Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wisdom Quest 1

A few years ago my Bible study and I went through the book of Proverbs. We like it so much that we decided to do it again.  So, for the next several weeks I'll be writing about what I find in each chapter that excites me.  I'm reading three chapters a week.  Feel free to join us in doing this.

Below I'm going to share my favorite verses for this week.  There isn't a need to elaborate much on these because the Proverbs are meant to be quick and to the point.

Chapter 1
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline" Proverbs 1:7

This is where we must start in the quest for wisdom.  We can't understand anything until we understand where we stand in relation to the Almighty.

Chapter 2
"My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
and if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom,
and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding." Proverbs 2:1-6

God wants us to seek wisdom and He is the source of wisdom.  Getting wisdom is both hard work and a free gift.

Chapter 3
"Honor the LORD with your wealth,
with the firstfruits of all your crops;
then your barns will be filled to overflowing,
and your vats will brim over with new wind." Proverbs 3:9-10

This is NOT prosperity gospel.  But God ask us to honor Him with our money and He will bless us when we do this.  So many, but not all, of our money problems might stem from not doing this well.  I once had a friend tell me that he tried not tithing and found he couldn't afford to not to tithe.

Search out wisdom with me.  Read Proverbs with me and feel free to comment with what you learned today.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Persistent Love

This is my final post in a series of posts from 1st and 2nd Corinthians over the course of the last year.  Please take time to read 2 Corinthians chapter 13.

In this chapter Paul's frustration and love for the church at Corinth can be felt.  Be sure to catch both the sarcasm and self-sacrifice in the close of this letter, which was the fourth letter to this beleaguered and spoiled group of believers.

Paul had been grilled by some of the people in the church at Corinth.  They said he's wasn't a good speaker and even questioned his authority over them even though he was an Apostle and even though he planted the church.  The people at Corinth put Paul to the test and Paul had spent much of his time in this letter defending himself and showing how he passed the test.

So, in verse 5 Paul says this,

"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you... unless, of course, you fail the test?"  2 Corinthians 13:5

Paul, in a sense, is saying: "Test me?  Test yourself!  Do you even know if you have Jesus in you?"  Paul was frustrated as he was being hassled by a group of people that had more problems than you could throw a stick at.  The log was in the eye of the Corinthians and they were fabricating a speck in Paul's eye.

We must ask ourselves, "Do we do this?"  If we are going to test others we must also test ourselves to prove that we are a believer.  This does not mean to remember if we prayed a prayer of salvation.  No, the prayer of salvation is not magic words.  We can say those words and not mean them and not really be saved.  To test whether or not we are saved we have to do things like ask ourselves if the Holy Spirit lives in us and we must look to see if God is doing any sanctification in our life.

As you read 2 Corinthians chapter 13 you must not miss the persistent love that Paul has for the Corinthians.

"Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong.  Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed." 2 Corinthians 13:7

Paul, in a sense, is saying: "I hope that you find that you are saved even if you still think that I'm not good enough to pass the tests that you have given me."  Paul is more concerned with their well being than his own name.

More than all the things above, Paul showed his persistent love for the Corinthians by writing this letter (his fourth to the Corinthians) and by planning to visit them for the third time.  Despite all the personal attacks on Paul and all the trouble that the Corinthians had caused, he still loved them deeply.  He cared for their souls.  He cared that they be as much for the Kingdom as he believed they could be.

We must be like Paul in this way.  Don't give up on those we love.  Don't give up on those we're called to serve.  I guarantee you that you will have moments when you ask, "What's the point?!?"  That's okay to feel like that, but never, ever give up loving those people.

I pray that you, and I, have persistent love.  And I'll end my posts in Corinthians the same way Paul did.

"Finally, brothers, good-by.  Aim for restoration, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace.  And the God of love and peace will be with you.

Greet one another with a holy kiss.  All the saints send their greetings.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" today.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ollie Johnson's Stutter

When I was growing up we had a family friend named Ollie Johnson.  Ollie and his wife were an amazing older couple that were loads of fun and they were tremendous Christian people.

Phyllis and Ollie would sit next to one another and Ollie would crack a joke and then Phyllis would elbow him playfully in the ribs.  They were just a riot.  Everyone was drawn to them and Ollie told most of them many times how much he loved the Lord.  They were and he was a great witness for Christ.

One thing about Ollie is that he had a severe stutter.  He would tell a story and you'd hear, like a machine gun, "Annnn annnannnn annn aaannanan annnan and..."  His whole body would move with his stutter until he got passed the word and continued on.  In fact, sometimes his jokes were funnier because the anticipation for the punchline grew with his stutter.

Ollie's stutter would have stopped most people from talking and sharing anything, let alone sharing their faith.  I mean, what stops you and I from witnessing?  I have a million of bad excuses not to share my hope in Christ.  Ollie's excuse topped my excuses, but it never stopped him.  Ollie's stutter makes me think of the passage below from 2 Corinthians chapter 12.

"... there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it from me.  But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.'  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest in me."  2 Corinthians 12:7b-9

We don't know what Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was because he never defined it.  It may have been malaria, epilepsy or an eye disease that sometimes kept him from working.  We don't know.  Maybe it was a stutter.  Some in the church at Corinth made fun of Paul saying he was a great writer but bad public speaker, so perhaps it was a stutter.  Bottom line is we don't know what it was but we know that it hindered Paul and God, in His wisdom, refused to relieve Paul of it.

I wonder how many times Ollie prayed for his stutter to go away.  I'm sure he pleaded with God and told God how much better he could be at sharing his testimony without the stutter, but Ollie stuttered to the day he died.  However, Ollie never let his stutter stop him from brightening the lives of people and sharing about his Lord and Savior.

I've been telling you about how Ollie stuttered, but I've left one part out.  I never heard Ollie stutter when he prayed aloud.  It was as if Christ's power was shown perfect in his weakness.

Don't let anything stop you from glorifying God.  Your weaknesses can show off the power of Christ. Are you in a wheelchair?  Don't let it stop you.  Do you have dyslexia?  Don't let it stop you.  Are you afraid talking in front of a crowd?  Don't let it stop you.  Crohn's disease?  Don't let it stop you.  Don't let anything stop you because, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Your greatest weakness might just be your greatest opportunity to show less of you and more of Jesus.

"That is why, for Christ sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12:10

Don't believe the lie.  Don't let your weaknesses stop you from serving God today.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Declaration of Dependence

I wrote this a few years ago and I feel it's appropriate again.

Declaration of Dependence

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary of one man to dissolve the bands which have connected him to his self, and to reject the Powers of the earth, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires he should declare the causes which impel him to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that all men fall short of the glory of God, and that the wages of sin is death.  When any Form of Living instituted by Men becomes destructive to man he should abolish it and institute a new Life. laying its foundation on such powers that will provide life.

I, therefore, do declare that I am abolished from the Allegiance to the self and the Powers of the earth.  Not that I would be free and independent from all control, but rather that I would place my life in the hands of one who would fulfill my needs and provide me with life.

I declare dependence to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The foregoing Declaration was engrossed and signed by the following members:

Matt Ray