Tuesday, February 21, 2017

God's Spirit Lives IN You

Photo by Waiting For The Word
Scripture: Romans 8:9
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

Insights: This week in our Believe series we learned about how our identity is in Christ.  I opened up the sermon with the telling of a story of a man who was the son of a country preacher and a prayer warrior mom.  He had many siblings and he was very intelligent.  He became well educated and even taught for a time.  Later he was sent to the America’s as a missionary in the Georgian colony.  On his return voyager to England a horrific storm blew up in the Atlantic and this man was terrified.  He was absolutely scared out of his mind that he would die.  Yet, on this ship, there were some Moravian Brethren who were calm and at ease in the midst of the storm.  They prayed and worshipped God and were content if the ship were to go down.  After the ship made port in England, this man went and spoke with one of these Moravians and a friendship was birthed.  Not long after this event, this teacher, preacher, and missionary went to a revival service.  He went reluctantly, but he did go and while there he encountered Jesus for the very first time and in his journal he wrote, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.”  He was now alive IN Christ Jesus.  His entire identity was changed.  God’s Spirit came upon him and John Wesley was not the same man from that time until his death.  Tomorrow, I will share more about John Wesley and this identity we have in Christ Jesus.

1. Does the Holy Spirit dwell in you?
2. Do you realize you can be religious, but lost?

Prayer: Father, help me to understand that my identity is truly in Christ Jesus, and as a result, I am sealed with the Holy Spirit who lives in me.  Amen.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Love is an Eternal Gift

Photo by Bernal Saborio
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Insights: In these final verses of chapter thirteen we learn love is an eternal gift.  All of these spiritual gifts, which were the cause of dissension and infighting at the church of Corinth will disappear.  In heaven there will be no more need for prophecy or tongues.  The gift of knowledge will be no more and the barrier of sin which inhibits us from learning properly will be removed.  We will be able to think like mature people and learn face to face no longer dimly because of sin.  Let’s take these last three items for a moment.  Faith, hope and love abide right now on this side of eternity, but of these three love is the greatest.  We ought to ask ourselves why this statement is true.  The answer would be, because in heaven we will not exercise faith and love as we do now.  We have faith in Jesus’ saving work on the cross of Calvary.  We do not actually see Jesus, but we have faith to believe He is alive and He has changed our lives.  Just like the wind, we see the evidence of Jesus in our lives.  Just as we do not have to have faith in Jesus once we are seeing Him face to face, so we don’t need hope.  Our hope is that Jesus’ words will come to pass.  He will return for His own one day.  We believe this fact to be resolutely true and as a result we hope for His return.  We do not hope as in a wishful thought, but rather as a declarative reality.  What will we have in heaven if we do not have faith and hope?  We do have love.  1 John 4:8 and 16 reads, “God is love.”  In fact, love is the very core essence of the Lord God.  He enables us to love and He is love.  In heaven, therefore, we experience perfect love without sins interference.  The only way you will ever experience this kind of love is to have a saving relationship with Jesus, God’s very own Son.  If you let Him forgive you of your sins, then you will be born again and will one day experience this kind of love first hand.  I pray you know Jesus or you will get to know Jesus and experience His love.  One last thought, these past three blog post titles were taken from Keith Krell’s sermon from 1 Corinthians 13.

1. Do you long for the day in which you will see Jesus face to face?
2. Have you received His love, and therefore, will spend eternity with Him in heaven?

Prayer: Father, I long for the day in which I no longer learn and receive Your love through this tainted world of sin.  May the day of Your culmination come quickly Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Love is Expressed by Supernatural Responses

Photo by Juliana Coutino
This blog ought to have been February 16, 2017

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Insights: In these verses today we find fifteen characteristics of love.  The very first thing I want you to notice about these characteristics is they are actions, attitudes and behaviors by which we demonstrate our love.  In other words, love is not a feeling or an emotion.  It is volitional at its very core.  I must admit, however, it is not volitional in our own power.  Love of the kind described by Paul is supernatural in nature.  Only God can stir the heart of a person to respond to offense and difficulties with a love that endures all things.  The problem with humanity is we too often express love toward others based on the way in which they have first displayed love toward us.  If they have been genuine and sincere with us, then we reciprocate, but if they have been harsh or unworthy, then we revoke our love and no longer endure through the hard times of the relationship.  As I personally evaluate my life, I am gripped by the reality I do not display this kind of love to the world.  I am jealous and a braggart.  I unfortunately do act unbecomingly all to often and am selfish at the core of my sinful self.  Even though these sentences are true, I fully recognize these statements are not the real me.  The real me is born again and the old me which bears resemblance to these statements has been crucified with Christ Jesus.  As a result, He supernaturally empowers me to display the kind of love described in verses four through seven.  Beloved, let us each learn to die daily to our old nature and let our new nature in Jesus be displayed before a world.  May they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus as a result of our expression of His love which He manifests in us.  May God be brought glory because of our obedience.  Let us love as Jesus would have us to love and empowers us to love.

1. Is your expression of love supernatural in nature?
2. Or is your love conditional upon the response of another?

Prayer: Father, thank You for loving me no matter how I treat You.  Your love is perfectly displayed in the fifteen character traits mentioned in these verses today.  Thank You for this amazing limitless love.  Grow me in Your grace and help me to live this love out as well.  Amen.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Love is Greater than Any Spiritual Gift

Photo by Alvanman
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Insights: This past Sunday was the Sunday before Valentine’s day.  Our community had a Valentine emphasis focusing on the refuge crises in Aleppo, Syria.  Our community prayer was for love, peace and hope to spread to those in Aleppo.  This community focus was timely chosen because of the focus on love during Valentines day.  We as a church also desired to focus on love as well.  The sermon was titled Limitless Love and focused on the love chapter found in First Corinthians chapter thirteen.  One of the aspects regarding this passage which is so often read at weddings is that fact the context of the chapter has nothing to do with marital bliss.  Rather, the dysfunctional church of Corinth had been fighting over spiritual gifts and the uses of them to such an extent that divisions were forming.  Paul had to write them in order to correct this erroneous poison that was plaguing them.  This thirteenth chapter starts off with Paul declaring love is more important than the gifts themselves.  The people of Corinth had gotten to the place of bragging over their gifts.  They were no longer using them for the edification of the Body, but were rather boasting in their own spiritual goodness.  In these three verses we see Paul mention six spiritual gifts and the first four are found in the previous chapter in verses 8-10.  Notice Paul uses the word nothing two times and also uses descriptive words like noisy gong and clanging cymbals.  We can have all six of these spiritual gifts, but if we do not have love, we are worthless.  Beloved, let us be mindful of this reality and not bring in spiritual dysfunctionality into our church walls.  Love others while you use your gifts for God’s glory.

1. What do you think your spiritual gift(s) is/are?
2. Do you always display that gift in love?

Prayer: Father, You are love, but if I am honest I focus more on my spiritual giftedness than I do on Your love being made manifest in me.  Grow me into a more loving disciple and may my use of Your spiritual gifts then be driven by love.  Amen.

The Scriptures are Divinely Inspired

Photo by Will Hastings
This blog ought to have been February 10, 2017

Scripture: 2 Peter 1:21
for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

Insights: The final truth we learn this week regarding the Bible is God wrote It.  In other words, the Scriptures are divinely inspired.  Notice in today’s verse the Holy Spirit moved men and inspired them to write the Words they penned.  Their human will had no part of providing us God’s directives and love.  In fact the first part of 2 Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is inspired by God.”  The Greek word translated by the New American Standard Bible as inspired is  theopneustos and literally means God-breathed.  God breathed the Words of life into the Scriptures as His Holy Spirit moved on the hearts of the humans God used to pen the Bible.  We do see the style and characteristic of each of the authors, but they are working in conjunction and under the inspiration of God.  The scope of this argument is too grand for a blog post of this nature.  I would, however, point you to read Josh McDowell’s Evidence Demands a Verdict as a fuller tool to help you work through the issues regarding the authenticity of the Scriptures.  There are numerous other books out there that could help set your mind and heart at ease regarding the inspired Word of God.  The first place I would go is the Bible itself.  Read It and examine the content first hand.  Verses like 2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:21 ought to help you recognize God’s involvement in writing these wonderful Words we call the Bible.

1. Do you believe God wrote the Bible?
2. If you do not, have you actually investigate the subject thoroughly?

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving me Your love letter, the Bible.  Thank Your for inspiring every word and telling us in very direct and clear ways how we may have a relationship with You.  You are wonderful and good, thank You.  Amen.

The Scriptures are Not Subjective

Photo by Dun.can
This blog ought to have been February 9, 2017

Scripture: 2 Peter 1:20
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,

Insights: We live in a world that often mishandles God’s Word.  Too many people approach the Bible in order to make it say whatever they want it to say.  This methodology is called eisegesis and it literally means to draw in.  We go to the Scriptures and we make them say what we want them to say to fit our desires.  Another way of saying the same thing is we look for a proof text to justify our position.  Beloved, this method is subjective to your whims and is not the way the Lord would have us approach the Bible.  Rather, we ought to approach the Scriptures using the methodology called exegesis which means to draw out.  In other words, we draw out of the Scriptures It’s intent and not put into It our intent.  The Scripture speaks and interprets itself and we then bend and mold our lives to come into compliance with It, and not us bending the Scriptures to make them comply with our desires.  The book of Hebrews tells us in the fourth chapter and the twelfth verse, “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow.  It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart.”  When we understand the authority of the Bible, we then are able to understand that we cannot subjectively manipulate the Biblical passages we read.  It does the penetrating and changing of us.  Let us let It work on our very soul and become subject to It’s authority which is given by the Lord God Himself.

1. Have you ever found yourself approaching the Scriptures with the intent to make them say what you want them to say?
2. Are you given comfort in knowing the Lord God has an intended message to communicate to you?

Prayer: Father, all too often I have tried to make the Scriptures say what I want them to say instead of letting You communicate to me through Your Word.  Forgive me of those times I approach Your Word in an inappropriate manner.  Grant me Your grace to interpret Your Word clearly.  Amen.

The Scriptures Illumine Our Path

Photo by Nathan Kolb
This blog ought to have been February 8, 2017

Scripture: 2 Peter 1:19b-c
to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

Insights: Not only are the Scriptures reliable, but we see in the later part of verse nineteen that they also illumine our path.  Psalm 119:105 states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Until Jesus returns, which is what this day dawning as referring to in this verse, we are guided by His Spirit and predominantly through the way the Spirit enlightens our heart with the Word of God.  You can name the subject and the Bible more than likely addresses.  It will not give you specifics, but it will give you guiding principles.  For example, the Bible will not tell you the name of the person you are to marry, but it will give you the character traits found in a good spouse.  The Bible will not tell you the stock to pick for your next investment, but it will give you guiding principles as to how to handle your money.  The Bible will not tell you your kids will turn out fine, but it will give you guiding principles on how to raise them up in the best way possible.  The problem for many “Believers” is they do not actually read the Bible and they are confused in this world.  They do not know what their next life step ought to be because God has not illumined their path with His Word.  As a result, they look for signs and circumstances to confirm what they believe is the right step instead of letting God’s Word be the standard.  Beloved, let me encourage you to read the Bible and let God illumine your path with His grace and wisdom.

1. Are you facing some decision in which you are uncertain as to what you ought to do?
2. Have you sought God’s guidance through His Word to make your decision?

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving me Your Word, the Bible.  I cherish my time in reading Your love letter to me.  I relish the wisdom You provide me in It’s pages.  My life is much clearer now to because of Your involvement through Your Word.  Amen.