And all of the people said “Praise the Lord!”

 ImageThe writer of these psalms wisely counsel us to praise the Lord for He is God, and His lovingkindness is ever before us in all we see and experience. “While we are studying this holy Psalm, let us all along see ourselves in the Lord’s ancient people, and bemoan our own provocations of the Most High, at the same time admiring his infinite patience, and adoring him because of it. May the Holy Spirit sanctify it to the promotion of humility and gratitude.” [Spurgeon]

The psalmist begins with a hallelujah chorus and we would do well to begin our prayer time in this way. Vs 2 reminds us that God’s mightiness is recounted but our memories and our words are inadequate for God is greater than what we could ever tell. Joh 21:25 There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

So who can tell? Only those who walk in close communion with God and have been anointed with the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit for he Joh 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit …will cause you to remember everything I said to you. It is then that we are able to recount and tell of  the mighty deeds which God has done, maybe not to the fullest, but our memories will be so filled with His love and power that we are like the psalmist will stand in awe of God and be humbled. It is then that we say with the psalmist: 107:1 “Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” It is when we begin and end our meditation with these thoughts that we are satisfied because we have hungered and thirsted: Matt 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” It is then that we are emboldened like the Samaritan woman to her village or Andrew to Nathanael will say “Come and see…” Come and see the man who is Messiah, come and see for yourself that this is the one we have waited for. It is then that we say with the psalmist “107:2 Let those delivered by the Lord speak out,” and we end with  “Let all the people say, “We agree! Praise the Lord!”

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Is My Lens Functioning? 1Cor 14

ImageLighthouses are fascinating. Their lens are rotating and emit light to show the ship captain the direction he is to use to navigate a treacherous channel to safety. The church is to be a lighthouse for the lost. Therefore, it is crucial that the lenses are cleaned often and they are operational 24/7. The Corinthian church was a lighthouse in that decadent city with its idolatry and immorality. And yet still the members were asking questions as to what their purpose was in this life as a church member. What is my role? Why should I be a contributing member? Paul addresses all of these in chapter 14 that their purpose was to be prepared to guide the lost to THE LIGHT.

Part 1: Pursue Love and Desire the spiritual gifts. Seek to prophesy [to teach, refute, reprove, admonish, comfort others] because in doing so you edify, exhort, and offer consolation. These gifts are to build up the Body.

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Edification literally means building up of the soul. Barnabas is a biblical character that was nicknamed Encourager because he was an edifier. He was always ready with an encouraging word and did not miss a divine opportunity. So to edify we must keep our eyes and ears open. Take a moment and edify someone even right now!

Exhortation literally means pleading, persuading, inspiring. Its purpose is to strengthen and establish, or ground believers in their walk.  This is important to avoid false teaching, to renew our walk, and lead others out of spiritual quagmires. This is more than a meeting time for worship, it is an intentional meeting time to hear from another’s lips words that encourage and sharpen each other’s skills so that we become more like Christ. Take a moment and exhort someone who is struggling spiritually…do it even now.

Consolation is comfort. It is looking for those times to pray, encourage in person those who are hurting, going through rough times. Look at your calendar and ask whom did I console this past week and why? How did I do it in action and what words did I use? Take a moment and console a brother or sister who is in need of comfort. Share a word in a phone call, a note, a word that you are praying…do it now.

Part 2: Be Mature Thinkers. When others enter your worship do they hear intelligent conversation or the buzz words using Christian lingo? Speak the Word for it is the Word that convicts. [John 16:8, 2Tim 3:16] Then“If an unbeliever or uninformed person enters, he will be convicted by all, he will be called to account by all.  The secrets of his heart are disclosed, and in this way he will fall down with his face to the ground and worship God, declaring, “God is really among you.” Take a moment and search your conversations and note how many buzz words you are using…ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as you speak to a non-believer…do it now. Pray that God give you a divine opportunity to be His witness.

Thus as a Body member we need to be about the Master’s business of edifying, exhorting and consoling others. We need to be instructed so that we can instruct others intelligently. This chapter convicts and instructs. Is our lens operational? Is it leading the lost to the LIGHT?  Does this “wordable” reflect me to the world and to others around me?

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Lone Wolf or Member of the Flock? 1Cor 12

ImageRecently in a conversation about church attendance a person noted that she is a “loner” and has been all of her life. She does not require nor does she need to be a part of a group and especially church. Then today in reading for this assignment I came across a blog written by another person who is also a “lone wolf” and finds/believes that he is sharper and more wise alone than with a group. Let’s see if either of these are biblical standards according to our reading in 1Corinthians 12.

First and foremost our standard is the lifestyle of our Savior. He continually said “follow me” and included from the entire spectrum. In doing so each disciple was able to use his gifts to enhance the entire group. For example, Andrew had the gift of finding people. John had the gift of tenderness. Matthew had the gift of accounting and details. The life of a hermit or a ‘lone wolf’ was a foreign concept to our Lord and it was as well to Paul but unfortunately there were some “lone wolves”  in the Corinthian camp.

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Secondly, what then is the purpose of each member and their gifts? As a believer we are all blessed with the indwelling Holy Spirit who graciously shares with the Body of Believers varieties of gifts, varieties of ministries for one reason: to build up or edify the Body and to glorify God. A question then arises. How can the Body be fully functioning or edifying or glorifying if there is one member missing?

Third point Paul is making is that there is no gift that is better or lesser than another. In fact,  just as the gifts are diverse so the ministries are different and the activities are diverse but they all come from one source: The Holy Spirit.  David Guzik writes: “The purpose of the manifestation of the Spirit is to benefit the whole church family, not just a particular individual.” All are needed, all are manifest and all bestow great honor upon the Body. In fact, Paul writes: “those members that seem to be weaker are essential, and those members we consider less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our unpresentable members are clothed with dignity.”

Precious Ones, there are no ‘lone wolves’ in the church–only members of the flock! You are endowed with a precious gift to be used. These gifts are God’s treasure box being opened and poured out upon the church. It is God’s way of allowing us the privilege of sharing and expressing and receiving God’s love from one to the other. So now the question remains: are you using your gift(s) for Him?Image

Remember this rule: If feel less qualified you are listening to the lie out of the mouth of the enemy for that quenches the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has graciously given to you His blessing for one reason: to glorify God. Go forth and share!

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Heart Issues…1Cor 11

ImageIn all of life there is an order to be followed. God designed order so that there would be peace and tranquility. He even asked Job where he was when He laid the foundation of the earth for that is when He instituted order in creation.  In chapter 10 Paul reminded the Corinthians that orderly public worship brings glory to God. Later Paul will remind the Corinthians: 1Co 14:33 for God is not characterized by disorder but by peace.  Thus the principle is this: without order there is disorder and confusion, without order we cannot glorify God, without humility before God we bring dishonor and confusion to our public worship.

Now in the Corinthian church there seems to have been some disorder and confusion and it related to praying and prophesying and the Lord ’s Supper. To set the stage Paul writes:  “But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” Further on Paul remarks: “I hear that there are divisions among you and in part I believe it.” Paul notes that this has occurred due to their misunderstanding regarding headship, specifically noted with the issue of head coverings in public worship and their confusion as they take the Lord’s Supper. From this premise Paul speaks to both men and women that they know, understand, and follow this order for one reason; OUR PURPOSE IS TO GLORIFY GOD.

What does this entire section have to do with understanding? What is the bottom line issue that we need to grasp? To help us understand we might look at the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee in Luke 18. Jesus used this parable to teach a principle: God looks at the heart and that is the important issue. In this parable the Pharisee stood and prayed about himself. The Publican stood far off and would not even look up to heaven. One was proud and one was humble. The issue the Corinthians were facing was a problem with pride and arrogance as we have been discussing and this parable reflects where they were spiritually. Paul is saying not only is order needed in the church during public worship but also there must be humility for Jesus taught that it was the Publican that went home justified not the Pharisee.

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The relevant issue is this: When we pray or prophesy, when we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are to be humble before God and before men that God is glorified. The Lord spoke to Samuel “God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

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Scriptural Principles 101

ImagePaul has been teaching the Corinthians about their pride and arrogance. Swiftly he has taken them to task lovingly step by step. Now in this chapter Paul gives them some wise counsel beginning with this is why scripture has been written. Learn from it! Learn from the past! If you don’t you heed what is written for your instruction, you will just repeat the same mistakes. To help you, here are three principles which you must imprint strongly on your mind:

  1. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted or tried beyond what you are able to bear. But, you must seek his way of escape out of that temptation. The Israelites faced a test and failed because they had a way of escape but failed to seek God and His plan.
  2. All things are lawful but not all things are profitable nor do all things edify. Paul returns to the same argument of earlier. Ask yourself if what you eat or drink will glorify God. If it will not walk away from it.
  3. Temptations will come, not if they come, they will certainly come. They may come in the form of idolatry or immorality. Do not put the Lord to the test. Rather, when you are tempted listen and heed the pleading voice of the Holy Spirit who has been given to you to convict you and to instruct you. You can ignore him but if you do you will only repeat the mistakes of the earlier generation.

Thus precious beloved ones remember these principles and live to glorify God.

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What/Who is on your agenda today?

ImageDo you have memory aids to help you recall things? Some of use that tool to recall different thoughts such as “G-God’s R-riches A-at C-Christ’s E-expense.” We look for these simple acronyms because we are a people who are busy about many things. Already as you are beginning to read, your mind is on two tracks, what you are reading and what you have to do “next.” The psalmist (105) is encouraging us to stop and reflect and to do so gives us several ways to step off the treadmill of life and to bring God into our moment by moment thinking. Step by step the psalmist gives us memory aids in the form of commands that our lives might be focused on Him. There is an easy way to remember this in the busyness of our lives: “T-T-S-S”

  1. T = Thanks!  Give thanks to the Lord! Today you will be given many opportunities to thank another. Boast about him and his holy name. May God be on our lips first rather than ourselves Plan to boast and thank God today.
  2. T= Tell!  Tell about what he has done in your life. Tell about his miraculous deeds. Recall the miraculous deeds he has performed. Keep a journal of what God has brought about. Think back and record how God has been at work. Plan and then share your testimony to the world.
  3. S= Sing! Sing to him! Make music to him! What hymn or praise song can you share even right now?
  4. S= Seek! Seek the Lord is given three times: those whose heart seek him rejoice, those who seek him will be given strength, those who seek him do it continually. Stop right now and seek His face that He may be first in your agenda for today.

As you look at your daily to do list, stop and do a “T-T-S-S” and see if God is on that agenda.

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A Higher Law! 1Cor 8

ImageTeddy Bears bring out the best in me. In fact, I have two of them on top of the nearest book case to my desk. They remind me that when I am down I can see their faces looking sweet and often even looking up. They live to the “higher law” of love and teddy bears bring out the sweetness in us…I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t like a teddy bear, have you? But life was not all teddy bear sweet in the Corinthian church as we have been seeing. There were disputes and on going dialogs as to what is right or wrong. When Dr. Keith Krell shared his sermon for bible.org, the title was “More than Meats the Eye.” You are reading right! Meats not meet because this next dispute was just about that. The dilemma was this:

Why can’t I choose to eat meat that has been used in idol worship and then marketed; I know the difference. (sounds rather pugnacious to me) This is when we stop and say it is not what you “know” but what you “do.” It is not about you, but about those new babes in Christ who have joined your fellowship.  This is a “hello!” discussion. Ready?

So that was the question and here is Paul’s response formed in a question back to them. What is more important? Knowledge or Love? Freedom to do as you please or a new believer’s stand? Eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols and then marketed or not eating meat because it causes another to stumble? The answer should be obvious to the stronger brethren [sort of what we say a “duh”]: love supersedes knowledge, a new believer’s needs/questions supersedes your maturity, no meat at all supersedes a new believer’s stand. In Corinth idolatry was rampant and meats used in that worship, often the very best cuts of meat, were then marketed after the service. To the unknown buyer, or to the mature believer it mattered not because they knew that idols are just that, idols made of wood and stone, with no life within them. They knew and worshiped the One True God! But, to the new babe in Christ who has just left this belief system it was still questionable as they struggle to walk circumspectly. Won’t others who knew me before question why I still am living as if I were an idol worshiper? [GREAT QUESTION!!] New believers have all kinds of questions and this one ranks right up at the top!  Paul said: dear beloved, know this! The higher law supersedes what you may know and what you choose to do.

To put this into today’s world we might use the example of alcohol. Many today say it is ok to have a glass of wine. New believers question whether it is ok and ask: What does my lifestyle say to those who have heard about my life change? Peter addressed this : 1Pe 4:4 4:4 “Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore.” [MSG] Also remember what Paul said in earlier “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own” which he will repeat in the 2Corinthians 6:17 “you are the temple of the living God.”  Your lifestyle can be instructive to show that where the Word does not exactly condone or condemn, we choose the higher law which is to walk differently than the world.  For you who are the mature believer,  it is better to walk and live so that the new believer can see that Christ supersedes anything even if is not definitive. There is a higher law. There is a way we are to stand apart from the world.

The bottom line is this: what is more important? Your liberty/freedom to eat/drink even if you know it is OK if it might cause a new believer or even another believer to stumble and possibly fall? Discernment is the key. Choosing wisely is the key. Choosing love is the key. Putting others needs ahead of ourselves is the key.

Here’s your question: Do we cling to knowledge over love? Is “my” lifestyle more important than the walk of a new believer who is questioning? When it comes right down to it: Choose the higher law.

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O Worship the King — Psalm 104

ImageWhen you woke up this morning did you stop to think of what had gone on from the time you dropped off into slumber-land until you arose? Did you stop to think or consider that unlike machines which often sputter and go clunk (think cars here) our earth has continued on its merry way unfettered without a jerk? God established the earth upon its foundation so it will not totter like a child taking his first steps. “The several motions of our planet are carried on so noiselessly and evenly that, as far as we are concerned, all things are as permanent and peaceful as if the old notion of its resting upon pillars were literally true. With what delicacy has the great Artificer poised our globe! What power must there be in that hand which has caused so vast a body to know its orbit, and to move so smoothly in it!” [Spurgeon]

The Lord God as our God is robed in splendor and majesty. “The Lord is seen in his works as worthy of honour for his skill, his goodness, and his power, and as claiming majesty, for he has fashioned all things in sovereignty,…” [Spurgeon] As Creator, God said “let there be light” and as the Son of God here upon the earth he fashioned, he said “I am the Light of the World.” He was covered with Light as with a cloak to dispel the darkness of sin.  How majestic is His Name!

This psalm mirrors Genesis 1 in its order of creation. Whereas Genesis speaks of what occurred, here in Psalm 104 we not only see the creation but hear it as well. “Your shout made the waters retreat; at the sound of your thunderous voice they hurried off.” The mountains rise up with a great crescendo knowing just how far they may rise and no further. Both the mountains and the valleys had appointed places and there they stand fixed from the time of creation. Unlike man who given a task failed, the mountains and valleys in obedience never cross their boundaries. If only we would take a lesson from this picture!

Each creation picture shows us God’s purpose; from the trees which He planted so that the storks seeking safety would find just the right height away from the cacophony of the forest creatures below to  the wild goats and the rock badgers finding their place of refuge upon the mountain side. All of God’s creatures do toil from the lion to man. Each works in their perfect time frame and then seek rest.  Where do we find our work and our rest?

Truly Romans 1 is so very true: “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.” Therefore as we begin this new week, may we stop and praise Him for this marvelous creation that is before us. And as you do join in adoration using the hymn: O Worship the King by Sir Robert Grant.

Oh, worship the King, all glorious above.
Oh, gratefully sing his power and his love;
Our shield and defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.

 

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1Cor 5 “Teachable Moment of Time Out!”

ImageOnce a parent always a parent. Can you recall long ago when our fathers/mothers disciplined us saying: this hurts me more than you? Now in the role of a parent you see the wisdom of that statement. Parenting skills never go away even when your children are adults. Paul took seriously his role as a parent to the fledgling church in Corinth. “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” [1Cor 4:15] and in that role knew that there would come times when as a parent, one must discipline.

How does a parent lovingly discipline? As Paul wrote to Timothy in another letter, he gave us the wisdom of what the Word lovingly does and we can apply that same principle to parenting: “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,”[2Tim 3:16]. We are to teach our children, reprove/rebuke them, correct their faulty thinking and behaviors, and train them up “Prov 22:6 Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

When you were naughty did you often anticipate the parent’s return with dread or did you go on with no thought of what lay ahead? That is part of the picture Paul is painting for us as he reminded them that just because he was absent physically he was there in spirit. Jesus too as our head is not with us physically but is with us in Spirit “And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” Paul gently asked them: “Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline or with love and a spirit of gentleness?” If Jesus were to return right now which of these might we want him to administer?

The Corinthian church had a serious problem. One congregant was co-habiting with his father’s wife. As a church they had failed to discipline this man and in fact were accepting it and were proud. Why were they not sorrowing over this serious sin? Why had they not administered discipline?  Paul says this is so serious that not even the Gentiles would think of doing this. What were they thinking of?

Paul then lovingly corrects their faulty thinking/behavior. This sin will infect the entire church just as yeast infects the dough. Remove this evil person from among you! You as a parent might have done it this way: go to your room to think about it. Isolate the child.  For the Corinthians isolation of this man with no participation in the Lord’s Table, no fellowship with individuals, no small groups of believers is Paul’s counsel with the hope that he will reflect on his sin. Further, it is hoped that he will see how it is affecting the whole body and return to the fellowship renewed in spirit, pure in spirit and behavior and willingness to obey.  As a parent or a teacher you have probably administered this same “time out” and seen the effectiveness of isolation.

So how do we apply this today? (1) Lifestyle: keep oneself unstained by the world.  (2) Follow the steps of 2Tim: Teach, rebuke, correct, train both in the home and in the church, (3) Consider that Jesus may return at any moment. Is there any sin within you or the church that needs attention? Remove the evil among you and be ye cleansed. Be ye holy as I am holy saith the Lord. (4) Follow the discipline principles of Matt 18 (one on one, two on one, bring to church). (5) Because you love you will: never give up. And care more for others than for yourself. [1Cor 13 MSG]

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Mirror Mirror on the Wall…Who is the Fairest of Them All?

 ImageMirrors have a way of changing our view.  We have a choice: will we look in the mirror and walk away forgetting who we are (James 1)  or will we look in the mirror and with a gasp see the true reflection and then choose to alter our view to mirror Christ? Are we seeing a servant spirit or a proud spirit? That is the question that Paul is asking the Corinthians to do in chapter 4.

Recently a friend has posted many times of the gratefulness he has experienced for his new pastor who is still driving 100 miles round trip to serve at his “wee” church. So too Paul had put a lot of shoe leather to the test as he walked from place to place. It is easy to get up and attend church when you live a mere 5 min drive or walk but this dear pastor and Paul put service above their personal needs.  The question Paul is asking in this chapter is how do we view ourselves and more importantly, how do we view those in leadership. There is a saying: do not judge unless you have walked a mile in another’s shoes. That is what Paul is driving home in this chapter through his analogy of the servant and a steward.

Paul says there is a right way and a wrong way to view those in leadership and the Corinthians were leaning towards the wrong way. Paul uses two words to grab their attention and to get a true view. The Corinthians had a problem of elevating three people: Paul, Apollos, and Cephas more than Christ and not only that but they were beginning to elevate themselves with the mentality of “I have arrived.”  To help them, Paul now gives them a picture of how we are to view those in leadership in our own churches which then gives us a proper perspective of who we are. Paul encourages them to imitate him as he follows Christ, the ultimate example of servanthood and stewardship.

Servants and stewards. Here he uses the word “hyperetas” which means a subordinate servant who ministers or renders a service to another. Secondly, Paul uses the word stewards which is the word “oikonomos.” This is one who has been entrusted with the management of a household. Ultimately they must give a report to a master and Paul is saying, I must give an account to God. God is looking for one key component: faithfulness.  As you look at the leadership in your church what do you see? Does Jesus shine through them? Do you see them as servants/stewards or do we look at how they dress, how they market our church, their entertainment value, their humor? Instead we should be looking at those in leadership and their gift of servanthood and stewardship and ask: Are they being faithful?  We might ask that same question of ourselves. How does God see me?

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Paul is saying to the Corinthians and to us: don’t elevate one leader over another. Consider this fact: God is the giver of every perfect gift from above, for He is the Father of lights. See your leadership as a gift from God. Praise God for those in leadership and pray for them that they would be wise servants and stewards of that which has been entrusted to them which they are now sharing with you. Lastly, see yourself also as a servant in the Body of Christ.

Four questions: (1) Do I truly give God credit for my salvation? (2) Do I live with a spirit of humility? (3) Seeing all things come from God, what can I give in return to Him? (4) How can you demonstrate gratefulness for those in leadership over you?

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