Monday, October 17, 2016
I have been following Rick Warren’s recent series on stress in our lives and Sunday’s devotional really struck a chord with me, both for its counterintuitive perspective and that it hit pretty close to home. Have a read through it and then there are some questions to help facilitate a Spirit-led conversation.
Monday, October 10, 2016
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.
If you read the verse in its full context, it seems a little out of place. Paul is in the middle of telling the church at Corinth about his planned trip to Macedonia, an update on Apollos and Timothy, and then he throws in this pearl of wisdom. One of the things that made this verse jump out at me is that it is full of verbs: Be, stand, be, be, do. It is not theoretical or rhetorical, rather simple words that any of us can understand and importantly, apply. The other quality it has that I’m hoping we can explore is that it is distinctly masculine. This isn’t a verse for sissies but for real men.
Things to think about:
· Be on your guard – this presupposes we are to be alert and aware of attacks. Nobody needs to be on guard for something good coming their way!
o Jesus tells the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
o Let’s get specific about what you’re on guard about
o What are you primary forms of defense?
· Stand firm in the faith
o People and events can conspire to challenge our faith. Admittedly, it can get rough sometimes whether it’s a series of things happening or the magnitude or duration of a single event is just too much to handle
o How do you see God’s hand either as the author of what’s happening or His hand as your form of rescue?
· Be courageous; be strong
o Now Paul is going from staying in place (be on guard, stand firm) to moving forward
o A quick search on Bible Gateway for “be strong” yielded 36 hits that almost invariably included “be strong and courageous”. Clearly these go together.
o Courage has us going into uncharted territory where it’s risky
o Is courage the absence of fear or something else? See Psalm 27:1
o Do you sense that God is asking you to take a risk or do something that makes you uncomfortable?
o 2 Samuel 22:33, 35
· Do everything in love
o Of course, we have to look only a few chapters earlier in 1 Corinthians 13
§ Absent love Paul says we are a noisy gong, nothing, profitless
o How does Jesus, himself love incarnate, instruct us with respect to love?
§ Matthew 22:37-39
Monday, October 3, 2016
I was reading last week in Matthew 16 and came across this back-and-forth between Jesus and His disciples in verses 5-12. If you think there’s not funny stuff in the Bible, read on!
5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” 8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Things to think about:
- You gotta love the disciples! You can just picture Jesus shaking His head going, “Oh my gosh! Seriously??? You guys really think I’m literally talking about yeast and bread?” Heavy sigh…
- Somehow they hadn’t connected the dots that since Jesus had TWICE miraculously fed thousands of people, He wasn't too concerned or constrained by their lack of provisions.
- It is funny to read about it now but we’re not much more sophisticated or astute than the twelve. In fact, we do the same things, don’t we?
- In what ways do you feel you do not have what God can use to accomplish His purposes?
- Maybe you’re short on talent, money, proper training, or time. Maybe you haven’t “earned your stripes” by going to Africa or South America on a mission trip, served as a deacon, know the words and melodies of obscure hymns, memorized the 23rd Psalm, or some other “sign" of a mature believer. We can come up with lots of reasons why our perceived insufficiencies opt us out of making a difference.
- If God can meet the needs of thousands with a few paltry loaves and fish, then He can probably work with whatever inadequacies you and I bring.
- But He did take all that was offered to Him in order to feed the people. God doesn’t want us to give some of what we have, He wants it all. But remember - All is always enough!
- Jesus gave thanks and blessed it. Put into His hands, our offering becomes sufficient. In fact, He blesses it in a way that causes overflowing (they had to pick up basketfuls after everyone had their fill).
- These same forgetful and not overly bright disciples are the origin of the path by which you and I have come to faith. If these guys could be used to change the world (which they did), can you think of a good reason God couldn’t use you to help build His Kingdom too?
- Now that we’re talking about it, right now ask God to bring into your thoughts how has He previously taken little and made it sufficient
- my mind tends to go to financial things but the topic is much bigger than that. For some, God took a broken family and made it enough. For others it could be the blessing of a well timed phone call, a smile when you were down,
- So when we get a little thickheaded worrying about how something is going to work out, it is good to have memories of how Jesus has delivered before
- The yeast He was speaking about was the erroneous and legalistic teachings of these two sects of Judaism. Both taught the people in error and Jesus was making the point that it doesn’t take much error to spoil all of the teaching.
- Jesus cares much more about your eternal soul than your stomach. He has promised us that God knows our material needs and will meet them.
- Lack of food is unlikely to destroy any of us. Lack of knowledge can be fatal. Be careful who you listen to and ALWAYS test it against God’s infallible word.
Monday, September 26, 2016
I am excited about tomorrow’s discussion and I hope you will be too. During a conversation with a few friends last week, including one going through a challenging time, it occurred to me that there was too much emphasis being placed on a particular outcome. I believe the Holy Spirit popped into my little head the notion that God is at least as interested in the process he is going through as He is the result. I shared that idea and one of the other guys built on it with the July 28th meditation from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. It is below:
God’s Purpose or Mine?
"He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side . . . —
We tend to think that if Jesus Christ compels us to do something and we are obedient to Him, He will lead us to great success. We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God’s purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. We have the idea that God is leading us toward a particular end or a desired goal, but He is not. The question of whether or not we arrive at a particular goal is of little importance, and reaching it becomes merely an episode along the way. What we see as only the process of reaching a particular end, God sees as the goal itself.
What is my vision of God’s purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him and on His power now. If I can stay calm, faithful, and unconfused while in the middle of the turmoil of life, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. God is not working toward a particular finish— His purpose is the process itself. What He desires for me is that I see “Him walking on the sea” with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see “Him walking on the sea” (Mark 6:49). It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.
God’s training is for now, not later. His purpose is for this very minute, not for sometime in the future. We have nothing to do with what will follow our obedience, and we are wrong to concern ourselves with it. What people call preparation, God sees as the goal itself.
God’s purpose is to enable me to see that He can walk on the storms of my life right now. If we have a further goal in mind, we are not paying enough attention to the present time. However, if we realize that moment-by-moment obedience is the goal, then each moment as it comes is precious."
Things to think about:
· Can you relate to the idea that if I am obedient, God will bless me with success?
o Does its natural corollary also follow (if I am not successful, am I being punished)?
· What do you think about the assertion that God’s purpose for you may be the exact opposite?
o How could that ever be a good thing?
· Chambers says that it really the process that matters to God
o Why would that be the place of emphasis?
· What do you think God’s vision for you is?
o Might be a little early in the morning for this question J
· Why the stress on now?
· Obedience seems to be the key
o What results from it is immaterial
o Is that easy or hard for you to accept?
· Can you share a time when you thought God was working towards one end and it turned out to be something else?
o What did you learn in the process?
· Are you going through a process today?
o How does this study help you think of it differently?
Monday, September 19, 2016
22 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.2 Then God said, “Take your son , your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you. ” 3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you. ” 6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” 8 Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. 9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son. ” 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided. ” 15 The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
Things to think about:
- When God called Abraham, his immediate response was, “Here I am”. Unlike Adam and Eve who tried to hide from God in their shame, Abraham shows no hesitation and announces his presence.
- After many years of heartache and disappointment waiting for an heir, Abraham is asked by God to sacrifice his son. The parallels to God offering His Son whom He loves as our sacrifice are apparent.
- It doesn’t say that Abraham argued, cried, doubted, re-interpreted, or anything else. What it does say is that early the next morning, he got up and went.
- I love how he tells his servants to wait there, they (not he, but they) will be back.
- Isaac notices something is up when he asks where the lamb is. Abraham tells him that God Himself will provide the lamb. Again, no scheming or manipulating the circumstances, Abraham allows God to do what only He can do.
- He then ties Isaac up and has the knife raised. As a parent, this is a completely unimaginable moment.
- Then the angel of the Lord calls out to him and once again he answers, “Here I am”.
- There is so much to be said for being where God has you and being fully in that place, not wishing or whining to be somewhere else.
- Then God provides the way for the sacrifice, while sparing Isaac’s life. In the case of Jesus, God did not spare His Son because there was no other suitable sacrifice.
- The angel then speaks for God and reconfirms the promise to make Abraham the father of a great nation because of his OBEDIENCE
- Be ready, be obedient, be expectant, believe
Monday, September 12, 2016
Let’s look at 1 Chronicles 28:20-21. David had it in his heart to build a temple for the LORD but that wasn’t God’s plan. Instead, it was to be the work of David’s son, Solomon. In this passage, David is giving words of instruction to Solomon:
20 David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished. 21 The divisions of the priests and Levites are ready for all the work on the temple of God, and every willing person skilled in any craft will help you in all the work. The officials and all the people will obey your every command.”
Things to think about:
- David wanted the crowning achievement of his life to be a temple to honor God. That certainly seems like a worthy and admirable ambition but it wasn’t God’s will for him.
o Have you ever had what seemed like a worthy ambition that didn’t work out like you hoped it would?
o If so, how did you handle the disappointment in realizing it wasn’t to be?
- Solomon was pretty young and inexperienced at this stage of his life. His dad was world famous as a warrior and a king.
o Have you ever had to emerge from the shadow of someone else? If so, what was that like and what did you learn?
- David instructs him to be strong and courageous. Solomon was raised in the house with the women and was used to a pampered lifestyle, not an outdoorsman and warrior like his father.
o We too need to remember to be strong and courageous. We live in a culture of comfort and convenience so when things go slightly awry, we tend to fret and worry
o Do you agree or disagree with that?
- The source of our strength though isn’t a better attitude or just trying harder. Rather, it is the LORD who is with us.
o He will not fail you, He will not forsake you
o Do you sense, do you know His presence?
- God has a plan for you, just like He had a plan for Solomon
o He will be with us until His work for us is completed
o What do you feel God is calling you to do?
o If you’re still here, He’s still has more for you to do!
- God will provide the resources necessary for the completion of His work
o The people around you are part of His plan. God has prepared them, just as He has prepared you
o How can you see God’s hand in those around you?