Sunday, August 31, 2014

Love Is…

Learning to Love like Jesus Loved
I Corinthians 13
The word “Love” has been described as one of the most over used words in the English language.  Even Christians can be quick to declare our love for things that are not deserving.  Sometimes we need to be reminded of what real, life-giving love is.  The Apostle Paul helps us with this in our text for today.
Words of Love
·      We are limited by our language to an extent.
·      Phileo – Brotherly love
·      Eros – Romantic, Emotional, affectionate love
·      Agape – Selfless, Sacrificial love

The Context
·      The church at Corinth was started during Paul’s second missionary journey.
·      Corinth was an extremely worldly city.
·      The church at Corinth was given many spiritual gifts.

The Excellency of Love
·      Patience
·      Kindness
·      Not jealous
·      Does not act unbecomingly
·      Does not seek its own
·      Is not provoked
·      Does not take into account a wrong suffered
·      Does not rejoice in unrighteousness
·      Rejoices in the truth

Observations on Agape Love
·      It is not grounded in emotion
If we let our emotions determine who we love, we will never love the way Jesus loved.
·      It is active and intentional
·      It is sacrificial
·      It is grace-filled

·      It is heavenly love

Friday, August 29, 2014

Confidence in My Brothers

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.  (Romans 15:13-14)

And concerning you, my brethren Growing up in a Baptist church, I became accustomed to the terms “brother” and “sister” being used to greet a member of our fellowship.  It was a common thing to me and I never considered how odd this must seem to the world around us.  Paul used this term showing his affection to those he addressed, owning the spiritual relation they stood in to him, and declaring the great esteem he had for them, and the high opinion he had of them. He then proceeded to share his confidence in them by sharing his opinion.

…you yourselves are full of goodness Maybe today we might hear someone refer to others as “good people”.  The meaning would be clear that these are honest, trustworthy and even compassionate individuals.  However, I feel Paul was speaking of something different concerning his spiritual kin.  He knew that no man was good naturally, for there is no good thing in men by nature.  But what they had was from the Spirit of God, whose fruit is "goodness".  These who were displaying their tolerance and acceptance were displaying the very fruit of the Spirit that God grants to every believer.

…filled with all knowledge – Again, not with every sort of human knowledge such as the knowledge of all languages, or of all the arts and sciences.  But with all spiritual knowledge relating to God and his mind and will.  In other words, they understood Christ and the work of redemption by him; to the Spirit, and the operations of his grace; to the Gospel, and the doctrines of it; to their duty to God, fellow creatures, and fellow Christians.  In short, they were people of spiritual wisdom.

Such a confidence in his brothers caused him to be confident that they would be able also to admonish one another.  Since they were both good and wise, he knew that they would properly deal with those who needed to be corrected in either their doctrine or behavior without offending with their attitude or spiritual pride.  The words one another acknowledge the fact that we all have our blind spots and need someone who will speak honestly and lovingly to us about them.
by the power of the Holy Spirit - Here is an important point for today.  When God commands us to do something, He will provide the means and the method to do it.  His Spirit within us is our source for goodness and wisdom.  Where the Spirit of Christ is, the power of Christ is.  The ability to do the will of God is from God, not us.  I can trust those who I feel are working from the power that works within them.

Today I am grateful for my “brothers and sisters” in the Lord.  And I pray that the God of hope (will) fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope.

Scripture to Claim:

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.  (Galatians 6:1)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Accepting My Brother

Therefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God. For I say that Christ has become a servant to the circumcision on behalf of the truth of God to confirm the promises given to the fathers, and for the Gentiles to glorify God for His mercy; as it is written, "THEREFORE I WILL GIVE PRAISE TO YOU AMONG THE GENTILES, AND I WILL SING TO YOUR NAME." Again he says, "REJOICE, O GENTILES, WITH HIS PEOPLE." And again, "PRAISE THE LORD ALL YOU GENTILES, AND LET ALL THE PEOPLES PRAISE HIM." Again Isaiah says, "THERE SHALL COME THE ROOT OF JESSE, AND HE WHO ARISES TO RULE OVER THE GENTILES, IN HIM SHALL THE GENTILES HOPE."  (Romans 15:7-12)

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone around us worked off the same priorities and values that we did?  How good it would be if each had the same frame of reference from their history and traditions.  Even better, if everyone could be free of bias, racial identity and conflicting religious ideologies, couldn’t we all get along better?  First of all, such is a pipedream.  Secondly, how boring life would be!

A major problem for the people Paul spoke to was cultural differences and expressions of worship. 
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.  Romans 14:1-4

Today, we find some of the same issues creating problems in churches everywhere.  We don’t seem to understand that the methods of ministry and worship among believers are variable depending on a wide number of factors.  The one nonnegotiable is we are all responsible to God.1. Realize that “Receiving an individual is foundational to ministry to them.”

Paul was very clear about what we need to do and that is accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.  Note there are no caveats to his statement.  Did Christ make you change all of your thinking before He died for you?  Does Christ require you acting just like others before He ministers to you?  It is Christ that accepts us and it is because He understands us.
Note the EXPANSE of Christ's acceptance.  Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female...all are one in Christ!  All are EQUAL in Him!  Today, he might say, “Southern Baptist or Fundamental Baptist, Independent or Full Gospel, Contemporary or Traditional...”  What is interesting is that he is speaking to the CHURCH! 

How interesting that before we even get to accepting others in our service to them we must first learn to accept and respect the ones in our fellowship.  I have learned that the ones in my life who are the most intolerant of others are the same that require the most toleration!  Spiritual pride by those who feel they have a corner on God dishonors Christ and His open love.

Maybe we all need to search our hearts to see if we bristle when the gospel is presented in a form we don’t especially like or understand.  Possibly we need to look at who is being reached by those who share and minister from a different cultural base and thank God for their witness.  Jesus spoke to the Jew and the Gentile differently and He does the same today.  Translating the gospel is more than changing the words; sometimes it is about changing the method.

Scripture to Claim:
So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this--not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way. (Romans 14:12-13)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Mind for Service to Others

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:4-6)

Have you ever heard someone say, “I just can’t get my head around it?”  Without being able to understand something, it is very difficult to act properly or do what we need to do.  However, understanding the commands of God is certainly no prerequisite to performing them.  It does help that God gives us not only direction but understanding in His Word.

What is the one thing we have the most trouble with when it comes to serving others? PATIENCE!  Or, as the verse we are looking at calls it, PERSEVERANCE.  The Word of God speaks directly of the patience that is necessary to accomplish the work of God.

When we set out to do something for someone else, we certainly have an idea as to how it should go.  The only problem seems to be that their weakness or lack of understanding gets in the way.  Apart from doing it for them instead of teaching them to be responsible for themselves (the easy but wrong way to handle it), we must have patience as they learn.  We sometimes forget that God has all eternity to do His work and we may be just a part of the process, not the entire solution.

God works in every individual toward a special purpose and design.  He is developing many parts of our character and spiritual life through our service as He uses us to help another to grow.  Doing the right thing the wrong way does not accomplish His purpose.  PATIENCE! 

Now comes the difficult part... Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Christians are supposed to agree?!  Well, sort of.  Unity of spirit may not mean unity of interpretation or method.  But the one thing we are to do is respect others whether they agree with us or not.  Christ did not attempt to disdain or drive His disciples into truth, but patiently dealt with their ignorance.  He worked within the confines of the understanding and character of His disciples.  While there may have been a better or higher way, He determined to meet them at their level.

Is there a possibility that you and I discount others because we feel they are slow to understand or unaware of what has been revealed to us?  What if God did the same with us?  How much would we know about Him and His ways if He demanded we understand and follow them immediately?  No, God is patient and encouraging.  What is best for Him must also be best for us.

Today, before you get frustrated with someone who just does not seem “to get it” in your business, home or church.  Consider what the scriptures said about this.  See if you can find a place to “be of one accord so all we be blessed.

Scripture to Claim:

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)

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