Monthly Archives: November 2019

November 30; Rock Bottom

I Corinthians 15:35-16:24; Acts 20:1-6; 2 Corinthians 1:1-2:4

Can you recall a time in your life when you would say you were at your lowest point? The pressures of life were such you felt there was no hope; you tried to do the right thing but even that blew up in your face. Why is it when we’ve hit rock bottom we can feel totally alone, like no one understands or even cares to understand what we are going through?

Paul gives us a hint at his lowest low. In 2 Corinthians 1:8 he said at some point he had wished he were dead. He was that discouraged. Then he shares with us what he’d learned from that awful time:

But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead. (2 Corinthians 1:9)

Paul, arguably the most prolific missionary/evangelist in the history of the Church, the apostle whose words still instruct and encourage people two thousand years later, needed to be reminded he needed God.

God delivered Paul from that dark place, and continued to deliver him. The apostle tells us it was through the prayers of the Corinthian believers that God did that:

Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many. (verse 11)

Paul said Jesus’ suffering overflowed onto them, but so did Jesus’ comfort. As a result that comfort overflowed onto the Corinthians. It overflows yet today!

So here are a few things I take away from this passage today:

  1. We all go through hard times. All of us get discouraged and need to be reminded we need God. Sometimes those hard times even sweeten our relationship with Jesus as we learn to depend on Him.
  2. We need to pray – really pray – for our hurting brothers and sisters even if we don’t know the details of their trouble. God answers prayer. But He can’t answer a prayer not prayed.
  3. When we come out on the other side – and we always do – we need to use our experience to encourage others, to assure them they are not alone, and to help them recognize the power of God in their lives.

I asked if you remembered a time in your life when you were at rock bottom. I hope that’s not where you are today. But if you are, or if you are headed there, let me encourage you from Paul’s example. You are not alone. And I am praying for you.

 

 

November 29; Speak It

I Corinthians 14:1-15:34

Years ago I was an organist in a church with a new pastor. He came in like gang busters and began to makes changes almost before the moving van had gone. One of the first things he did was call a meeting of the music committee.

He told us he wanted a more contemporary feel to our worship service. Less hymns, more praise songs. Our music director asked the pastor if he was to pick out the songs, or did the pastor want to do that. The pastor said that would be up to the music director, he didn’t really care what we sang so long as it wasn’t all hymns.

I shared that in the past we tried to pick out music that went along with the sermon, to prepare our hearts for what was going to be shared from the pulpit. I’ll never forget the pastor’s response. He looked at me, laughed a condescending chuckle and said, “I suppose you are one who thinks the preaching is the most important thing. Well, it’s not.”

I think Paul might take issue with that philosophy. If you read this part of his letter to the Corinthians you’ll see how much emphasis is placed on the words, the Gospel, the telling. The apostle used the example of musical instruments having distinct notes and a clear call.

There are many different aspects to a worship service. Paul was addressing the use of the gift of tongues but he called that gift mindless and unfruitful unless there is an interpretation. Telling the message so people can understand is the most important thing. Paul said he could speak all day in tongues, but he’d rather speak five intelligible words of instruction.

I found out that day of our music committee meeting that indeed, I am one who thinks the preaching is the most important part of a worship service. It’s the part of instruction, of encouragement, of digging deeper into God’s Word led by someone called to do that.

And once again I am reminded how important it is for all of us to speak the Gospel. We can live our lives in such a way that people notice our devotion to God, but unless we tell them about Jesus, they can’t be saved. We can go to a worship service and be carried along by the Spirit during the praise songs, but the instruction is the meat.

Let’s continue to grow, to define our faith from Scripture so that we can share it in an understandable way. We’ve got the Good News! Let’s speak it.

 

November 28; For The Common Good

I Corinthians11:2-13:13

Not long ago I was part of a discussion concerning Spiritual gifts. Is teaching a Spiritual gift? Is music? What about sewing? Paul helped me understand.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God who works all of them in all men. (12:4-6)

The apostle gives us three categories of Spiritual influence: gifts, service, and working. Paul said we are blessed with all three, given by the same Spirit.

The list of Spiritual gifts is specific: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation of tongues, teaching, administration. (12:7-10, 28) These gifts can and should be used in service to God in the church. But they differ from God given abilities like music, carpentry, sewing, athletic, etc.

I believe Paul wants us to see beyond putting a gift or ability in a correct column. Look at verse 7:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Do you know what your Spiritual gifts are? There are online inventories that can help you identify them. I think we need to know the areas in which the Spirit has gifted each of us.

Have you identified your God-given abilities? I believe this is as important as knowing what your Spiritual gifts are. Ignoring them or denying them does not bring honor to to the Giver of those talents and abilities.

Then, knowing your gifts and abilities, how are you using them for the common good of your church fellowship? Paul talks about a healthy body with all the working parts. Is your fellowship crippled because you, as a toe, think what God has given you is not really all that important? Is your church trying to operate without an elbow or an ear because you would rather be an eye?

If you are a Christian, God has given you a Spiritual gift. If you are a human, God has given you certain talents and abilities. And Paul and I believe God has given you those things for you to use for the common good, the furthering of the Gospel in and through your church fellowship.

It’s not a matter of “if” you have gifts and abilities. It’s a matter of what you are going to do with your gifts and abilities for Jesus’ sake and for His glory.

November 27; It’s Not Right

I Corinthians 8:1-11:1

Our society is obsessed with “rights,” aren’t we? The right to an abortion. The right to marry who I want to marry. The right not to look at a Confederate flag or a caricature of a smiling Indian on a baseball cap. We are so determined to exercise our “rights” we don’t care who we have to step on to get them.

Paul says if anyone has “rights” it’s a Christian. In 10:23 he tells us that for those of us redeemed by the blood of Jesus, “everything is permissible – but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.”

The apostle tells us he willingly gives up his “rights” for the good of others. He gives example after example of this in the chapters we read today. He goes as far as to say, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (22b)

Not long ago I heard a preacher use that verse to promote contemporary worship. That is a twisting of this Scripture that makes me so angry. Paul is NOT talking about worship at all. What Paul is talking about is much harder than rocking to a few repetitive phrases in order to “experience worship,” or even to entice people into attending the service on Sunday.

Paul is talking about what you are going to do today to reach someone for Jesus’ sake. Paul is talking about investing yourself in the life of a non-believer, spending time talking about and doing the things that person enjoys. Paul is talking about giving up some of your rights in order to put that eternal soul ahead of your own comfort or desires

I don’t know where we got the idea that Jesus wants us to invite unsaved people to church. He never said that. In fact if you read the Bible you’ll see that the church needs to be restricted to believers for a very good reason.

What Jesus told us, and what Paul is demonstrating, is to get off the couch, let go of what you think you deserve, and BE the person that will make that non-believer want what you have in Jesus. Go, Jesus said. Make disciples. Think of others more important than yourself.

I know that takes effort and energy. It takes time and it’s not always convenient. But it’s not right for a Christian NOT to.

November 26; Don’t Even Eat With Them

I Corinthians 5-7

Where do you stand on the subject of sin? Is your definition of sin in line with God’s definition of sin according to His Word? Or is it based on something else?

Dan Cathy made the news recently when he announced his company, Chick fil A, would no longer financially support the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, two organizations that take a Biblical stand on homosexuality. Franklin Graham went to the source and asked Cathy personally what that was about.

I certainly don’t know all the details, but I have read that Cathy told Graham that yes, Chick fil A would no longer donate to those two organizations, but assured him that didn’t mean they were bowing to pressure from the LGBT community. Cathy told the evangelist his company will give to whoever they want, and they have decided to contribute to organizations that address homelessness and education.

You mean like the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes?

Cathy can proclaim all day that the LGBT pressure had nothing to do with his decision. But I find it telling that the two organizations he is dropping are the two with the strongest and most vocal adherence to God’s standards according to the Bible. In fact, from what I have read as I’ve researched this this morning, I’m beginning to see this is something that has been coming for some time. Some of the organizations Chick fil A already supports and will support now are openly pro-LGBT activists. (see CBNNEWS.COM article by Mat Staver responding to Franklin Graham for one)

I thought of this today as I read what Paul said to the Corinthians concerning a brother caught in sin. Have nothing to do with him, Paul said.

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you. (5:11-13)

Now I am not saying Cathy is personally an idolater or slanderer or swindler or anything like that. But I take issue with a brother making a public stand that has the appearance of evil like Mr. Cathy has done. He can say it has nothing to do with the LGBT community, but it certainly appears that it does.

I kind of chuckled that Paul used the words, “don’t even eat with them,” considering we’re talking about a restaurant. But the reality of this issue is anything but funny. I haven’t heard Cathy say why they made the decision they made. Just that they made the decision. I just can’t imagine a God-honoring reason, though.

I just believe that if one person thinks this is a win for homosexuality, or that this is a loving act toward homosexuals, it is not a decision that glorifies God. The reality is the loving thing to do is to call sin sin, and to point all people to the Savior. Because if sinners don’t repent, their eternity is set. (6:9-11)

Being anti-homosexuality is not hate. Being anti-homosexuality and introducing a sinner to the Savior is love. Someone sexually immoral, or a greedy person, a drunkard or swindler is a sinner in need of the Savior. I was a sinner, too.

But I was washed, I was sanctified, I was justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (from 6:11) It’s my goal that all sinners experience that, too.

I’m not saying I’ll never eat at a Chick fil A ever again. I don’t know. I haven’t been inclined to recently. I can go to Burger King or Taco Bell. Neither claim to be Christian based. God, through Paul, says it’s not up to me to judge them. But I can judge Chick fil A. And right now I judge them guilty of selling out.

If you are a homosexual reading this, I have nothing but love for you. In fact, I love you enough to tell you that Jesus is standing ready to forgive you, to cleanse you, to give you victory over sin if you ask Him. I would say the same to an adulterer, a thief, a gossip, a swindler, a liar, a murderer, or a glutton.

But I will stand on God’s definition of sin according to Scripture, and tell you sin has a very devastating and eternal consequence. And I pray that you will accept what Jesus died to give you: forgiveness and eternity with Him!

May God find all His children standing firm on the Truth of Scripture, even in the face of opposition and pressure. And may we do it with love, without anger, representing Jesus who loves sinners enough to die for them, who loved me enough to die for even me.

 

November 25; The Refuse of the World

I Corinthians 1-4

I know I have expressed my concern over the way we are raising our children to look out for themselves, to consider themselves powerful and capable and good, that they deserve whatever they want at any cost to others. We are reaping the consequences for this foolishness, aren’t we?

Paul says in 4:1 that people should regard us as servants of Christ. Then he goes on to describe what that looks like in his own life. Hold on to your hats:

For it seems that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world. (4:9-13) (emphasis mine)

And he’s ok with that!

Now get ready for the kicker:

Therefore, I urge you to imitate me. (verse 16)

Now I know this flies in the face of modern philosophy. The so called child experts and mental health counselors are probably having heart attacks about now. And millennials everywhere are running to their safe places. But hear me when I say what the child experts and mental health counselors teach IS NOT WORKING!

They’ll tell you it’s not their philosophy that is failing, it’s society. It’s intolerance. It’s capitalism. It’s President Trump.

But the real problem is that they have rejected what God says, and made up their own bible. I know without a doubt that what Paul says here in I Corinthians is the answer to all of society’s problems, school shootings, discrimination, abortion, child abuse whatever. We need to think of others more highly than ourselves.

I will also tell you that’s impossible. We are selfish, ego-driven by nature. So before you try to muster up the ability to take a back seat, you need to give your life to Jesus. You need the strength that comes from having the Holy Spirit within you to turn the other cheek, to love your enemies and do good to those who mistreat you, to be the refuse of the world.

The answer to life’s problems is not what we think about ourselves. The answer is Jesus.

 

November 24; What Am I Doing Here?

II Thessalonians 2-3; Acts 18:18-19:46

Years ago there was a love guru named Leo Buscaglia. I was getting my degree in school counseling at the time when he came to our town for a workshop. Our professor encouraged us to attend and, in fact, a couple of my friends were star-struck by the thought of even being in the same auditorium with him. I had never heard of him before, but I got caught up in the excitement and anticipation of hearing something great.

I thought of that today when I read that there was a riot in Asia, started by disgruntled tradesmen who were losing customers in their idol-making companies because many people were turning from worshiping the pretend god Artemis and turning to Jesus instead.

So the CEOs of the idol industry, under the leadership of Demetrius, put their heads together. Their solution was to start a chant: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” It caught on.

The Bible tells us soon the whole city was shouting how great that pretend god was. The people actually captured two of Paul’s fellow missionaries and dragged them to the city officials.

But here’s what spoke to me today” “Most of the people did not even know why they were there.” (Acts 19:32b)

I felt the same way about ten minutes into Buscaglia’s lecture. Oh, he was a great speaker, a gifted story-teller, but his message was glaringly void of truth. As loving as it sounded, there was no depth at all because the love he spoke of was something he believed we all had within us, could tap into. He talked about a higher power, but it was obvious by what he said that he had no personal knowledge of the love of God.

I will say another thing that made me very uncomfortable that night was the adoration of the crowd that bordered on worship of the man. Even my friends were in awe and I remember one of them pushing her way through the crowd so she could touch him. What had I gotten myself into?

I guess I would encourage us all to be mindful of the voices out there that would draw us in, either by touching our emotions like what we read in Acts, or by half-truths, or ideas and philosophies which sound good at first glance. Before we mindlessly follow the crowd, maybe we should do some investigating. “Everybody is doing it” is a ridiculous reason for ANYTHING!