Friday, October 18, 2019

October 18

1 Timothy 3 

I read a book on the work of elders, written by David Dickson from the early 19th century. Here is a paragraph on the most important qualification of an elder.

"The office and work being spiritual, it is necessary that elders should be spiritual men. It is not necessary that they be men of great gifts or worldly position, of wealth or high education; but it is indispensably necessary that they be men of God, at peace with him, new creatures in Christ Jesus; engaged in the embassy of reconciliation, they must be themselves reconciled. We must love the Master, and the work for the Master's sake."

In other words, an elder must love God supremely. He must also love working for the Master because it is difficult and trying work.

I thank the Lord for the elders we have at Grace church. They have a heart for God and have given their lives to serve him. I encourage you to pray daily for these men as they lead the church. And may we all use the elder qualification list as the goal of what we are aiming for in our walk with the Lord.

"Multiplying leaders to change the world"

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Thursday, October 17


I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6)

Have you ever received good news?  How did you react?  Did you unwittingly keep it to yourself?  Or did your smile immediately give away your joy?  How many times were you willing to recount the back story?

Just as with other forms of good news, we have the privilege of receiving and sharing the Gospel message.  It centers on the good news that God has given us the opportunity to receive eternal life through the ransom paid by Jesus Christ.  While our sin had trapped us and separated us from God, Jesus gave His life so that we might be set free.

Also, Paul emphasizes here that we may pray for anyone, including kings and all those in authority.  Underlying this idea, Paul implies that God's power and authority extends to every person.  We have substantial evidence from the Old Testament Scriptures to confirm these realities.  Reflecting on these statements underscores the confidence we may have in God's concern, from the great and mighty to the lowly and humble.

With whom would you like to share the good news of the Gospel?  For which rulers or authorities could you pray?

Lord God, thank You for showing us Your sovereignty, both in this call to prayer and in the now-revealed mystery of the Gospel.  Give us opportunity to share Your truth with others.  Please direct the hearts of our leaders to seek You and to follow Your Word.  Bring peace in our hearts, in our city, and in our nation.  In Jesus's mighty Name, amen.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Sept. 16

1 Timothy 1:15-16

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life".

Here we have it, the gospel summed up in two sentences. We're sinners and Jesus came to save us. Paul considered himself the worst of the worst when it came to being a sinner. I'm not so sure about that. It's not up to any of us to judge who is the "worst", sin is sin and we're all included. What I think Paul might have been trying to convey is that if God had patience for him, then God has patience for anyone, and that includes you and me. David captures it well in verse 5 of today's Psalm, "You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you". The message is so simple. There's forgiveness at the cross, all we have to do is call on God. This might not change the immediate here and now, but it certainly changes the destiny of our souls. While living a life in Christ is filled with mystery, the message of love and salvation remains simple. I pray someone we will be able to share this with someone today.


Saturday, October 12, 2019

October 12: Of Jeremiah and the Anti-Prosperity Gospel

Jeremiah 19:1-21:14

1 Thessalonians 5:4-28

Psalm 82:1-8

Proverbs 25:9-10

The prosperity gospel : a belief which can be summarized as "God wants you to have a lot of money." It isn't new - one of its earliest proponents in 1915 is reported to have preached "I say you ought to be rich; you have no right to be poor."

Small wonder, then: while the average congregation size on Sundays is 75 participants, and a megachurch begins at 2,000 participants, some prosperity churches are much bigger.  One, whose pastor urged the congregation to buy him a $65 million private jet, has 15,000.  The most prominent proponent, based in Texas, has 52,000.

How different from Jeremiah.  His wasn't his own message of wealth, it was God's message of woe.  "Hear the word of the Lord…I am going to bring disaster on this place…for they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods….".  And he preached it at great personal cost: the priest in charge of the Lord's temple had him beaten and put in stocks.  Jeremiah himself acknowledges the price he has paid - "So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long."

Why did Jeremiah do it?  Because it was God's word, however unpopular.  Because he knew God's word did not change to conform to the people's wishes.  Because he knew God wanted people to aspire to Him, not to earthly things.  Paul says as much in today's reading from Thessalonians.  He calls us to "be awake and sober" to God's truth, "putting on…the hope of salvation as a helmet".  Salvation - not financial prosperity.  

The prosperity gospel is simply yet another sin against the first commandment.  However well intentioned - "Why shouldn't we want a comfortable life?" it's proponents ask - it puts wealth above God, and violates the command "thou shalt have no other gods before Me."  And it isn't the only example of well intentioned sin in churches today.  There are many that conflate loving the sinner with accepting various sins. 

How are we to respond?  Thankfully, again, we have Paul's guidance.  He tells us to acknowledge those "who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you."  Despite the despair we might feel at the propagation of this thinking, Paul calls us to "rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances" because this is God's will.  And he calls on us not to "treat prophecies with contempt, but to test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil."

I might add that when we "reject every kind of evil", we should be prepared to receive the same treatment Jeremiah and Paul received.  We see it today, in the contempt so many have for believers in what they call an "ancient, out of date book" and "fairytales".  We see it today in the lawsuits filed against those who believe in the order of God's creation.  And we see it today in the opposition, sometimes the violence, visited upon those who believe in the sanctity of life, however young.  

Father, when we are tempted by the world's enticements, defend us, and give us the strength to cleave to You and Your word, whatever the earthly cost.  Through it all, help us to pray, to give thanks, and to rejoice.  

Friday, October 11, 2019

Oct 11

October 11, 2019

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12  Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

This seems like an oxymoron: ambition…. quiet life. Usually ambitious people are loud and pushy. Eugene Peterson translates this phrase with two words: "stay calm."  We the people of faith make it a goal to "stay calm" in life.  The world's way is splashy, self-centered, pulling your own strings and looking for ways to stand out. We have a choice in pathways, our choice makes for dramatic end results. "Work with hands" for the most part, the Greeks despised manual labor. Most of the work was done by slaves. Paul of course, was a tentmaker; and he was careful to set the example of hard work.  

Unfortunately, some of the new believers in the church misunderstood the doctrine of Christ's return and gave up their jobs in order to wait for his coming. So, they walked up to the mountain top, unfolded their Coleman chairs, sipped their lemonade and sprayed mosquito repellent on as they waited. This meant when they came down from the mountain top, they didn't have jobs. Subsequently they lost their testimony with unbelievers.  

Work is a blessing from God.  Work is not a curse. God gave Adam work to do in paradise. It is the toil and sweat of work that belongs to the curse and not the work itself.  Find your passion and get paid doing it.  The goal is to be a good testimony to the people in our community. Pay your bills and don't gossip or be a busybody, don't meddle in the affairs of others.

Pretty straight forward guidance from the Lord.


"Multiplying leaders to change the world"

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Thursday, October 10


"But Timothy has just now to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love.  He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.  Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith.  For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.  How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?  Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith." (1 Thessalonians 3:6-10)

How do you react upon hearing good news from or about your friends and family?  It brings a smile to your heart, right?  You might even experience a warm sensation of tenderness and an immediate closeness with the person being discussed.

Paul expresses similar emotions upon receiving Timothy's encouraging report about the faithfulness and loving nature of the Thessalonian believers.  From Acts, we understand that Paul had spent approximately three weeks in Thessalonica, having encountered heavy persecution that drove him from town.  Now, Paul is figuratively returned to his friends, rejoicing in God's presence because of them.  Paul celebrates their faith and love, having mentioned in Chapter 1 that their faith had rung out throughout Macedonia and Achaia as an example to others.

Paul's tenderness towards the Thessalonians imitated that of a father and mother (Chapter 2).  Having poured out his life for these brothers and sisters, he may rejoice in their healthy faith.

Reading through Paul's letters, we recognize that he viewed his life as an investment:  a drink offering to be poured out for the sake of the Gospel and the glory of God.  Deploying his investment proved costly for Paul, leading to persecution and other physical hardships.  Nonetheless, he found his satisfaction in knowing "to live is Christ."

How are you investing your life?  As we go before the Lord during our 40 days of frontline prayer, how is God speaking to you about your calling and purpose?  How could you invest your life differently in this 40-day period and beyond?  The rewards of such an investment could be changed lives, healing for broken hearts, and greater glory for the One Who deserves it all.

Lord God, thank You for giving us relationships with others and opportunities to share our lives.  Help us to invest our time and lives in people and Your Word.  Give us courage to organize our life's priorities according to Your Word.  Give us great joy as we see others flourishing under Your care.  We celebrate the life You have given us in Your Son, in Whose Name we pray.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

October 9

Jeremiah 14

In this passage, Jeremiah gets a word from the Lord about a "drought", which, by definition, is a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, leading to a shortage of water. As I was reading this I started to think that a drought can be both physical and spiritual. In the passage, Jeremiah is giving us a picture of Judah's situation. The people have "turned away", a term used for, drifting, defection or backsliding. Those words stung a bit as I read them.  A physical drought where there is no water for a long period of time is totally out of our control, but what about a spiritual drought?  What about those times in our lives when we can unintentionally cause our own spiritual drought and begin to drift?  I doubt any of us wake up in the morning with this being our intention, and just like people in Judah, we "didn't see it coming", but it can happen. Remember, we are not fighting a physical battle as much as we are in a spiritual one and sometimes we are led into places not of our choosing. So what happens when we wake up late and miss our prayer time? What happens when are finances are tight and we don't tithe, or the week got really busy and we didn't have a chance to read? As we go through the next 40 day Frontline Prayer series, I pray for our all of us that we breakthrough whatever barriers we have that are keeping us from hearing God's voice. I pray for revival in our hearts, and a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit to take us out of any drought we might find ourselves in. I pray for spiritual and emotional healing. I pray that God touches the hearts of  those who have walked away and their spirits are awakened to the grace and redemption found only at the cross. I pray that the Lord guards our eyes, our hearts, and our minds from any distractions that might lead us astray.  I pray on this day of Yom Kippur, (the Day of Atonement), God's covering of Shalom over our families and that hearts are reset and renewed, and we grow deeper in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus. I will be fasting through the Frontline Prayer series. Please e mail me if you would like me to pray for you, it would be a privilege to go before the Lord on your behalf.