April 8, 2013
“And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1Timothy 6:8)
The Apostle Paul makes several observations about contentment as he writes to his son in the faith Timothy. He tells this young pastor that some believe godliness should lead to gain. We still have people in the church who believe that way. Those who preach what is known as the prosperity theology proclaim that if you are godly you should also be healthy and wealthy. Paul considers that a heresy and proclaims that godliness with contentment is great gain.
Paul also writes that some believe great gain will lead to great contentment. He warns that those who will to be rich can fall into temptations and harmful lusts that can lead to their spiritual destruction. He then observes that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Observe that he does not write that money itself is that root of evil.
It is not sinful or wrong to be wealthy. Believers can experience the blessing of God on them in the form of great wealth because they are faithful stewards and God can trust them with money. But Timothy is to flee a love of money and a will to be rich in pursuit of contentment and pursue the godliness that will bring contentment here and blessing hereafter.
What did it take to bring contentment to Paul? Paul drew the line at food and clothing. He did not even include shelter. (Perhaps that was because he spent so much time in prison.)
What does it take to bring you contentment? Are your ambitions and expectations Biblical expectations and ambitions?
We could paraphrase what Paul wrote here and in what may be his prescription for contentment: “He who lives content with little possesses everything!”
April 2, 2013
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
This past weekend many heard the Good News that Jesus died and rose again for our sins that we might live forever in resurrection power with Him. Have you ever heard of the Gospel in reverse? The verse I quoted above sounds like a funeral dirge because it begins with Paul’s announcement that he is crucified with Christ.
But, actually in this verse Paul exclaims three times that he lives! He lives by faith in the Son of God. He lives because Christ lives in him, and he lives because he is crucified with Christ. To summarize and paraphrase, in this verse Paul is declaring the Good News that Christ died so he might live and now it’s his turn. Paul must die so Christ might live His life through Paul.
When our holidays roll around we hear that it should be Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter every day of the year. If you want to have a perpetual Easter, realize that what was true of the Apostle Paul can be true for you and me.
Jesus consistently challenged His followers to take up their cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9: 23). In addition to the literal meaning this could have had in that culture, by application to take up your cross daily means to “crucify” all the personal hopes, ambitions and plans you had for your life asking Him to have His will for your life.
Christ died that you might live. Now it’s your turn.
February 5, 2013
“If the whole body were an eye where would the sense of hearing be?” (1Corinthians 12:17)
The story is told of a doctor who came out of the delivery room and told an expectant father, “I have some grave news for you my son. Your wife has given birth to a 7-pound eyeball. And that’s not all. It’s blind!” If you came home one night in the dark and found a 185 pound eyeball in the corner of your front porch, would that give you a rush of anxiety?
In this verse from the writings of the Apostle Paul he is using an illustration as grotesque as the illustrations I have just used. He does this in his inspired letter to the Corinthians because he wants to make a point: his point is the beauty of diversity.
One of the fingerprints of the Church of Jesus Christ is that in the Church we celebrate diversity. Diversity in the body of Christ is to be celebrated rather than resolved. If two of us are exactly alike one of us is unnecessary. Some of the members of the First Church of Corinth were telling others they were not authentically spiritual unless they had the same spiritual gifts that they had.
The remedy of Paul for that kind of thinking was the hideous metaphor of a body being just one member and not a body with the beauty of many diverse parts. Other members of the body of Christ have what you do not have and you have what they do not have. That means you need them and they need you.
The body of Christ is a team sport. Are you willing to be a team player?
Step up and play your part.
March 10, 2012
“… who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)
The Apostle Paul has just experienced life threatening persecution when he was stoned in Lystra. As he describes that experience for the Church in Corinth he gives them (and us) a perspective on suffering. He writes that there is a kind of suffering that drives us to God and there is a quality of comfort that can only be found in God when the level of our suffering drives us to Him.
According to Paul, an evangelist is “one beggar telling another beggar where the bread is.” A hurting heart that has discovered the comfort that can only be found in God is “one hurting heart telling another hurting heart where the Comfort is.”
As a pastor when I met grief stricken parents who had lost a child, since I had never suffered that loss I sent a couple to comfort them who had lost a child and found the comfort of God to help them. Any time your heart is hurting because God has permitted you to suffer, realize that you are being given a credential by God. As you find the comfort that is to be found in God you are now qualified to point any person with that same problem to the comfort you discovered when you had that hurt in your heart.
Although you will not answer all of the “why” questions until you know as you are known, are you willing to let this perspective bring some meaning and purpose to your suffering?
Or would you rather choose to waste your sorrows?
February 24, 2012
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ… The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.” (Romans 1:7; 16:24)
The great Apostle Paul begins his letter to the believers in Rome with a marvelous greeting: “Grace to you.” He then closes his letter with the prayer that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with them.
Paul dictated all his letters but one to a stenographer. At the close of each of his letters he took the writing instrument from the scribe and in his own hand wrote these words: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Paul greets and leaves believers with a wish and a prayer for grace. This is because grace is the dynamic of God that saves us. We can define grace if we turn this five letter word into an acrostic and use each letter of the word to spell out:
“God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.”
But grace is not only the way God saves us. The grace of God is the dynamic we desperately need to live for Christ.
In the second verse of the fifth chapter of this same letter Paul writes that God has given us access, by faith, into the grace that makes it possible for us to stand for Christ and live a life that glorifies God.
Paul begins this letter and closes all his letters the way he does because he knows it is absolutely critical that we access the grace God has made available to us if we are to live our life for Him in this world.
Since grace is always our greatest need, consider meeting and leaving your fellow believers with a wish and a prayer for grace.
February 10, 2012
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)
The mercy of God withholds from us what we deserve and the grace of God bestows on us all kinds of wonderful blessings we do not deserve. Grace is also the dynamic we must receive from God to do what He calls and leads us to do. This is the most superlative verse about grace in the Bible.
It tells us that God is able to make all grace, not just some grace, abound toward us and not just trickle in our direction. Then we may have all sufficiency, not just some sufficiency in all things, not just some things. We are then equipped to abound, not just do our duty, as we do every good work He leads us to do, and not just the works we like to do, ALWAYS!
Twice in this verse Paul emphasizes the reality that this grace is for you – not just for the pastor or the missionary – but you! Is this grace a reality in your journey of faith?
I once heard Dr. A. W. Tozer preach on this verse. After he read the verse there was an eloquent pause and then he said, “Sometimes you cannot help but allow the thought that God oversold the product in the New Testament!” He then preached a powerful message challenging us to believe that God has not oversold His grace but we need to learn how to access His grace.
The hymn writer wrote, “The favor He shows and the joy He bestows are for those who will trust and obey…”
That is a good place to start.
February 7, 2012
“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (1Corinthians 4:7 NLT)
We would all do well to think about and then answer this intriguing question presented by the Apostle Paul. Can you think of anything you have that you did not receive from God? Can you think of all the wonderful things you have received from God? According to the Bible our salvation is a gift from God. The faith it takes to receive salvation is also a gift from God. As Paul has implied, if we will do a gift inventory we will find that God has given us many kinds of gifts.
Our DNA proves that God has given us a physical body that is unique and makes us different from every other person living on the planet. Physically, there is not now, there never has been, and there never will be any one exactly like you. God has given us intellectual gifts that equip us to live smarter, not harder.
When we receive the gift of faith that saves us God also gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit. When we receive the Holy Spirit He adds a cluster of spiritual gifts that enable us to minister in many ways. He can bring gifts of mercy which enable us to love those who are hurting with great compassion. He can give us the gift of knowledge, wisdom and teaching that make it possible for us to teach the Word of God. He can equip us to lead others to Christ.
Make a gift inventory and thank God for all the gifts He has given you!
January 31, 2012
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…?” (1Corinthians 6:19)
All over this world there have been, there are now, and there always will be temples in which people worship their god. The Old Testament believers had the Tent of Worship which was followed by the Temple of Solomon where they worshiped the true and living God. However, in the New Testament there is a concept that was revolutionary and is not fully understood or appreciated by the people of God today: that the body of a believer is the Temple of God.
When we understand the Gospel of the New Testament we realize two vital truths: there is something to believe and Someone to receive. We are informed that the risen, living Christ is patiently standing at the door of our life and He is knocking on that door. We’re promised that if we will hear His voice and open that door He will come into our life and have a relationship with us (Revelation 3: 19-20). The Apostle Paul is telling us that when we experience that miracle our body becomes the Temple of God.
This presents a great challenge to all believers who have received the living Christ into their life in the form of the Holy Spirit. Wherever we go we take that temple with us. We might say that we are “A Temple on Wheels.” Everywhere we go and every time we find ourselves associating with people the beautiful reality that we are the Temple of God should bring a divine presence to all those relationships.
How should the reality that we are a Temple of God impact all our relationships?
January 27, 2012
“For if I make you sorrowful then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?” (2Corinthians 2: 2)
In this verse the Apostle Paul is telling us that relationships are a two-way street. Whatever we send down that street comes back up that street. Paul could have learned this from Jesus when he spent three years with Him in the desert of Arabia (Galatians 1: 15-20).
Jesus taught this same truth when He used a marketplace metaphor. In the marketplace if another vendor bought produce from you and you suspected his bushel measurement was inaccurate, you could ask him to go get his bushel measurement when you sold to him. In this way Jesus was teaching that whatever measure we use in giving to people they will use that same standard in giving back to us (Matthew 7 1-5).
By application, Paul and Jesus were teaching that in our marriage and family if we make people unhappy we will find ourselves living with unhappy people who were made unhappy by us. I knew a wise pastor who did a lot of marriage counseling. He wrote a little poem that had this line in it: “You can’t control the weather or rainy days but you can control the emotional climate that surrounds you.”
If you can surround yourself with unhappy people because you make them unhappy consider how much better it would be if you made those same people happy. Another wise pastor said that with Jesus the main things are the plain things and the plain things are the main things.
The bottom line is do we want to be surrounded by happy or unhappy people? What are we sending down the two-way street of our relationships?
November 29, 2011
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you rest in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4: 6, 7 NLT)
In these two verses the Apostle Paul is challenging us with two options: when we are facing challenging problems we can worry about them, or we can turn our challenging problems into prayer requests. The reason Paul writes that we are not to worry is because worry is counterproductive. He therefore prescribes that if we are overwhelmed with problems, we should let our mountain of problems turn us into prayer warriors.
So here we have two options. We can be worriers, or we can be warriors. Prayer changes things! Worry, on the other hand does not change anything except for the severe negative consequences it can have on our body, soul and spirit. When we consider the devastating effects of worry and the miraculous results of answered prayer, that no brainer should resolve our two options into one.
When we realize we are anxious or uptight and we know it is because we are choosing to be a worrier, we should ask God to convert us into a prayer warrior. We should hold our problems up before the Lord and trade our futile worries for powerful prayers. He may deliver us from those problems or give us the grace to cope with them. But, in either case, He will give us peace.
Paul writes that God will stand guard like a soldier over our hearts and minds and give us supernatural peace as they rest in what Christ will do.