Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Perfect Through Suffering

One Year Bible: New Testament Passage (for Wed., Oct. 31, 2012)
Hebrews 2:1-18

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.  Heb. 2:10 (NKJV)

God is leading you to glory.  His great plan has a destination.  He is bringing you and me into His glory.  The original purpose for which God created man in general and you in particular WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED.  He created us to share for ever in His rulership, in His joy, in His pleasure.  AND HE WILL NOT RELENT.  He will not give up or be discouraged until that is fulfilled.

But the path to glory is not easy.  The destination is fantastic, but the path there is filled with challenges.  It is exactly at this point that many believers falter.  The path TO GLORY is also the path OF SUFFERING.  God created you to be an OVERCOMER.  He created you to do conquests in His name.  He birthed you to advance His Kingdom and in so doing defeat darkness and death.

Jesus is our CAPTAIN.  He is our leader.  Yes, He suffered once for our justification and that suffering will never be repeated.  But, He lived an overcoming life, resisting, prevailing, enduring, and triumphing -- to set us an EXAMPLE.  Philippians 1:29 says it another way:  "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him." (NIV)

Following Jesus is NOT an easy path.  Yes, it is filled with joy and peace.  It is the best life possible.  But, it is also the greatest challenge anyone can ever take on.  It is a path of enduring constant pressure from the enemy.  It is a life of shining the brightest light right in the midst of the darkest darkness.

Suffering can sound to many like a "victim mentality."  Suffering is not the condition of a particularly unlucky person.  Suffering is the setting for greatest advance.  We shine our brightest when the world is at its darkest.  So, let your light shine today -- no matter what your challenge.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Angels on Assignment

One Year Bible: New Testament Passage (for Tues., Oct. 30, 2012)
Hebrews 1:1-14

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to those who will inherit salvation?  Hebrews 1:14 (NKJV)

Hebrews Chapter One teaches about the superiority of Jesus over the angels.  A key word for this great book is BETTER (vs. 4).  As Christians, we believe that there is another realm of existence and activity -- the supernatural realm.  We believe in God, in Heaven, in a place called hell, and we believe that there is spiritual activity that affects us in this "touch, taste, fell", practical world. 

This might seem spooky or weird to some, but the supernatural realm is REAL.  We believe that spiritual being exist there: good angels which help and assist followers of Jesus, and bad angels who seek to afflict and harm everyone (we call them demons).  Hebrews tells us about good angels and their assignment. 

New Age teaching has brought confusion to many in our day, but we need to be clear.  Angels are not neutral spiritual beings that are available to anyone to just make their life better (give you a better love life, procure your next pay raise).  Angels have a clear biblical identity and function:

Angels are WORSHIPPERS.  Heb. 1:6 says, "Let all the angels of God worship Him."  They surround the throne of God with worship.

Angels are WARRIORS.  Rev. 12:7 says that there was war in the heavens.  Michael and his angels fought against the dragon (Satan) and his angels (demons).

Angels are MESSENGERS.  We are all familiar with the Christmas story and how angels were continually delivering messages about the birth of Jesus.  The very word angel in Greek means "messenger".

We should not fall into the New Age trap of worshipping angels (see Col. 2:18).  But, we should thank God for the ministry of angels who are sent forth help us.  They go before us as we travel.  They protect us in spiritual warfare.  They bring strength to us in serving God and fighting the devil.  They bring the comfort of Jesus in our time of need.

One last word, the Bible makes a very interesting and intriguing statement later in Hebrews.  Hebrews 13:2 says that we should "not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it" (NIV).  Today, God may be sending an angel your way.  Just when you least expect it, God could send a messenger.  So, stay open and aware.  You might meet an angel today.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Prepare Me a Room

One Year Bible: New Testament Passage (for Mon., Oct. 29, 2012)
Philemon 1:1-25

But, meanwhile, also prepare a guest room for me, for I trust that through your prayers I shall be granted to you.  Philemon 1:22 (NKJV)

Paul did some awesome things while in a Roman prison cell.  Actually the conditions in his day resembled a dungeon more than what we call prison today.  The Mamertine Prison in Rome was built over the city sewers and the lower sections (where Paul and Peter were kept) were famous for their filth and degrading conditions.

It was from this place that Paul wrote such words as "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, 'Rejoice!'" (Phil. 4:4).  Paul knew that the Lord was with him in that prison cell, and that He held his future secure.

In this small book of Philemon, Paul even shows that he is making plans and preparations for the future.  He tells his friends Philemon to "prepare a guest room for me" (vs. 22).  That requires FAITH.  Paul did not consider his present confinement to be the end.  Instead, he instructed his friend to make preparations for a visit from him in the near future. 

Do you find yourself in confining circumstances today?  Are you being called upon to endure difficult and distressing developments?  God say to you that He yet has plans for you!  There is will be a day that you will walk out of this prison.  It may be almost unbearable now, but the end will come soon.

The Lord tells you to begin now to prepare for that which you will do as you step into new levels of freedom.  Make your reservations now for future opportunities.  They are coming your way even though it may seem that this present situation has gone on too long.

If you will see your present limitations as opportunities, then God can use you even more.  It was during the days and months of emprisonment that Paul penned some of the epistles that today bless us and guide us.  God can use this time for eternal benefit. 

Today, begin planning for the expansion that is coming your way.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Accomplished and Applied

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Sun., Oct. 28, 2012)
Titus 3:1-15

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:4-7 (NKJV)

Most people do not realize how absolutely helpless and hopeless we were before Jesus came to bring us new life.  We think we were maybe a bit sick or just needed to try harder.  We were asleep and just needed a wake-up call.

The Bible describes a situation that was far more serious.  We were DEAD in our trespasses and sins.  Man apart from God is not just an unfortunate sinner who just needs a little help.  We were dead, we were bound, we were tainted in every part by the stain of sin.  Sounds pretty serious, doesn't it?  Well it is!

The truth is that all men have offended Holy God and our offense deserves eternal damnation.  There is nothing we can do to change that.  There is no amount of work, no amount of apologizing, no amount of penance that we can do that will erase our sin.

Therefore, if we are going to be saved, God Himself must do it apart from us.  God must do all the work independent of our contribution.  In His kindness and mercy (vs. 4) He ACCOMPLISHED our redemption.  NONE OF OUR ACTIONS (vs. 5) made any contribution to this great redemptive work.

Then, God APPLIED this redemption to us.  He did this by washing us in fresh water.  This is the water of redemption.  Like a cool mountain stream, He pour it out abundantly on us.  This was and is HIS WORK, not ours.  The Holy Spirit came to endwell you and brought a renewal of hope, of life, of strength -- He gave you a future. 

To God be the glory for all that He has done!  It is all OF HIM.  Therefore, we can walk in freedom and power, knowing that He is the AUTHOR AND FINISHER of this great work.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Build It the Right Way

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Sat., Oct. 27, 2012)
Titus 2:1-15

But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Titus 1:1 (NASB) that the word of God will not be dishonored.  Titus 1:5 (NASB)

...but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.  Titus 1:10 (NASB)

We each have a responsibility concerning the Truth.  How we conduct our lives is a reflection of our deepest beliefs and our strongest convictions.  Unfortunately, many people have not considered their basic, foundational beliefs, and so they default into a self-centered, self-absorbed life.  It has been said, "If you don't stand for SOMETHING, you will fall for ANYTHING."

If I were to ask the average person what their THEOLOGY is, they would probably think I was nuts, and then would say, "I don't have a theology."  Even many Christians would say, "I don't have a theology.  I just believe in God."  Most people have such a hodge-podge of belief that it is nothing more than a pile of unattached ideas. 

That would be like a house that is built by throwing the lumber and nails and bricks into a pile and expecting it to become a beautiful house.  A house poorly built will not last.  Your basic beliefs are important.  They form the fabric of your life.  And you have a responsibility toward the Truth that you carry.

Titus tells us three things about that responsibility.  He says that our words should be "in synch" with sound, solid thinking about Truth.  Someone said we need to "think like Christians."  That doesn't mean that we use religious talk or verbage.  It means we are unafraid to speak openly about what we truly believe.

Titus goes on to say that how we life can either HONOR or DISHONOR the Word of God.  Unfortunately, Christians do not always have the best reputation concerning business dealings.  When a self-professed Christian acts unethically, it brings reproach upon Christianity and ultimately upon the Lord.

Lastly, Titus tells us that our lifestyle can actually be "adornment" upon the Word of God.  WE CAN ACTUALLY MAKE THE TRUTH LOOK GOOD.  Wow!  You are the only Bible some people will ever read.  That means the world is now watching you.  They are watching how you live out your faith.  You are like God's ADVERTISING BILLBOARD.  May people who see you say that God is good!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Building Materials

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Fri., Oct. 26, 2012)

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.  Titus 1:1 (NIV)

IT MATTERS WHAT YOU BELIEVE. There is a strange thing going on these days in that Bible truth and sound doctrine have fallen on hard times.  They are unimportant to many believers. Post-modern thinking has taught that there are no absolutes, so therefore we shouldn't get worked up about differing doctrines. As a result, many no longer know or care what they really believe.  That would be like building a house but not caring what quality of building materials were used.

It really does matter what you believe!  Your beliefs form the structure of your life. If you have no solid framework, you will be "tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14). Every new idea or novel teaching will blow you in a new direction.

So, put your roots down. Dig into truth and plumb the depths of God's Word. Such truth leads to a fantastic lifestyle. Paul here calls it "godliness". It is a God-centered, God-honouring, grace-empowered life.

Truth is the BUILDING MATERIAL of your life. If you want a strong house, use good building materials!  One of the great historic examples of this is the construction of the magnificent cathedrals of Europe. These are today some of the most beautiful and enduring structures in the world. No corner was cut, and only the finest materials were used. The finest limestone, the best granite -- they even invented a new way to bring in light. They called it stained glass. New levels of expertise in engineering were required to raise the vaulted ceilings of stone. Often it took well over 100 years to built such a grand structure.  All this was done to bring the greatest glory to God.

Your life is the same way. What building materials are you using?  How carefully do you build?  As you lay down the foundation of truth, the walls of righteousness will rise. The house built on truth will weather all storms. It will endure. It will be beautiful. It will look like something GOD BUILT.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Preach the Word

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Thurs., Oct. 25, 2012)
II Timothy 4:1-22

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. II Timothy 4:1-2 (NIV)

The common caricature of preaching that many have today is that of a very angry person telling everyone else what to do.  It hints of hype, hyposcrisy, and a "holier-than-thou" attitude.  "Stop preaching at me" someone might say when they feel you are condemning or hassling them.  It is the picture of young, nacrcissistic Elmer Gantry wooing the gullible with flambouyance and rhetoric.

But, is this the picture of biblical preaching?  In reaction to the image of fundamentalist "hellfire and brimstone", many today have retreating from the high calling of the declaration of God's Word.  Preaching is not the pompous spouting of human ideas.  Preaching is the God-ordained means of calling fallen men to Christ.  We lift up and proclaim the Saviour before the eyes of a watching world.  It is not the job of the preacher to convict or convince.  THAT IS THE JOB OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

J.I. Packer writes eloquently, "the task of preaching the gospel could properly be described as bringing Christ to men... setting Christ before men's eyes, the mighty Saviour whom they proclaim who then is busy doing His work through their words, visiting sinners with salvation, awakening them to faith, drawing them in mercy to Himself."*

There is something wonderful that happens when Christ comes to us through the delivery of His Word.  The means of delivery (the preacher) is irrelevant.  Even the diction or tone can be flawed.  But, when God speaks to us through the anointed, authoritative delivery of His Word, powerful things take place!

But, I must carry this further.  When we think of preaching the Word, it is natural for us to think of pulpits and vocal delivery.  But preaching the Word is far more.  In fact, the Sunday morning sermon may be secondary.  It was St. Francis of Assisi who said:

"Wherever you go, preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words."

Every day, you are DELIVERING THE WORD OF GOD.  It may not be with sermons or rhetoric.  But it is nonetheless the ministry of a herald pointing men and women toward Christ. 

Paul tells us to "be instant, in season and out" (vs. 2 -- NKJV).  How you drive is a declaration of the gospel.  How you greet strangers is a declaration of the gospel.  How you give a cup of cold water is the declaration of the gospel.  We hold out fresh bread to a starving world.  The great Puritan pastor Richard Baxter said, "I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men."  YOU ARE GOD'S CHOSEN VESSEL TO DELIVER THE GOSPEL TO YOUR WORLD.

* J.I. Packer, "Introductory Essay".  Found in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ by John Owen (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2007 reprint), page 22.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Manufacturer's Handbook

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Wed., Oct. 24, 2012)
II Timothy 3:1-17

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  II Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

The Bible is the best-selling book of all time.  Most homes have a Bible, but do we read them?  An American Bible Society/Barna Research survey in 2011 reported that 85% of American homes have a Bible, and 69% of those surveyed believed that the Bible provides answers on how to live a meaningful life.  But, here's the bad news: 36% said that they read the Bible LESS THAN ONCE A YEAR.  Only 54% could identify the first five books of the Bible.  Bible knowledge is at an all-time low!

This reveals a "split personality" many folks have about the Holy Scriptures.  We believe that the Bible is God's Word, but we don't read it!  We agree that it can lead us to better, fuller life, but we also hold it at arms length.

God sent you a letter.  It is a message from His heart to you.  Paul says that four valuable benefits come our way:

1.  INSTRUCTION.  The Bible is the "Manufacturer's Handbook".  Our Creator tells us how to live. 
2.  REPROOF.  The Scriptures show us where we have missed it.  Frankly, most of us don't like being told we are wrong.  But, God has the authority and the ability to tell us clearly where we've "blown it." 
3.  CORRECTION.  Reproof only tells you where you went wrong.  Correction tells you how to get back on track.  It's like a road map. "Reproof" tells you where you made the wrong turn.  "Correction" tells you how to get back on the right path.
4.  TRAINING in righteousness.  Scripture teaches us how to do that which we could not otherwise do.  I learn how to be a good husband and father.  I am trained in faithfulness and integrity. 

So, we should take our Bible's seriously.  It is God's Word to us.  But, how does this work?

A few years back a guy named A.J. Jacobs wrote a book entitled The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.  It is a humorous book written by a non-Christian who tried for an entire year to obey all biblical commands as literally as he could.  He grew a beard, dressed like Moses, and started eating kosher.  He lives in New York City and would prowl around

Central Park on Saturdays "stoning Sabbath-breakers."  He would stealthily pelt people with tiny pebbles from behind and then look the other way.  Of course, we read about this and we think this guy must be crazy.  But, that's the point of his book: no one can truly take the Bible literally.

Mr. Jacobs made the error many people make.  The Bible is not a RULE BOOK, it is a GUIDE BOOK.  The Scriptures are sent by God not to crimp you and control you, but instead to equip you and fulfill you (make you complete).  Read the Bible for LIFE.  Read the Bible for NOURISHMENT.  The end result is not an impossible, weird lifestyle, but instead it is FREEDOM.  "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Escaping the Trap

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Tues., Oct. 23, 2012)
II Timothy 2:1-26

and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.  II Timothy 2:26 (NIV)

Satan sets traps and seeks to ensnare every believer.  That is his job.  As Jesus said in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (NIV).  Jesus comes to liberate but Satan comes to imprison.  It is important that we understand Satan's strategies.  II Corinthians 2:11 describes our need for vigilance "... lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices" (NKJV).

The Greek word for "devices" here is noema.  This is a construct of the word for "mind" or "thought pattern."  Another way of saying it would be "mind games".  WE ARE NOT IGNORANT OF SATAN'S MIND GAMES. 

So, here's the question: Is it possible for people who really love Jesus and who are seeking to follow His will to find themselves in difficult spots and fall into Satan's traps?  This passage today speaks directly to this question -- particularly verses 20-26.

The Bible says that your life is like "a great house" with many rooms and many possessions (vs. 20).  Some of those rooms are in fantastic shape. They are clean and well-taken-care-of.  There are other rooms that are more cluttered and perhaps have trash in them.  There might even be closets where old, useless stuff is stored.  THE RATS LIVE IN THE TRASH HEAPS.

Satan will seek to take advantage of those areas of your life that are not yet cleaned up.  Paul even lists a few of them here:  "youthful lusts" (vs. 22), "foolish and stupid arguments" and "quarrels" (vs. 23), "resentment" (vs. 24), unrepentant sin (vs. 25).  The list only begins here.

The instruction is simple:  "cleanse yourself" (vs. 21) and "come to your senses" (vs. 26).  It is amazing how many times we walk right into the devil's snares.  It might be your use of the internet.  It might be a lingering thought pattern of jealousy or greed.  It might be a small financial short-cut you tend to take. 

In order to escape Satan's traps, each one of us needs to do a bit of housecleaning from time to time.  Instead of being taken captive by the devil, we can then live in the freedom that Jesus promised.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Face Your Fears

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Mon., Oct. 22, 2012)
II Timothy 1:1-18

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  II Timothy 1:6-7 (NKJV)

Fear is like a silent killer that is epidemic in our day.  The list of clinically diagnosed phobias is virtualy endless, and it grows daily.  We hear of everything from anxiety disorder to "love-shyness".  The range is dramatic reaching from fears that are truly life-threatening to those that produce a low-level hum of daily discomfort.  Jesus predicted this.  He said concerning the pattern of history as we near the end, "men's hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth" (Luke 21:25).

Fear does four things to you.  It...

1. Undermines your faith.

2. Drains your power.

3. Walls you in.

4. Distorts your thinking.

So, the Bible clearly calls us to FACE OUR FEARS.  Don't let them chase you.  I John 4:4 states: "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."  God has given you His Holy Spirit, so STIR UP THAT GIFT.  Let the fire of God once again burn in your heart.  He is your power.

The passage today actually speaks of three different kinds of fear and three answers.  The first is the fear of being OVERPOWERED.  We fear that we don't have what it takes and we are about to get "plowed under."  Our enemies are simply too big.  For that fear, God says, "I will be POWER to you." 

Then there is the fear of RELATIONSHIPS.  We fear rejection or the loss of a love.  We become afraid to venture out into fellowship.  In answer to that fear, God says, "I will pour out My LOVE upon you and through you."  It is in this sense that the Scripture is true: "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear" (I John 4:18). 

Lastly, there is IRRATIONAL FEAR.  We don't even know why we have such fear.  It doesn't make sense.  We are afraid of our shadow.  For that, God says, "I will give you a sound mind."  The Greek word here is sophronismo which literally means "saved thinking."  There is an old saying: "Fear knocked.  Faith answered.  And there was no one there."  So many of our fears are simply an over-active thought life that needs to be submitted to the Word of God.

Decide today to FACE YOUR FEARS.  Stop running.  Trust in God.  He will lead you through!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The View from a Hearse*

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Sun., Oct. 21, 2012)
I Timothy 6:1-21

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.  I Timothy 6:6-8 (NKJV)

When you come to the end of your days, how will you measure success?  Will it be be the wealth (or lack thereof) you have accumulated? Will it be the resume of accomplishments you leave in your wake?  Paul here echoes the words of Job 1:20.  "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there."  We have all heard the half-humorous jab: "YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU."  No one has ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul (except in the picture in this blog).

So, when your body lies someday in a hearse, and you look back over your days here on earth, what will you see?  This may sound depressing and morbid, but really it bears our consideration. 

Jonathan Edwards

The great evangelical pastor and leader of the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, was as "fully alive" as any man could be. He penned 70 Resolutions whereby he lived his life. Resolution No. 6 states:  Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.  What would such a life look like?  Paul answers: "godliness with contentment is great gain" -- a full, satisifed life lived to the glory of God!

Then, No. 7:  Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.  Edwards advises us to live NOW with consideration of that view from your hearse.  Don't do NOW that which you would regret as you look back.
And No. 9:  Resolved, to think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.  Edwards lived his life as if everything counted for eternity.  It is not the material things, but the God-centered things that will last. 

One of the great lines from a great movie came in Gladiator when Marcellus rallies his fellow-slaves in battle. He stoops to pick up dust and says, "Brothers, what we do in life echoes in eternity."

We live now as dying men and women.  There will be a day soon in which the story of your life on this earth will be finished.  What will that story be?  You are writing the pages today!

* I have borrowed the title of this blog from the great little book by the late Joseph Bayly entitled The View from a Hearse: the Christian View of Death.  It is now in reprint under the title The Last Thing We Talk About.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

An Atmosphere of Honor

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Sat., Oct. 21, 2012)
I Timothy 5:1-25

Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. I Timothy 5:15 (NKJV)

How we honor one other is extremely important. It affects the entire atmosphere. Five groups are mentioned in this passage as worthy of honor. They are 1. Older men (vs. 1), 2. Younger men (vs. 1), 3. Older women (vs. 2), 4. Widows (vss. 3-16), and 5. the elders of the church (vs. 17). But really the list only begins here. Romans 12:10 says: Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  That's all-inclusive.  WE ARE TO LIVE IN AN ATMOSPHERE OF HONOR!

Honor and respect are characteristics of heaven. Cynicism, animosity, and disrespect are expressions of worldly individualism. Today, HONOR is an "endangered species". Our flag is no longer saluted. It may LEGALLY be burned. Our children are no longer taught to say "Yes ma'am" or "No sir". We are encouraged to always question authority and speak our minds.  Our culture is disintegrating due to lack of loyalty and honor.  But God says that we must learn again how to give honor. 

Norman Rockwell's "On My Honor"

There are six areas in which we are specifically instructed by God to show honor.  Those six areas are:
1. Government - elected officials, the king, the mayor, civic leaders - you get the idea. 
2. School - your teachers
3. Church - your pastors and elders
4. Home - your parents and family
5. All your acquaintenances - your friends, neighbours, work mates. 
6. Yourself - if you disrespect and dishonour yourself, you cannot honor others. 

When Jesus came into Nazareth early in His ministry, He found an atmosphere of contempt and 
disrespect. In that environment, He could do no miracles. (Mark 6:1-6) As we celebrate and honor one another, an atmosphere is created in which it is easy for God to do some awesome things. Ultimately, it is God Himself we honor with a thankful, generous heart. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Training for the Last Days

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Fri., Oct. 19, 2012)
I Timothy 4:1-16

... Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. I Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)

Paul begins this chapter by referring to "the latter times" (vs. 1).  He speaks of intensified spiritual conflict associated with the end of time.  Paul wrote these words nearly 2000 years ago!  WHY WOULD PAUL WRITE ABOUT THE "END TIMES" WHEN IT WAS SO FAR AWAY?  Was Paul mistaken?  Did he think the end was near when it really wasn't?  Or, was he predicting something far in the future that no meaning in his own day?

I think Paul was not trying to give predictions concerning WHEN the end will come.  Instead, he was instructing us about the patterns of spiritual conflict that will characterize history.  Jesus, Paul, and many of the Old Testament prophets often spoke of history as being like the labor pains of a woman giving birth.  It comes in cycles that will grow more and more intense until the birth finally happens.

Paul is saying, "Listen, there is going to be an unending increase of spiritual conflict as history moves toward its culmination!  YOU NEED TO BE READY."  Paul is NOT telling us WHEN  the end will come.  He is telling us that we are in a battle that is not going to let up, so we need to be IN TRAINING (vss. 6-9).

If you knew that you faced a serious physical fight within the next three months, would you begin working out to get ready for that fight?  Of course, you would!  We are not facing a PHYSICAL challenge; it is a SPIRITUAL one.  So, how are you preparing?  How are you exercising?

When Paul says, "Exercise yourself toward godliness" (vs. 7), this is not a casual (optional), "koom-ba-ya" sweet little quiet time with the Lord.  This is battle preparation!  This is gearing up for a fight against "deceiving spirits and docrines of demons" (vs. 1).  There is an attack on your family, your church, your society.  We are IN TRAINING for end-time battles.

Any athlete who is serious about winning has a workout plan -- a workout schedule.  Do you have daily disciplines that you follow as a part of your spiritual health?  Some might react by calling this legalism or "being under the law."  We don't like to think about another REQUIREMENT.

But let me conclude by saying that your daily time in the Bible is more than just a religious nicety.  It is battlefield MRE's ("meals ready to eat").  Your prayer time is not an appendage to a busy life so you can enlist God's help.  It is your COMMUNICATION SYSTEM with headquarters.  Fasting, whole-hearted worship, acts of generosity -- all these things and more are part of God's plan to build you up so that you can prevail.  You are in TRAINING FOR THE LAST DAYS.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Church -- the Pillar and Ground of the Truth

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Thurs., Oct. 18, 2012
I Timothy 3:1-16

I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.  I Timothy 3:15 (NKJV)

In the area of the country where I live (north Louisiana), there are many lumber mills and paper mills.  A part of these large operations is always many elevated conveyor belts that carry wood and wood chips along in the process of producing their product.

The elevated conveyor belts are like the Church.  The Bible says that the Church is "the pillar and support of the truth" (NASB).  If truth is going to be delivered to the world -- if truth is going to have impact and bring forth fruit -- the church of the living God is the delivery system.  We hold truth up and carry it to the desired destination. 

That is the job of the Church!  We are called to deliver Jesus to the world.  We are called to deliver truth to all levels of our world.  All our buildings and progams, all the decorations and reputations are NOTHING compared to the ESSENTIAL TASK.  The Church is to be SALT AND LIGHT in the world.

So what happens if the Church fails?  What happens if we get off track?  Isaiah 59:14 says:

"Justice is turned back, And righteousness stands afar off; For truth is fallen in the street."

At a paper mill, if the elevated conveyor belt collapses, if its pillars are broken, then the wood product will fall and be wasted.  If the Church fails, then truth will fall into the streets, justice will cease, and righteousness will depart our land.

It is important how we conduct ourselves.  It is important not just because it affects the health of our own individual lives.  It is important because we, as the Church, are the delivery system of truth to the world.  How we carry the truth determines how the world will be reached.  That is the great call of God to the Church today. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

GOD BLESS AMERICA! Pray for our nation!

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Wed., Oct. 17, 2012)
I Timothy 2:1-15

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  I Timothy 2:1-4 (NKJV)

As I write these words, we here in the United States are moving toward a great general election.  In about three weeks, we will be casting our ballots concerning the direction of our nation for the next several years.  What does God say about all of this?  Is there clear direction from the Lord as we approach matters of politics, policy, and our responsibilities as Christians and citizens?

America today is DIVIDED.  It is amazing to me how far we have fallen!  The once strong foundations have eroded such that it is difficult for many to even determine right from wrong.  It is as if we have forgotten our identity.  America's great foundation is FREEDOM.  We are to be a place of freedom to worship, freedom to speak, freedom from fear of domination, freedom to be able to prosper.  These freedoms are in danger in our day!  We must know why we have been granted these freedoms and where they come from!

So what must we do?

1. PRAY for the people.

The first call from God is to PRAY.  "First of all that ... prayers ... and thanksgiving be made for all men ... " and especially for those who lead us.  Please note the first petition is not for the leaders, but for THE PEOPLE.  It was Alexis de Tocqueville, in the mid-1800's, who first said,

“In democracy we get the government we deserve”. 

I will carry that further.  GOD GIVES US THE LEADERS WE DESERVE.  Our leadership is a reflection of our own spiritual condition.  Therefore, to pray for godly leaders is secondary.  First pray for a GODLY SOCIETY!  We need REVIVAL! 

If revival sweeps our land, there will be a "people movement."  From that mass of common faith, the right leaders will rise to carry us forward. 

2. PRAY for our leaders.

Not only are we to pray for a sweeping move of God, we also are to pray specifically for those men and women who lead us.  Pray for them BY NAME.  There is a huge spiritual battle over their lives, over their families, over their decisions.  May God raise up a host of INTERCESSORS who will stand in the gap for our leaders.

3.  WORK for peace and godliness.

What is the result of good government in a nation -- in a society?  What vision does God have for our land?  The answer tells us how we should vote.  God wants PEACE.  But then, we must define peace.  Shalom peace is far more than the cessation of conflict.  It is the presence of cooperation and coordination.  Peace is "when everything works well together."  What would our city look like if it worked the way God wants it to work?  What would our state look like?  What would our nation look like?  THIS IS THE GOAL -- THE VISION!!!

Along with PEACE is GODLINESS.  This is not the prudish abstinence from "sinful things."  This is the presence of those characteristics that build us and bless us.  Things like honesty and integrity, faithfulness and generosity. 

4.  REMEMBER why America is strong. 

We are strong because of the Lord.  Once again, to quote de Tocqueville:

"In the end, the state of the Union comes down to the character of the people. ... I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors, her ample rivers, and it was not there. I sought for it in the fertile fields, and boundless prairies, and it was not there. I sought it in her rich mines, and vast world commerce, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power."

He goes on to say:


“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

So, PRAY and WORK and VOTE for a GODLY AMERICA.  God has placed us here as a part of His redemptive mission.  God wants all men everywhere to be saved -- to come to the knowledge of the truth.  May we REMEMBER that this is not only our present opportunity, it is our ETERNAL calling.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Spiritual MRI

"One Year Bible" New Testament Passage (for Tues., Oct. 16, 2012)
I Timothy 1:1-20

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. I Timothy 1:15 (NKJV)

I was having knee problems last year, and went to the doctor about it. As a part of the diagnostic procedure, he ordered an MRI.  It was like going down inside the knee and figuring out what was wrong so it could be corrected.  The MRI doesn't actually fix anything.  It just TURNS ON THE LIGHTS so the problem CAN be fixed.

I began to wonder: what if you could get an MRI done on your soul?  What if you could look around deep inside so you would know what was wrong and how to get it fixed - things like fear, anger, envy, depression.

I think David may have gotten a spiritual MRI. He said in Psalm 51: Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. (Ps. 51:6)  He knew that God wanted to TURN THE LIGHTS ON so that he (David) could get the bad stuff fixed down in those hidden places.

I think Paul had gotten a spiritual MRI. The NIV translation of I Timothy 1:15 says:  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.  This is an amazing statement! Paul calls himself the chief of sinners - THE WORST!  

The great evangelical leader John Stott comments on this passage: "Paul is not saying he did a careful study of every sinner in human history and found out he came in last place. The truth is, rather, when we are convicted by the Holy Spirit, an immediate result is we give up all such comparisons." Paul, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, became so vividly aware of his own sins he could not conceive that anybody could be worse.  This is the language of every sinner whose conscience has been awakened and disturbed by the Holy Spirit.

It is also the place of cleansing, of healing, of wholeness. GOD TURNS ON THE LIGHTS TO HEAL - NOT TO HURT. From this place of brokenness, true strength can be experienced. This is the story of every "great" person in the Kingdom of God. God tears us down in order to build us up. 

Perhaps you need a spiritual MRI today. If so, you can pray as David prayed: Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  (Ps. 139:23-24)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Supernatural: "Atmospheric Conditions"

Here are the notes from the message delivered at New Life Community  Church on Sunday, October 14, 2012 entitled "Atmospheric Conditions".  If you would like to listen to this message, please go to our website at  God Bless!

Supernatural, Part 7                                                        Sunday, October 14, 2012
 “Atmospheric Conditions”

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:  I Corinthians 12:1 (NKJV)

Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts.  I Corinthians 14:1 (NKJV)

How can we move into this realm as a people?
There are many ways we could describe this, but I want to zero in on one that I think summarizes much what it means to be in an atmosphere in which God can move.

Illustration:  Read from THE VISION.
What atmosphere are we talking about? 
          Then we get into some more relational things like
          THE LOVE OF GOD
I want to summarize this entire thing called atmosphere in a word:  HONOR

“A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.  “It is you priests who show contempt for my name.  “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’  Malachi 1:6 (NIV)

Key Words are:
“A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the Lord Almighty.  “It is you priests who show contempt for my name.  “But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’  Malachi 1:6 (NIV)
New King James uses the word DESPISE.


This is a condition in all of our society.  It has detrimental affect in our world, but deadly affect in the church.
Four Areas:
1.      Government
2.      School
3.      Church
4.      Home
5.      Your Own Person

1 “And now, you priests, this warning is for you. If you do not listen, and if you do not resolve to honor my name,” says the Lord Almighty, “I will send a curse on you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not resolved to honor me.  Malachi 2:1-2 (NIV)

Definition of HONOR
OT Word:  Kabed
NT Word:  Timao

To make heavy or weighty

Word means:  to add value.  Weighty

Illustration:  if there is a boulder in the road ahead of you.

Honor – Contempt
Weighty – Take it Lightly
Treat things as common or ordinary that we should take seriously.

Illustration:  Use of cellphones.
How we treat each other:  being on time.

An Atmosphere of Honor:

1.     The degree of the HONOR determines the degree of the GIFT.

Two OT words:
SUBMITKachash, which means to do it though you don’t want to.  “Your enemies shall submit themselves to you.”
OBEYShamea, which is similar to the Heb. Word for HEAR.  Which means to do it because you hear and understand.

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.  “Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.  Mark 6:1-3 (NIV)

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.  Mark 6:4-6 (NIV)

2.     FAMILIARITY can breed DISHONOR.

Root word of FAMILIARITY.
As in heaven, so on earth.
See people as God sees them.

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10 (NIV)

Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.  Romans 15:7 (NIV)

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21 (NIV)

3.     Honor means CELEBRATING who people are instead of STUMBLING over who they are not.

Atmosphere of forgiveness.

It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  I Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)

You can’t honor that which offends you.
You’ve got to get over those things that
We de-humanize people
Example:  in traffic

4.     An atmosphere of honor produces FREEDOM.

A safe place
An atmosphere that “pulls” the ministry out.

But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all—love].  I Corinthians 12:31 (Amplified)