WE ARE CREATED FOR VICTORY!

GALATIANS 1:3-5: “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: In the midst of a pandemic, in the middle of national turmoil, as we find ourselves sequestered and separated from our family and friends, as each day is filled with more bad news – it is important to remember…

WE ARE CREATED FOR VICTORY!

Paul, in his opening remarks to the Church of Galatia, reminds his readers that they were created for victory. The Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, is not a timid story. The Gospel is a radical story of God’s intervention into an evil world with one purpose in mind. This purpose was to conquer sin and its power over our lives.

  • “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age…

Why is there so much evil in the world? It is because the world is filled with sinners. I am a sinner. You are a sinner. Everyone in this world has sinned and falls short of the glory of God (His sinless perfection and love). Sin not only separates us from God, but it also is hell-bent to destroy our lives. Mankind, left to himself, can never win the battle against sin.

  • “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” Romans‬ ‭7:14-20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

As politicians work to establish new laws, as money is thrown at every broken part of our society, it never seems to make a difference. Why? The answer is – sin. We are born in sin. The brokenness of our parent’s lives has been passed on to us and we pass it on to our children. The only answer for sin is Jesus Christ.

  • “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” ‭‭II Corinthians‬ ‭5:21‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Through faith in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, we are not only freed from the penalty of sin (death, eternal separation from God), but we are also given God’s empowering grace to walk in victory over sin. The power of sin is broken through the blood of Jesus Christ! He –

  • “…gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever.” (Galatians 1:5).

WE ARE CREATED FOR VICTORY!

Salvation is not only the blessedness of eternal life. Salvation is also the radical empowerment of the believer to overcome the power of sin in their life. The old patterns of brokenness can be healed. Where there once was anger, forgiveness can flow. Where there once was prejudice, love and acceptance can be embraced. Where fear dominated, peace now can rule and reign. We are not called to eke out an existence in this life until we go to heaven.

THE BELIEVER IS CALLED TO WALK IN EVER GROWING VICTORY!

It is this victory that the world needs to see modeled before them. While people rush into the streets to embrace violence and anarchy, the believer needs to rise up with the only message of hope – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Saves is not simply an aging neon sign on the steeple of the church on the corner. Jesus Saves is our testimony to a world that needs a savior. They will never find it in politics, protest, or programs. The deliverance that every man and woman hungers for is found only in the Cross of Jesus Christ!

It is time to dust off the old chorus from the 1970s that was sung by Andre Crouch.

“Jesus Is The Answer For The World Today
Above Him There’s No Other Jesus Is The Way”

This chorus repeats and repeats in this famous song that is now included in many hymnals. It may seem too simplistic to some. Yet, these are the most powerful and profound words for our world today. We need another Jesus revival in our day. We need to shout it from the rooftops. We need to live our lives boldly in the victory in which we have been set free.

  • “…HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR OUR SINS, THAT HE MIGHT DELIVER US FROM THIS PRESENT EVIL AGE, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” NKJV

Let’s start living in His power and provision! Let’s live as those who have been delivered from this present evil age! Let’s let our light shine brightly before all men! Let’s live boldly through the grace and peace that comes only from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!

LET’S WALK IN THE VICTORY THAT WE WERE CREATED FOR!

In Jesus Name!

Posted in Galatians | Leave a comment

THE BEAUTY OF SIMPLICITY…

SONG OF SOLOMON 2:1: “I am the rose of Sharon, And the lily of the valleys.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Is my love for Jesus marked by the beauty of simplicity? Do I find myself standing in awe of Him, lost in my thoughts about Him, joyfully seeking His face? Is the Cross of Christ as wonderful and powerful to me today as it was the first day that I met Jesus as my Savior and Lord?

The first verse of the Song of Solomon, chapter 2, stands alone in the text in most divisions. It does not seem fitting as a statement for the Shulamite woman, or for her beloved shepherd. However, as the Song of Solomon has long been seen as an analogy of the relationship between Christ and His Church, it seems fitting as an expression of the wonder and beauty of Christ.

“I am the rose of Sharon, And the lily of the valleys.”

I am not familiar with the rose of Sharon or the lily of the valleys. I have read what some commentators have said about them. However, I have never seen them. Yet, there is one thing that I have seen and admired – the Texas bluebonnets. Each Spring we would wait with anticipation as the roadsides, fields, and hills were filled with the beauty of the Texas bluebonnet. It would pop and bloom in some of the most unusual places. Yet, its beauty stood out among all the other Texas wildflowers.

This reminds me of the beauty of salvation and our Savior. His grace pops up in some of the most unusual places, and in some of the most unusual lives. Yet, to everyone who is called and chosen, His grace becomes a thing of beauty that is a wonder to behold. The transforming power of Jesus Christ is one of the most beautiful testimonies of the truth of the Gospel and the power of the Cross.

Years ago I was going door to door in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with our neighbors. I will never forget one encounter I had during this time. I was met by a young man I will call Bob. Bob met me with great enthusiasm. He invited me into the home. He listened intently to what I was saying. And, when I gave an invitation to receive Christ, Bob prayed with me.

As I shared and prayed with Bob, I could see someone else standing down the hall. His name was Arnold. Arnold stood there and listened, but did not enter the room. After we were done praying I asked him to come into the room. When Arnold came into the room I could see that he had been in a bad fight. His face was swollen, his eyes blackened. He seemed to linger in the shadows out of shame. I invited both of them to attend a home Bible study I was teaching.

The next week Bob and Arnold came to the Bible study. Over the next few weeks, Bob quickly lost interest and stopped coming. However, Arnold continued to come. Week after week Arnold came. He received Jesus Christ as His Savior and began to grow into a wonderful disciple of Jesus Christ. Arnold worked with his father in an Auto Body Shop. He began to share Jesus with his family and soon they too received Jesus Christ. The beauty and simplicity of Jesus Christ shone brightly from his life.

Years passed by as they quickly do. I was now pastoring another church and I had lost contact with Arnold. I was involved in a car accident and my car needed some bodywork. I decided to take the car to Arnold’s body shop. When I drove in Arnold recognized me and greeted me with a grin from ear to ear. He told me how the Lord had called him into the ministry and that he was now studying to be a pastor. The beauty and simplicity of Jesus Christ continued to shine in his life.

Why did Arnold continue in the faith and Bob quickly abandon his? While I cannot judge Bob’s heart, I can tell you what I observed. Bob loved the initial excitement of a new experience. However, he never really fell in love with Jesus Christ. He never cherished the beauty and simplicity of His cross and His grace. Arnold, on the other hand, continued in his love relationship with Jesus. He continued to grow and no doubt is still serving him today.

Paul warns the Corinthians of what can happen if we abandon the beauty and simplicity of our love with Jesus Christ.

  • “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” II Corinthians‬ ‭11:3-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

It is hard to imagine, but the Corinthians had become bored with Christ, and were clamoring for the next new thing. They were setting themselves up to be deceived. Satan is just waiting to pick off those who are always looking for the next new thing. However, Paul knew that there was nothing more wonderful than knowing Jesus Christ and His love. Our call to grow in His love can never truly be satisfied. It will carry us from moment by moment, day by day, year by year, until we enter into our eternal destiny and purpose in Christ.

  • “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians‬ ‭3:14-19‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, this morning I give You praise for the simplicity and beauty of Your love and grace. May I be strengthened each day as I seek You. Kindle my desire, to know You and Your love, which surpasses all knowledge. And, as I do, fill my life with all of Your fullness and beauty. Let me never grow tired of the simplicity that is in Jesus Christ my Lord.

“I am the rose of Sharon, And the lily of the valleys.”

In Jesus Name!

Posted in Song of Solomon | Leave a comment

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR BATTLE?

II CORINTHIANS 10:3-6: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Are you prepared for battle? We are in a war today. It is not a physical war, although it could turn into that. Rather, it is a spiritual war for the mind and souls of mankind. Will, I be a spectator in this war, or will I be a warrior for Christ?

All you have to do to verify the reality of this war is to listen to the headlines each day. While the world throws off morality like a pair of dirty clothes, a great deal of the church is following close behind. Each day comes with an announcement of a prominent Christian leader who has either turned back on their faith or who is now embracing positions that are clearly against the Word of God.

How do we fight this battle?

Paul is very clear. The battle is not with people, it is with the ideas they purport, and with the spiritual source behind these ideas. This is a very important point. Understanding this will define how we approach this battle and our effectiveness. If we see the battle as one against a person or personality, we fall right into the enemy’s territory. However, if we understand the battle and our weapons, we are poised for victory.

  • For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…”

In the book of Ephesians, Paul outlines the spiritual armor that God has given us in Jesus Christ. There are many pieces of defensive armor, but there are only two pieces of offensive armor.

The believer, and the church, are not called to take up arms and rush the streets like those of recent groups who turned many of our cities upside down. The believer is to fight a spiritual battle, with spiritual weapons, in the power of God. The enemy, the strongholds that we are battling against, are the lies that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God and the truth of His Word.

If the believer does not engage in this battle, then who will?

  • “Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians‬ ‭6:14-18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The offensive weapons are the Word of God, with prayer and supplication in the Spirit. These are the weapons that we use against the lies of this age that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God. And, these weapons are effective. Light always dispels darkness. Truth always overcomes falsehood. And, prayer in the Spirit brings the power of heaven to bear upon every situation.

The Scriptures never guarantee that standing for the truth will lead every person to Christ and turn around every bad situation. However, this is not our call. Our call is to sow and water. It is God’s work that brings the increase. As we stand to proclaim the Word of God, as we press into prayer in the hidden sanctuary of our hearts, there will be great opposition to our work. Yet, to those who are called to eternal life, these very efforts will be the difference between death and life!

  • “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans‬ ‭10:14-15‬ ‭NKJV

The church needs to return to proclaiming the truth of God’s Word and preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ! To proclaim the truth in the church is to teach the whole counsel of God’s Word. To proclaim the Gospel is to return to the foundation of our calling, the Great Commission. A church that is in the battle for souls is a church that is growing, being cleansed and refined, and standing as a light in the darkness for all to see.

Paul ends these thoughts with a statement that seems a bit puzzling.

  • “…and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.‬‬”

Church discipline has become a thing of the past. Yet, to Paul, it was essential for both the spiritual health of the believer and the life and growth of the church. In the first letter to the Corinthians, Paul rebuked the church for allowing sexual immorality to take place in plain sight, without any discipline. Today, what goes on in our churches that we all turn a blind eye to? We are afraid to preach on the tough subjects. And, we are afraid to confront sin and brokenness because we fear it will cost us congregants, money, or position.

If we are going to be victorious in the battle for souls we must be willing to count the cost. In my early days of pastoring, I tried to take a stand against the immorality that was in the church. I did not do this to expose or destroy anyone. I did it out of love for the individuals and love for the church. The result was not good. I found my fellow pastors distancing themselves from me. And, I eventually resigned from the church due to the damage it caused to me both personally and to my marriage. The stress of doing what is right has a high cost.

When a soldier goes into battle they know that their safety is not guaranteed. Yet, they are willing to go to the front lines because the cause is greater than the cost. We must rise up with the sword of the spirit and the mantel of prayer if we are going to be effective in these difficult and troubling times. We must refuse to focus on people or personalities and begin to focus on the truth and proclaim it with boldness and courage.

We must – “…cast(ing) down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,”

Father, give me the grace and courage to be a good soldier for Jesus Christ my Lord!

In Jesus Name!

Posted in II Corinthians, Leadership | 1 Comment

THE FIRE OF ANGER…

ECCLESIASTES 7:9-12: “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools. Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?” For you do not inquire wisely concerning this. Wisdom is good with an inheritance, And profitable to those who see the sun. For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, But the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever been burnt by the fire of anger? Anger is like a fire that blinds one to the reality of life. When our hearts are bound by anger we see everything in life through that anger. Solomon, in his quest for meaning in life, realizes this truth –

  • “…anger rests in the bosom of fools.”

We all deal with anger. There is a difference between righteous anger against sin and unrighteousness anger against an individual or God Himself. In either case, if we hold on to anger, we will get burned!

  • “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” Ephesians‬ ‭4:26-27‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

When we hold onto anger we are actually playing right into the enemy’s hand. To let the sun go down on our anger is to give the devil a foothold in the situation. And, the enemy of our soul’s directive is not to destroy the person we are angry with. His main objective is to destroy us.

  • “…anger rests (remains) in the bosom of fools.”

Only a fool would embrace a burning fire that destroys. Yet, we have all played the fool when it comes to anger. We have relished our anger while failing to realize the destruction that it was doing to our own soul. When we cross this line we become hyper-sensitive to others. We view and hear everything they do and say through our anger and our hurt. And, we begin to believe the lies that are whispered into our ears by the devil.

Anger’s partner in crime is discontent. When we are angry in the present we long for the past. Our anger not only blinds us to our current reality but it also falsely colors our past.

  • “Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?” For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.”

Anger and discontent deceive us. They make us long for a past that did not exist and they rob us of any chance to enjoy the present. The angrier we become the more our discontentment grows. What is the answer to this downward spiral?

The answer is wisdom! God’s wisdom!

  • “Wisdom is good with an inheritance, And profitable to those who see the sun. For wisdom is a defense as money is a defense, But the excellence of knowledge is that wisdom gives life to those who have it.

When Solomon speaks of wisdom, he is not referring to mere knowledge. Wisdom is the ability to see life from God’s perspective. Wisdom calls us to rise above our anger so that we can see the pathway of forgiveness and healing. Wisdom is a strong defense against the fire of anger. Wisdom begins when we lay down our anger at the cross and enter into the fear of the Lord.

  • “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

When we see anger for what it really is, a destroying fire, then we can understand why the Scriptures call anger a fool’s game. Anger takes away life, wisdom gives life. Anger blinds us to the reality of life, wisdom opens our eyes so that we can truly see life as God intended. Anger distorts our hearing and our perception of others, while wisdom gives us compassion and mercy for others.

  • “…anger rests (remains) in the bosom of fools.”

Lord, this morning, if I find myself holding the torch of anger, help me to lay it down at the cross. Cleanse me from the fire of anger. Help me walk in Your wisdom. Help me to walk in Your love and compassion. Grant me the grace to be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath, knowing…

  • “…the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James‬ ‭1:19-20‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

In Jesus Name!

Posted in Ecclesiastes | 1 Comment

THE CURE FOR SPIRITUAL DARKNESS…

II CORINTHIANS 3:16: “Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever experienced total darkness? In total darkness, you can have your eyes wide open and still not be able to see. This is true both physically and spiritually.

I will never forget the time I experienced total darkness. We were taking a tour of some underground limestone caverns in Central Texas. As we wove down the path we were able to marvel at the limestone formations and their luminous appearance through the light that had been provided. However, when we reached the deepest part of the cavern the guide turned off all the lights. I experienced total darkness for the first time in my life!

In the spiritual realm, total darkness is a bit harder to identify. The reason for this is that the person who is walking in darkness does not even know it. There are no lights that are turned off in the depth of one’s personal cavern. The individual who is walking in spiritual darkness actually thinks they are walking in the light. This is why spiritual darkness is much more difficult to overcome. You cannot simply flip on a switch and bring someone into the light.

Paul gives us an example in the Jewish people of his day. He says,

  • “But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart.” ‭‭II Corinthians‬ ‭3:14-15‬ ‭NKJV

Spiritual darkness has nothing to do with our eyes. It has everything to do with our hearts. We can even open up the Word of (God) Light and ‬‬still be in spiritual darkness. This was the condition of the Jews who read the Old Testament but did so with a veil over their heart. As a result, they missed the very Messiah that they were hoping for. Jesus walked among them and they did not even see Him.

Someone can even go to church and still be walking in spiritual darkness. They can hear the words of life and yet there is no change in their life. Is there any hope? Paul gives us this wonderful assurance.

  • “Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.”

There is something we do not talk about much in the church today. That is repentance. Repentance literally means to turn, to turn 180 degrees. If you are walking due South, it means to turn around and walk due North. It is a change of mind, will, and direction. It is at this intersection, and only at this intersection, that we meet the Lord Jesus and the Spirit of God!

Only the Holy Spirit can lead us to Jesus Christ. Only Jesus Christ can heal our spiritual blindness. And, only repentance brings us to His Cross and provision of grace. When we repent, when we turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away!

How often do we need to do this? Is it just once when we come to faith in Christ? Or, is repentance a continual pathway for the believer? Repentance is both an action and an attitude. As we walk with Jesus, in the Spirit, we are constantly being brought to the crossroads of repentance. We are called to turn to the Lord. This happens moment by moment, step by step, from degree to degree. It is the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives!

  • “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” II Corinthians‬ ‭3:17-18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into the liberty that is in Jesus Christ. He is always at work removing the veil, revealing God’s will, and calling us to maturity in Christ. What is our response? It is repentance. It is a willing heart that will listen and turn at the Spirit’s leading. It is an open heart that will hear the voice of the Spirit through God’s Word. It is a transformed heart that is growing in the light of His Truth!

The only one who can take away the veil is our Lord Jesus Christ. The only one who can lead us to the place of conviction and repentance is the Holy Spirit. And, the only one who can turn at the Spirit’s call is me! I cannot turn anyone else’s heart. I can only turn mine. Grace meets me and gives me the power to turn. And, when I do, I meet the transforming power of Jesus Christ and I am ushered into His saving light!

Finally, while I cannot turn someone else’s heart, I can pray for the Holy Spirit to lead them to the place of conviction and repentance. I can share the Word of God with them. And, I can live out the light and love of Christ in me toward them. I can model repentance and the liberty of the Spirit as I allow my life to be daily transformed. As I do this, I can bring all of heaven to bear upon their pathway. I can let my light shine and point the way!

Lord, I come to you humbly today and ask you to take away the veil from my heart. Search me and know me and see if there is any darkness in my life that needs to be transformed by your light. And, when I hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit calling me to turn, may I do so in the power of Your grace, and may I be transformed by your marvelous light!

Take away the veil, open my eyes, and let me walk in Your light!

In Jesus Name!

Posted in II Corinthians | 1 Comment

WHAT IS THAT SMELL?

II CORINTHIANS 2:14-16: “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: What is that smell? Have you ever been captivated by an odor? Perhaps it is as you walk through a garden and catch the breeze wafting a sweet fragrance of a flower that you have never smelled. Or, perhaps is a pungent odor that captures you unaware and all you can do is meet it with a stank face!

Smelling is one of our strongest senses. Just the hint of smell can bring back memories and previous experiences. When I was young our family would take a yearly trip from California to Michigan. Back then, we did not have air conditioning in our car. My mother would fill a cooler with ice water and dip wash rags in it for us to cool ourselves with. When we got to the hotel each night and our car sat overnight in the heat, there was an odor in the car in the morning. It was mildew. To this day, when I catch a scent of mildew, it takes me right back to our yearly family vacations.

This is also true about the emotional experiences we have in life. They leave an odor. It is not an odor that is sensed by our noses. Rather, it is an odor that is picked up by our soul and spirit. Paul focuses on this when he says,

  • For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.”

In Romans 12, Paul calls us to offer our lives as a living sacrifice to God. He calls this our spiritual service. When the sacrifices of the Old Testament were offered the Scriptures many times reference them as a sweet-smelling aroma to God. God sees the commitment and sacrifice of our lives to Him as a continual sweet-smelling aroma. However, the world sees it as something entirely different.

Have you ever wondered why someone can smell something and greet it with a smile, while another person smells the same thing and they greet it with a stank face? This usually has more to do with the experience that is tied to that smell than the smell itself. Some people greet the smell of certain foods with joy and anticipation. Others reject the same smell with the memories of their previous encounter and distaste.

So many times, as believers, we wonder why the world looks at our testimony with a stank face. We rejoice in the truth of God’s Word. We share in the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit. We find our joy in the presence and worship of Almighty God. We smell the sweet aroma of life. Yet, the same experiences are rejected with vehemence, anger, and hatred by our world. Why?
It is because what we sense as life – they sense as death!

To those who are called, chosen by God, our testimony is the hope of eternal life, the invitation to meet the Savior, and the source of joy and strength. Yet, to those who reject God’s Word, who harden their heart to the grace of God, who love sin more than the light – our message is the confirmation of their judgment. It is not that we are preaching fire and brimstone. It is simply that we are living and shining the light of God’s truth and love.

  • “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” John‬ ‭3:19-21‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

So, what do we do? Do we hide our fragrance? Do we retreat because others reject our message? Absolutely not! We are called to be a pleasing aroma to God and to those who are called to life. It is the aroma of the love of God that calls the sinner to salvation. We need to shine brightly in a darkened world. We need to allow our fragrance to go forth so that those who are called to salvation may hear, may smell, may see, and find their way to Jesus Christ!

Paul ends these thoughts with this statement – “And who is sufficient for these things?” We cannot save anyone. We cannot change anyone’s heart. We are only called to allow the fragrance of life to go forth from our lives and leave the rest up to God. It is the Holy Spirit who leads the wandering heart to the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord!

  • “And when He (the Holy Spirit) has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” John‬ ‭16:8-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, forgive me for pulling back when other’s have rejected my life or my testimony. Give me the grace to live a fragrant life of Your love, truth, and grace. Grant me boldness to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all. When this testimony is not received, help me to endure the attacks, and walk in the assurance that Your Word will not go out void. Its aroma will reach those whom You have called and chosen!

In Jesus Name!

Posted in II Corinthians | 1 Comment

GET YOUR HEAD IN THE CLOUDS!

I CORINTHIANS 15:19: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Have you ever heard the saying – “He is so heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good!”? I know that I have both heard it and said it. Now, I am wondering if I was wrong.

In I Corinthians chapter 15 Paul deals with the importance of the resurrection as the foundation of our faith. He puts it very bluntly when he says,

  • “For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭15:16-18‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Everything hangs of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Christianity is the only faith that rises or falls on one historical fact. It the tomb is not empty then our faith is. The historical fact of the resurrection and the empty tomb validates both Christ’s claims for Himself and His teachings. And, it also validates our hope of our eternal life and bodily resurrection.

Paul looks at this powerful truth and he says – “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” Is our faith, is the life of our churches, is the word that we preach filled with power, or is it most pitiable? In other words, is our focus and our faith only geared to the here and now, or are we looking heavenward in what we do, in how we worship, and in what we preach?

I think it is time we get our head in the clouds!

It is time we begin to preach about heaven again. It is time we proclaim the resurrection again. It is time we proclaim the soon return of Jesus Christ and His eternal kingdom again. We need to move beyond simply applying the teaching of Jesus Christ to our earthly life. We need to prepare the saints for their eternal life with Christ! We need to prepare for the resurrection!

Having a clear understanding of our eternal purpose and destiny will impact everything we do in this life. It will set us free from covetousness and a preoccupation with temporal things. It will lift us up from the mundane of our everyday lives and push us heavenward as we journey toward our eternal calling in Christ Jesus. And, it will give us an unshakable certainty for living. We live in hope as we live for the resurrection!

  • “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians‬ ‭15:50-57‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Are the ears of our heart attuned and listening for the trump of God? Are we waiting to be changed in the twinkling of an eye? Are we lifted from discouragement knowing that all that is corruptible in our life will be transformed into incorruption as we are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ? Do we live each day with the assurance of salvation, the hope of eternal life, and the power of His grace that gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord?

Are we living with our heads in the cloud?

A resurrection assurance, a resurrection perspective, and a resurrection focus will dramatically change our life. It will keep us from falling away! It will equip us to finish well! It will fill our lives with hope and light!

  • “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭15:10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
  • “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” I Corinthians‬ ‭15:58‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Lord, help me to lift up my eyes, my heart, and my faith heavenward. Help me to live on this earth through the hope and in the power of the resurrection. Grant me the grace to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord!

In Jesus Name!

Posted in I Corinthians, Leadership | Leave a comment

WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?

I CORINTHIANS 13:12-13: “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: An old rock classic’s chorus begins with the statement – “What’s love got to do with it?”. This is the question we should be asking in the midst of all the turmoil we find ourselves in at the present time. First, we were called to face the great pandemic of 2020. Now, we are facing the lawless rule of anarchists in our streets.

Where is the love?

The second refrain from the old rock classic is – “What’s love but just a second-hand emotion?” Has love become a second-hand emotion to us? Have we forgotten the words of Paul in the closing of I Corinthians chapter 13?

  • “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Paul moves love front and center. He makes it the most important focus of our lives. In the opening verses of this chapter, he shows how empty everything else we do is – if we do not have love.

  • “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.” I Corinthians‬ ‭13:1-3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

How does this apply to our current situation? It speaks volumes. While we focus on all the inequities of our society, as we debate all the laws that should be established, as we point fingers and accuse others of these ills, we are prone to forget the only thing that can really cure these ills.

The answer is love!

But, what is love? Is it simply an emotion, or is it something entirely different? We miss love because we look for it in the wrong place. We look for love in our attitudes and actions. We look for love in other’s attitudes and actions. And, we always end up disappointed. This is why the last refrain of the classic rock song says – “Who needs a heart (love) when a heart can be broken?”

Love is not an emotion, although it is experienced in our emotions. Love is not an action, although it is expressed through our actions. Love is not a belief, although it is expressed through our beliefs. What is love?

LOVE IS A PERSON!

  • “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this, the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” I John‬ ‭4:7-11‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Here is where we miss it. We cannot love without God – for God is love. His love was manifested and expressed in Jesus Christ coming to die for our sins. His love was confirmed when Jesus rose again from the dead. His love is our call, our hope, and our destination. We love only because He loved us. All other love falls short. Only God’s love in us, God in us, can love through us with the sacrificial love that is needed in the world we live in!

Paul confirms love, God’s love, God’s very nature, as our destination. He does this through two very important verses.

  • “But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” ‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭13:10‬ ‭NKJV‬‬
  • “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” I Corinthians‬ ‭13:12‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

The perfect to come is Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ returns we will all be completed in love. Everything in this life will fade away. All the things we hold onto as priorities now will simply fade away. Even our understanding and opinion of our lives will be transformed when we finally know just as we are known. And, what will we know?

We will know God! We will know love!

So what do we do in the meantime? We surrender to the transforming power of Christ’s love now. We allow the high upward calling of God in Christ Jesus to transform how we think and act. We get on the pathway of God’s love and allow it to guide us in how we think and act, how we view and value people, and how we respond to the current crisis in our world.

  • “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…”. I Corinthians‬ ‭13:4-8‬ ‭NKJV

LOVE, GOD’S LOVE, IS THE ANSWER!‬‬

Lord, I confess that my priorities have been focused on the wrong things. This morning I am convicted that I have put more importance on solutions than on love. I have sought for answers more than I have sought for You. Lord, help me to love. Help me to seek You with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Help me to keep the main thing the main thing.

And, the main thing is LOVE!

In Jesus Name!

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A FATHER’S HIGHEST CALLING…

I CORINTHIANS 11:1: “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” NKJV‬‬

OBSERVATION: What is the most important thing that I can do as a father? Is it to provide for my family? Is it to give my children sound advice? Is it to provide discipline and correction when needed? All of these things are part of being a father. Yet, there is one that stands out above all else.

We do not know if Paul was ever married or if he had any children. Yet, the Apostle Paul was a spiritual father to many. He had been instrumental in planting churches all over the known world. And, in each church, he had raised up leaders. He gave birth to spiritual children who would follow in his footsteps and give spiritual birth to others.

In his letter to the Corinthians, he says something that is easy to pass by with a cursory reading. Paul says – “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” When I read this statement I am both challenged and undone at the same time. When I look at my life I wonder – “Am I really imitating Christ?” Would I have the confidence to tell my child –

“Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ?”

I will never forget a TV Commercial from the 1970s. It was an anti-smoking commercial. It showed a father and son doing everything together. Each step of the way the son would try to imitate his father. They skipped rocks on a lake together, they washed a car together, and then they sat down by a tree together. The father began to smoke a cigarette and laid the pack of cigarettes by his side. The commercial closes with the young boy picking up the pack of cigarettes and looking at his father. The voice-over says – “Like Father, Like Son.”

To be honest, my life is much like the father in the commercial. While I try to live my life for Christ, I am keenly aware of my own shortcomings and failures. How can I honestly look at my life and say to my child – “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.”? This morning, being Father’s Day, gave me pause to reflect on this once again. And, then I heard the tender whisper of the Holy Spirit.

Lead them to the Cross!

I can never imitate Jesus Christ in His perfection. I can never love as He loved. I can never forgive as He forgave. Yet, there is something that I can do. I can lead my children to His Cross. I can model my dependence upon His completed work of grace. I can be honest with my failings and let my children see me running to the Cross for grace and mercy in my time of need. And, in doing this, I can truly say –

“Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ!”

  • “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-2‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Fatherhood is a race. It is not a sprint. It is a marathon. It takes courage and it takes grace. The destination is Jesus Christ. The pathway is the Cross. As I continually run to the Cross, I am able to lay aside every weight and sin that so easily ensnares me. And, as I continually run to the Cross I am imitating Jesus Christ, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has now sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

My destination, my example, and my legacy are secure if I continually run to His Cross! This is the example that I need to give to my children. This is the lesson that will never be forgotten. This is the legacy that will continue in their lives long after I leave this world.

This is the highest call of Fatherhood!

Lord, I confess that I have not been a perfect father. I have failed numerous times. I have said things that should never have come out of my mouth. However, I have always been transparent about these shortcomings. And, I have endeavored to leave a pathway that is clear and well worn. A pathway to Your Cross! This is the legacy that I want to leave my child. May I then truly be able to say,

“Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ.”

In Jesus Name!

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LIVING FOR THE BENEFIT OF OTHERS…

I CORINTHIANS 10:31-33: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” NKJV
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OBSERVATION: Do I live my life for the glory of God? Do I think about the benefit of others with the choices that I make? Am I being sensitive to those who are weak in the faith, or who don’t know Jesus Christ, in everything that I do and say?

There are two important things to consider. First, there is the truth. Second, there is how we live out the truth in our life. The truth can never be compromised. Yet, how we live out the truth and how we communicate the truth needs to be tempered with the benefit of others in mind.

The church grabbed onto this idea as many began to follow a movement that was called “Seeker Sensitive.” The goal was admirable. However, the execution really did not work. The goal was to tailor the Sunday service so that it would not offend anyone who was seeking but not yet a believer. The result was a tempering of the truth to the detriment of all.

So, how do we boldly proclaim the truth and live with consideration toward others? Paul’s discourse in this chapter of I Corinthians deals with the practical expression of our faith in how we act toward others. Paul would never water down the Gospel. Yet, he would be willing to sacrifice his own personal liberties for the benefit of leading someone to faith in Christ.

The “Seeker Sensitive” movement missed the mark because it sought to adjust the worship and preaching of the church but did not address the personal life of the believer outside of the church. The adjustment needs to be made in the marketplace, not in the fellowship of the saints. While there must always be order in our assembly, there must also be the power of God. We cannot water down the Word or our worship!

What we can do is live sensitively in the marketplace toward others. This means that we are willing to sacrifice actions or activities that we have the freedom to do if we know that they will offend or provide a stumbling block to others. For the Corinthian church, this conversation revolved around eating meat that possibly could have been sacrificed to idols. Paul is clear, idols have no power or existence. Yet, they do to the weak person’s conscience. Therefore, Paul would not eat meat before a brother or a sister who did not hold this understanding and would be offended.

For Paul, the most important thing was the salvation of the individual. This meant that he would gladly lay aside anything that could become a stumbling block to the presentation of the Gospel. He would never lay aside the truth of the Gospel or the power of the Cross. Yet, he would gladly lay down any personal liberty or activity if it would help him share the truth with others.

How do we live out this understanding in our daily lives? We simply need to listen to others. We need to consider their thoughts and feelings. We need to exercise love over personal liberties. Jesus proclaimed – “…Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matthew‬ ‭20:28‬ ‭NKJV‬‬). We are called to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. We are called to serve others so that they may come to the knowledge of the truth.

Paul closes these thoughts with the following words.

  • “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Our personal liberties always need to be expressed in order to give God glory!

Lord, give me the sensitivity and the grace to do everything to the glory of God. Help me to consider the welfare of others in all that I do and say. Let me never diminish the truth of the Gospel or the power of the Cross. Yet, let me lay down anything that would limit my opportunity to share these with others.

In Jesus Name!

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