relationship with Him, and our service for Him.
  9. Be thankful in everything, for this is God’s will. Yeah, thankful. Everything. Paul counted it a privilege to suffer for the Name, thankful for the chance to represent God even to the people who persecuted him. You have an opportunity to be a light to people living in darkness, through whatever you are dealing with today. Are you thankful for the privilege?
  10. Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. You stifle the Holy Spirit when you are holding on to a sin rather than repenting of it.
  11. Do not scoff at prophecies but test everything you hear according to God’s written Word. There are a lot of things being tossed around today by people claiming to speak for God. Can you tell the difference between who is true to God’s Word, and who is speaking Satan’s lies? Open your Bible!
  12. Hold on to what is good. Hold on, dear one. Our world is calling bad good and good bad. You need to know the difference, then hold on to what is good with all your might.
  13. Stay away from every kind of evil. That might mean turning off your TV, walking away from a group of friends, coming out from among the ungodly and being separate. We are told to be holy as God is holy. We can’t be holy if we continue to sin without repentance.

So how did you stack up as a child of God according to Paul’s job description? I know there are some things I need to change if I want the privilege of doing that job well. I believe if our churches were filled with people who fit that description we would see an epic outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and many lost people would find their Savior.

And isn’t that what we want to see as followers of God, disciples of Jesus filled with the Holy Spirit, and members of His Church?

Be A Berean

Acts 17

We need more Bereans today, people who search the Scriptures to know if what they are hearing is really the truth. Sadly, too many people aren’t interested in THE truth any more. They’re happy with the lie they are clinging to.

I guess the most obvious example of this is the pronoun issue these days. Yeah. Pronouns. Does that sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me? But here we go…

What does Scripture say about male and female? Did Jesus use gender specific pronouns? Did the Holy Spirit use pronouns as HE whispered His Words into the men who wrote the Bible? Did God create male and female humans (and animals and plants)? Or is there anywhere in Scripture that suggests gender is a choice?

And, no. I am not going to give you the Scripture that addresses those things. Open up your Bible and search it for yourself. Isn’t it time we stopped living on baby formula?

Even apart from Scripture, is a boy’s anatomy different than a girl’s? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to answer that one. Our anatomy is the outward evidence of the DNA, chromosomal identification of gender within. You don’t change that by lopping off body parts, or masking it with drugs. I know that is the truth, unless you can point me to Scripture that says otherwise.

Find where God speaks about transgenderism as something He acknowledges, much less approves of. Chapters and verses, please.

If God “knit (us) together in (our) mother’s womb(s),” HE CHOSE OUR GENDER. Whether you are a biological male or female, know that God lovingly and purposefully made you that way. Your gender is His gift to you.

And hear me when I say, parents, you had better be teaching your children how blessed they are to have been made by a loving Creator exactly the way they are. Shame on any of you if you convince your babies God made a mistake in them or anyone else. You had better be living the truth, and teaching your children to embrace their God-given gender, to celebrate it, protect it, and live it as the special boy or girl they ARE.

To deny or mutilate what God has made is to deny Him. To deny Him is sin. And unconfessed sin cannot be forgiven. Search the Scriptures if you don’t believe me.

Here’s another example that addresses our need to be a Berean and search the Scriptures: PC Bible translations. I have in my home translations of the Bible that have already replaced male pronouns with “they,” or “people,” or “men and women” instead of the original use of “man” or “men” to include everyone. I don’t like it. I don’t think it was necessary. But I have used those translations anyway. But sin isn’t satisfied with the first step.

The Presbyterian USA Church is now “Queering the Bible.” And they are proud of it! God, forgive us! We Bereans need to be sure we are searching the translations of God’s Word that comes directly from the original. To do otherwise is to invite heresy into our hearts.

Come on, Christian. Study God’s true Word. Know what it says. Fire your preachers who preach any other Gospel, any who are more concerned about being politically correct than they are about being accountable to God. Quit simply lamenting in your Sunday School classrooms about the horrible state of the world, and get out there and stand for TRUTH. Know what God says. Reject anything else. And reject it loudly.

Be a Berean.

Crossing Boundaries

Acts 8

While talking to the Good News Club children about Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well, I told them about the hatred Jews and Samaritans had for each other. Even Jesus’ disciples had expressed prejudice against them. But the disciples also witnessed Jesus’ compassion toward Samaritans, which may be why Philip could go into Samaria and share the good news about Jesus.

Instead of calling down fire from heaven to destroy them, Philip called the Samaritans to repentance. The strict boundary between Israel and Samaria was crossed, and many Samaritans gave their hearts to Jesus because of it.

How? The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Philip. Without God’s prompting, I doubt Philip would ever have crossed that line.

I don’t have to tell you our nation is divided, much like the descendants of Abraham were divided during the time Philip was preaching. Both Samaritans and Jews could trace their lineage back to their Founding Father, Abraham. All American citizens – black, white, Democrat, Republican, natural born, legal immigrant, gay, straight, believers, and non believers – can trace our lineage back to our Founding Fathers as well.

But that doesn’t prevent us from hating each other. Our recent election emphasizes the great divide. The boundaries between opposing views is strict and dare not be crossed. So what do you do?

Christian, we cross that line with the Good News of Jesus Christ. We rub shoulders with them, show compassion for them, love our “enemies” and pray for those who don’t like us. We go across that line and make disciples. How? The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each of us.

Can you or I continue to hate with Jesus living inside of us? My prayer is that the Church, you and I who love our Savior, will be the ones who reach across the aisle and love like Jesus loved, talk about sin and Jesus’ work on the cross to pay for sin, share Jesus with the way we live and by the things we say.

Philip did that. Many Samaritans were saved. And then…

Peter and John crossed the boundary lines, too, and joined Philip in Samaria to continue the work Philip had begun.

Yeah. One man obeyed. He crossed the boundary alone. Then others followed. Maybe you need to be that one man today who will cross a boundary line or two with the Truth about Jesus. And maybe, when others follow your lead, we will find ourselves united by our common faith in Jesus. I don’t see the boundaries that have divided our nation eliminated any other way.

Crossing boundaries may be hard, it may be scary. But I’m pretty sure it’s what God is asking His children to do.

They Were Flogged

Acts 5

We rejoice over God’s miraculous freeing of the apostles from prison – as we should! But sometimes I overlook the fact that even though God rescued them, the men were flogged, or caned, beaten with a stick before the religious leaders were done with them.

This is only one of countless atrocities the apostles experienced as they diligently spread the Gospel of Jesus and established the Church. Being a Christian, especially a vocal Christian, came with some tough stuff.

Gamaliel was right. If these men had struck out on their own, decided to make up a religion to counter the Jewish religion, it probably would have died a natural death. Who in their right mind would be beaten and/or killed to protect a lie?

But the disciples didn’t just stop because things got tough. They even counted it a joy, a privilege to take the beatings for Jesus’ sake. They kept preaching the Gospel, wearing the bruises.

The same Gospel they preached is still being preached today. We in the States still can preach it loud and strong without fear for our lives or the lives of our children. That’s not the case everywhere in this world. People are being mistreated and killed for sharing the Gospel, just like they were in the early days of the Church. But the Gospel keeps going because those people are willing to endure unimaginable hardships.

It makes me wonder what I’d be willing to endure to keep the Gospel going.

The Beginning

Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19

The people watching the crucifixion thought Jesus was stuck up there, unable to save Himself. What they refused to see was God choosing to stay on the cross so He could save them.

The proof that Jesus is God, the perfect, spotless Lamb sacrificed to redeem sinners, is in the fact that He didn’t come down off that cross. He died in order to pay our death sentence, and that of the very people who hung Him there.

When you read the crucifixion account in all the four Gospels, the beatings, the mocking, His mother and John, the soldiers, His words, the thieves, the darkness, the curtain, the prophecies fulfilled that day, you are reading about the King not defeated – victorious!

His enemies thought this was the end of HIm. But it was just the beginning!

What It Cost

Matthew 26; Mark 14

Do those of you who have lost loved ones to cancer or some other slow progressing and painful disease like to recall those moments when the pain was its worst? Do you enjoy remembering those nights when the pain was so intense that no amount of morphine seemed to help, when the slightest touch or movement caused a whimper? Do you like remembering those sleepless nights when there was just no comfortable position to lie? And do you remember that feeling of helplessness, the realization your loved one had to go it alone and there was nothing you could do to change that?

You knew they didn’t deserve what was happening. And watching them suffer hurt you, too.

That’s kind of how I feel reading about what happened to my dear Jesus on the night He was arrested. It hurts me to read about his beatings, knowing it was much worse than the words convey.

He didn’t deserve all that. Yet He stood there and took it, for love of me. I will never know this side of heaven what really happened that night, what it cost Jesus to go to the cross.

And, sadly, sometimes I don’t give it a thought. That careless word I said, that unkind thought, the lie, or the laziness, all cost Jesus a night of horror and pain, beginning with the sham of a trial, and the relentless beatings he endured, to the agonizing hours hanging on the cross. I can’t feel good about that.

But I am so grateful. I am overwhelmed by His love. It’s hard to remember what He went through. But I’m glad God inspired the account to be included in His Word. I don’t want to forget. I want my life to honor what He did that night on the way to the cross where He died for love of me.

Jesus’ Prayer For Us

John 17:20-24

Jesus prayed for us. Not in general terms, He prayed specifically for the following:

  1. That we will be one in the Lord
  2. That our oneness would speak to the world that they might believe in Jesus
  3. That our unity would perfectly show God’s love to the world
  4. That we will be with Him where He is
  5. That we would reveal the glory of God.

You know what He didn’t pray for? Hefty bank accounts, healthy bodies, happiness, easy living, speaking in tongues, miracles, popularity…

He prayed that you and I will be united with Him to continue His ministry of saving lost souls, introducing sinners to their Savior.

Earlier He had told the disciples that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one – NO ONE – can go to the Father except through Jesus. Then Jesus prayed that you and will pass that Truth on.

One of the last things Jesus did in His human body was to pray for you and me. Are you as blown away by that as I am? Let’s be the answer to His prayer by uniting with Him and each other, the Church, and demonstrating to the world what being united with Christ looks like. And let’s not grow tired of speaking the Truth in love, so that lost souls can be found, sinners can be saved.

To the glory of God!