Monday, April 30, 2012

Choose to Remember the Lord, Part 1

Scripture: Joshua 24:17-18
for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed.  "The LORD drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God."
Insights:  These Israelites in today’s verses began to recall various Ebenezer’s from their past regarding God’s activity in their lives.  Ebenezer’s are spiritual markers we can point back to and say, “I remember when . . . .”  There may have been a time you were financially desperate and God revealed Himself to you as Jehovah-Jirah, the Lord God our Provider.  Or there may have been a time you were experiencing great stress and God revealed Himself to you as Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord God our Peace.  It is good for us to remember these times and encounters with God.  As I state this truth about remembrance, it is also true we are not to remember for the sake of getting lost in the past.  In other words, we don’t remember those past experiences to cripple us from moving toward the future.  We use these Ebenezer’s as a way of giving us strength to tackle new missions into which the Lord is leading us.  For the next few days, I am going to take us on an Ebenezer journey regarding Jesus.  The first remembrance about Him is He is our Savior.  Titus 3:4-6 states, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (ESV).”  Notice in Paul’s words, JESUS saved us.  We did not save ourselves.  Our righteous acts did nothing for us.  Salvation was granted purely because of the mercy of Jesus.  It was out of His goodness and loving kindness that salvation was extended to us.  As a result Jesus is our Savior.  We go through this world so often and take this truth for granted.  O, Beloved, may we never take for granted the gift of eternal life found in Jesus alone.  May we always strive to express gratitude for His grace.  Remember Jesus!

  1. What are some of the Ebenezer’s in your life?
  2. Do they give you the comfort and strength necessary to press on to the task God has called you?                              
Prayer: Gracious Father, thank You for the many times You have displayed Your presence and power in my life.  Those encounters give me the confidence and assurance of Your involvement in my life regarding the future.  Thank You for Your love.  Amen.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Choose to Identify Yourself with the Lord

Scripture: Joshua 24:14c
and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

Insights:  Yesterday we looked at Luke 16:13.  In that verse Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.”  Today’s portion of Joshua 24:14 also plays off of this Luke 16:13.  In other words, yesterday we looked at it from a service perspective.  Today we look at it from an identification perspective.  Joshua is telling the people of Israel they have to decide with whom they are going to give their allegiance.  This choice is the basic choice all individuals have to make.  It is the receiving of the gift of salvation Jesus offers or the rejection of that very same gift.  Taking the concept of Luke 16 a little further it is the total surrender to one master and total rejection of another.  Joshua is drawing a line in the sand and telling Israel to cross the line and identify themselves with God or remain and identify themselves with other gods.  The offer still stands today: with whom will you identify yourself, God or this world?  God is offering you this free gift of eternal life.  A gift you do not deserve and cannot earn.  The reason for your inability to do anything about your eternity is because you are a sinner and you can’t save yourself.  But God IS love and therefore does not want to punish you.  At the same time, however, God is just and must punish sin.  He solves this apparent problem in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ.  He is the infinite God-man.  In other words, He is fully God and fully human at the same time.  Jesus came to this earth and lived among us.  He died on a cross for the payment of your sins.  He was buried, but on the third day He rose again.  And now, by faith, you can receive and identify yourself with this merciful God Joshua is telling you to choose.  Faith is not just head knowledge of facts about Jesus.  Faith is not temporary either.  In other words, you can’t let Jesus “fix” your present problem and then walk away from Him and think you really belong to Him.  Faith is an eternal heart change where you trust in Him alone for eternal life.  Beloved, choose with whom you are going to be identified.

  1. Have you received the free gift of eternal life found in Jesus Christ?
  2. If not, what is holding you back?                           
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for giving Your life as a ransom for mine.  As I choose You, may I have the boldness to share Your love with those who do not know You.  May they experience the same peace and joy You have given to me.  Amen.  

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Choose to Serve the Lord, Part 2

Scripture: Joshua 24:14b
serve Him in sincerity and truth;

Insights:  Notice with me the second part of this phrase found in Joshua 24:14b.  We are to serve with sincerity and truth.  One of the sad realities of being a human being is our ability to deceive others as well as ourselves.  Let me try and explain my point by looking at Luke 16:13.  In this verse Jesus said, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.”  Yet the church is full of people who are attempting to serve both God and [fill in the blank] __________, money, family, recreation, entertainment, etc.  The reality is because of our sinful nature with which we daily battle, the end result is we begin to despise our time we have to give to God.  We begin serving out of duty and not sincerity and truth.  Paul, also using a money illustration, stated in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”  Let’s maintain this money illustration for a moment longer.  Think of the money as your offering of service to the Lord.  When you perform this act of service is it done with a cheerful heart or under compulsion of obligation?  In King David’s famous Psalm of repentance he wrote, “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (51:16-17).”  The point David was making and I am attempting to echo is that an act of service, no matter how great and brilliant the world might deem it, is not accepted by the Father if it is not given in sincerity and truth.  The author of Hebrews calls service of this nature a dead work (6:1) and Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth stated that such work is as wood, hay and stubble and would be burned up (3:12-15).  My fear is that much that is offered in the local church is not done in sincerity and truth, but out of duty or obligation.  I believe these unaccepted acts of service are given because true, genuine relationship with the Living Lord is not truly present in many within the church walls.  Because of these weak relationships, the evangelistic mission of the church is suffering.  Beloved, be a joyful servant!

  1. Have you chosen to serve the Lord?
  2. Are you serving Him in sincerity or out of duty?                              
Prayer: Lord, orchestrate my day in such a manner that I am completely aware of the areas in which You desire me to serve.  Then give me the fortitude to obediently comply with Your wishes.  Amen.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Choose to Serve the Lord, Part 1

Scripture: Joshua 24:14a-b
Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth;

Insights:  Today’s portion of verse 14 of Joshua 24 is kind of like the stick and the carrot of motivation.  In other words, we are to serve God because of the love we have for Him.  After all, if we are Christ-followers, we have been saved from eternal damnation.  A portion of our service to the Father ought to be out of gratitude for His amazing grace.  At the same time, however, as we have been looking at, God is God and ought to be feared.  Hebrews 10:23-25 gives us a good New Testament picture of this concept.  It reads, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  Because so many do not really have a healthy fear of the Lord, they tend to waver in the hope with which the confessed Christ Jesus as Savior.  When this wavering begins, the first thing you see them doing is leaving the church.  In that kind of picture we do not see the proper fear of the Lord being displayed in those departing the Body.  At the same time, we see an admonishing to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.  The reason we perform such ministerial tasks is because we have grown in our love for Jesus and feel compelled to share His love to others.  In that display of love, hopefully, they are encouraged.  Let us choose to serve the Lord out of proper fear and perfect love.  One last thought regarding the Hebrews passage.  Notice it concludes with “all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  There ought to be urgency in our service and love to the Lord and others.  Let’s show that love today.

  1. Are you stimulating others to love and good deeds?
  2. Does your service convict you of being a disciple of Jesus?                              
Prayer: Father, help me to be a better disciple today.  A disciple that serves You and displays my love for You to other people.  Amen.  

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Choose to Fear the Lord, Part 2

Scripture: Joshua 24:14a
Now, therefore, fear the LORD

Insights:  This issue of NOT fearing the Lord is one of the greatest downfalls of the Church.  We live in a society of easy-believism and a carefree, live as you please attitudes.  Even within the church we live as if the answer to Paul’s question is, “Yes.”  Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman’s, “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be (6:1-2a)!”  The reason we live with such a cavalier attitude toward sin is because we really do not believe God, a God of love and mercy, is really going to punish us for our transgressions against Him.  We have completely missed the difference between forgiveness and consequences.  1 John 1:9 is absolutely true, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  So, it is true God is love and does not want to punish us for our sins (1 John 4:8b).  At the same time, however, Exodus 34:7b is also true, “Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.”  Let me give an example: An unwed couple decides to have sex before marriage even though they know God says this is wrong and sinful.  Along the way, the girl becomes pregnant.  They go to God and confess and repent of their sin and God does forgive them.  Does God’s forgiveness remove the pregnancy and all the consequences that come with their decision to have sex before marriage?  If we are a Believer, then Romans 8:28 gives us hope.  It states, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.”  In our illustration was it God’s will for the premarital sex?  No.  The couple has now confessed and repented and the process of sanctification begins.  God uses the consequences, the baby in this illustration, as a way of molding these two people into His image.  Considering this illustration often times happens to young people, does God’s working this out to their good mean there are only good, happy days in front of this couple?  Absolutely not, there will in fact be more difficult days before them than God would have desired.  The point today is that if we had a proper fear of God and the consequences that accompany our sins, we would be careful to avoid sin.  Beloved, let us live life with a proper fear of God.

  1. Do you live your life as if there are no consequences to your sin?
  2. Do you have proper fear of such consequences?                              
Prayer: Merciful Father, I thank You that You do forgive me of my transgressions.  Lord, in our easy-believism culture, however, I often forget there are consequences to my sin.  Help, me to understand the devastating consequences to my haphazard approach to You and sin.  Amen.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

Choose to Fear the Lord, Part 1

Scripture: Joshua 24:14a
Now, therefore, fear the LORD

Insights:  For some time now we have been on a journey regarding the subject of unity.  The lack of unity within a local church is the number one reason floodwaters of revival do not fall on that congregation.  I believe this statement is also true nationally as well.  If a church is not experiencing the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit, then they will also not be evangelistic either.  At the Alabama Baptist Evangelism Conference in February of this year they shared with us that only 5% of all Southern Baptist even attempt to share the gospel with lost people.  They further went on to tell us that in 2011 there were over 10,000 Southern Baptist churches that baptized zero converts.  It is my belief a lack of unity is the major problem.  In Jesus high priestly prayer found in John 17, Jesus asks the Father to make us one as He and the Father are one.  Having established the significance of unity and also having looked at a significant number of sins that cause disunity within the Body, we now move to the next step.  In other words, if we have truly repented of our sins which caused disunity, what does the Father require next for unity to take root within the DNA of a church?  Over the next several weeks, we are going to attempt to answer that question.  Even more specifically, over the next two weeks we are going to unpack Joshua 24:14-25, because the first step regarding unity, is CHOICE.  Do we choose to pursue unity or not?  This passage found in the book of Joshua really lays that question on the table.  In today’s passage Joshua tells us the first step regarding choice is to fear the Lord.  We are going to talk even more about this subject tomorrow, but the first thing I want you to understand about fearing the Lord is in reference to Proverbs 1:7 which states, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Solomon is pointing his son to the nature of God as Creator.  In other words, God is the One who placed ALL the stars in the heavens and named each one of them.  He holds the power of life and death within His hands.  He orchestrates events in human history for His glory and no others.  He IS God and you and I are NOT!  It would do us good to pause this day and reflectively think about God’s omnipotence and then give Him the proper fear and praise!

  1. Do you recognize God as the supreme sovereign of all creation?
  2. Do you have proper fear of such power and greatness?                              
Prayer: O Great Elohim, Creator of all things.  I am thankful You are God and I am not.  Help me to have the proper perspective of Your majesty and may I not just flippantly take for granted Your immense mercy and grace.  Amen.  

Friday, April 20, 2012

Unified in Service

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:10-11
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Insights:  One last time I remind you Peter has written these verses in the context of Jesus’ return, which is near.  Because He is coming back to redeem His Bride, we ought to be proactively serving to in order to point people to Him.  How do we know where or how we ought to be serving?  Today’s verses give us the answer.  We are to serve where and how the Spirit of the Lord God reveals.  In other words, the Spirit manifests Himself within a Believers life with skills.  We call those skills, gifts of the Spirit, or spiritual gifts.  The passage in 1 Corinthians will assist us a little more in understanding these gifts.  It states, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.  There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.  But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  The Gift IS the Holy Spirit and He manifests Himself within our lives with a variety of gifts.  I emphasis this point because people often ask whether they can lose their gift and the answer is, NO!  If they have truly encountered the Lord God and have been born again because of the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses them from all sin, then no, they cannot lose the Holy Spirit who came to live within them.  At the same time, however, because the Gift is the Spirit, He has the freedom to manifest Himself however He wishes within a Believers life and He may choose to change your spiritual gift mix.  The manifestation of the gift is not as important as the Gift itself, which is the Holy Spirit.  Let’s wrap up the thought for today.  Jesus is coming back soon and because He is, we are to serve.  We serve using our gift mix and we do so to point people to Jesus.  So, SERVE!

  1. Do you know what your spiritual gifts are?
  2. Are you intentional about using them for the greater glory of God?                              
Prayer: Jesus, thank You that You sent the Holy Spirit to live within me.  Thank You for the transforming work He does within my life.  Thank You that He manifests Himself within me with gifts to be used for Your glory.  May I use them with boldness and point people to You as a result of my activity.  Amen.  

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Unified in Hospitality

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:9
Be hospitable to one another without complaint.

Insights:  Today I remind you about the context of this verse.  Peter has just told us that Jesus is going to return any time now and as a result we need to be prepared.  There is intensity in Peter’s words because we do not know how long we have to share the gospel.  Because we don’t know, we ought to live very determined and directed lives for God’s glory.  This week’s passage has pointed us to two very specific characteristics so far that ought to be present in our lives because of Jesus imminent return.  Those were a unity of prayer and a unity of forgiveness.  Today we look at a third characteristic which ought to be present in our lives because Jesus is returning soon—hospitality.  There are many dynamics to hospitality.  The one most think about is actually inviting people to your home.  This aspect is what is being referred to with those who have the gift of hospitality. There is also an aspect in which it means our cordiality toward visitors in our worship services.  This facet is described by Paul and Peter when they told the early church to greet each other with a holy kiss.  Now, it is true, we are Americans.  The custom of greeting each other with a kiss on the cheek is not really present here like it is in other parts of the world.  We instead shake people’s hands or hug people’s necks.  The point is we need to be intentional about reaching out to visitors and especially visitors that may not know the Lord.  We might all say, “Well that is no big deal, we can all do that.”  Yet Peter knows the human heart very well as he concludes the sentence with, “without complaint.”  Believe it or not, but some people begrudgingly show hospitality toward others.  Wayne Grudem wrote about that Greek word translated here as complaint.  He stated, “Some translations use the word ungrudgingly and it literally means ‘without grumbling’ or ‘without murmuring’.  These terms are used to refer to repeated words of compliant, often spoken to others with the result of stirring up rebellion.  Such grumbling is ultimately a complaint against God and His ordering of circumstances, and its result is to drive out faith, thanksgiving, and joy.”  Do you see from Grudem’s words why Satan would desire for someone to fall into the realm of complaining in regards to this issue of hospitality?  Beloved, let us show hospitality toward others.

  1. Is your life characterized as one of a complainer?
  2. Are you intentional about greeting strangers and physically displaying the love of God?                              
Prayer: Lord, in this world of depravity it is so easy to fall into the complaint category.  Protect my mind from thoughts that drag me into this unproductive cycle of negativity.  Help my heart to be externally focused for Your glory and love on those who You have created.  Amen.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Unified in Forgiveness

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:8
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Insights:  Wayne Grudem wrote, “Where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offences, and even some large ones, are readily overlooked and forgotten.  But where love is lacking, every word is viewed with suspicion, every action is liable to misunderstanding, and conflicts abound—to Satan’s perverse delight.”  It is absolutely vital we understand Satan’s hatred for the Body of Christ.  He experiences, as Grudem wrote, a perverse delight in stirring up discord and dissension in the fellowship of Believers.  When he has successfully generated enough friction amongst the Beloved of the Lord, then everyday conversations become twisted.  We no longer believe the ingenuous words of our Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  We begin to believe they are harboring ulterior motives with the intent to harm us.  Oh how sad it is to see a church living in this kind of paranoid delusion.  It is sad because the church then becomes crippled and they will stop pursuing the mission for which they were called—evangelism.  Let me introduce another quote from Gregory Frizzell at this point.  He wrote, “One is never more like God than when kind and forgiving and never more like Satan than when critical and harsh.”  Just as we love God because He first loved us, so we forgive others because He first forgave us.  In other words, as we become more and more transformed into the image of Christ Jesus, the more and more we will behave like Jesus.  Even on the cross He said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  When we take that kind of approach to those who have caused us great offense, then we are displaying the love of Jesus toward that person.  It is for that reason Frizzell wrote, “One is never more like God than when kind and forgiving. . . .”  It’s for this reason that Grudem wrote, “Where love abounds in a fellowship of Christians, many small offences, and even some large ones, are readily overlooked and forgotten.”  Love is the key ingredient which allows forgiveness to prosper in a fellowship of Believers.  Beloved of the Lord, let us live like Jesus and forgive those who have offended us today.  Let us show the Lord’s love to all we encounter.  I remind you that the backdrop to this second characteristic needed for unity is Jesus imminent return.  In other words, because we do not know when Jesus’ return is going to be, we ought to forgive quickly.  Beloved, reconcile with your Brothers and Sisters for God’s glory!

  1. Are you allowing love to be the ruling factor of your life?
  2. Are you withholding forgiveness from someone?                              
Prayer: Lord, You first forgave me because of Your great love.  Work within my life and produce Your love in me.  Give me the ability to forgive others just as You forgave me.  Amen.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Unified in Prayer

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:7b
therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.

Insights:  Remember the backdrop of every characteristic we are going to look at the remainder of the week is Jesus’ imminent return.  Because Jesus is coming back we ought to be unified in prayer.  Peter gives us two areas in which prayer changes our lives.  To show these dynamics I am going to quote two different men.  One will give us the negative side, in other words, when our judgments and actions are our own; but then I will give the positive side, in other words, when our judgments and actions have been surrendered to Jesus’ Lordship through prayer.  Gregory Frizzell wrote, “In many churches, there is a small minority of members whose hypercritical, judgmental attitudes put everyone else on edge.”  We know these people.  We work with them, go to church with them, and go to little league games with them.  They are always finding fault somewhere.  When we turn to God in prayer, however, our judgments become like Jesus’.  Those judgments, like Wayne Grudem wrote are sound which means, “Having a sound mind, thinking about and evaluating situations maturely and correctly.”  As we pray about something or someone, Jesus transforms our thinking to be like His and our judgments are then sound and not hot tempered.  If our temper is short, then we are not sober of spirit.  In fact, we display to the world these characteristics Gregory Frizzell mentioned when he wrote, “No believer should ever excuse a short fuse or say ‘that’s just my personality.’  Yet the truth is, these people often tend to take a secret pride in the fact others treat them with kid gloves or are somewhat intimidated by their bluster.”  People with short tempers often are explosive in their reactions to situations and they act before they have time to think or pray.  Some of these people wear this character flaw as a badge of honor.  Wayne Grudem, however, gives us the proper understanding of sober spirit when he wrote, “Sober Spirit means not only physical drunkenness is forbidden but also the letting of the mind to wander into any other kind of mental intoxication or addiction which inhibits spiritual alertness, or any laziness of mind which lulls Christians into sin through carelessness.”  Here is how it all comes together: because Jesus’ return is near, we pray.  As we pray our judgments on circumstances of life changes and because they change we react differently.  Our judgments become sound and our spirit sober because of prayer.

  1. Do you look on the world with the eyes of Jesus?
  2. Do you display the fruit of the Spirit known as self-control?                              
Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I take on the role of judge and jury and lose control of my words and actions.  Transform me as I speak with You in prayer to have Your judgments and Your actions.  Be glorified in my life Lord.  Amen.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Jesus' Return is Imminent,so be . . .

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:7a
The end of all things is near;

Insights:  Thomas R. Schreiner wrote, “The imminence of the end should function as a stimulus to action in this world.  The knowledge that believers are sojourners and exiles, whose time is short, should galvanize them to make their lives count now.”  Notice some of the words Schreiner used to describe the impact of Jesus’ promise that “the end of all things is near.”  He used the word “stimulus” which means an “agent, action, or condition that elicits or accelerates a physiological or psychological activity, an incentive.”  So, what kind of action do you think Jesus had in mind for us to take as His disciples?  Before we answer that question let’s look at a couple of other words Schreiner used.  The next couple was “sojourners and exiles.”  So many Believers have forgotten this reality of our existence.  Earth, as it presently exists, is NOT our home.  Yet so many toil and spin acquiring possessions and wealth as if this earth were really all that mattered.  Yet the Bible, like Schreiner, calls our existence on earth as a sojourn.  In other words, we are just passing through this life until we get to our city and home.  The last word of Schreiner’s I want you to notice is “galvanize” which means “to arouse awareness or spur something on.”  In modern day linguistics we are probably more used to using the word to describe iron or steel which has been coated with rust-resistant zinc, but that was not the original meaning of the word.  So, let’s start putting this week’s picture together.  Jesus return is imminent and as a result it ought to elicit an activity from us because we are now aware that when He comes again He is taking us to our true home.  What is the action, then, for which we are being galvanized to take?  The remainder of the week will address four of those actions found in this passage of Scripture we are unpacking.  Everything we will look at in specific, however, has one final objective.  In other words, we are going to look at parts of a whole.  The whole or final objective for which we are being stimulated and galvanized into action is evangelism.  Our time on earth is short because Jesus’ return is NEAR.  Any opportunity we might have to tell a loved one about Jesus’ gift of grace ends when He comes and takes us home.  Because we are not promised a tomorrow, we need to take every advantage of today.  Beloved, share Jesus!

  1. Have you truly grasped the reality that Jesus could return at any moment?
  2. Does this truth affect the way you live your life?                              
Prayer: O Jesus, my wonderful Savior, I am so grateful You are coming back just as You promised.  May this fact impact the way I approach each day and may I live in such a fashion that You are brought glory.   Amen.  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Gone with the Wind is a Coldness in Worship

Scripture: Acts 2:13
But others were mocking and saying, "They are full of sweet wine."

Insights:  In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus said, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  I mention these verses because not everyone in the crowd on Pentecost day received eternal life.  Some actually mocked and accused the disciples of being drunk by 9 a.m.  Verse fourteen begins Peter’s sermon and in that sermon Peter basically said (in Scott’s vernacular), “Yes, we are drunk, but not on wine, but the Holy Spirit.”  Phil Hoskins said this idea this way, “The disciples drank from the spout where the glory comes out.”  Here is the point: if a church is going to duplicate Pentecostal power, they must also duplicate Pentecostal worship.  Ritualistic and lifeless churches have become the number one enemy to evangelism and church growth.  Again to quote Hoskins, “There are two kinds of churches: the frozen chosen and the happy clappies.”  People argue that if we get too excited we might lose control of the worship service and it will get out of hand.  The problem with logic of this kind is that it presupposes services were supposed to be within our hands to begin.  Our worship services were/are/and ought to be in the hands of the Holy Spirit and He ought to have the right to interrupt our services whenever and however He wishes.  Another concern people raise about “happy clappy” churches is that they are nothing more than a pep rally for Jesus.  It is my opinion that it is better to attend a pep rally for Jesus with the “happy clappies” than it is to attend a funeral for Jesus with the “frozen chosen.”  I am not advocating emotionalism just for the sake of emotionalism.  What I am trying to communicate is the idea that we have encountered the grace of Jesus and we have never gotten over it.  Our lives ought to display an exuberant joy as a result of being saved from hell.  We ought to say, “AMEN” when the Spirit resonates a truth within our hearts during a worship service.  We are a people who get excited about a lot of things – just watch college football some Saturday afternoon.  We display our passions externally about everything but Jesus.  Beloved, this statement ought not to be true of us.  Under the control of the Spirit, let us display our love for Jesus!

  1. Are you living fully under the control of the Holy Spirit?
  2. Do you hold back anything in worship?                              
Prayer: Magnificent Lord, You alone are worthy of praise and adoration.  I lift up my voice and exalt You as the Holy One.  You are righteous and just.  May my worship to You be pleasing in Your sight.   Amen.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gone with the Wind is a Confusion in the Word

Scripture: Acts 2:5-8
Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven.   And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language.   They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?   “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?”

Insights:  Today’s verses show us the confusion found in the crowd of witnesses who heard the Holy Spirit come upon the disciples.  Notice some of the key words describing their mental and emotional state, “bewildered, amazed and astonished.”  Notice their questions, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans?” “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born?”  These people have no idea what the Spirit of God is doing because they are lost at this point in the history.  John 16:13 states, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”  The Holy Spirit guides us into all the truth.  Another passage which helps us to understand this reality is 1 Corinthians 2:12-14, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.  But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”  A lost person can read the Bible and appreciate the beauty of its prose or the flow of its story, but it will be on the same level with which they read Shakespeare.  The message behind the Word is spiritually appraised or as other translations state, spiritually discerned.  In other words, only a true believer who is under the control of the Holy Spirit is going to understand the spiritual truth found in the Bible.  Because the Spirit is guiding us to truth and because He is opening up our spiritual eyes to understand what we are reading, the confusion so many talk about regarding the Bible is gone.

  1. Are you living fully under the control of the Holy Spirit?
  2. Do you understand the Scriptures when you read them?                              
Prayer: Father, thank You so much for sending the Helper, Your Holy Spirit.  Because of You I am able to understand what the Scriptures mean and can apply the biblical truths to my life.  Increase my hunger for Your Word and continue to open my eyes to its meaning.   Amen.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Gone with the Wind is a Cowardess in Witnessing

Scripture: Acts 2:4
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Insights:  In February at the Alabama Evangelistic Conference we were told that of all Southern Baptist, a group of over 16 million, that only 5% of them ever share the gospel with a lost person.  It is for this reason that over 10,000 Southern Baptist Churches last year baptized zero converts.  These deplorable statistics are not because we are not trained or do not have enough Bible knowledge under our belts to share Jesus.  The reason is because we are not in an abiding relationship with the Lord God; and therefore, we are not fully under the control of the Holy Spirit.  According to today’s verse, when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit they gave utterance as He directed them.  Think about Peter for just a moment.  Before the crucifixion we find him denying Jesus three times because he was living the “Christian” life out in his own power and strength.  After Pentecost, however, Peter is the one standing before 3,000 plus people and proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to them boldly.  Adrian Rogers once said, “Most Baptist have been to Calvary for pardon, but they have not been to Pentecost for power.”  Dr. John Owens stated, “The sin of the Old Testament was the rejection of God the Father.  The sin of the New Testament was the rejection of God the Son.  The sin of this present age is the rejection of God the Holy Spirit.”  I believe because we have rejected the Holy Spirit, we lack power in our proclamation of the gospel.  Beloved, we need to repent of this most grievous of sins and pray for God to fill us with His Spirit as we abide in Him.  This truth is literally the only hope we have as believers for the advancement of the gospel.  Phil Hoskins said, “One evidence that one is filled with the Holy Spirit is the compulsion from within to lead others to Christ (italics mine).”  Do you have that kind of compulsion to share Jesus with lost people?  If you do not, you may need to go to the Father and ask Him why your life is not characterized as a Spirit filled life.  Pray for the lost, Beloved, and share your faith with them!

  1. Are you living fully under the control of the Holy Spirit?
  2. Are you sharing the gospel with lost souls?                              
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I pray you give me a passion and a heart beat for the lost.  Open my spiritual eyes to recognize opportunities You place in my life to share Your love.  Lord, make me bold for You.   Amen.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Gone with the Wind is a Contention in the Walk

Scripture: Acts 2:1
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.

Insights:  Since October we at Little River Baptist Church have spent three months looking and different causes for disunity within the Body of Christ found in Scripture.  Unity is a major theme on which Jesus preached as well as the other New Testament writers.  It is safe to say, in the midst of all the evidence found in the New Testament; today’s verses give the complete answer to the unity problem.  Before we give the answer, let’s look at a specific example in terms of personality.  Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter and his fellow disciples argued over which of them was going to be the greatest in Jesus’ kingdom.  It does not take a great deal of holy imagination to realize they each had strong evidence to defend their case.  You will recall, however, when Jesus spoke to them about servant leadership, they were silenced in regards to their argument.  The ability to be a servant leader is also found in the answer from today’s verses.  Here is the answer: they were filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and in this verse it states they were with one accord.  In other words, they were unified.  In fact, in a few verses Peter is going to preach the first sermon of the church and there is no fight as to who will deliver this historic message.  They are completely unified and select Peter to be their primary spokesman that day.  Let me state this truth another way: you can’t fight and fish at the same time.  If we are fighting, we are in disunity.  If we are I disunity, then we are not going to submit to the Holy Spirit’s promptings.  If we will not submit to the Holy Spirit, then we are not going to share our faith.  If we are not sharing our faith, then we are not fishing.  If we are not fishing, then we are in essence condemning the lost to hell.  Paul wrote, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news (Rom. 10:14-15)!”  When we are completely under the control of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit, we will be unified and we will preach!

  1. Are you living fully under the control of the Holy Spirit?
  2. Are you striving for unity with your brothers and sisters?                              
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You gave Your very life so I might live.  Forgive me when I and my fellow siblings fuss and feud over trivialities and none kingdom issues.  Unify our hearts and bring about peace in Your Body.   Amen.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Gone with the Wind

Disclaimer: The premise for the thoughts this week we originally heard at the Alabama Evangelism Conference during a sermon delivered by Phil Hoskins.

Scripture: Acts 2:23-24
this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.  But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power.

Insights:  Yesterday we celebrated Easter!  Today’s verses give a quick synopsis of this historical moment between Eternity and humanity.  This singular act of love changed everything on earth and throughout all time.  If we have truly encountered Jesus Christ, the One who rose Easter morning, then we know the indescribable joy and peace we have experienced.  Let me attempt to explain briefly what has happened in our lives if we have received the free gift of salvation found in Christ Jesus.  God is a Triune community in and of Himself.  In other words, God is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.  He is One, but manifests His essence in three unique characters.  It is, however, important to understand that God is not three gods.  He is One God!  So, God the Father commissioned His Son, God the Son, to come to earth to pay the price we could not pay for our salvation and He died on the cross of Calvary.  He rose again on Easter morning and then walked among His disciples for an additional forty days.  In Acts 1 Jesus is getting ready to commission His disciples and He tells them to "Wait for what the Father had promised.”  Jesus is referring back to John 14:16 which states, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.”  The other Helper is the Holy Spirit.  Jesus has just told His disciples to go and wait for the Holy Spirit to come fully upon them.  In other words, do not go and witness or preach or plant churches in your own power.  Rather, wait on the Holy Spirit and let His power change everything.  The reason the Holy Spirit changes everything is because when we receive the gift of salvation found only in Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in us.  We feel His presence.  We recognize His voice.  We experience His comfort, peace and joy.  We are empowered from on high.  The rest of this week is going to be a look at four things that happen in our lives as a result of the Holy Spirit manifesting Himself in our lives.  Beloved, let’s live surrendered to His will.

  1. Have you received the gift of salvation offered by Christ Jesus?
  2. Are you living fully under the control of the Holy Spirit?                              
Prayer: Father, thank You for enduing me with the Holy Spirit.  Make my life evidential of such a change.  May I never take for granted the cost You paid for me to have such a life in You.  Amen.  

Friday, April 6, 2012

THE Passover

Scripture: John 19:28-37
After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty."  A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.  Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.  Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.  So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him;  but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.  But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.  And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.  For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, "NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN."  And again another Scripture says, "THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED."

Insights:  Happy Good Friday!  Today is the day we remember and celebrate THE Passover of Jesus’ death on the cross of Calvary.  If He had not come and sacrificed His life for us, we would still be lost and destined to a sinner’s hell.  Hallelujah!!! He took our shame, guilt and sin.  He absorbed the wrath of God and made a way for us to enter into a relationship with the God of creation.  If you have tasted the sweet fruit of eternal life, then your heart ought to rejoice today in this marvelous redemption you now experience.  If you have never encountered the Lord Jesus Christ, then I urge you to cry out to Him and ask Him to save you from your sins.  Jesus offers you the free gift of eternal life, but because of your sin, you are not able to earn it.  Yet God loves you and does not want to punish YOU, but because He is a good judge, He must punish SIN.  He solved this apparent problem in His Son Jesus on Good Friday and Jesus took your punishment.  He now stands at your heart door knocking asking to come in and all you have to do is receive Him by faith and you will be saved!  Praise the Lord!

  1. Have you received the gift of salvation offered by Christ Jesus?
  2. If not, why not?                              
Prayer: Father, thank You for Good Friday.  Thank You Jesus gave His life for my sins.  Lord, help me to think of this grace gift throughout the day today.  Amen.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Perfection of Divinity

Scripture: John 19:34-37
But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.  And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you also may believe.  For these things came to pass to fulfill the Scripture, "NOT A BONE OF HIM SHALL BE BROKEN."  And again another Scripture says, "THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED."

Insights:  Five hundred years before Jesus birth Zechariah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote the prophet words about Jesus’ bones.  There were over three hundred prophecies concerning the Christ in the Old Testament and today’s verses share two of them.  I mention this number because for Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God, He had to fulfill every one of the prophecies.  If only one prophecy did not come to pass, then Jesus would not have been the Christ.  To the praise and glory of God, however, Jesus did fulfill every prophetic word about Himself.  In other words, God’s plan was perfect.  His plan had no flaws.  Paul wrote in Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”  The fullness of time indicates God’s perfect plan had finally culminated in human history and now was the time to send His Son to redeem a world to Himself.  Isaiah 55:8-9 remind us, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.’ [This is] the Lord’s declaration. ‘For as heaven is higher than earth, so My ways are higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”  If we were to plan the way to redeem humanity, we would not have chosen the death of our child.  God’s knowledge, however, exceeds ours so much that we cannot fathom His depths and His understandings.  We trust God’s perfect plan for our salvation, but how do we do in our daily lives?  Do we accept God’s sovereign perfect plan for those times in our lives that are unexpected and shack us to the core?  God perfectly orchestrated the events of human history to bring us His Son in complete fulfillment of His prophetic words.  I believe we can trust Him to have the best plan for our lives even when it does not seem to make sense.  Beloved, trust God and live at peace in the midst of uncertainty.

  1. Do you ever question God’s plan in an arrogant or haughty manner?
  2. Do you ever express gratitude to God for having a perfect plan?                              
Prayer: Father, thank You that You do have a plan.  Thank You that Your plan is perfect and without a doubt for my best.  In my confusion, help me to trust You and rest in Your grace.  Amen.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Precipitate of Humanity

Scripture: John 19:31-33
Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.  So the soldiers came, and broke the legs of the first man and of the other who was crucified with Him; but coming to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs.

Insights:  I was on the phone yesterday with a company and while speaking with them they would email me different documents along the way.  I would have to wait thirty seconds or so for their email to leave their server travel across cyber space and get to my server in order for me to download their email.  We joked on the phone about how silly it is for us to complain about those thirty seconds and how we want it to be even faster.  We are truly the microwave generation.  We want it (whatever IT is) now and we want it our way!  What I find interesting is that society has not really changed that much in all of human history.  In today’s verses the Jews wanted the bodies taken off of the cross before the sun went down and the Sabbath day began.  A man could survive on a cross for a couple of days, but if his legs were broken then he would not be able to push himself up for breath and he would die sooner.  These very “religious” people did not want their sensibilities to be interfered with on this high holy day asked for the legs to be broken.  We are no different.  We are so busy with all of our activities that when we finally do get to “worship” we want it over with in an hour, anything more and the preacher just went too long.  We want God to fit in our life box instead of what God demands which is our obedience to Him.  We treat God like a Jeanie in the bottle and call on Him only when we need something, but if life is cruising along fine, we just put that bottle on the shelf.  This attitude is truly a sad commentary on “Christian” society.  Obviously, there are exceptions to this accusation, but they are just that, exceptions.  Beloved, let me encourage you to evaluate your life and activities.  Start eliminating all of the “stuff” of this world and begin filling your life with Christ.  Slow down and experience Him!  Why not start this Easter Sunday?

  1. How many different activities do you have going on in your life?
  2. Are all of these activities preventing you from spending time with God?                              
Prayer: Father, forgive me for being so busy.  Help me to slow down and spend time with You daily and experience Your grace in a fuller manner.  Amen.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A God of Divinity

Scripture: John 19:30
Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished!" And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

Insights:  A lot to do has been made about the Greek phrase tetelestai and I don’t plan on doing that today.  Rather, I want to focus on the One who actually said the phrase which we translate as “It is finished!”  Yesterday we looked at the humanity of Jesus in regards to Him being the infinite God-man.  Today we look at the other portion of Jesus nature, His divinity.  In other words, only God could have announced “It is finished!”  In saying this phrase He is declaring the suffering of the cross, the bearing of sin and the wrath of God is complete.  Nothing more is required and now He can completely lay His life down.  Only God can determine when a life is to end and no one can take a life of another before God deems it is time.  Think about how many failed suicides occur.  Think about how many people are wounded in battle with what ought to be fatal blows and yet they survive.  Think about how many times doctors say this person should be dead and we can’t explain it.  The answer—GOD!  Only God has the right in His sovereign nature to determine when life ends.  It is therefore significant that Jesus after saying tetelestai bowed His head and gave up His spirit.  He IS God!  He IS sovereign!  He IS the infinite God-man!  And HE is worthy of praise!  Pastor Ed Litton of First Baptist North Mobile lost his wife in a car accident.  After the event he was teaching some seminary students and he was asked if God’s sovereignty helped him or hurt him.  Litton’s response to the student was, “Yes.”  He went on to say it comforted him to know God loved his wife and that she was with Him in eternity because she had received the gift of salvation which comes through Jesus Christ.  At the same time it hurt him because God allowed his wife to be taken before he was ready for her to go.  It is at times very difficult to handle the events of this world, but the beauty of God’s grace and sovereignty is WE don’t have to handle it.  We just have to trust by faith that GOD is completely in control.  Today’s verses help us to understand this truth a little better because Jesus, the infinite God-man, decided in His sovereignty when to give up His life.  Take comfort in God’s plan for you.  Trust Him and give Him praise.

  1. In what ways has God shown you His sovereignty?
  2. Does God’s sovereignty give you comfort?                              
Prayer: Father I am so grateful You are in control and not me.  Your plan is perfect and mine is selfish.  Thank You for giving Jesus at the perfect time in history as ordered by Your plan.  Amen.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

A God of Humanity

Scripture: John 19:28-29
 After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty."  A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth.

Insights:  In our journey through the week of Passion, we finally come to the cross.  This coming weekend we celebrate the entire Easter event which is the sine qua non of our faith.  In other words, without Easter, we have no faith.  It is the most central ingredient to our relationship with God.  In today’s verses we see the humanity of Jesus fully exposed.  He is the infinite God-man and His thirst announces the depth of His human nature.  I encourage you to read Psalm 22 to get a fuller and more vivid picture of Jesus’ humanity.  I would, at this time, like to take a different tangent from this thought of Jesus’ thirst.  I would like to think about thirst as being identified with our desires.  In other words, we could say Jesus desired something to drink.  All of us have thirsts/desires in our lives.  Some of these thirsts are productive and helpful.  They bring about a richness of life and more fulfillment than could ever be imagined.  Other thirsts, however, are destructive and hurtful.  They bring about a poverty of life and more discontentment than could ever be conceived.  These positive thirsts compel us toward God and His beauty.  These negative thirsts drive us toward evil and its horror.  In the above verses, Jesus’ thirst was pronounced so He could receive a sponge of sour wine.  After having his parched mouth moistened He was able to speak loudly the wonderful words, “It is finished.”  Jesus’ thirsts were to bring His Father glory.  He desired nothing more than to point humanity to God and His immense love.  Do we, as Christ-followers, display the same kind of passion for God and His glory?  I challenge you this week in which we celebrate the Passion of the Christ to reflect on your life.  Take a few moments to investigate your passions.  What do your thirsts say about your life?  Do they need to change?  Beloved, let us thirst after God this week and fix our eyes on Jesus and remember His work on Calvary.  To God be the glory!

  1. What are you passions for which you thirst?
  2. Do your thirsts take you to the cross or away from it?                              
Prayer: Sweet Jesus, my Savior, I am so grateful You were fully human as well as fully divine.  Your humanity gives You identification with me and helps me relate better with You.  Transform my thirsts, Lord, to long for You.   Amen.