Deliver Him to Satan?

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 24; 1 Corinthians 5; Ezekiel 3; Psalm 39

August 31st, 2016

When first read, 1Corinthians 5:5 can have a puzzling effect on the reader. At least it did for me. Still when I read this and other similar instructions it causes me to slow down and think deeper on what I’m reading. A command to hand someone inside the church over to Satan, to abandon them, seems like it could be at odds with love which never fails (1Corinthians 13:8). It gives a feeling that we are being told to give up on a person. A closer look shows that is not the case at all.

  1. Abandoning the person to their owns ways will give them the best chance at learning the right way (1Corinthians 5:5). Perhaps condoning sin may have the opposite effect. God’s law is everywhere, convicting iniquity and reinforcing truth. It is there to help us understand that we are sinners in need of saving (Romans 7:7).
  2. The more I study this I have come to believe it is a matter of humility. The prideful lie is that this person’s salvation rests on our shoulders. That God is relying on us and us alone. That we must save them. More, that if we were to somehow offend them, that we would be responsible for their lack of salvation. That removing them from the congregation would somehow be our choosing to condemn him. If this were to be believed think of the consequences. How the sinful behavior could corrupt the whole (1Corinthians 5:6-7). Instead I think the truth is to love them in peace and entrust them to God, exercising the perfect balance between love and justice. The scripture tells us to seek justice, love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). The conclusion here I believe is that Paul was not giving up on this person but rather that he was committing them to God’s sovereignty and trusting in God’s plan for showing people their need for Him.

God thank You for Your justice that makes everything right: Selah. Thank You for Your love, perfect with no conditions. Thank You for Your Grace and Your mercy LORD and for coming to save us. May we love others with the love of Christ that You have given us. May we be fishers of men. Amen.  

 

Imitators of me

August 30, 2016

im·i·ta·tor
ˈiməˌtādər/
noun plural noun: imitators 1. a person who copies the behavior or actions of another.  2. To use or follow as a model: Your brother imitates you because he admires you. 
People imitate for many reasons. Some good, and, …some bad. Imitators of words, actions, and lifestyles. Currently, I will see this all the time with my two sons. Jackson the 5 year old will do something, anything, and Marshall our 19 month son will do his best impression of it.(good or bad)  Likewise,  I see these same actions carried out by both boys through my actions as well. (again, good or bad)
In today’s readings, 1 Corinthians 4 shares a message from Paul telling Timothy to be an imitator of him. (1 Corinthians 4:16) Paul was sent for Timothy as a model like a father with their child.  Paul was sent for us to remind us of the ways of Christ that we need to model.
Each day God presents us with needs and opportunities to challenge us to do what is right. Is my “Christian conduct” that which Paul modeled for Timothy? My prayer is to grow in this desire and my behaviors daily until His will calls me elsewhere. As a husband, father, son, brother, and friend I know as I list some of these examples of Christ there is vast opportunity to grow. I can talk about faith, but if my actions don’t follow or I’m saying sorry all the time then I need to make some changes. This is the time where I can reflect on another reading from today Psalm 38:18.
I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin.
2The days are long but the years are short.  Let’s set our best example of Jesus for others.  In my study bible it shares some great verses to help us along this path.
  • Matthew 11:29 – Jesus told his followers to learn from his example of gentleness and humility.
  • Philippians 3:17 – Paul urged believers to follow his example of enthusiasm, perseverance, and maturity.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7 – The new Christians in Thessalonica received training in discipleship from Paul.
  • 1 Timothy 1:16 – Paul used his unworthiness to receive Christ as an example of grace so that no one would hold back from coming to Christ.
  • 1 Peter 5:3 – Peter taught Christians leaders to lead by example, not by commands.

Dear Father, We pray that we are examples of Christ. That we are examples of Christ in our children and in the world. That nonbelievers will be able to see the belief of Christ in us and be drawn to this salvation through our examples.  Thank you God, we know this is only possible through you. Amen

Faith Foundation

The Builders of my Foundation
The Builders of my Foundation

Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 21-22, 1 Corinthians 3, Ezekiel 1, Psalm 37

Hello friends! Another Monday is upon us. I’m loving this slow transition into a new school year, a new season and the feeling of gentle changes in our lives. Our little guy Oliver needed some quiet time over the weekend to let his body adjust to this new normal of Kindergarten with Crohn’s. As he sleeps on this sunny afternoon I’m reading and absorbing Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Chapter 3 begins with Paul addressing the Corinthians as “infants in Christ.” He continues with a metaphor about feeding the new Christians with only milk as they are not yet mature enough for solid food. I was drawn into this chapter today because it begins at the beginning. Before things get really complicated for Christ’s followers. Paul is basically giving the Corinthians a syllabus and a calendar of assignments. First on the list is reminding the Corinthians that they are more or less “still of the flesh.” Great news, so am I! Paul says this:

“I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, I follow Paul and another I follow Apollos are you not being merely human?”(1 Corinthians 3:2-4)

I always benefit from some personal reflection about which God I’m putting first in my life. The next part of this chapter helps us to frame our roots in Christianity. Paul reminds us that he and other disciples are vessels through whom we become Christ followers. He says:

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:6-12)

 We are God’s field, we are his building! We are surrounded by skilled master builders that show us the way in Christ. Each one of us has a foundation story and each one of us is now responsible for the building onto that foundation. I just had to share these verses today because I found a piece of my foundation today. While cleaning a closet I found a note I had saved for over four years. The small piece of notebook paper was folded over and over itself. When I unfurled it, alone in my closet which I now share with my two daughters, I recognized the handwriting. I’ve read this letter countless times but not in the last few years. It was written to me by Crystal Smith a woman I admire so much for her steadfast faith in Jesus. In the letter she encourages me not to fear the future, not to get wrapped up in the what if’s. She reminds me that God has a very specific plan for me and my family. She tells me that I have value and purpose. That although I’ll be tested as a mother, I will not be alone. At the time, our son Oliver had just been diagnosed with his heart condition and I lived in fear that we would never be blessed with more children. I know now that Crystal was one of a few very important foundation builders. I don’t know her well, but I know that God spoke through her to get to me and ultimately save me. I hope you’ll reach out this week to one of your foundation layers. More importantly, I hope you’ll sit down and write a letter to someone who needs a rock to begin their foundation.

Faithfulness

Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep. You, Lord, preserve both people and animals. How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. -Psalm 36: 5-7

God’s love was hard to miss and yet sometimes people missed it or turned away — sometimes I did too. But why? I knew God was sovereign and would do as He pleased, but did he use affliction and sin to draw us closer? That was sure how it had worked for me, but still I wondered, did He ever cause it? Perhaps affliction and sin were not only the natural consequences of turning away from God, but also the way God drew close to us. This was starting to make sense.

The History of the Jewish nation and the story of David both offer examples of God’s love and power. They are examples of how people respond to God and how God responds to people. These stories are historical treasures and lessons in both faithfulness and spiritual transformation, lessons that still speak truth and power into the lives of people today!

Israel cried out to God:

Remember, Lord, what has happened to us; look, and see our disgrace. Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to foreigners. We have become fatherless, our mothers are widows. We must buy the water we drink; our wood can be had only at a price. Those who pursue us are at our heels; we are weary and find no rest. We submitted to Egypt and Assyria to get enough bread. Our ancestors sinned and are no more, and we bear their punishment. Slaves rule over us, and there is no one to free us from their hands. -Lamentations 5:1-8

Despite being chosen by God to be a holy nation and despite God’s frequent demonstration of his love, Israel turned away from God over and over. Their sin of disobedience resulted in affliction that many times led to repentance and reconciliation. When the Israelites were “on track” with God, His grace came in the blessings of provision and remarkable victories over powerful foes.

The stories of God’s anointing of Saul and Saul’s disobedience, when compared to David and his adulatory and act of murder, are in stark contrast to each other. Despite David’s transgressions, because he never stops trusting and loving God, he has a different outcome than Saul who turns away from God, eventually in arrogance and self righteousness as God’s Holy Spirit retreats along with His blessings. On the other hand, David’s faithfulness leads to his forgiveness by God who “washes him white as snow” and separates him from his sin, “as far as the East is from the West.”

The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” -1 Samuel 16:1

In the examples of David and Saul, it sure looks like, if we remain faithful, God remains with us, despite our shortcomings. But our permanent separation from God appeared to be a possible consequence if we turned our backs on God. This was true with Pharaoh, and Saul, and even Israel. God in His sovereignty reserves the right to take back the gift of “free will”, which could allow our hearts to harden. I certainly didn’t want that to happen to me, but what if in my hesitancy it was possible?

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 20; 1 Corinthians 2; Lamentations 5; Psalm 36

I often wondered how God’s wisdom was revealed? And how could I know God’s spirit? Often this seemed beyond my understanding. And then there were times when I felt God’s presence so powerfully I couldn’t believe I ever favored my prescription for happiness over God’s. But without the stark contrasts in my life, would I have been able to understand my relationship to God? The list of thoughts and words and deeds that I had chosen that “grieved” the Holy Spirit were too long to list, and yet God still poured His Holy Spirit into me when I turned to Him, when I asked. I was so moved by God’s Grace it literally brought me to my knees.

However, as it was written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”—the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. -1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Somehow I knew, if I sought God’s will above my own, it would be revealed. I would never know the depth of God’s love and wisdom if I continued to pursue my own understanding and worldly wisdom. I knew I had to change. I was changing.

Somehow I learned that life was so much more than being cool and having fun. As cool and fun as that was, it often became the “honey pot” that distracted me from finding real treasure, a treasure more vast and magnificent than any I ever imagined.

This is what I hungered for. This is what I found. Thank you Jesus.

Summer Break is Over

June 19

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 19; 1 Corinthians 1; Lamentations 4; Psalm 35

After a nice long summer break, my kids started school this past Monday. Getting back to the daily routine of getting up early, packing lunches and doing homework is always an adjustment for us.  So is brushing up on things we should have practiced over the summer, but didn’t.  Here is the truth – I was as happy for summer break as my kids were – I didn’t make them practice their math facts or read any books all summer long.  We were busy going to the pool, hanging out with our friends, enjoying the weather, and spending quality time together.  Of course, this was going to catch up with us at some point…

When I got home from the office on Wednesday. I was greeted by my visibly troubled nine year old daughter.  She was very concerned about the results of her multiplication test that afternoon.  She hadn’t done very well.  She learned her multiplication facts last year, but didn’t practice them all summer, and thus had earned the lowest score in the class.  I lovingly reminded her that being proficient in math requires a lot of practice and we just needed to get back to it.  A little practice and she will soon be fine.  But do you know what bothered her the most?  It wasn’t that she couldn’t remember the multiplication facts, it was that she had gotten the lowest score in the class.  She felt the weight of not measuring up to expected standards.

After taking the summer off, Annika cannot boast about being the best mathematician in the fourth grade. She has a little catch up work to do.  But during her summer of fun and relaxation, Annika received a priceless gift.  Something no amount of work could ever earn.  Something she will never forget.  On June 19, Annika placed her faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized.  She is a new creation.  Through the blood of Jesus Christ, she measures up to expected standards – she is perfect in God’s eyes.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

Read verses 30 and 31 again.  We have wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption through Jesus Christ.  Praise be to God for his glorious gift!

 

Faith and Decision Making

Are there any big and generally permanent decisions that you made in the past that at the time seemed like a good and sound decision, but now you wonder if it was the right decision? This is not referring to situations that have gone horribly wrong as a result of a string of poor choices. This is about decisions that were made where it was quite clear that the outcome was far beyond your control. Brainstorming on a few of these types of examples:

  1. Attending one university as opposed to another.
  2. The city and state in which you live.
  3. Having a child start kindergarten at the earliest or holding him or her back a year.

We made the decision to have our son Peyton start school at age five instead of waiting another year. From an early age Peyton was curious about the world around him and had an affinity for mathematics. He loved preschool and was always eager to attend. We did not have constant prayer over this decision, nor did we sense divine inspiration. It was a big decision and it seemed like a “no brainer” at the time.

With Peyton now in sixth grade, Amy and I recently reflected back on this decision and recognized some of the impacts such as athletics, social skills, and academic achievement. If we see a negative impact now, should that cause us to doubt our decision? Granted, in some situations it is absolutely appropriate to hold a child back a year while in the middle of grade school. I’m talking about those shreds of doubt, the “what if” situations.

This topic is a wonderful opportunity to rely on our faith. If we lacked faith in an all-knowing, loving God, I truly believe we would be dwelling on this topic day and night, perhaps with regret, worry, and maybe even blame. We might ask, “what if his life is a struggle because he started school too early?” or ” will he be okay with sports, academics, and socially?”

It is in our hands to love our kids and abide in the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we lead our family, but we need not worry because God has it all. God knows the past, present and future. He knows Peyton. He has a plan; may his will be done. This is one of the many benefits of having faith. God didn’t make us to worry, he made us to worship him, to look to him, to honor him, to take refuge in him, to have relationship with him, and for that I am so thankful.

You came near when I called on you;
  you said, ‘Do not fear!’ (Lamentations 3:57)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me
  and delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8)

1 Samuel 18; Romans 16; Lamentations 3; Psalm 34

Mission Statement

misison1 Samuel 17 – Romans 15 – Lamentations 2 – Psalm 33

It’s likely that the company you own, or work for, has a mission/vision statement. Good mission statements inspire people. More so, effective mission statements have the power to identify and establish the priorities that yield powerful results. Did you know that Paul had one too? Read it with me. Romans 15:18-21 says,

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written,

“Those who have never been told of him will see,and those who have never heard will understand.”

Did you hear it? If I were to format it in today’s corporate or church language, it would sound something like this.

To bring all people from Jerusalem to Illyricum to understanding of the Gospel,  through preaching, utilizing signs and wonders from the Holy Spirit and by my own example.

Pretty powerful, right? Can you imagine having a statement like that for your own life? What does your mission statement say? More importantly, what do your priorities say that your mission statement is?  That is what impresses me the most about Paul.  He lived it!  The evidence is well documented. In fact, he lived it so well that in 2 Timothy 4, as he nears the end of his life, he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Mission Accomplished.

What’s My Job?

Today’s reading: 1 Samuel 16; Romans 14; Lamentations 1; Psalm 32

August 24th, 2016

I have heard it said that the Church of Christ needs to be known not by what it approves or disapproves of, but by the grace and salvation of Jesus. Yet, the scripture cries out to us to put certain things off and certain things on. What is the Church to do?

It is my understanding that all the prophets came to indict the culture; that Jesus did the same thing, helping the Israelites see the error of their ways, helping the humble realize their need for a Savior; that the Spirit came to give perfect remembrance to Jesus’s followers of His words and so these convictions continue to help us see the error of our ways and grow in Him. It seems clear to me that God judges perfectly, but what is the difference between God and His church?

The ESV gives Romans chapter 14 the heading Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another. It speaks to matters of conviction in food and special observance of certain days. Some felt all days were equal and others felt some special. Some felt certain foods unclean. Others felt all food clean unto itself. What then should we do? Should we eat or not, observe or not? Paul’s conclusion: Yes, let us live by faith.

If you are convicted that a certain food is unclean, do not eat it (Romans 14:14, Romans 14:23). If not, eat it. Unless by eating you may cause grief to him who thinks it unclean, then do not eat, or else you may cause them to stumble (Romans 14:15). Give way to their conviction and keep your conviction to yourself (Romans 14:22). Do not judge (Romans 14:13). Do not let food get in the way of the work of God (Romans 14:20). We are not fit to judge and for those who have struggled with feeling they need to come to the rescue of their neighbor by helping them remove the speck from their eye, Paul gives us the assurance that our LORD is their Savior, He will help them stand on that day (Romans 14:4).  

If my job is not to judge or to save, what is it? Am I doing my job in the church?

 

Extra credit.

  • Love has been written about many times on this blog. If you missed it, check out David LaFrance’s post Law of Love from yesterday.
  • When on a team not everyone does everything. Members have roles, different jobs. To understand the role of the Holy Spirit and how you can work with Him in your role I highly encourage you to listen to The Holy Spirit: God’s Prosecutor by John MacArthur. It starts this way…
  • This is a portion of Scripture that every preacher must understand: every preacher must understand, every pastor must understand, every parishioner, every Christian must understand. The text before us foundational to our mission. It is foundational to our cause in the world. It is the foundation of all gospel preaching and all gospel witness… Like many passages, however, in the Bible, it has a ring of familiarity to us, and people somehow think they know what it means, and they don’t really dig down to see the truth that is here. I want to be able to help you to understand it, perhaps, in a way you’ve never understood it before, and the way that it has to be understood in the context and the intention of our Lord. I think I’m safe in saying that most preachers don’t really get a grasp on this, as most Christians do not, and that is a crippling reality.

Law of Love

Today’s Date: 8/23/2016

The Beatles were onto something when they sang the song All You Need Is Love . But Paul says it best in Romans 13:8-14

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 15; Romans 13; Jeremiah 52; Psalm 31

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

Being asked to Love others is the only way we even come close to showing God our appreciation for sending His own son to die for us. Let’s refer back to John 3:16 where we find out exactly how much God loves us.  So as believers, we are asked to love one another.

How hard can it be? Honestly,.. hard, because naturally we attempt to make excuses as to why or what others do to not allow us to love them. We can gratify the desires of the flesh without understanding that the day could be on hand when our worldly bodies won’t be able to share this love.

God wants us to hold no debts except for the debt of Love to others.  So as we work diligently to cut out our own or our children’s financial debt never lose sight of the debt of Love that doesn’t impact any bank statement. Our only obligation here is to love our neighbors.

Loving others as ourselves is a deep love that covers everything to make sure all needs are met.  Helping and loving others means that your secure in yourself enough to make sure that you love your neighbors. James 2:8 says to love thy neighbor like thyself.

In order to show this love you need to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ“.  There are many references to putting on a new self. Ephesians 4:24 talks about a new self created in the likeness of God; In addition Colossians 3:14-17.  We can also show this in be baptized. Galatians 3:27. Second, we model the same qualities that Jesus had while on this Earth. (Love, Humility, Truth, Service) Here is where you could go with the acronym W.W.J.D. Ephesians 4:17-32

We must make sure we are getting dressed everyday – taking off sin and putting on the righteousness of Christ.  It is an everyday love that we need to put on new each day.  We need to keep God’s promise of a new self close to not allow  worldly things invite us to enter into jealousy, anger, mistrust, being negative against others for whatever previous mistakes you or they made.

The night is far gone; and the day is at hand.  So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Romans 13:12-13

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Dear Father, I am thankful that You are love. That You have woke us up from a sleep that only focused on ourselves. We rejoice that You demonstrated incredible love for us in the flesh through your son Jesus Christ. I pray that we share this great love with others. We are forever changed because of this love and I know that it extends to those around us because You have enabled us to love deeply. Today, I pray that You let Your love flow through us and touch those around us. May the love we give be a blessing and a light for Your kingdom. Amen

Love ~ Chris Tomlin

Perfect In His Eyes

IMG_0003

Today’s Readings: 1 Samuel 14, Romans 12, Jeremiah 51, Psalm 30

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

 I am just loving these words for a Monday morning! Doesn’t this just make you wish you were one of the Romans? As much as I would love to meet Jesus, I think I’d put Paul on my top ten list as well. In just a few sentences he gives us so much wisdom that can truly sustain and fortify us. Once again, I left writing to the last minute this week, and I’m so glad I did. It’s almost as if God speaks to me so much more clearly when the “hour” is upon me! Let’s start at the beginning. Paul says, “I’m appealing to you by the mercies of God.” He’s picking up a thread previously woven in this letter. He’s reminding the Roman’s of God’s mercy in their lives:

  • Freedom from death (5:12-21)
  • Freedom from sin (6:1-23)
  • Freedom from the previous law that fosters sin (7:6-25)
  • The gift of the Spirit (8:1-17)
  • God’s plan to conform believers to the Son (8:29)
  • God’s faithfulness to keep promises, especially those made to Israel (11:25-29)

In other words, Paul is saying, look at all the great things God has done for us. Now, the least we can do is give our bodies over to him. He’s challenging us to push back against the urge to passively conform to this world. Rather, he wants us to be active in our pursuit of transformation through continuous renewal of our minds. I love what he says next, “…by testing we will discern what is the will of God” (Romans 12:2). This week we finally got a diagnosis for our 5 year old son, who has suffered with illness for months. When his physician called us to tell us he has Crohn’s disease, we didn’t shed tears. Instead, we felt relief. As parents, we felt that we could finally give Oliver’s body over to God’s care. We knew that we had run the “race” of medical testing and intervention for Ollie, now we leave it to Him. As I send my first born to Kindergarten tomorrow morning my heart is heavy with the knowledge that he has seen more pain, more suffering and more fear than most 5 year olds. But at the same time, I know that I will experience absolute joy when he bounds off to hug his little friends and be with the teachers he loves. He is our living sacrifice.

But God has given us freedom from death. He reminds us through Paul’s letter to the Romans that God is faithful and he keeps his promises. What may feel broken today; our bodies, our hearts or our minds will help us to discern the will of God tomorrow. Whatever sadness, whatever hurt or anger you have today, give it up to Him. Remember that through mindful, purposeful renewal of our mind we can discern what he wants for us. Know that you are good, acceptable and perfect in His eyes.