Thursday, December 22, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
"If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home - so that when you come together it will not be for judgement..."
(1 Corinthians 11:34).
God bless "Sister Betty." She was a dear woman that attended a small country church in a rural Texas town. On one Wednesday evening that I had been asked to speak during their service, Sister Betty had been asked to introduce me. She began by welcoming all those who had ventured out on this "middle of the week" night. As she was speaking, she told the small congregation how much she needed to be there herself. "I need to be in church on Wednesday to get my blessin' to hold me over 'til Sunday."
I've never forgotten those words. Not for a minute do I think that dear sweet Ms. Betty was the only one to ever entertain such a though. "...to hold me over 'til Sunday." I'm certain you understand what she is referring to. There are those who's entire relationship with God hinges on their attendance to church on Sunday mornings. Their entire communication with God unfairly rests on the pastor. They depend entirely on him to meet all of their spiritual needs, to be the voice of God, and resolve all of life's confusion all in less than an hour and a half on one day a week. Wow!
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is addressing the issue of communion. There are those who have come to worship and to break bread, but have come hungry, literally hungry. They begin to eat the communion bread to satisfy a hunger, to use it for a purpose it was never intended. Communion was to celebrate what Jesus had done and for them to remember both the sacrifice He gave and the surrender that they had returned. Paul told them to eat at home. What they were to be doing together was to be a culmination and confirmation of what they had been depending upon God for at home.
Imagine if you ate a meal only on one day a week. If your entire week depended upon the nourishment you received one day a week, you would become weak, unhealthy, and ineffective. Making times to spend with God and to "eat" of His Word, the Daily Bread of Life, will make such a difference in your life. Make time in His Word and in His presence a priority in your everyday life. Don't rely on a pastor, a teacher, an evangelist, or even the spiritual maturity of a good friend. Be nourished on the goodness of God everyday. Psalm 34:8 reminds you to "...taste and see that the Lord is good...blessed are you who take refuge in Him." There is great health, successful effectiveness, and much blessing when are making our dwelling place in the presence of the Lord. Let Sunday be the day where you celebrate all that God has been doing in your life all week, and allow the preached Word confirm what He's already been speaking to you. God desires to be an active voice in your everyday life. Not just on Sunday.
Monday, December 19, 2011
"Are we trying to arouse the Lord's Jealousy? Are we stronger than He?" (1 Corinthians 10:22).
Have you ever noticed that the word "player" has culturally evolved into something to proud of? It has become a badge of honor. For a man to cheat and to be with more women than he is able to count is seen, in many circles, to be something to honor, look up to, and respect. In the year 2002 I made a covenant to the woman who was and still is my very best friend. I vowed to her before God that I would honor her and cherish her, keeping myself only for her as long as we both shall live.
What I vowed to my wife did not lose its potency or relevancy at the conclusion of the honeymoon, or during the times that we may have been at odds with one another. It was a vow that surpasses emotions, desires, frustrations, hurts, and temptations. If I falter in a way that I veer off the course that I vowed to journey with my wife, I am both breaking that vow, and provoking her heart to jealousy. I made a promise. I entered into covenant. I did so before God. For our marriage to be successful, we must, together, keep our eyes on Jesus and focus life straight ahead. No turning back, no turning around, and no turning away.
So it is in our relationship with Jesus. It is not uncommon to see people who call themselves "Christians," yet choose to live in a way that reflects little regard to Him. They don't honor Him with the choices they make, the words they speak, or the direction they travel. They worship the idols of self-interest, self-preservation, and self-centeredness.
Paul sought to hit a home-run with this message to his audience. Each moment you live is to be lived as an act of worship to God. You life is to be a living sacrifice - given in total surrender and humility. Every aspect of your existence is to be a song of passionate worship, intimately expressing your love, commitment, and dedication to Him. When you choose not to spend time with the Creator of time, then you are choosing to worship your will at a greater level than the heart of God. He is greater than anything you can possibly seek to understand. He desires to be your all-in-all. Let your life reflect a heart that beats passionately for Him. Resist the distractions. Focus on Him. Walk with Him straight ahead.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it" (1 Corinthians 9:24).
One of my favorite and inspiring football movies of all time is the sports classic, Rudy. It's the story of an undersized, middle class young man of meager means, but great ambition. Competitive as a high school football player, he was clear that he was more gifted with heart and passion than with size and skill. His dream was to play with the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. He was turned down at every twist and turn, only to find himself serving on their practice squad. By the end of the movie, you find that Rudy gets a once-in-a-college-career shot of playing on the field with the team of his dreams. With determination in his eyes and passion in his heart, he is triumphant in succeeding to bring down the offensive player with the football. The crowd erupts! The cheering was not so much for one who would be famous for his skill, but for one who would not give up, but who would fix his eyes on the prize, endure through the pains and disappointments, and purpose to obtain it.
Though life is more complicated than a sporting event, it is a competition. Paul likened it to a race, invoking the imagery of the Olympic games of his time. We are not in competition with each other. We do, however, face an everyday battle with those things that would seek to hold us back from the obtaining the prize that God has for us. Victory in our lives will not just happen. Spiritual growth is not random. It is strategic, on purpose, and with great determination. Jesus did all that needed to be done to make it available to us. He has given us the ability. We have to use it. We cannot live as though our choices don't matter, our thinking doesn't matter, or that we don't matter. We are to run as though we intend and expect to receive all that Christ has desired for and made available to us.
Each day you are running a race against your desires, against time distractions, against negative feelings, emotions, and insecurities. God has placed an aim, a passion, a vision, a dream in your heart. He desires you to run victoriously in this life, a winner, successful, and blessed. There is nothing you can do to earn or deserve such a prize. He has already won it and has now placed it before you. The question you must answer is this: "How bad do you want it?" Are you willing to live a life of discipline, passion, and endurance? Are you willing to let go of everything that would seek to pull you back? Are you willing to rise above the pain, the weariness, and the fear; to trust Him for what you don't have, and to focus on Him who is calling you to a greater prize than you can fathom? Run to win. You don't run alone.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
"Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that 'all of us possess knowledge.' This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up"
(1 Corinthians 8:1).
Paul, in this section of his letter to the church at Corinth, was addressing the problem of legalism and spiritual pride. There are those that love to showcase what they know and how much they know to the point of becoming critical and judgmental. As Christians, we are called to be advocates of the truth, while at the same time, living in honor of Him who is the Truth. We were never called to arrogance, but to love.
Later on in this transformation letter, Paul gives greater definition to what love is. In one of the most often recited passages on love, Paul writes that love is "patient, kind, not rude, not self-seeking, does not boast..." Unfortunately, the way most people argue has become synonymous with arrogance. It becomes arguing for argument sake, seeking to prove right and prove wrong, and about winning a debate, rather than living in a way that reflects the love that we claim to be changed by. Our adoration for Jesus will always be a better argument than our arrogance, intended or perceived.
"Knowledge" puffs up. It makes us feel bigger than we were ever designed or intended to be. Love builds up. It is focused on others more than ourselves. We are called to teach, not trample. We are meant to disciple, not destroy. We are to reflect the love of Jesus, not the legalism of arrogance. Yes, we are to speak the "truth in love." However, let's not twist that scripture to become the blank check that allows us to say what we want to. Let us remember what and Who love is.
Allow this to be a reminder in your life. It is not about you, but about building up others in their faith, and in their relationship with others around them. If you build up yourself, then you're not lifting up Jesus. Exalt Him, and He will lift you up. If others are not persuaded by the truth you are presenting, don't result to futile and volatile arguments. Live out the truth. Let the love of Jesus be more persuasive than your ability for words. He is truth. He is love. Love is more persuasive than arrogance.
Monday, December 5, 2011
"Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him" (1 Corinthians 7:20).
Years ago I had learned of a man who had struggled greatly with lust and become grossly entrenched in the bondage of pornography. Longing desperately to be separated from this long-time struggle, he mistakenly assumed that getting married would set him free. Not only did he find that he was in error in his thinking, he found that the fight would continue. There would be no "easy way out." He would have to engage with the power of God and depend upon that strength to endure. And that, he did.
Like this man who found the freedom he desired in Christ, yet found it through the process of dependance and endurance, so are many. Paul addresses an issue here in the context of many things. He's addressing marriage, slavery, ceremonial obligations and traditions. The point he makes is clear and applicable both then and now. When someone comes to Christ, there is NO GUARANTEE of immediate resolution of all struggle. The fight will continue. However, the source of your fight will change. It is no longer you, your will, or your strength. Rather, it is your surrender unto Jesus. He, then, gives you the resources you need and the resolve you will depend on in your quest to see that freedom realized.
It was for freedom that Christ has set you free. This is true. What is also true, is that everything you need for that freedom is found in Christ and is finished in Christ. But what is further true, is that you have to daily walk it out and work it out in fear and trembling. You have to take captive every thought and imagination that would attempt to exalt itself over the knowledge of Jesus Christ. You have to depend upon Him and lock-eyes with Him as the author and perfecter of your faith. Don't be afraid of the struggle. You are free in Him. Though you may continue to feel the barrage of that struggle and the temptation to return, rely upon the strength of God, and He will not only give you the resolve, but be the resolve that you need.
Friday, December 2, 2011
"And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of the our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Hypocrisy. It's cited as one of the leading reasons that many people have either walked away from God, the church, or both, or either have steered clear from either/or altogether. It's easier to judge than it is to be judged. It's easier to hold the gavel than to hear it being slammed down, unjustly sentencing you based on opinions, ideas, ideals, expectations, and standards that the "sentencer" doesn't hold themselves to. Of course, it is also easy to become overwhelmed with cynicism that we, too, decide to check out, criticize, and allow bitterness have a fighting chance at overtaking our mind. So, where does that leave us?
"And such were some of you..." Paul is referencing statements he has just made concerning the types of people who will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven. He even mentions some of the "hot button" sins that we like to capitalize on, separating ourselves from the same responsibility to God over our "lesser" offenses. He lists them and says, "...and such were some of you..." None of us are without a past, without sin, without stains upon the fabric of our hearts. Without God at the forefront of our lives, we are all tainted. God doesn't level and categorize sin in the same manner that we do. He condemns it all. Yet, He has made away to remove the stain from our lives in a way that leaves all of the power of "oxy clean" wanting! We each have struggled, failed, and failed again, but God, through the power of the blood of Jesus Christ, has washed us, made us new, and has redefined us by His grace so amazing.
There are areas that you have undoubtedly struggled and failed. But, those areas no longer have to define you. Why? Because, you have had the opportunity to be redefined by the power of the Spirit of God. You are a child of God. In Him, you can be made new, clean, pure. Restoration can be more than an ideal. It can become a reality in your life. You, however, must choose to receive the grace and mercy, each day, that He has for you. Choose today to live each day with the knowledge and confidence of who you are in Christ Jesus. Don't judge yourself by who you've been or by how you feel, but by who you are in Him. You are made new. You are forgiven. You were created in His image. You are His. And while you're at it, allow that grace that you are desperate to receive from Him also flow through to others. After all, "...and such were some of you." Oh, but for the grace of God!