Monthly Archives: November 2018

I Corinthians 6-10; Life in a Nutshell

Paul gives us many examples of what life should be for the Christian. And his descriptions are so politically incorrect, it’s almost laughable.

In his letter to the Corinthians he tells us Christians ought not to sweat the small stuff. We shouldn’t be making mountains out of mole hills. We shouldn’t be blowing up over trivial matters. The world is watching how we handle the small stuff. Does our example convict them, or does it validate their own bad behavior?

The Christian life should be pure. Yes, I know that’s an old-fashioned word. But purity should describe we who serve a Holy God. Again, the world is watching us. Do they see us with self-control, with unwavering morality? Or do they see the same depravity in us they see in themselves?

Christians should be content, faithful in marriage, busy serving God. If they see us sleeping around, divorcing because we fall out of love, or neglecting our families or our ministries, what is different about us than what they have in their own homes?

Paul challenges us again today to stop looking out for “number one,” and step aside for the benefit of others. Who cares if the new sanctuary color isn’t to your liking? Or if that lady in your Sunday School took your favorite pyrex dish home after the last pot-luck dinner? Who cares if Suzie got the choir solo you wanted to sing, or if you weren’t asked to sit on the AdMin committee again this year.

Get over yourself.

The world tells us to stop being a door-mat. The apostle seems to be telling us being a door-mat has its purposes.

Paul said he gave up so many rights to take on his ministry. He said he became whatever was needed in order to win people to the Lord. That must have been exhausting. He did it anyway. He denied himself a spouse, he turned down wages, he gave up the comforts of home. For what?

Time is running out, he told the Corinthians 2,000 years ago. And, friend, if time was running out then, it’s closer yet today. Paul didn’t have time to be self-absorbed when there were people who still needed the Lord.

Do we? Paul tells us to be single minded. Focus. You can’t live with one foot in God’s kingdom and one foot in the world. Are you trying to make God mad? (10:22)

Life in a nutshell? Jesus said we are to love God and love our neighbor. (No mention of self-love, is there?) Paul tells us whatever we do, whether we are eating or drinking, “do it all for the glory of God.” (10:31)

Life in a nutshell is not about you.

I Corinthians 1-5; A Little Yeast

It occurred to me as I read this portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians that we Christians are concerned about the state of the world; we lament over the blatant sin, the disregard for Christianity, the increasing ungodliness accepted as normal. And we are right to do so

But Paul is talking about caring for the temple. I wonder if we’re as concerned about that as we are about the world. It’s easy to point fingers, to talk about “they.” It’s not as easy to point those fingers at ourselves.

Paul tells us we ourselves are God’s temple. (3:16) He asks us to consider our foundation, and our building materials. Are we building our faith on the standards of the age, the wisdom of the world? Or is our foundation Jesus Christ, our faith built on Scripture, God’s wisdom? Is our temple built by we who are servants, obedient, faithful?

Paul warns us not to go “beyond what is written.” Do we even know what is written? Building and protecting this temple called Connie involves reading and studying God’s Word apart from anything else. It means obeying God by keeping myself pure, by listening to His voice and sharing Him with others. Caring for this temple, where God lives on earth, involves effort, intentionality, humility.

Now, I believe if we Christians took better care of our temples, our own lives and relationships with God, then our world wouldn’t be in the state it’s in.

But God pointed out something else to me this morning. We Christians aren’t taking very good care of God’s Church, either. I guess that’s a direct result of not protecting ourselves from sin. But Paul addresses the problem of ignoring sin in the church. He even said the church in Corinth was proud of the fact that they embraced a man guilty of a sexual sin. “Shouldn’t you rather be grieved over this sin,” he asks?

I can’t help but think of whole denominations that embrace homosexuals in their congregations and their pulpits. Shouldn’t God’s people be grieved instead? But Paul doesn’t stop with the sexual sin this particular church-goer was guilty of. Paul includes, “greedy, an idolator or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler” in his list of people who should not be comfortable in our pews.

Paul goes so far as to say they shouldn’t be welcome in the church. I know that goes against what many of us believe these days. But I think we need to consider the truth of what God inspired Paul to write.

I remember years ago, after the contemporary movement was introduced as a result of surveys given to unchurched people about what they would like to see in churches that would encourage them to attend, Ravi Zacharias said something to this effect:

Church should be the last place a sinner feels comfortable.

And I believe that. A church that prides itself on tolerance, on open doors, on a come-as-you-are-and-stay-that-way approach, isn’t a church at all, no matter how involved they are in their communities. It’s a social club. I think I’ve shared about the “church” that advertises by saying, “Come worship with us. We won’t tell you what to believe.” Is that where we’re heading?

It is if we don’t start protecting our temple, caring for our churches. It has to start with each of us individually. But it also has to spill over into our churches. Do we allow sin into our midst, hoping that somehow it will turn into purity? Paul says beware, a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast.” (5:7) I think that is true both for my heart, and in my church.

If I accept a little sin here and there in my life, it doesn’t stay little. It grows, and it invites its friends in. If we accept, or ignore, a sin in our church it won’t stay little there, either. One sin becomes two, then four, and we end up with an unusable batch of dough. Paul challenges us to become “bread without yeast,” a fellowship without sin.

I hope you’ll read these chapters in I Corinthians. There is so much here. Some of it is hard to hear, some of it will thrill your soul. Let God speak to your heart today, and may it change us. May it change the Church.

Romans 10-16; I’ve Got My Rights

Our country is in trouble these days because many, many people are fighting for their “rights” at the expense of the “rights” of others. Personally, I think we’ve pushed it to the point of insanity.

Paul has something to say about “rights.” And I think it’s a timely word for us in 2018.

Paul says we all have rights. We have the right to eat meat or not eat meat. We have the right to treat one day holy, and we have the right to treat every day the same. We have the right to drink wine, and the right to abstain. I’d go so far as to say we have a right to wear dress clothes to church, and a right to worship in torn jeans and dirty sneakers. We have a right to prefer hymns, and a right to enjoy a rocking praise song.

Paul says this about our rights. “Let’s stop passing judgment on one another.” (14:13) But here’s the kicker: he goes on to say, “instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.” He’ll go on to talk about why setting aside our right to do certain things is the right thing to do.

“But,” you might argue. “I have my rights. If someone has a problem with that, it’s their problem not mine.” I’d like you to show me a verse that supports that argument. I honestly don’t think you’ll find one. From what I read here in Romans, I think God is saying it’s very much our problem.

If you’re worried about your rights, you are focused inwardly. Remember, this life as a child of God is no longer about you. It’s about that unsaved person sitting in the cubicle next to you at work, or living next door. Before you exercise your rights, think about how that action will look to someone who doesn’t know your Savior. Think about that weak Christian who is struggling with sin in regard to what you  perceive as your “right.” Paul goes so far as to say that if someone is distressed because of your exercising your right to do something, “you are no longer acting in love.” (14:15) And doesn’t Jesus tell us love is what identifies us as His?

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men…. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall. (14:17-21)

I believe our churches, and our nation, would be healthier if we laid our rights at the feet of Jesus, and truly lived as servants of God, setting aside our “rights” for love of Him who gave Himself for us, and for our neighbor who needs Him.

Romans 6-9; The Struggle Is Real

Do you relate to Paul? I sure do. I’ve been a Christian long enough to know there are some things I should do, and some I shouldn’t. There are thoughts and actions that honor God, and some thoughts and actions that go against everything He stands for. I know this. So why do I find myself committing the same sin He’s already forgiven dozens of times before?

Paul says it’s a battle. I relate. As I’ve been thinking about this passage for a couple days I found myself wondering why it is Christians sin. I’m tempted to use the every popular excuse, “Because we’re human.” But it has occurred to me that with the Spirit of God living in me, I’m not just human.

I have a daily devotional book, “What Every Christian Ought To Know Day by Day” by Adrian Rogers (BH Publishing Group, Nashville, TN, 2008). I read today’s thought, (November 23, page342) before reading Romans and was once again blown away at how God reveals Himself. Because Adrian and Paul were singing the same song.

Dr. Rogers says our struggle with sin is a result of our understanding that God forgives. We pray that part of the Lord’s Prayer: “forgive us our sins.” But we don’t understand the “lead us not into temptation” part. Rogers says:

“The reason we have to come back to God so many times asking forgiveness is that we have not put on His protection that would keep us from falling so repeatedly.”

If we continue to read in Paul’s letter to the Romans, he will tell us often that the Spirit in us is more powerful than the temptation to sin. So why aren’t we putting on that protection?

Yes, God is faithful to forgive 70×7. So going to Him with a repentant heart will result in forgiveness every time. But be warned. Paul makes it pretty clear that our actions are a result of what is in our hearts. And if we continue in sin, we need to consider whether or not we’re really children of God.

I would encourage you to read all of the chapters today. But at least look at 8:5, 11, 13-17, and ask God to speak to you about what is there.

If you find yourself under conviction for committing a sin you’ve already asked Him to forgive, ask for forgiveness one more time. Then ask God to put that protection around you that will keep you from that temptation. Ask God to remove the temptation, or cause that temptation to have no effect. Ask God to give you strength and desire to resist that temptation. He’ll be happy to answer that prayer!

Yes, Paul admitted it was a struggle. But he never tells us to give in to the struggle. He never tells us to go ahead and sin because God will forgive it anyway. In fact, God through Paul tells us it’s very important that we not only ask for forgiveness, but that we turn from that sin, that we die to that sin, that we flee from the devil.

Don’t forget, if you know Jesus as your Savior you have the Holy Spirit. Take advantage of that. Don’t ever think you are helpless because you are “only human.” You are a human with the Spirit of God living in you!

Romans 1-5; Just-As-If…

Paul spends a lot of time talking about sin and condemnation, faith and justification. When you read his letters you can’t help but see that we are all sinners condemned to an awful eternity separated from God. And you can’t help but see that Jesus went to the cross, while we were still sinners, and took our punishment on Himself so none of us ever has to be separated from Him.

But Paul also makes it clear that, although Jesus died for the sins of every man and woman who ever lived, not every man and woman will enjoy the fruits of His sacrifice. Only those who receive it by faith will be justified. No amount of rule-following, or kind deeds can do what Jesus did on that cross.

What does it mean to be justified by faith? I’ve heard it explained that when we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us, so that we can stand before Him, “Just-as-if I never sinned.”

Can you imagine? I have no fear of standing before a Holy, Holy, Holy God because He will only see purity, guiltlessness, holiness in me. I can hardly imagine.

But as I sit here today and consider this precious truth, I am overcome. Because, you see, I am a sinner. There is nothing pure or holy about me, and I’m certainly not guiltless.

It occurs to me that on that day, when I stand before the throne, God is not going to look at me as if I never sinned, so much as He is going to look at me wearing Jesus’ righteousness because HE never sinned. God won’t see me as something I’m not (holy, pure). He’s going to see my Savior’s blood that covered my sins. Every one of them.

I’m not going to stand there and look God in the eye sinless. But I am going to stand there before Him, gaze into those piercing and Holy eyes, forgiven!


Acts 22-28; What Would It Take?

I read about Paul’s life and think – could I have endured what he did and still stay faithful to the Truth? How many times would I have to be falsely accused before I quit proclaiming Jesus as God? How many friends would I have to lose, or towns I’d have to leave, or prison sentences I’d have to serve before I’d say, “Enough is enough?” Could I stand before kings and governors and boldy proclaim the Truth about Jesus?

But those aren’t the questions God is asking me today. His questions sound more like: “How many times are you going to ignore Me when I nudge you to speak to your neighbor about Me?” “How many conversations are you going to redirect when the subject turns to Me and you get uncomfortable?”

God’s not asking me to stand firm in front of kings. He’s asking me to stand firm in front of my family, and sometimes I can’t even do that. He’s not asking me to go to prison or be beaten because of my faith. He’s asking me to go to dinner with that person He’s laid on my heart.

What would it take for me to deny Jesus, to go along with the crowd, to convince myself what someone believes is not my business?

I’m ashamed to say.

Acts 15-21; Do Your Homework

I’ve been listening to a young woman recently elected to the House of Representatives, and wonder how anyone so unfamiliar with truth could have received one vote, much less a majority of votes.

Often you see reports of large demonstrations involving hundreds of people. But, when interviewed, some can’t even explain what it is they are demonstrating against.

Some people who call themselves Christians can quote popular talkshow hosts, TV preachers, and inspirational authors, but can’t tell you where to find the book of Hebrews.

In Acts we see how easily the Asian Jews persuaded the people to turn against Paul with lies. And not just once. I guess the ability (or desire) to be informed has been a problem for centuries. It’s just easier to go with the flow.

But then you have the Bereans. These people listened to everything Paul had to say. Then they searched the Scriptures to make sure what he said was true. They didn’t take someone else’s word.

And don’t you take mine. I often encourage you to read the Bible for yourself and let God have the final word about anything I say. I would encourage you to do that before you swallow anything your pastor, teacher, neighbor, favorite author or TV preacher says, too.

Do your homework.

And do your homework before you hit “send” on that FB rant, or for heaven’s sake, before running for political office.

Where do you go for answers? Who is your final authority? On what do you base your beliefs? One day, when you look Jesus in the eye, you will be held accountable for what you believe.

Do your homework.

Acts 9-14; Catch the Fever

I love reading about the birth of the Church. I love Saul’s conversion, Peter’s vision and Cornelius’ faith. I love reading how Peter followed an angel out of prison right under the noses of all those guards. I love the accounts of healings, of the Holy Spirit poured out on new believers.

But what spoke to me today as I read was the effect the Word of Truth had on so many people. Peter spoke so plainly of Jesus, as one who had been an eye-witness. Peter used Scripture to back up what he was saying, and I believe many people finally understood what their Old Testament Scriptures were about for the very first time.

Lives were changed. And the Good News spread like wildfire. People were excited to share what they believed with people they loved.

Sometimes I assume everybody knows Bible stories, everyone has heard Jesus died on the cross for sin. I think everyone knows there’s a heaven and a hell. But I am wrong to think those things. There are people right here on this island who have no clue.

We have the Truth. We have the best news ever. We have the answer to every longing, and we hold the keys to heaven. Does that excite you? Does that make you want to get out there and share what you have? I think it should.

At least that’s where I’m convicted today. Am I excited about Jesus, the cross, grace, eternal life, freedom from sin? Or do I take those things for granted? Ouch.

I’m thinking if I went back to my roots, like Peter directed the early church to go back to theirs, and if I remember what it was like to find my Savior, I could get excited about sharing that experience with someone else. And maybe, my excitement will be contagious. Maybe you’ll catch the fever, too. And maybe others will catch it from us!


Acts 5-8; What Would People Think?

Some time ago, I read an opinion drawn from some kind of research that said men tend to dress for comfort, while women dress to impress other women. Some people have been known to go into debt in order to appear successful to family, friends, and coworkers. I wonder how many decisions I make every day based on what I think others will think about me.

Ananias and Sapphire made the decision to cook the books a bit so it looked to everybody else that they gave the church the entire amount they received from the sale of some land. I guess they wanted people to look at them as exceptionally generous or something.

Simon was a successful magician, and had somewhat of a following. (Something like our modern day equivalent to 1,000 followers on Twitter.) But when Peter and John laid hands on believers who then received the Holy Spirt, Simon wanted that ability in his arsenal, too. He even offered to pay the apostles if they’d share their trick with him. Don’t kid yourself. Simon wasn’t interested in being used by God to share Christ. He was more concerned about what his followers would think if he couldn’t keep up with the apostles.

The Pharisees and Sadducees never stopped being protective of their reputations. We see them throw the apostles in prison when the apostles were leading people to Jesus through teaching and miracles. Any convert to Christianity was one less person who looked up to the Jewish leaders.

But Peter and the other apostles stood firm. They certainly didn’t care that the Sadducees and Pharisees wanted them to stop speaking for Jesus. In fact, they didn’t care at all what the Sadducees and Pharisees thought of them:

We must obey God rather than men! (5:29)

And there’s the point. If you clean up your language around certain people, and let it fly around others you might have a problem. If you laugh at certain jokes, or watch certain shows, or go certain places around some people but not others, you might have a problem.

I don’t believe the Bible teaches we shouldn’t care at all what people think. I care that people see Jesus when they look at me. I care that my decisions reflect my relationship with my Savior. But not because I want to appear like a good person. I want to always be used by God to draw someone to Him, not me.

And sometimes that means going against what others think. For me, it means passing on that alcoholic beverage. It means never using God’s name as an exclamation mark. It means walking away from gossip, or not responding to every stupid thing someone posts online. It means caring enough about what God thinks of me that I don’t hesitate to love the person who is unloving, that I’m not ashamed to reach out to someone others think is too far gone. It means understanding that my audience is not just the person sitting next to me. God Himself is listening and watching me every second of every day.

I believe Scripture teaches that if I am above all concerned with God’s opinion of me, He will take care of what others think about me. And if they don’t like my stand for God’s truth, I want to still stand firm. Because I have to obey God rather than people.

What would other people think if I lived a consistent life, obedient to God? I’m reminded they hated Jesus. They just might hate me, too. But I am also reminded that many were drawn to Jesus as well. My prayer is that when people look at my life, they will think that having Jesus in their lives just might be so much better than what they have without Him.


Acts 1-4; Don’t Give Up

Are there people who hold a special place in your heart, but who don’t know the Lord? You are burdened for them, and pray for them constantly. Maybe you’ve shared your love of Jesus with them, only to have them shut you down. Maybe this has gone on for years, and you just don ‘t see any sign that they will ever accept the grace of God through His Son Jesus.

There is something here in Acts I want you to notice. The Gospels tell us that Jesus’ siblings didn’t accept him as anything other than their crazy big brother. (Matthew 13, Mark 6) Even from the cross, Jesus asked his friend to care for His mother. Where were his brothers?

But something must have happened between the cross and Acts 1:14. Jesus had spent about 40 days teaching and performing miracles after He rose from the dead. Many people watched as He went home, ascending into heaven as they were looking intently up into the sky.

Now they waited. Jesus had said He was going to send the Holy Spirit to them. So they returned to Jerusalem like the Savior had instructed them. Scripture tells us who were present in that upper room as they waited:

Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James Alphaeus, Simon, and the other Judas. These were Jesus’ closest disciples while He was on earth. But that’s not all who were there. Verse 14 tells us:

They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. 

Did you catch that? Read it again. Who joined those in the upper room? Who were constantly in prayer? The disciples, some women, Jesus’ mother, AND HIS BROTHERS!

We don’t know the details of their conversions. But we can rejoice in the fact that at some point they believed. It doesn’t appear they believed before Jesus died on the cross. But here they are, with the disciples, obeying what Jesus had told them to do, praying, and waiting.

Don’t give up on that loved one who seems to think you are crazy because you are a follower of Jesus. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop living outloud. Don’t stop finding opportunities to talk about your Savior. Don’t stop loving them.

Many of us can share testimonies of people we prayed for for years, maybe with a bit of doubt they’d ever really humble themselves and accept the Savior. But they did. God loves answering that prayer. And as long as they have breath, Jesus is willing to save.

Don’t give up.