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Showing posts from November, 2011

Less Really is More

Reading: 2 Corinthians 5-9
I was researching some material yesterday for an upcoming series of studies I am preparing. During that research I came across some astonishing facts about money. J. John writes in Ten Laws of Love Set in Stone that: “At the beginning of the year 2000 the three richest people in the world together had more wealth than the poorest forty-seven countries put together. A total of 342 people had more money than half the world’s population put together. We might not be in that 342, but we are rich by the standards of most of the world” (page 37).
One of the commercials that really annoys me is that of a well-known actor and political activist who comments on how much money is devoted to bailouts and other things by rolling out lines of money with his foot. Then he puts down one single bill on the floor to demonstrate how much money goes to feed the hungry. He’s probably right, but my reaction to him is: “And where do your millions go except to travel around the worl…

Eternal Perspectives

Reading: 2 Corinthians 1-4
When Paul writes his second letter to the Corinthians, the resurrection theme we saw in the first letter appears again. The apostle gently reminds his readers that someday they, like him, will be presented before God. Those who accept the message of reconciliation because of their labor of love will bring great glory to God on that day… “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For the light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes no on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV).
Paul has described some of what he has gone through as a messenger of the Gospel (4:8-11). He had been beaten, left for dead, shipwrecked, persecuted, imprisoned, misrepresented, hungry, cold, and frustrated by a physical limitation that held him back. Charact…

Resurrection: God's Silver Star

Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:58
It seems like a cruel joke.
How many times have you heard someone quote 1 Corinthians 15:58? The New International Version states it this way: “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
More often than not it is the last statement that we hear the most frequently. We take comfort in it and claim it as a promise for success in ministry. Eventually, we believe, we will see souls saved, believers growing in their faith, the church impacting the community and the world, if we just “keep on keeping on.”
Small problem. Success in ministry is not what Paul is talking about. That wonderful little word “therefore” is the clue.
Apparently there was some discussion in the Corinthian church about whether or not resurrection after death was really true. All of chapter 15 gives us Paul’s argument on the subject. Some were insisting that si…

The Law of Love and Liberty

Reading: 1 Corinthians 7, 8
The Corinthian church enjoyed its freedom in Christ—to excess. That sounds like an oxymoron. How can freedom not be, well, free? As in no restrictions, no limits, no rules.
So it must have been a rude awakening for the Corinthians to receive Paul’s letter through which he reminded them that the Law of Love needs to be applied to every liberty in life.
Be careful, however that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak” (I Corinthians 8:9, NIV).
The specific issue here was eating meat that had been offered to idols and then resold to the general public (since idols are on no salt, no fat, no protein, no nothing diets). Paul makes a point of saying that there is absolutely nothing wrong with the meat since an idol is nothing. So for the believer who is secure in his beliefs, a hunk of meat is simply a hunk of meat—neither good nor bad in itself.
The lesson was that those who had no problem eating what the idols couldn’t, and were p…

One Hundred and Twenty-one, One Hundred and Twenty....

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Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends. And to all the rest of you, there is every reason to still be thankful even if there isn't a turkey or a ham filling the house with savory smells, or pies waiting to be devoured, or family arriving on the doorstep.

Apart from the material blessings for which we give thanks to God, what are some of those spiritual blessings in Christ that you are thankful for today? Play Santa and make a list and check it twice to make sure you haven't missed any.

In Possession of Everything

Too much self-doubt is as dangerous as too much self-confidence.

There are all kinds of factors that come into play when we are looking for reasons why we doubt ourselves. We can "blame" any one of them for making us who we are. In the end we are what we allow ourselves to be and no one can be blamed for that except ourselves.

Paul had some great words of wisdom to share as he began his letter to the believers in Corinth. Before the apostle dropped the bomb on them about the chaos in their community, he told them this: "...in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge–because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful" (1 C…

Hope Well Placed

Reading: Romans 15, 16
The book of Proverbs says that: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (13:12. NIV).
Last night, Sidney Crosby returned to captain the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team after almost a year’s absence due to a concussion. I suspect he might have known something about “hope deferred” as the doctors and coaching staff held him off from playing in order to be sure that he was fully recovered. Watching his teammates play the game that is his life while he sat on the sidelines must have been a difficult experience. As I watched Crosby as the singing of the national anthem came to an end prior to the game, I saw him cross himself. Whether or not it has been his habit to stand with his head bowed and then to cross himself before every game, I don’t know, but every eye in the hockey world was on him last night. Was he grateful to God for that “longing fulfilled?”
After a while a hope unrealized becomes an incredibly heavy weight to bear…

He IS Coming Back–Honest!

Reading: Romans 12-14
In the days of the early church, the followers of Jesus expected the imminent return of the Lord. In part that explains the urgency they felt as they spread the Gospel to the far corners of their world. The Lord had left them a commission, a task to fulfill, and they were certain that the time was short in which to do what Jesus had asked of them. The imminent return of the Lord is something that has been preached, taught, sung about, and argued over, for centuries.
These days we hardly hear a whisper about it. Those who fought over pre-, post-, and A-, have mostly gone on to heaven where they could now care less exactly how the Lord is going to return. We don’t sing much about heaven or about the Second Coming. With the aid of modern technology we live in a fantasy world where someone, somewhere, will let us know via Skype or FACEBOOK when all the nations of the world have heard the Gospel and then we can worry about getting our house in order for the Lord’s retu…

A Voice From the Earth

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Reading: Acts 13-15




The heavens, and the earth, continue to declare the glory of God.

In Pursuit of the Comfort of Truth

Reading: Acts 10-12
The snow is beginning to fly. It will be a while before we get a real snowstorm. Right now we are still in the “in between” period that marks the transition of fall into winter. But still, it's cold and windy and the flakes are falling, suffering an identity crisis as they try to decide whether they really are snow or should actually be hail or rain. It’s a good day for stew and that is exactly what is now beginning to fill the apartment with the slow-cooked richness of a nice piece of beef shank. Comfort food for cold weather.
Cornelius wasn't looking for a nice bowl of comfort food on a winter-like day. But he was looking for comfort. He was a good man “…devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly” (Acts 10:2, NIV). That wasn’t what he said of himself but what others testified about him. When the messengers came to Peter to ask him to come to the centurion’s house, they said: “He is a righteous and God-fearing man…

Stop and Listen

Reading: Acts 8, 9
I was reading a friend’s post earlier this morning (http://www.jewelsofencouragement.com/2011/11/you-cant-get-there-from-here.html ) and it resonated with me. Jan used the analogy of a GPS (Global Positioning System) to describe how God gives us direction in our lives (God’s Positioning System).
GPS has its uses but, confess it, sometimes you’d just like to chuck it out the window under the wheels of the semi-trailer two feet behind your back bumper! That pleasant, but annoying voice telling you to do what you can see with your own eyes is not what needs to be done, does get on the nerves. How do you explain to a GPS that you are NOT going to take the most common route because you know a less-traveled and more pleasant route along the side roads?
As I was reading the passage from Scripture assigned to me for today, I was reminded about what Jan had written and how it might have applied to the main character in the passage. Saul, as he then was called, was in desperat…

Big People Needed for Small Tasks

Reading: Acts 6, 7
They needed someone to look after the local food bank.
It might seem a little odd in this age of discovering “spiritual gifts” and finding one’s “sweet spot” to see that the early church leaders didn’t take an inventory of the likes and dislikes of the people they chose for the task of looking after the needs of the widows in the congregation. There isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with taking an inventory of a potential candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, but sometimes we miss the best by deferring to the good when we judge who can fill a vacancy in the church.
The leaders of the church in Acts may have checked out whether Philip or Stephen, or any of the others (Acts 6:5) actually liked handing out food to the needy, but they looked for other qualities first.
Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3, NIV). One of those selected, Stephen is described as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (6:5,…

Holy Boldness or Not-So-Holy Huddle?

Reading: Acts 3, 4
You have to admire these people. They went from a huddle of scared rabbits “…with the doors locked for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19, NIV) to the “Bring it on!”, “Is that all you got?”, “Come on, hit me again!” in the days and weeks after Pentecost.
From scared to scary–at least for the local authorities. The magistrates and religious leaders couldn’t shut them up. They just HAD to talk about Jesus. They just HAD to meet daily and worship, pray, learn, and fellowship. These believers in Jesus, followers of the Way, created such a buzz that many joined their ranks.
It was a “God-thing,” the power of His Spirit unleashed in people who wanted God’s kingdom to come to earth more than anything else in the world. They put everything on the line, including their lives, to fulfill the mission that Jesus had sent them on before His ascension. They took “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15, NIV) very seriously.
That commitment got the follo…

Transitions

Reading: John 15-17
Before prayer meeting last night a group of us were commiserating each other on our aches and pains. You see, we are in this difficult transition period between crisp, dry fall and cold, dry winter. It’s rainy and damp and cold. And everything in our bodies is stiff and achy; hands, hips, legs, ankles and even toes.
Transitions can be tough.
The Apostle John is recording the last mini-series Jesus will share with His disciples before He goes to the cross. While they might not fully understand, they know that somehow they are about to enter into that nether world of transition—Jesus gone and the Holy Spirit not yet come.
The Lord has a lot to share with them. Their foggy minds can’t capture all that He is saying now, but later they will remember and be glad that He took the time to patiently explain what they needed to do, and then to pray for them.
Chapter 15 tells us that the disciples needed to endure the pruning, abide in Him, obey Him, bear fruit and love each other…

Resting on the promise

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A simple word for today....

Heavenly Minded

Reading: John 11, 12
I love the story of the raising of Lazarus. It’s just full of little side stories, trails that lead us off to lessons and insights. The relationship between Jesus and these three siblings, Martha, Mary and Lazarus, is unique in the Gospels. John remarks that: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (11:5) so it blew everyone’s mind that He didn’t hurry to Bethany the moment He got the news that Lazarus was sick.
Martha, the strong one, was likely looking after all the arrangements and entertainment of the people who came to commiserate with the sisters after Lazarus was buried (11:19). When Jesus did arrive she rushed out to meet Him before He even got to the house. They had a significant theological discussion before she took Jesus to the tomb where her brother has been laid to rest.
Jesus wept” (11:35), writes John.
I wonder why. Jesus knew what He was about to do. Perhaps He was feeling the pain of His dear friends who had suffered this tragedy. It’s more…