Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Running & living with purpose

1 Corinthians 9:24-27
"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."

What is the crown that Paul speaks of running for? It is not eternal life, but the souls of men. He begins in verse 9:2 calling the Corinthians the "seal of his apostleship" and continues to define his apostleship by his sacrifice in order to "win some" (9:22). Paul's goal, his finish line, his prize was to win "more" (9:19). His aim is the souls of men so he disciplines his body to run the race and fight the fight with all he has.
What good would it be to live this life having fed the hungry, clothed the naked, defended the weak, cared for the sick and helped the needy just to hear the Lord say "well done, you ran hard... in circles." The point of all our earthly labor is to introduce people to Jesus Christ and to help them receive His forgiveness and salvation. We become a slave to all in order to win as many as we can (9:19).
So what does it look like to train and discipline my body to win the race? It may be praying daily for open doors, open hearts and open minds. It may be serving in all occasions so as to provide those open doors. It may be seasoning every conversation with grace and truth. It may be making intentional sacrifices about where I work, play, live, shop and travel so that I might cross paths with lost people daily.
This purpose of Paul's is mine as well.

Lord, strengthen me to run the race to win. Keep me ever mindful of the crown that lay before me. Keep me ever mindful of the soul's of my neighbors, friends and acquaintances that I might make myself a slave to all in order to win some. Amen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

liberty and love

1 Corinthians 8:9,12 & 13
Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights (liberties) does not become a stumbling block to the weak....
12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.

Paul was dealing with a Corinthian church debating the legality of eating meat sacrificed to idols. For Paul, it was not a matter of law but of love (1 Cor. 8:1). Christ's death freed us from the law and provided us liberty to enjoy everything that God has made and declared good (1 Cor. 6:12).
This liberty however is a tricky thing. At times, our liberty in eating meat, drinking, smoking, enjoying certain activities, using certain language, etc... can cause another to stumble in their faith and fall away from Christ. In this matter, while our actions may not be sinful in and of themselves, their consequences are destructive and thus qualify as sin.
We cannot take our liberty as a right. Though we are free to eat, we have no right to eat that which wounds the conscience or spirit of another believer. In this regard, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ (Lk 9:23). This mean to deny not only our sinful nature, but also our liberties. We crucify our rights (as Christ did His and all things associated with His divinity) and sacrifice our liberties for the sake of those we desire to save. This is what it means to be crucified with Christ and to no longer live, but to have Christ live through us (Gal. 2:20). When we are baptized, we are baptized into His death, not just his resurrection and life (Rom. 6:3). We are choosing to die to our selves and allow the sacrificial life of Christ to live through us.
So, if I have love for my brother or at least love for Christ, I will set my liberties aside, refuse to view them as rights and I will never eat meat again.

What liberties have I taken as rights? What liberties have I allowed to master me? What liberties have I allowed to would a brother or sister whom Christ died for? How can I die to myself today in order to allow Christ to live through me?

Jesus, give me the strength today to crucify my liberties and the humility to let You live through me. Amen.

Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Romans 6:3
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Already done.

1 Corinthians 6:11
And that is what some of you were (sinners). But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I've been washed. I've been sanctified. I've been justified.
These works have already been accomplished for me in Jesus Christ.
By His blood shed on the cross my sins have been washed away.
By His death my sin nature has been crucified and I've been recreated with a Spirit nature.
By His resurrection I have been made right before God and raised to new life, abundant and eternal life.
There is nothing left for me to accomplish. Christ has done it all. I have nothing to ad to my salvation. It is a complete gift, lacking nothing.
It is by faith that I accept this gift and by grace that I live into it.

Thank you Jesus.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What leavens my life?

1 Corinthians 5:6-7

"Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed."

What leavens my life? What little sin, habit, fixation, attitude or entitlement have I let work its way into and through my life so as to effect the whole thing?

At the first passover, the Jews were commanded to make bread without yeast because they would have to leave in haste. When God released them from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh in Egypt, there was no time to wait for even bread to rise. In the passover seder, the family lights a candle and searches throughout the house for leaven that might spoil their passover celebration.

In our lives, a little yeast, a little stale sin can ruin our celebration and journey with the Lamb of God. We cannot wait or linger for it. We can't wait for it to work its way into our habits, our words, out thoughts and our emotions. We cannot wait for it to grow into sin, broken relationships or separation from God. We must light a candle and search our hearts and minds, our words and habits. We must sweep our lives clean so that the little leaven does not ruin us.

What is the leaven in my life? Anger? Jealousy? Entitlement? Lust? Pride? Self-sufficiency? Greed? A critical heart? Manipulation and control? Laziness? Idolatry? Deception? Guilt?

There is no time to wait.

Psalm 139:23-24

"Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting"


Sunday, November 14, 2010

judging one's self

1 Corinthians 4:2-5
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. 3 I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. 4 My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.

We must be careful how we judge ourselves. If we judge ourselves too lightly we risk ignoring our sin and empowering our sin nature. We slide toward pride and arrogance. If we judge ourselves too harshly we risk ignoring our pardon in Christ and empowering our sin to steal our joy. We slide toward guilt and shame.
Yet when the Lord is our judge we can be sure that He will convict us of our sin and He will liberate us by His Spirit. We live our lives for an audience of one.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Marks of immaturity...

1 Corinthians 3:3
"And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?"

In chapter 2 Paul claims to have come in a demonstration of the Spirit's power. In chapter 3 Paul addresses the manner in which the Corinthians lived; immature, carnal. Immaturity and carnality are not marked by a lack of knowledge, experience or sacrifice. Immaturity and carnality are positions of envy, strife and division that we take against other brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. Immaturity and carnality are guided by the human nature rather than the Spirit nature. Where I demand my own way and refuse to serve, sacrifice and submit; there I demonstrate my immaturity. Where I have settled for being a "mere man" instead of a Spirit filled man, there I am carnal.
Is there envy, strife or division in my life? Have I followed selfish demands rather than the Spirit's promptings? Have I settle for being a mere man? If so, something must change.

The opposite of envy is generosity. I must learn to sacrifice.
The opposite of strive is harmony. I must learn to submit.
The opposite of division is unity. I must learn to serve.

Lord help me to remove envy, strife and division from my life. Teach me to sacrifice, submit and serve. Let my life be marked by generosity, harmony and unity. Let me not be a mere man, but a man who demonstrates Spirit power. Amen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Holy Spirit power

1 Corinthians 2:4-5
My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

What does a "demonstration of the Spirit's power" look like?
What did Paul do in Corinth that so clearly conveyed the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
What does a demonstration of the Holy Spirit's power look like in my life?

(C.H. Spurgeon has a great sermon answering this exact question. You can read it at http://www.biblebb.com/files/spurgeon/0030.htm)

I love what it says in 1 Thessalonians 1:5-7,
"our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia."

According to this passage, a demonstration of the Holy Spirit's power is no so much about miracles as it is about consistent living. It's about living with deep convictions, imitating the Lord, enduring hardship with joy and modeling the fruit of the Spirit in all we do.

Too often I live on impulse rather than the Spirit's prompting. Too often I ask others to imitate me without first imitating Christ. I rarely endure suffering and where the opportunity arises I often manipulate or avoid the circumstances. Too often I strive for satisfaction or fulfillment rather than joy. I model self-centeredness rather than Spirit living.

Father, forgive me for living in my own spirit rather than Yours. Amen.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Boast in this...

1 Corinthians 1:29-31
"...no flesh should glory in His presence.
But (because) of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—that, as it is written,
“He who glories, let him glory in the LORD.”

There is nothing about my salvation that I can boast about. I was not smart or wise enough to understand His plan. I have not been good enough to earn my way into His presence. I have not cleaned myself up enough for Him to overlook my sins. I have not, nor could I have, paid the price for my own redemption. Jesus Christ has done everything for me. I have nothing to boast about.
So if I boast it will be in what the Lord has done. And if there is anything worth boasting about it is what the Lord has done. There is no human accomplishment that even holds a candle to the work of redemption accomplished by and through Jesus Christ.

Lord, teach me to boast in You. Let me be proud of the work You have accomplished, and not my own. Let me not be ashamed to proclaim what You have done, but only of my past. Let my words be true, to honor You. Amen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

God's presence

Isaiah 66:1-2
This is what the LORD says:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Where is the house you will build for me?
Where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things,
and so they came into being?”
declares the LORD.

“These are the ones I look on with favor:
those who are humble and contrite in spirit,
and who tremble at my word.

As wondrous as are the heavens and the earth, as glorious as are Zion and the Temple, the Lord has chosen to let His favor and His presence rest upon people... those who are humble and broken in spirit (Mt. 5:3-10).

I can still remember thinking this exact thought as I prayed beneath the shadow of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Thousands of Jews make their way to this wall each day to draw close to the presence of the Lord which they believe still resides beneath the Temple mount where once stood the Holy of Holies. How sad it was to see God's chosen nation strive toward a stone rather than soften their heart of stone and allow His Messiah to enter their lives. Their prayers were stuffed inside the cracks of the stone rather than whispered in their hearts to a God who's promise is to dwell within His people.

Father, thank you for your indwelling and the promise of your Spirit. Keep me humble, obedient and broken so that I might continue in your ways and honor You. Amen.

Monday, November 1, 2010

all things new; my hope

Isaiah 65:1
“I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me;
I was found by those who did not seek me.
To a nation that did not call on my name,
I said, ‘Here am I, here am I.’

Isaiah 65:17-19
“See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.

Revelation 21:1-5a
Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

I am so grateful that God has chosen to extend His grace beyond Israel, to a nation and people that did not seek His name. This is my hope... that I might dwell in the City of God forever, to enjoy His peace and celebrate His goodness. Amen.